Motivating the Unmotivated Child

Over the years, many parents have asked me why their kids aren’t motivated and what they can do about it. How can you get your child to be more motivated? To do better in school? To even go to school?

The important thing to remember is this: your child is motivated. They’re just motivated to resist you and others when they do not want to do something. The key is to learn how to turn their negative motivation into a positive one.

Lack of Motivation is a Form of Resistance

When kids won’t get out of bed, won’t do their homework or school assignments, or won’t get involved in activities, it’s important for parents to realize that there is motivation in the child. But the motivation is to resist. The motivation is to do things their way, not yours. The motivation is to retain power.

When kids feel powerless, they try to feel powerful by withholding. A child or teenager who feels very powerless will stay in bed, not go to school, avoid homework, sit on the couch, and withhold overall involvement because it gives her a sense of being in control.

To the parent, the behavior looks completely out of control. But the child sees it as the only way to have control over what’s going on around him.

You’ll see it when you ask your child a question and he doesn’t answer, but you know he heard you. What’s that all about? That’s a child withholding an answer to feel powerful. When he says, “I don’t have to answer you if I don’t want to,” you see it as a lack of motivation. He sees it as a way to win control over you.

All Kids are Motivated by Something

I want to be clear about this point: everyone is motivated. The question is, motivated to do what? If a child looks like he’s not motivated, you have to look at what he’s accomplishing and assume that this is what he’s motivated to do.

So part of the solution is getting him to be motivated to do something else. To assume that the child is unmotivated is an ineffective way of looking at it. He is motivated. He’s simply motivated to do nothing. In this case, doing nothing means resisting and holding back to exercise control over you.

Kids Resist Because They Lack Problem-Solving Skills

The child who uses resistance as a form of control lacks both social skills and problem-solving skills.

They don’t have the social skills to know how to talk to other people, how to be friendly, and how to feel comfortable with themselves. Also, they don’t have the problem-solving skills to figure out what people want from them, how to deal with other people’s behavior, and how to meet expectations and demands.

These are basic skills we all have to learn in order to be successful as adults.

If continually resisting is how a child tries to solve problems, then parents will have a hard time until they teach the child how to solve problems appropriately.

The first step in teaching kids problem-solving skills is to understand that these kids are not helpless victims. Instead, they’re simply trying to solve problems in an ineffective manner.

Don’t Argue or Fight With Your Child About Motivation

Very often these kids are motivated by the power struggle. They find different ways to have that struggle with their parents. The job of the parents, therefore, is to find other ways for the child to solve the problem that’s causing the power struggle.

But if parents don’t have those other ways then the power struggle continues with no end in sight.

If you’re fighting day after day with a kid who won’t get out of bed, you’re never going to solve that problem. Because even if he gets out of bed then he won’t brush his teeth. And even if he brushes his teeth then he won’t comb his hair. Or he won’t wear clean clothes, or he won’t do his homework.

Understand that when you yell at your child for lack of motivation, you’re giving their resisting behavior power. So don’t yell. Don’t argue. Don’t give their resisting behavior power.

I understand that parents get frustrated—that’s normal. And sometimes you will lose your calm, even when you know better.

The point I want to make here is that yelling and fighting won’t solve the problem. If you’re yelling and fighting over these issues, you’re giving him more power in the struggle, and you don’t want to do that. Here’s what to do instead.

Be Clear, Calm, and Give Consequences for Your Child’s Behavior

Make the situation clear for the child. Use “I” words. Say the following:

“I want you to get up out of bed and get ready for school.”

“I want you to do your homework now.”

Then leave the bedroom. If the kid doesn’t do it, then there should be consequences. There should be accountability.

If your child says, “I don’t care about the consequences,” ignore her. She will tell you she doesn’t care just as a way to feel in control. Or, she may not care now, but as consequences get applied consistently, she will eventually see compliance as a better alternative to consequences.

Therefore, give consequences. And don’t worry if the kid doesn’t like it. You are not your child’s friend, you’re their parent.

Related content: Unmotivated Child? 6 Ways to Get Your Child Going

By the way, if your child doesn’t get out of bed, he shouldn’t be doing anything else. He shouldn’t get to play video games. He shouldn’t spend four hours in front of the TV. If he’s too sick to go to school, he shouldn’t be going out of the house. These rules should be set and enforced consistently.

Give Effective Consequences

Understanding what is and what is not an effective consequence is critical. The right consequences actually motivate your child to good behavior. They put you back in control and teach your child how to problem-solve, giving your child the skills needed to be a successful adult.

Know that effective consequences are not punishments. Indeed, I say all the time that you can’t punish your child into behaving better.

I recommend all parents to read this article on how to give kids consequences that work. And take a look at this sample video from The Complete Guide to Consequences.

Let Your Child Experience Natural Consequences

I would always tell parents in my office that you have to have the courage to let her experience the consequences of her behavior. It takes a lot of courage for a parent to step back and say:

“Okay, you’re not going to do your homework, and you’re going to get the grades that reflect that.”

But in these cases, it can help to let the child experience the natural consequences of resistance. You don’t let the kid watch TV. You say:

“Homework time is from six to eight. And if you don’t want to do your homework during that time, that’s fine. But you can’t go on the computer, you can’t play games, and you can’t watch TV. If you choose not to do your homework, that’s your choice. And if you fail, that’s your choice too.”

Remember, natural consequences are an important part of life. That’s why we have speeding tickets. A speeding ticket is a natural consequence. If you go too fast, the policeman stops you and gives you a ticket. He doesn’t follow you home to make sure you don’t speed anymore. He lets you go. It’s your job to stop and take responsibility. If you don’t, you’re going to get another ticket fifteen minutes later.

Natural consequences help people take responsibility, and they can be used to help kids take responsibility for things like going to school, participating in class, and doing homework.

Don’t Forget to Use Rewards

Along with the plan to let her experience the natural consequences of her decisions, build in rewards for success if she does make the right decision.

For example, if my son failed a test, there was no punishment. But if he passed, there was a reward. It was very simple. We rewarded A’s and B’s. We didn’t take anything away for C, we just didn’t reward it.

So my son eventually strived to have A’s all the time. So with kids who resist, it’s important to have a rewards system as well as a consequence system.

Be Patient and Persistent

Calmly and consistently using effective consequences is your fastest and best way to get your child motivated. Just be patient and persistent as consequences do their job and your child begins to learn better problem-solving skills. And know that the vast majority of kids come around and get motivated once they are held accountable in a meaningful way.

Related content: Motivating Underachievers: 9 Steps to Take When Your Child Says “I Don’t Care”

Source: Empowering Parents

What if You’re Not the Only One Having Trouble Functioning?

Yes, most people feel guilty about the way they’re coping during the pandemic.

Before reading the rest of this post, please complete the following quiz to assess your level of functioning during this pandemic. Keep track of how many times you answer “yes” to the following items.

Since the pandemic started, have you had multiple episodes in which you:

  • Planned productive activities that you haven’t been able to get yourself to start or complete?
  • Had trouble feeling motivated or energetic enough to plan productive activities?
  • Attempted to do something productive but had trouble focusing?
  • Had trouble sleeping and/or getting up in the morning? (And/or taken long naps during the day?)
  • Spent several hours passively watching TV, surfing the internet, or doing other things just to pass time?
  • Eaten more food than you’d like and/or less-healthy food than you’d like?
  • Experienced feelings of loneliness, anxiety, panic, depression, boredom, irritation, and/or numbness?
  • Felt anxious, guilty, or upset about experiencing these emotions, especially since so many people are in worse situations than you are? (Or felt guilty whenever you felt happy, since so many people are suffering?)
  • Felt anxious, guilty, and/or frustrated with yourself because you know (or at least assume) that you’re having episodes when you’re not coping as well as most people are?
  • Felt like you should be handling things better than you are?

——————————————

Thanks for taking the quiz. Now for the scoring. Give yourself one point for every “yes” answer.

If your total number of “yes” answers falls in the range of 2 to 11, that means that … you are handling this crisis much like most people are handling it. And if you answered “yes” to fewer than 2 of the questions, then…  I suspect you may be some sort of lab-altered superhuman destined to fight crime. (Sorry to break it to you in a Psychology Today post.)

I don’t mean to make light of the situation. I know that people are struggling. I’ve talked to dozens of people about their reactions to this crisis. Some have continued working (from home or otherwise), and others have lost jobs. Some are stable financially; others cannot pay rent. Some live alone; others live with families. Some are dealing with illness; others are the picture of health. However, regardless of circumstances, I’ve noticed one common factor:

Almost everyone has episodes when they feel like they should be handling things better than they are.

Of note is that some of these people have posted messages on social media about how much they have accomplished and how grateful they are for the extra time at home. Others initially responded to inquiries by saying that they were doing well… and only later admitted to having difficulty.

 

Most of us know that (newsflash!) people’s social media posts or answers in social situations don’t always reflect their full lives. And yet, we are so bombarded with positively skewed social media and conversations, as well as ubiquitous articles about how to use this time productively, that it can be easy to believe that everyone else is responding much more adaptively than we are—and then feel impatient and frustrated with ourselves as a result.

What’s more, many people also judge themselves based on what they would expect to accomplish during a standard vacation from work or break from social activities.

Newsflash #2: Your extra time at home during the pandemic is not a vacation or a break.

Nothing about this time is standard. The world has suddenly morphed into a dystopian sci-fi film, and nobody knows exactly how or when it will be resolved. Everyone is experiencing a tremendous amount of stress and other difficult emotions, and almost everyone is having at least some trouble functioning.

Expecting yourself to act as if the extra free time were a nice gift is just not realistic.

However, people tend to hold unrealistic expectations about how they should be functioning during this surreal time, and then become critical and frustrated with themselves when they don’t meet those expectations. Ironically, many people think that this self-criticism and frustration is beneficial, as they think these reactions will motivate them to “improve” their behavior.

Reality is actually the opposite.

Harsh self-criticism and judgments just lead to increased stress and additional negative emotions (such as shame, hopelessness, and despair). If a person already has trouble functioning with their current levels of stress and negative emotions, that person is going to have even more trouble functioning once the stress and negative emotions increase.

In other words, your self-critical reactions can become a vicious cycle. The more you judge yourself for not functioning up to your expectations, the more difficulty you will have functioning at all. And so on.

So what’s the solution? I’m not advocating giving up all goals and just floating through the rest of this pandemic with no effort. Instead, I encourage you to:

1. Work to modify your expectations based on these unprecedented circumstances.

a. There’s not only one “right” way to cope during this time. On some days, a realistic expectation might simply be just to survive one more day.

2. Work to be patient and compassionate with yourself when you do have trouble functioning. Remind yourself that:

a. Almost everyone is having at least some difficulty coping at the moment.

b. Criticizing and judging yourself will only increase the stress and negative emotions, which will leave you feeling less motivated and even less able to function adaptively.

c. The way you’re functioning in this unprecedented, once-in-a-lifetime situation is not predictive of how you will function once the pandemic subsides.

It’s not going to be easy, and (surprise, surprise) all of your guilt and self-criticism won’t suddenly disappear. But I urge you to at least consider working on the above.

One important point: I don’t want to minimize the fact that some people’s situations are more dire than others’, often through no fault of their own. However, as unfair as that is, it still doesn’t change the facts that a) almost everyone is having at least some trouble dealing with the current crisis, and b) judging oneself based on some unrealistic ideal of the “correct” way to function will just increase the stress and impede the ability to function.

My next post will discuss potential strategies for coping during this crisis. Foreshadowing: None of the strategies are the “right” or “best” way to cope for everyone, and none will make your stress disappear. (You won’t turn into a lab-altered superhuman.)

In summary of this post: If you have difficulty letting go of your self-judgments, just ask yourself:

What is your goal during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Is your goal to be tough on yourself while increasing your stress and decreasing your perceived ability to function? Or is your goal to get through the crisis as effectively as possible, even if it means that you may experience some bumps (or mountains) along the way?

If the latter, then remember:

♦ Working to be patient and compassionate toward yourself does not mean that you need to give up all expectations or stop working toward goals.

♦ Instead, it means that you will likely be more effective—and less stressed—if you:

• remind yourself that the world is in the middle of an unprecedented event,

• remind yourself that most people are having at least some trouble functioning, and

• give yourself some leeway when you don’t achieve what you expect to achieve or feel what you expect to feel. You’re not the only one.

 

Source: Psychology today

What to say instead of ‘You’re Okay’

Have you ever considered how conventional parenting advice, like saying “you’re okay” or putting your kids in time-out can actually hurt your relationship with your kids?

We know babies cry. But what if, while we are trying to keep our babies from crying, we’re actually harming our relationship with them?

Here’s what we say to our kids that can start to make them feel insecure in their relationship with us: “You’re okay.”

What’s wrong with this simple statement?

They don’t know what it means. They don’t think they’re okay. We’re telling them something they don’t understand, or believe.

Are they okay? Yes, of course they are. But when we tell them that, we’re telling them how to feel in that situation — when it’s not up to us. They need to understand what’s happening with their emotions, but they can’t understand if we don’t explain it properly.

Let’s put this concept into perspective. How would you feel if you just hurt yourself and can’t control what you’re feeling right now? You’re probably scared. And then someone you depend on tells you you’re okay, when you know for a fact that you’re not okay? You might even be labeled “bad” because you’re expressing yourself. Do you feel safe with that person? Do you believe them? Do you know how to express yourself around them the next time you feel that way?

What should we do in these situations? Show them empathy by putting yourself in your kid’s shoes: “I can see you’re upset, I wouldn’t like it if I fell down either. I’ll bet it hurts. I would be scared if I fell, too.” Here’s another example: “I know you’re sad that I’m leaving right now and you don’t want me to leave you with Grandma. You’re scared because you don’t know when you’ll see me again. I’ll be back soon, and I love you.”

Your kid will likely still be upset. But as they get older and feel understood, they’ll calm down quicker. There is an energy that comes from you that they will recognize, and know that they are okay because they’ll understand that you know what they’re feeling. They’ll feel safe to express themselves with you.

When you make a habit of showing your child empathy, you’ll build trust and connection in your relationship. They’ll start to recognize that it’s safe for them to feel the way they do, and that it’s safe for them to have a range of emotions. You’re also building the foundation of trust for when they start to have tantrums or break rules. When they trust you, they’ll be much more likely to regulate their emotions, so tantrums and rule breaking won’t happen as frequently and they won’t last as long.

Have you noticed how your kid responds to empathy versus you telling them they’re okay?

What Is Reasonable To Expect From Your Child During The Summer?

There are many schools of thought on summertime learning activities for kids. What should be required, expected, or hoped for when it comes to academic learning? This all varies depending on your child’s age, level of performance relative to their grade level, desire for advancement, and I believe a very important consideration – level of stress and burn out from the school year.

Is summer learning necessary?

Most people would agree that there are certain skills that, especially when they are newly acquired or still being developed, need to be continued on a regular basis so that they are mastered – firmly placed into long-term memory. For example, a student that learned their times tables during the year will want to practice them to some degree during the summer months so they are not forgotten. Of course, with the heavy use of calculators I think all people need occasional brushing up on their math facts! Or what if your child is truly behind grade level? Here I would first request that the teacher be involved in helping you set a reasonable expectation for advancement. You don’t want to add pressure to “catch up” beyond what is realistic since the added stress will likely REDUCE the amount of learning that actually will take place.

If you are going to require your child do summer learning, I would suggest that you ask the teacher to provide you with resources and guidance so that the learning goal is S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound). Then you can decide if outside tutoring or support is necessary.

Getting your child’s “buy in”

While children are still in the early years of grade school, it is a lot easier to choose and direct what they will spend their time doing. However, as children reach the tween and teen years they are much more cognizant of what their peers are doing and the work that is “required” by school verses parents. If you are going to require that your child do summertime learning activities it is very important that they feel good about doing the work. Creating motivation is of course crucial if you want this to be a positive experience. As I have mentioned previously (Motivation – How Can We Help Kids Find it?), motivation requires AutonomyMastery and Purpose.

Regardless of your child’s age or grade, make sure they understand why they are doing the activities, what choice if any they have in crafting when and how the work will be done, and what benefit they will derive from having done the work. A solid discussion with your child where you are allow them to express their concerns, questions, and desires will go a long way if done well in advance of the actual starting date. I am not opposed to offering a small reward or treat for them to participate in added summer learning as this may take the sting away!

Great summer learning opportunities

Typing
First and foremost, if your child is NOT very proficient in his/her keyboarding skills (QWERTY ten-finger typing) summer is a great time to learn this vital skill. Many students with ADHD have poor handwriting skills, making it challenging for them to write legibly at a quick pace. Also, many benefit by being able to use a word processor to organize their thoughts and manage their written work. Most children are developmentally capable of learning to type by 2nd or 3rd grade. There are many programs that only require a few minutes a day and the skills can be mastered within a two-month time period.

Learn a graphic organizing program
For many children with ADHD and Executive Function deficits, the writing process could be quite daunting. A good graphic organizing program can help students by giving them the structure and format to outline their work that is very easy to use. Programs like Inspiration (www.Inspiration.com offers a free 30 day trial) allow students to get their thoughts down on paper and then worry about organizing spelling and grammar afterwards. Once they learn how to use this program it is also excellent to use for annotating during reading and taking notes during class.

Time Management
Even though during the summer your child may not have many tasks or assignments to manage, this is a good time to introduce an overall approach to improve their skills for when they need them. One of the best techniques I’ve ever found to help people manage their time is the Pomodoro technique. Business executives and students use this technique to make sure that they not only plan our their work more efficiently, but also deepen their focus and concentration while they are doing the work. Read What I Learned About Time Management from Running and a Tomato for a basic explanation of this method. You might start using it yourself to get through some of your tasks as well!

Multiplication Tables
Whether your child is currently learning his math facts or still struggling to remember 7 x 6, summer is a great time to nail these facts down. A great tool I like is Times Tales. This lesson booklet contains a creative, innovative mnemonic-based program that makes it fun and easy to memorize the upper multiplication facts. Each number is a character (ex. 8 is a snowman) and there are short stories with graphics that include the fact and answer, making the learning fun and multi-sensory. For those interested, I have them available for sale in my office.

Summer Reading
Most students are assigned a book or two to read over the summer. While of course having your child actually read the book cover to cover is preferable, if you have a reluctant reader you may want to help the process along a little so at least they can gain value in properly doing the accompanying assignment or participating in the discussion once school begins again. Agreeing to share in the reading is one way to bond and help your child complete the book. Another option is to get the book through a program like Learning Ally. This is a service that, for a yearly fee, has a vast catalog of audio books that are recorded by individuals (as opposed to a computer generated voice). They have novels, textbooks, and magazines. This way they can listen to some or all of the book while they are moving around – a great way to keep the mind alert for some! It’s also great for during the year if the content material is too much volume for your child to read independently even though they are academically capable of absorbing the material.

21 Questions to Get Your Child to Open Up About School

“How was your day?” “Fine.” It’s not exactly illuminating conversation, is it? Unfortunately, many kids with ADHD don’t leap at the opportunity to talk to Mom and Dad about how their day at school went — especially if it went poorly. Here’s how parents can encourage better communication (hint: it starts by asking the right questions).

Kids don’t like to share their thoughts and feelings about school, especially if they have had a rough day. Unfortunately, many children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) have a lot of rough days at school. Many of them find school a slog — seven hours of falling short of expectations and feeling bad about themselves. Who would want to talk about those experiences every day?

Here’s a list of questions to ask that get them talking. Some questions will lead to interesting conversations, hilarious answers, and insights into how your children think and feel about school.  If your child is quiet about school, try out some of these questions on him or her:

  1. What was the best thing that happened at school today? (What was the worst thing that happened at school today?)
  2. Tell me something that made you laugh today.
  3. Whom would you like to sit by in class? (Whom would you not want to sit by in class? Why?)
  4. Where is the coolest place at the school?
  5. Tell me a weird word that you heard today (or something weird that someone said).
  6. If I called your teacher tonight, what would she tell me about you?
  7. How did you help somebody today?
  8. How did somebody help you today?
  9. Tell me one thing that you learned today.
  10. When were you the happiest today?
  11. When were you bored today?
  12. If an alien spaceship came to your class and beamed someone up, who would you want them to take?
  13. Who would you like to play with at recess whom you’ve never played with before?
  14. Tell me something good that happened today.
  15. What word did your teacher say the most today?
  16. What do you think you should do/learn more of at school?
  17. What do you think you should do/learn less of at school?
  18. Who in your class do you think you could be nicer to?
  19. Where do you play the most at recess?
  20. Who is the funniest person in your class? Why is he/she so funny?
  21. What was your favorite part of lunch?

Some of our favorite answers came from questions 12, 15, and 21. The “alien” question gives kids a non-threatening way to say who they would rather not have in their class, and encourage a discussion to ask why, potentially uncovering issues you didn’t know about.

“When I asked question 3,” says a mom, “I discovered that one of my children didn’t want to sit by a best friend in class anymore — not out of a desire to be mean but in the hope that she’d get the chance to work with other people.”

Source can be found here.

Why is Voting Important? – Lesson for Kids

Voting is an important process in our country through which leaders are selected to make laws and solve problems.

In this article, explore the history of voting, discover why it is important to vote, and learn why you should vote in every election.

Time to Vote! Let’s learn why everyone should vote, and how it can change the way you live.

What Are Elections?
An election is when leaders are chosen for public offices or jobs by voters. Elections can be held for people who have local jobs. An example of a local leader is a mayor, who works to help make life better for people living in their town or city. There are also elections for state and national leaders, like your state’s governor.

So where do people go to vote? There are sites called polling places, which are usually public buildings like schools or libraries where people who live close by can come and vote.

Voting History
Can you imagine a time when certain groups of people were not allowed to vote? Sadly, this happened not very long ago. Up until 1920, only white men were allowed to vote. However, women and African Americans fought for the right to vote, which is often referred to as suffrage.

Voting Can Improve Communities
Imagine a school building, maybe the one where you are a student. Who decided to construct this building? Who decided that you would go to this particular school? Local leaders made these decisions, and they are people who are voted into these jobs. When you vote, you get to have a say in who these leaders are.

You can also choose state and national leaders, who make laws that improve the lives of people living in their state.

Today is an election day. Make your voice heard.

5 ways to help an anxious child

We all know that anxiety can be present at any age, even in very young children. As they grow, most children follow a “normal” developmental trajectory in terms of anxiety manifestations. In simple terms, since anxiety is part of childhood development, we can expect to see children deal with it at different stages. The most common form of anxiety seen in children is separation anxiety. Others will develop signs and symptoms associated with more severe anxiety. As early childhood educators, you may have observed persistent signs associated with anxiety in children. You may even have felt powerless when you faced anxiety-related behaviors. There is no miracle recipe. However, certain strategies can be considered to help children in general, particularly those who may experience more serious symptoms.

A healthy lifestyle at its best

A rested, well-fed child who has a consistent schedule and healthy, balanced lifestyle habits may, over time, demonstrate fewer anxiety-related signs and behaviors. Anxiety tends to increase during times of stress or during periods when a child is more tired. For this reason, be sure to create a stable routine that leaves plenty of time for rest. Alternate between calm and active games and activities. Watch for signs. You may have to temporarily reorganize your schedule to fulfill the needs of your group if children need more rest.

Balance “reassurance” and “overprotectiveness”

When we intervene with an anxious child, reassuring him about his fears is extremely important. The same is true for future events. With an anxious child, you must aim to prepare him for unforeseeable events as much as possible. However, be very careful. Do not become overprotective. Try to find the middle ground between reassuring the child and preventing him from taking initiatives and developing a go-getter attitude. In the same way, make sure you aren’t helping the child avoid all situations that may cause anxiety or increase his level of anxiety. Instead, simply accompany the child whenever he is facing an anxiety-inducing situation.

Foster self-esteem

Self-esteem is built day by day. The more confident a child is, the more he will believe in his ability to succeed. His level of anxiety will most likely go down. Make a point of positively reinforcing an anxious child. Set him up for success and show him you have faith in his abilities…and your own. Keep in mind that children learn by example and you are an important role model.

Plan for what’s coming

Of course, we can’t plan everything. Nonetheless, integrating an illustrated schedule and announcing field trips and special activities ahead of time can help children feel prepared to face what’s coming. All children need to be reassured whenever they face unfamiliar people or activities. Explaining how and when things are going to occur will help an anxious child. Aim to use visual tools as often as possible.

Acceptance

Each child is unique. If an anxious child feels accepted despite his anxiety, it will be much easier for him to grow and evolve. Accompany an anxious child as much as possible.

With your help, an anxious child can tackle the challenges associated with his anxiety.

The source can be found here.

The confusion between accommodation and remediation

“I wish I knew this at the beginning of the school year!” How many times have you realized that you could have done things differently as a parent, had you had better knowledge about your kid’s learning and development?

In this article, I would like to explain the differences between two critical terms: accommodation and remediation. These two terms often remain under-the-radar in many parent-teacher meetings and are the cause of fruitless attempts of improving students’ performance in school. Throughout my work as an educational specialist, I meet with many parents who are faced with many challenges in helping their children succeed with tasks that require cognitive/executive functions. These kids face different kinds of issues on a daily basis. The main two being homework and class performance.

Nevertheless, those issues surface much more in school than at home. Therefore, teacher-parent collaboration is essential. In the absence of effective cooperation, many parents end up feeling hopeless as they see how their children are not fulfilling their true potential as individuals and as learners. Many parents share with me their willingness to cooperate and meet with the school’s demands, but the issues seem to persist; they keep on getting negative reports from the teachers. Nothing seems to be working.

To learn more about their children, I ask parents many different questions seeking to clarify the areas of struggle.
For example, one parent explained to me how his son can read a chapter from the textbook but cannot recall what he read shortly after. A more significant problem emerged when the child started avoiding learning and showing outburst of anger. When the school administrator contacted the parents, the conversation revolved around the behavior and conclusion that the student might have ADHD or dyslexia [or both]. The teacher reported many ways to differentiate the teaching, some of which include moving the student’s seat closer to the board, breaking the tasks down into smaller tasks, and even working with the student one-on-one during lunch time. All these attempts ended up fruitless. The school’s recommendation was to send the student for an evaluation. Sadly, no one suggested discussing a plan of action to remediate to the child’s weak working memory, an essential executive function.

Parents know that when the issue pertains to their children their ability to control their emotions becomes compromised rapidly; some even admit that they feel physical aching during those meetings in school. Another ability that is weakened during these situations relates to asking the right questions, one of which could be the school’s ability to help the child.

If we want to help struggling students, we must clarify two types of appropriate supports. Theses supports fall into two categories: accommodation and remediation. Parents should find out whether the teacher and/or school are able and ready to provide students with these kinds of support. Some schools do so as part of their teaching style, other schools do not. Accommodation means providing support for the sake of achieving a result. For example, erecting a wheelchair ramp at the entrance of the City Hall is a support for the disables who needs to enter the building. Another example, when my student broke his finger in basketball practice, the nurse recommended that he will type his class-notes on the computer. These two cases are examples of accommodations where support is available for one to attain his/her goal. These accommodations are not meant to heal the disability nor the finger of my student. It will, nevertheless, help them achieve what they need to get.

In contrast to accommodation, remediation deals with the healing of the problem. The word remediation stems from the Latin word, remedialis, which means “healing, curing.” For example, a student who suffers from test anxiety and resorts to procrastination will benefit from sessions with a coach or a counselor who will help the student find out about causes and together form effective solutions. Moreover, the student may discover that her test anxiety stems from a fear of failure. The work with a coach will then focus on flexibility and problem-solving skills.

Another example of remediation could be a student with dyscalculia who struggles with understanding number-related concepts. It was the Kindergarten teacher who noticed the problem first. However, due to the child’s ability to remember answers rather than understand processes, the issue surfaced only in fourth grade. At that juncture, the teacher, who did not know the previous teachers, allowed the student to use a calculator in class. After a whole year of using a calculator, the student arrived in 5th grade unaware of the concept of place value. Needless to mention his arithmetic skills were below grade level. To remediate the student problem of dyscalculia, his 5th grade Math teacher will have to find the exact problem or use the student’s IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) to remediate a few years of Math deficit.

As you may realize, the ramifications of addressing a problem with accommodation rather than remediation can create a cycle of unproductive efforts and growing frustration. I have seen many parents who could not accept the idea that their child will be better off in a different school. These parents perceived their conversations with the school as utter humiliation. Unfortunately, there is a bad stigma for specialized schools. Even though these schools are fully equipped and dedicated for remediation, many parents still perceive specialized schools as institutes for troubled kids.

There are instances where accommodation is the best alternative, but in some instances remediation is the best option. Every parent should seek to understand the balance between these two approaches. The possibility of a blend of the two can also be explored.

Accommodation and remediation are thus two critical terms parents ought to know and understand. For students with learning disabilities, it is always better to inquire with the teacher about the difficulties of the student. Try to look for the facts. You would also want to remind yourself that managing your emotions during the meetings with the school’s representative will help you stay focused and ask the right questions. In addition, taking notes on the conversation will help you remember the key points when you follow up with the grade advisor or the school psychologist for further inquiry. Some of your questions should include trying to understand in which classes your child misbehaves or does not meet class expectations. Ask about the learning activities and the work environment. Find out about the activities your child performs rather well. Finally, ask what you can do at home to support the teacher’s endeavors and your child’s learning.

Showing curiosity and empathy with the teachers have proven to be very helpful. You do not have to agree with them, but mutual respect will surely enhance effective communication and progress. Understanding the differences between accommodation and remediation should change the way you encounter your child’s learning endeavors in school and home as well. Maintaining frequent communication with your child’s teachers by asking relevant questions will help you focus your efforts and resources effectively.

I wish you and your children a happy and successful first semester! Please remember that you can contact me with questions at contact@mrmizrahi.com.

Thank you,

Benjamin Mizrahi

The ABC method

Raise your words, not your voice. It is rains that grows flowers, not thunder.

The use of spanking to discipline children has been in decline for 50 years. But yelling? Almost everybody still yells at their kids sometimes, even the parents who know it doesn’t work. Yelling may be the most widespread parental stupidity around today.

Households with regular shouting incidents tend to have children with lower self-esteem and higher rates of depression. A 2014 study in The Journal of Child Development demonstrated that yelling produces results similar to physical punishment in children: increased levels of anxiety, stress and depression along with an increase in behavioral problems.

I use a program called the ABCs, which stands for antecedents, behaviors and consequences. The antecedent is the setup, telling a child, specifically, what you want them to do before you want them to do it. Behaviors are where the behavior is defined and shaped, modeled by the parent. And the consequence involves an expression of approval when that behavior is performed, an over-the top Broadway-style belt-it-to-the-back-row expression of praise with an accompanying physical gesture of approval.

So instead of yelling at your kid every night for the shoes strewn across the floor, ask him in the morning if he can put his shoes away when he comes home. Make sure when you come home that you put your own shoes away. And if your child puts his shoes away, or even puts them closer to where they’re supposed to be, tell him that he did a great job and then hug him.

The ABC method of praise is a highly specific technique. You have to be effusive, so you actually have to put a big dumb smile on your face and even wave your hands in the air. Next thing is you have to say, in a very high, cheerful voice, exactly what you’re praising. And then the third part is you have to touch the child and give him some kind of nonverbal praise. The silliness is a feature, not a bug. It makes the kid notice the praise that accompanies correct behavior. And that’s the point.

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