FOCUS ON THE FAMILY with Jim Daly and Dr. Juli Slattery
Q: I have a happy, smart, energetic 8-year-old daughter who’s struggling with two problems — she’s messy and off-task most of the time. She’s a straight-A student, but I constantly have to push her to get ready for school, do her homework and get to bed. It’s exhausting! She seems unconcerned and unmotivated, and would rather play than anything else. How can I help her?
Jim: We’ve heard from other parents in your situation. Our first thought is that your daughter could use a good dose of self-discipline. This would not only help her be more efficient in completing her tasks, but it would also relieve you of the burden of policing her all the time.
Implementing a system of rewards and reinforcement can help your daughter learn to take responsibility and show initiative. Maybe you can tell her that if she gets herself ready for school for a straight week without having to be constantly monitored, you’ll take her out for a milkshake on the weekend. (The occasional milkshake is a great motivator for my boys — and for me, too!)
She also needs to experience negative consequences. You don’t want her to flunk out of school, but if you stop hounding her about her homework and she ends up getting a lower grade as a result of a late assignment, the trauma of that experience might offer just the motivation she needs to stay on top of her schoolwork next time.
Be sure to cut her some slack, too. Some kids are more messy and flighty by nature, and you don’t want to change her personality entirely. Just be sure to affirm her when things go right. A kind word from you will likely be the best reward of all.
(Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family, host of the Focus on the Family radio program, and a husband and father of two. Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.)
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