De-Motivated Dennis is a pseudonym for a particular student that I worked with for several years. I wanted to share a bit about Dennis’s story because Dennis’s story is so similar to so many other stories of so many children who were once motivated and now “won’t do anything related to school work!”
When I first met Dennis, parents and teachers complained that he wouldn’t do anything. They had tried rewards and punishments and things would work for a while, but then things would become worse than ever!
First things, first
My first recommendation for any De-Motivated Dennis that you may have in your life is to stop the request that they do school work. In the case of Dennis, a public school student, this wasn’t able to happen until the summer. But during that summer, parents let him do what he wanted.
That took the pressure off of Dennis for a while and allowed him to start to become interested in learning again. Of course, it’s also a risk. When kids take breaks for the summer, they are more likely to show significant regression after the summer break, which can cause things to be even harder for them and cause them to give up and refuse even more.
The Most Important Step
In last week’s episode with Vibha Arora, we dove into some strategies to implement when kids seem to be unmotivated. One of the things that Vibha mentions is figuring out what is going on.
For Dennis, I quickly recognized that his de-motivation was primarily due to feeling “dumb”. Dennis, like all young kids, loved to learn when he was very young. But repeated school failures as the result of a learning disability (dyslexia in his case), led him to label himself as “dumb” and to give up even trying to do well in school. It was easier to be “bad” than to be “dumb” so he just refused to do any work.
Now we’re getting somewhere!
So the next step was to address this feeling of inadequacy directly. I had a frank conversation about how because Dennis’s brain is wired differently than most kids, he had some special gifts and he also struggles more with schoolwork, especially reading and spelling. I let him know that we would try a new program together that was designed to help kids with his type of brain wiring.
We agreed that if Dennis didn’t feel like he could try his best, that we would take a day off. But I also explained that the more Dennis was able to focus, and be consistent in doing the program every day, the more progress he would see himself making and the faster that progress would happen.
A few months later, Dennis could feel how much better he was at reading and spelling. That really helped him get more motivated to keep working hard. Soon he was going up a reading level every few months. 1.0 then 1.5 then 2.0 then 2.5. He made over two years of reading growth in less than one year.
A lack of motivation can be caused by so many different factors. Be sure to read or listen to next week’s episode about “Motivation Killers” to find out the biggest things to avoid when trying to get your kid motivated! (You may be VERY surprised!)
But a lack of success can also be demotivating and helping a child find success can be very motivating!
If you’re interested in some coaching or guided tutoring (your child will be tutored while you are also learning you how to keep it going), email me at Kimberlynn@DecodingLearningDifferences and we’ll get something set up! You can also click here to find out more.