It’s amazing how different each child in a classroom is. As a former substitute teacher, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of different kids with a lot of different learning styles. It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that even my own children are vastly different from one another. I have a very small child (18 months) who explores everything, gets into everything, and never stops moving (even in his sleep). I have a nine-year-old who goes at the world head-on, never takes the easy road, and wants to ask a hundred questions about just about everything.
Then there’s my eleven-year-old. She’s a great kid. Energetic, like her brothers, as long as she’s playing outside; and much more social than her brothers (well—the eighteen-month-old isn’t really at the “social” stage of development yet). She’s also lazy.
Ask her to do a chore, and she will do everything else that can possibly be done in that room before doing the chore as she’s been asked. Ask her to do her schoolwork, and she’ll lie flat-out and claim that she’s done it when really, she spent two hours playing computer games (that are now blocked on her computer) and “forgot” to do math…for a month. She has no intrinsic motivation, and failure, to her, is a good reason to throw up her hands and not have to deal with whatever-it-is again.
Failure, to the rest of us, is a really good reason to dig in, try harder, and beat whatever it was that got the best of us, so we really have trouble understanding that mentality.
But this is the kid I have. She’s an awesome kid. She’s a pretty good helper if she can be properly motivated. She just…never does anything related to chores or schoolwork in a timely manner. Since she’s virtual schooled, which at her age requires a certain level of self-motivation, that can be a serious problem.
So what’s a parent to do?
First and foremost, lazy children must be supervised regularly. As they get older, there’s no need to be on top of them constantly; but there need to be regular updates for and from the parents. They need to know what’s expected of them, and they need to know what they need to do to get done before it becomes a serious game of catch-up. Children who lack the intrinsic motivation to keep up with everyday work will become overwhelmed quickly by piles and piles of extra work generated by the fact that they didn’t bother to do their schoolwork (or chores) when it was supposed to be done.
“I didn’t get done” can not be an excuse. Ever. With a self-motivated child, a project that takes longer than anticipated can usually be left for another time when other activities get in the way. The entire point of homeschooling (or even virtual schooling) is that it can be done around all the other “stuff” of life. With most kids, it’s perfectly acceptable to say, “Okay, we have to stop for the day so that we can go on to (whatever the next fun activity is); you can finish this tomorrow.” With a child who has little to no self-motivation, “tomorrow” may never come. There will always be other things that they can do, or want to do. Sometimes, those are even things that are important: sports practices, church classes, or activities that they enjoy.
They’ve got to learn early and quickly that failing to complete a project on time means that they have to continue working on that project when they would rather be doing other things. It may be that other siblings (or you!) must be gone from the house at a certain time, too. That’s okay! Have your child bring the missing schoolwork along. Institute a policy that schoolwork must be completed before “fun time” can occur. Sometimes, the “stuff” of life gets in the way; but these kids need even more than others to understand that they can’t get by without completing the work—and they may need to miss out a time or two in order to really get it.
Make sure they know what the expectations are. They have to be clear up front—and don’t suggest a minimum amount that you’re not willing to live with, because that minimum is likely what these children will produce. If you tell them they have to read “at least” twenty pages, or complete “at least” fifteen math problems, that will be exactly what they give you. Be clear, concise, and stick to your guns. If you let it slide once, they’ll be even lazier the next time in hopes of getting out of more work.
These aren’t bad kids. They aren’t even kids who have serious problems. They just lack the internal motivation to complete things for the sake of completing them, whether “things” means chores, schoolwork, or keeping their room neat and tidy. Most of the time, they still want to please their parents. They just need a little extra helping hand in order to do it.