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    #235757 - 01/02/17 10:18 PM Advice on motivating our middle schooler
    omahamama Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 12/28/16
    Posts: 4
    Where to begin?! First, glad to find this group. I've enjoyed reading,and have already benefitted from reading your posts. Our 14 year old gifted DS is in the 8th grade. He's a very bright boy, but certainly not as mature as he is smart. Good ole asynchronous development. He's never been great about doing his homework, multiple excuses: didn't know, didn't get any, and nothing to work ahead on. wink It's honestly gotten progressively worse. In 7th grade, I was watching his grades closely and he was one point away from the honor role. Fast forward to now and the past quarter, he had no As, all B's and one C. I'm not as concerned about actual "grades" as I am the fact that he just isn't doing the work. Last year, I was on him to get his work done, and frankly, it was obvious that I was putting more work into this...the worry at least, and our relationship became quite strained. "Leave me alone you helicopter parent!!" I reminded him that if he completed his work routinely, I'd be able to back off. He was doing the school work, but only by being prompted and reminded by me. We've tried consequences, but nothing was too effective. A few important facts. There have been some girls interested in him which has been a real problem. He's really not socially mature enough to handle these "relationships", and they've created much drama and emotion for him...that he doesn't handle well. He was struggling with severe acne and is on Accutane. Its working well, but if we had to do it over again, I'd say no. Poor focus, fatigue and low frustration tolerance. He'll be done in Feb, so almost done!!! His effort and energy weren't stellar prior to the acctuane tho. In the middle of last quarter, I decided to stop for a bit, and see how he handled it. Our relationship was stressed, and I thought it was time for him to sink or swim, Well, he kinda sank. For example, in many classes, he had a A on a few tests, but probably 4-5 zeros for work that wasn't done or turned in. Many of these nights of zeros, he had "no homework". Too bad he isn't worried. He has big college dreams, but seems totally unrealistic considering his lack of effort. A few questions for you: 1) What is the SOAR? I'm trying to read about this, but not really getting it. In terms of organization, he's not an organized kid, but to compound things, they don't have lockers and have to exist out of a backpack for the day...often stuffing work into his backpack just to get to the next class on time. 2) He loves video games/xbox, etc. It's one motivator that works, but I'm worried that if I say, you can have 30 minutes of xbox when your work is done, that he either rushes thru his work, or has "none", and just reads instead. We do require an hour min of work. Would love any support or feedback! He's such a smart guy!!

    Top
    #235799 - 01/05/17 09:06 AM Re: Advice on motivating our middle schooler [Re: omahamama]
    indigo Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/27/13
    Posts: 4851
    Welcome!

    Originally Posted By: omahamama
    What is the SOAR?
    In this context, SOAR is an acronym for helping students to remember study skills:
    Set goals,
    Organize,
    Ask questions,
    Record.
    Website here: https://studyskills.com/

    Originally Posted By: omahamama
    he's not an organized kid
    To assist with organizing, color-coding has been discussed frequently on the forums, including this recent thread: Very practical advice needed.

    Originally Posted By: omahamama
    he just isn't doing the work
    ...
    they've created much drama and emotion for him...that he doesn't handle well
    Organizational skills, time management, and emotional regulation are "Executive Function" (EF) skills. You may wish to read up on that. Here are just a few resources:
    - Davidson Database: EF article,
    - Understood.org: EF issues,
    - Hoagies Gifted Education Page: combined list of AD/HD and EF resources
    - wrightslaw: topics list.

    Has your child been tested for giftedness? Did the test results indicate any areas for further testing? Has your child been tested for potential EF issues?

    Even when there are no EF issues, students may grow unmotivated by lack of an academic challenge worthy of their potential.
    - This old post summarizes ten key points made in the linked article: What A Child Doesn't Learn.
    - This old post discusses excerpts from a linked article on the downside of having a poor educational/academic "fit".

    Originally Posted By: omahamama
    He loves video games/xbox, etc. It's one motivator that works
    Caution is needed as the promise of external rewards can backfire. Children need to develop the sense that accomplishing the work is internally rewarding... they need to create positive thoughts and self-talk about the process of struggling, learning, accomplishing... and believe that they are bettering themselves by this process. Parents can be role models by embracing challenge, being life-long learners, and discussing the joy of making breakthroughs and overcoming obstacles.

    Originally Posted By: omahamama
    I'm not as concerned about actual "grades"
    Both parents and children should be aware that grades are being tracked, along with other student information.

    Originally Posted By: omahamama
    He has big college dreams, but seems totally unrealistic considering his lack of effort.
    He may enjoy exploring college websites, and learning what their typical admissions are - in terms of GPA, standardized test scores, etc. These books may also be of interest as they give many ideas on what students could be doing in middle school to prepare for high school, and in high school to prepare for college:
    - What High Schools Don't Tell You
    - What Colleges Don't Tell You

    Hopefully something in this roundup of links helps to address at least a few of your questions and concerns, and assists your child in moving forward. smile

    Top
    #235802 - 01/05/17 12:18 PM Re: Advice on motivating our middle schooler [Re: omahamama]
    polarbear Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/29/11
    Posts: 3363
    Originally Posted By: omahamama
    He's never been great about doing his homework, multiple excuses: didn't know, didn't get any, and nothing to work ahead on.


    Aside from the excuses, when he *does* do his homework, have you noticed anything that's stressful for him or seems more difficult than you'd expect? Does he seem disorganized in general or only with respect to homework?

    If you see issues with either of these, it's possible there's more going on than simply lack of motivation.

    Quote:
    Last year, I was on him to get his work done, and frankly, it was obvious that I was putting more work into this...the worry at least, and our relationship became quite strained. "Leave me alone you helicopter parent!!"


    Were you watching over him, or were you helping him find strategies to stay on track? How you approach the situation can make a big difference in terms of whether or not a parent's help is accepted. It's easy to get stressed out as a parent when you think about the consequences of not turning in homework etc, but instead of focusing on that, try looking at it as a project to solve together. *IF* you truly think the challenge is a lack of organizational skills, ask your ds what the actual challenges are - what makes it tough to turn in his homework or to remember to do it, etc. Ask how homework is handled in each class. You can research and come up with ideas and strategies he can use, but instead of telling him to do them, ask for his ideas first, suggest things you think might help also, and come up with a plan together. Then act as a partner in helping him stay on track with the plan. Let him take ownership of it, but check in and adjust as needed - basically act as a mentor. In the event you think this just won't work for your ds (for whatever reason) - because you're his parent, find someone who you can ask to mentor him in organizational skills, keeping up with homework etc. It could be an adult organizational coach/tutor or a high school student that you're instructing.. whatever might work in your situation.

    OTOH, if you think it's an issue with motivation, that's a different type of challenge. The first thing I'd recommend - don't panic. He's only 14, and only in 8th grade. He might simply not have found his inner motivation yet. Maybe the subjects he's taking in school simply aren't that exciting to him, maybe his teachers aren't inspirational, maybe he'd just rather be with friends right now. Maybe something else entirely is going on and it's interfering with school. The key here is communication, keeping the lines of communication open, trying to know your ds as much as possible.

    Quote:
    I reminded him that if he completed his work routinely, I'd be able to back off. He was doing the school work, but only by being prompted and reminded by me. We've tried consequences, but nothing was too effective.


    A few random opinions from me on this: re backing off, if you're sure he's not facing a true organizational challenge and lack of motivation is the issue, it's ok to back off and let him sink at this point. He's still very young and he's not in high school yet. These grades, this year, aren't going on a college application. If he needs to sink a bit to find his motivation, now's the time to sink. Totally jmo, and I'm not a professional so really truly take what I say as my opinion only.

    Quote:
    There have been some girls interested in him which has been a real problem. He's really not socially mature enough to handle these "relationships", and they've created much drama and emotion for him...that he doesn't handle well.


    I've been through middle school with three kids - one ds and two dds. My experience with girls going through puberty and middle school (both my dds and my ds' classmates who were girls) is that the emotions are *nuts*, all over the place. I don't know what the answer for your ds is, but if there's a way you can find to help him get interested in something outside of girls or into a different social setting it might help quite a bit.

    Quote:
    He has big college dreams, but seems totally unrealistic considering his lack of effort.


    Again, this is jmo, but none of my kids have had very realistic long-term insight into what they wanted out of life at 14. (Possibly my children aren't all that "high ability" when it comes to long-term planning lol! My oldest really found his motivation mid-way through high school. Would it have been nice for him to understand how effort put in during middle school might pay off later on? Sure! But at the same time, nothing from middle school (here) carries through in a way that diminishes anything he's done since he found his direction. Grades from middle school (here) end as of middle school. Yes, they exist in students' files possibly forever, but they don't get reported anywhere past applying for high school programs, and few of our local high school programs even look at grades. My ds had a semi-impressive honor award during middle school, but it's not really relevant at this point and it's something he can't use for college apps because it's too far back in time. Middle school fades quickly into memory once you get to high school.

    Quote:
    In terms of organization, he's not an organized kid, but to compound things, they don't have lockers and have to exist out of a backpack for the day...often stuffing work into his backpack just to get to the next class on time.


    This made me giggle just a little bit - my ds is 2e and has dealt with a lot of organizational challenges. In high school he's used his backpack as his locker - he likes having everything with him in one place, and he worries that if he took the time to go to his locker he would be late for his next class, as well as quite possibly accidentally leave the wrong books/papers in his locker. I thought that was just my organizationally challenged ds... until my dd went to high school and she also leaves everything in her backpack and carries it around all day - and all of her classes are within just a few feet of each other and her locker. She does it for the very same reason ds does - it's easier from her perspective. They both stay fairly well organized this way - dd has no trouble with it, ds has a bit more of a challenge putting papers actually into his notebooks, but those were things we've worked through together for a few years and he's getting the hang of it.


    Quote:
    He loves video games/xbox, etc. It's one motivator that works, but I'm worried that if I say, you can have 30 minutes of xbox when your work is done, that he either rushes thru his work, or has "none", and just reads instead. We do require an hour min of work.


    Is it possible shorter work times and short breaks between might work better? Can you work in any breaks where he's up and active rather than passively playing video games? Are you just afraid that he'll take advantage of the games as a reward or has that actually happened? If you haven't had it happen yet, and video game time is a motivator, I'd try it out. If it doesn't work, move on to something else.

    Best wishes,

    polarbear


    Edited by polarbear (01/05/17 12:20 PM)

    Top
    #235804 - 01/05/17 02:34 PM Re: Advice on motivating our middle schooler [Re: omahamama]
    ElizabethN Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/17/12
    Posts: 1390
    Loc: Seattle area
    I'll recommend a book that I just finished, that resonates with a lot of the advice you've received here: Raising Human Beings, by Ross Greene. He's the author of The Explosive Child, which gets recommended around here regularly, but this is his thoughts about applying his techniques to kids who aren't necessarily explosive. It's got a lot of examples in it, and I found it to be a really interesting read even though I have a lot of experience with his system.

    Top
    #235805 - 01/05/17 04:48 PM Re: Advice on motivating our middle schooler [Re: omahamama]
    syoblrig Offline
    Member

    Registered: 05/18/11
    Posts: 329
    I have twin 14 yo boys who turn 15 next summer and my first thought is that he's in the wrong grade. I have a boy in 9th and a boy in 10th (who skipped). I'm wondering if the academic work is just not challenging enough for him to rise to the occasion? My 9th grader is really frustrated with school right now because he thinks everything except his two honors classes are too easy. (He should have skipped, too.) But he would go bonkers if he were in 8th grade. So I'm wondering if your son just doesn't think the work is worth his effort? Can you talk to him and the school about the academic challenge and see if there's anything that can be addressed?

    Besides looking at the academic challenge, I would also have dinner time conversations about your values ("do your best" being one of them), the importance of grit and a growth mindset. I think there's a growth mindset book for kids that also might help. Find out how he feels about his study habits and grades, and find out what his goals are and ask where he needs your help.

    I think you're right about having your son own his academics. Our attitude is that our kids' job is school, which needs to be their first priority and everything else is a privilege. I would not be OK with forgotten homework and assignments, especially if it got worse instead of better over the years. So in your case, I would take a carrot and stick approach. Sounds like he's not truthful all the time about turning in assignments. What's the consequence for that? For my son, he would lose games and his phone for a week. If he got a C, sorry to say, he wouldn't get to game until his grade was at least a B. It's one thing to study and get a C. That's a bummer, and we can look at what went wrong and learn from it. But to not study, and not do all the work and get a C? I would take a hard line and not be sympathetic when he lost privileges until the next grading period.

    At the same time, I would probably also reward him for good study habits and grades. I don't actually do that for my kids, but if they were having trouble getting motivated, I wouldn't have a problem finding external motivation for a while. Is there something he wants to work toward that he could earn with good grades? (A skateboard, a trip, a gadget, etc.) In my view, he creates good work habits as he's earning the good grade, and he doesn't lose that when the reward ends.

    I'm not saying my boys haven't ever struggled with motivation-- they have! They're not having the issue right now-- who knows, it might happen again!

    Good luck. I always think it's best to be proactive, and it sounds like you are.

    P.S. One of my boys did accutane, too. (Early puberty!) I know it gave him some fatigue, but it wasn't enough to affect school or his competitive sport. I seriously doubt it's a factor in what's going on with your son.

    Top
    #235806 - 01/05/17 06:32 PM Re: Advice on motivating our middle schooler [Re: omahamama]
    EmmaL Offline
    Member

    Registered: 08/20/15
    Posts: 142
    Just wondering if there is an app to take a picture of random sheets distributed in class => fairly accurately convert to pdf or doc? It would do away with the need to juggle paper and stuff it in the bottom of a backpack. Or is there an IEP accommodation to distribute homework sheets or class handouts on google classroom or the like. I would personally love to be able to take pictures of appointment cards and the appointments be automatically added to google calendar. I dream of the day I can be rid of piles of paper.

    Top
    #235813 - 01/06/17 10:20 AM Re: Advice on motivating our middle schooler [Re: polarbear]
    omahamama Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 12/28/16
    Posts: 4
    Originally Posted By: polarbear
    Originally Posted By: omahamama
    He's never been great about doing his homework, multiple excuses: didn't know, didn't get any, and nothing to work ahead on.


    Aside from the excuses, when he *does* do his homework, have you noticed anything that's stressful for him or seems more difficult than you'd expect? Does he seem disorganized in general or only with respect to homework?

    If you see issues with either of these, it's possible there's more going on than simply lack of motivation.

    [i][b]Well, yes. Last year he was in Advanced Literacy, and this year he has been moved up to Advanced Math. Math doesn't come easy for him, but he had an amazing teacher last year who brought out the very best in him. Math takes him a LONG time. Sometimes several hours. He can only continue along on this track of advanced classes if he gets a B in the class, so he is motivated by that, and sinks all of his time into that. Frankly, I think he's fried after that. [/b][/i]
    Quote:
    Last year, I was on him to get his work done, and frankly, it was obvious that I was putting more work into this...the worry at least, and our relationship became quite strained. "Leave me alone you helicopter parent!!"


    Were you watching over him, or were you helping him find strategies to stay on track? How you approach the situation can make a big difference in terms of whether or not a parent's help is accepted. It's easy to get stressed out as a parent when you think about the consequences of not turning in homework etc, but instead of focusing on that, try looking at it as a project to solve together. *IF* you truly think the challenge is a lack of organizational skills, ask your ds what the actual challenges are - what makes it tough to turn in his homework or to remember to do it, etc. Ask how homework is handled in each class. You can research and come up with ideas and strategies he can use, but instead of telling him to do them, ask for his ideas first, suggest things you think might help also, and come up with a plan together. Then act as a partner in helping him stay on track with the plan. Let him take ownership of it, but check in and adjust as needed - basically act as a mentor. In the event you think this just won't work for your ds (for whatever reason) - because you're his parent, find someone who you can ask to mentor him in organizational skills, keeping up with homework etc. It could be an adult organizational coach/tutor or a high school student that you're instructing.. whatever might work in your situation.

    He honestly just wants me to stay out of it totally. That way, if he's burned out, and I insist that he finish something rather than going to bed, he can get out of it, without the pressure. frown
    OTOH, if you think it's an issue with motivation, that's a different type of challenge. The first thing I'd recommend - don't panic. He's only 14, and only in 8th grade. He might simply not have found his inner motivation yet. Maybe the subjects he's taking in school simply aren't that exciting to him, maybe his teachers aren't inspirational, maybe he'd just rather be with friends right now. Maybe something else entirely is going on and it's interfering with school. The key here is communication, keeping the lines of communication open, trying to know your ds as much as possible.

    I agreed with this, and am trying not to panic, but I worry that we're now into the last 1/2 of 8th grade, and HS is just around the corner. Yikes!
    Quote:
    I reminded him that if he completed his work routinely, I'd be able to back off. He was doing the school work, but only by being prompted and reminded by me. We've tried consequences, but nothing was too effective.


    A few random opinions from me on this: re backing off, if you're sure he's not facing a true organizational challenge and lack of motivation is the issue, it's ok to back off and let him sink at this point. He's still very young and he's not in high school yet. These grades, this year, aren't going on a college application. If he needs to sink a bit to find his motivation, now's the time to sink. Totally jmo, and I'm not a professional so really truly take what I say as my opinion only.

    Quote:
    There have been some girls interested in him which has been a real problem. He's really not socially mature enough to handle these "relationships", and they've created much drama and emotion for him...that he doesn't handle well.


    I've been through middle school with three kids - one ds and two dds. My experience with girls going through puberty and middle school (both my dds and my ds' classmates who were girls) is that the emotions are *nuts*, all over the place. I don't know what the answer for your ds is, but if there's a way you can find to help him get interested in something outside of girls or into a different social setting it might help quite a bit.

    YES!!!

    Quote:
    He has big college dreams, but seems totally unrealistic considering his lack of effort.


    Again, this is jmo, but none of my kids have had very realistic long-term insight into what they wanted out of life at 14. (Possibly my children aren't all that "high ability" when it comes to long-term planning lol! My oldest really found his motivation mid-way through high school. Would it have been nice for him to understand how effort put in during middle school might pay off later on? Sure! But at the same time, nothing from middle school (here) carries through in a way that diminishes anything he's done since he found his direction. Grades from middle school (here) end as of middle school. Yes, they exist in students' files possibly forever, but they don't get reported anywhere past applying for high school programs, and few of our local high school programs even look at grades. My ds had a semi-impressive honor award during middle school, but it's not really relevant at this point and it's something he can't use for college apps because it's too far back in time. Middle school fades quickly into memory once you get to high school.

    Quote:
    In terms of organization, he's not an organized kid, but to compound things, they don't have lockers and have to exist out of a backpack for the day...often stuffing work into his backpack just to get to the next class on time.


    This made me giggle just a little bit - my ds is 2e and has dealt with a lot of organizational challenges. In high school he's used his backpack as his locker - he likes having everything with him in one place, and he worries that if he took the time to go to his locker he would be late for his next class, as well as quite possibly accidentally leave the wrong books/papers in his locker. I thought that was just my organizationally challenged ds... until my dd went to high school and she also leaves everything in her backpack and carries it around all day - and all of her classes are within just a few feet of each other and her locker. She does it for the very same reason ds does - it's easier from her perspective. They both stay fairly well organized this way - dd has no trouble with it, ds has a bit more of a challenge putting papers actually into his notebooks, but those were things we've worked through together for a few years and he's getting the hang of it.


    Quote:
    He loves video games/xbox, etc. It's one motivator that works, but I'm worried that if I say, you can have 30 minutes of xbox when your work is done, that he either rushes thru his work, or has "none", and just reads instead. We do require an hour min of work.


    Is it possible shorter work times and short breaks between might work better? Can you work in any breaks where he's up and active rather than passively playing video games? Are you just afraid that he'll take advantage of the games as a reward or has that actually happened? If you haven't had it happen yet, and video game time is a motivator, I'd try it out. If it doesn't work, move on to something else.

    He doesn't transition well from task to task. So, he usually needs to stay focused on one thing till he's done, and then move on smile
    Thanks for all of your great advice and support!!
    Best wishes,

    polarbear

    Top
    #235814 - 01/06/17 10:26 AM Re: Advice on motivating our middle schooler [Re: syoblrig]
    omahamama Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 12/28/16
    Posts: 4
    Originally Posted By: syoblrig
    I have twin 14 yo boys who turn 15 next summer and my first thought is that he's in the wrong grade. I have a boy in 9th and a boy in 10th (who skipped). I'm wondering if the academic work is just not challenging enough for him to rise to the occasion? My 9th grader is really frustrated with school right now because he thinks everything except his two honors classes are too easy. (He should have skipped, too.) But he would go bonkers if he were in 8th grade. So I'm wondering if your son just doesn't think the work is worth his effort? Can you talk to him and the school about the academic challenge and see if there's anything that can be addressed?

    He had to be 5 by Aug 1st to start Kindergarten, and he has a late Aug. birthday, so that's the reason why he seems older. He is honors level classes, so he's definitely challenged and based on maturity, he's right where he needs to be. wink


    Besides looking at the academic challenge, I would also have dinner time conversations about your values ("do your best" being one of them), the importance of grit and a growth mindset. I think there's a growth mindset book for kids that also might help. Find out how he feels about his study habits and grades, and find out what his goals are and ask where he needs your help.

    I think you're right about having your son own his academics. Our attitude is that our kids' job is school, which needs to be their first priority and everything else is a privilege. I would not be OK with forgotten homework and assignments, especially if it got worse instead of better over the years. So in your case, I would take a carrot and stick approach. Sounds like he's not truthful all the time about turning in assignments. What's the consequence for that? For my son, he would lose games and his phone for a week. If he got a C, sorry to say, he wouldn't get to game until his grade was at least a B. It's one thing to study and get a C. That's a bummer, and we can look at what went wrong and learn from it. But to not study, and not do all the work and get a C? I would take a hard line and not be sympathetic when he lost privileges until the next grading period.

    I'm with you on this. How do you handle it practically? DS's teachers all put grades in, in a different time period. Some are updated quickly, some not for weeks...very frustrating. I really want to implement this. I think a week is very fair, but still would keep him motivated. I'm the same way, if you study hard and still get a C, back to the drawing board, but a C due to lazy work, no way.

    At the same time, I would probably also reward him for good study habits and grades. I don't actually do that for my kids, but if they were having trouble getting motivated, I wouldn't have a problem finding external motivation for a while. Is there something he wants to work toward that he could earn with good grades? (A skateboard, a trip, a gadget, etc.) In my view, he creates good work habits as he's earning the good grade, and he doesn't lose that when the reward ends.

    Great idea!!

    I'm not saying my boys haven't ever struggled with motivation-- they have! They're not having the issue right now-- who knows, it might happen again!

    Good luck. I always think it's best to be proactive, and it sounds like you are.

    P.S. One of my boys did accutane, too. (Early puberty!) I know it gave him some fatigue, but it wasn't enough to affect school or his competitive sport. I seriously doubt it's a factor in what's going on with your son.


    Top
    #235815 - 01/06/17 10:27 AM Re: Advice on motivating our middle schooler [Re: EmmaL]
    omahamama Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 12/28/16
    Posts: 4
    This is a great idea! Would prevent much of the missed work. I mean, honestly, if I had to exist out of a backpack all day every day and rush between classes, and don't know how successfully I'd be managing all of the random papers!

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