Sometimes it feels like our kids really don’t care about school. Even when they’re smart and underachieving, or especially when they’re failing school, it’s not as simple as not caring about school.

A Shift in Collyns’ Approach to Schoolwork

Collyns, who is in fourth grade, shows no enthusiasm for school and learning. We knew it was important to address the problem head on. Recently, we attended her parent-teacher conference. She is doing fine in most subjects—except math. We wanted to see what her teacher was observing in the classroom.

She has never been an A+ student, but she has always tried her best. Lately, however, she does her work for completion points and doesn’t seem to care if it’s done correctly. She isn’t asking for help at school or at home if she does not understand the problem. She takes some steps to solving the problem, but if she doesn’t know what to do next, she stops and says it’s complete even though it’s not done correctly.

How to Turn Resistance into Positive Motivation

The teacher told us that the important thing to remember is that Collyns is motivated. She’s just motivated to resist us and others when she does not want to do something. The key is to learn how to turn her negative motivation into a positive one. That’s why we worked together with her teacher to address the early signs of motivation problems and discussed how to provide a better learning environment for Collyns.

Timing Is Key

One thing we realized is that we ask our children to do their homework right after school—before we get home and the chaos of practices begin. Collyns always has her homework completed, but neither Mitch nor I check to see if it’s done correctly. This has now changed. One of us will look it over and see if she has done it correctly and help her if she hasn’t.

Build a Support System

Next, she asks her older brother, Cohen, to help her with the homework she does not understand. Cohen didn’t have a problem in math. He continues to excel and gets his homework done correctly most of the time. Fortunately, he understands her math homework and is willing to help her problem solve.

The motivation is to do things her way, not ours. The motivation is to retain power. Her motivation stems from not knowing what to do next. Now that we have a system in place, when she gets stuck, she has an outlet in her brother.

Praise the Process, Not the Result

Lastly, we started praising her hard work, not just her overall grades. Instead of rewarding her grades, our reward comes in the form of verbal encouragement, praise, hugs and other positive attention—again, not focused on grades, but rather on the learning process in general.

We now regularly ask her about what she is learning each day and engage with her when she’s excited to tell us something about school. She seems to be doing better with her math homework and hopefully it will show on tests. I am thankful Cohen is willing and able to help her with her homework. We will continue to praise her for working hard and finding her motivation.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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