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Sep
20

Yesterday, I performed a minor miracle in my living room. I actually got my son to want to go to school.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that last spring, he was trying everything imaginable in order to stay home. Well, thanks to EP reader Shelly Hopkins, who was one of our “Consequences Story Contest Winners” in August, I was prepared. Shelly’s suggestion was to make home into school. Brilliant, right? I realized that what I’d unknowingly been doing when Alex stayed home in the past was to make a day at home with mom into a reward. He would watch videos, help me make lunch, paint — and I’m kind of embarrassed to admit, we usually baked cookies or something after my work was done. (What was I thinking? Of course the kid wanted to stay home!!)

So, his first week of kindergarten went off without a hitch. (Ahem. Except, on the first day of school, when all the kids were asked to draw a self-portrait, my son chose to draw himself naked. That’s right — completely nude. And anatomically correct. And the crucial bits were apparently in some shade of bright green. He informed me of this when he got home. A proud parenting moment, lemme tell ya. But I digress…)

Then last week, we all caught a bronchial cold thing that was going around. He complained of a stomach ache and was sent to the nurse’s office on Wednesday. “He’s so talkative!” she said on the phone, “He’s interested in absolutely everything in my office!” This immediately got my supersonic mom antennae up and  beeping–I know my son, and when he’s really sick, he’s as limp as overcooked spaghetti. But we kept him home from school the next day, just to be sure.

I was a little apprehensive. “Uh oh,” I thought. “He can’t be bored of kindergarten already!” That’s when Shelly’s wise words sprang to mind: “We came up with the following consequence: If our son was sent home from school, our home became his school.” And parents, I’m proud to tell you, that’s exactly what I did! I got out a bunch of math and alphabet workbooks, put him to work cleaning his room, and cleaning up the living room. By 1 p.m., Alex was telling me that he was “all better” and that he was “ready for school now, mommy!” At two p.m. he brought me the telephone and asked casually what the phone number for school was.

“Why?” I asked, all innocent-like.

“Because I want to call Mrs. P. and tell her that I’m better and that I can go to school. Pleeeeeeaaaase let me go to school.”

“Sorry, Honey,” I said. “When you tell your teacher that you’re so sick that you have to go to the nurse’s office, that means you have to stay home with me. And from now on, no T.V. and videos when you stay home–you can play quietly in your room and do your workbooks on home days.”

“Mommy,” he said, his brown eyes full of 5-year-old conviction. “I’m never going to be sick again!”

Bless you, Shelly Hopkins.

And since this might not always work, does anyone else out there have some mom or dad “tricks” up their sleeves for those “I don’t feel well” days?


     

If you find any comments that are rude or inappropriate, please contact us immediately.

  • Mandy Says:

    I love this idea. I’m going to try it with my daughter when the newness of school wears off. When she’s sick, I have to take a day off from work, too, so I’m really motivated to make her not enjoy these days off!

  • James Says:

    LOL. Love the bright green bits. Where do kids come up with this stuff???

  • Carl Says:

    This sounds like a solid recommendation for younger kids. Especially when a parent is at home during the day (this rules out many who must work to keep the lights on). I’m wondering how this technique might be modified for pre-teen and teens?

  • Dave Says:

    Why would you want to modify it for teens?
    Sounds like the same idea would work.
    Just remove the game boy, tv, xbox, internet, and telephone from one of the rooms and have the kid stay in there all day.
    If they are really sick, they will sleep anyway.
    If not, school may seem a little more interesting.

    From what I have read and listened to of the program materials, it would seem that if you have a teen that consistently wants to stay home from school, you might want to investigate why. Isn’t that a sign that there is a problem at school (either with peers or teachers)?

  • Amy Says:

    I will have to say this does work for different ages. I have an 11 yr old daughter. I started this about a month a ago and she hates it. She has to clean her room, do laundry, NO video games, can not go outside, no phone calls. Of course, I’m the worst mom ever according to her, but hey it works. Also in the morning she won’t get up to go to school, I tell her I will take her to school w/ pjs on. I’ve actually had to do this, but she grabbed her clothes and got dressed in the car on the way to school. This might sound mean, but hey my daughter has several medical issues: Tourretts Syndrome, ADD, OCD, ODD, and more. This has been a Prayer answered because she has been getting up and getting ready for school w/ no problems.

  • Elisabeth Says:

    Carl, you bring up a good point. I wonder how working parents out there with teen-agers deal with the “sick day” thing when they have to be at work and can’t monitor their kids. Does anyone have a good suggestion? I know my friends with younger kids have to take the day off when their kids are sick, but what about children who are capable of staying home by themselves? I like Dave’s suggestion of removing the electronics from the room, but it would be hard to enforce the “stay in your bedroom” rule if you weren’t there.
    PS Amy, I don’t think you sound mean at all. Keep up the good work!

  • Heather Says:

    I have four teenagers (13,14,15, and 16) and I can tell you that making home like school really works, even when you can’t be there. Mine think I am the meanest mom ever too, because I remove/unplug/hide the xbox, wii, the internet and their cell phones, when they are sick. Plus, if I suspect that they are faking, I give them a list of things I want done by the time I get home. (they know that if their not done, they don’t get their cell phones back – ouch!) If they really are sick, they sleep most of the day. If not, they are so bored and so sick of chores that they go back to school gladly the next day.

    What I’d like to know is how to get a 15 yr old boy motivated to do and hand in his homework. (he’s bi-polar but on great meds – still defiant though) We’ve taken his cell phone away, restricted him from the TV, friends, and fun activities. He’s soooo stuborn that he simply doesn’t care. How do I convince him it’s easier to care?

  • ChristineJ Says:

    I have an 11 year old son that is ADHD and he could care less about school. Motivation is not even in his vocabulary. We have taken everything away from him possibly known to mankind with not so much as a blink of remorse on his part. School is having a REALLY difficult time with him as well. Staying in class and not roaming the halls and disrupting other classes along his journeys to where ever it is he goes. He was even caught skipping 2 classes last week! He’s in the 6th grade! I was mortified. I thought this stuff doesn’t happen until High School.
    I have tried the school at home theory with no success when he ‘forgets’ his homework or swears up and down the teacher didn’t give him the worksheets needed. We’ve tried making him stay up late when he doesn’t finish it during afterschool or doesn’t get to eat dinner until it’s finish but that seems to back fire with his behavior being even worse for the teachers the next day because he is so tired. I have tried and am still trying the making him responsible for his school work. If he doesn’t finish it then he fails it. That back fired too. Last year, 5th grade, he did not complete one assignment in school yet somehow passed the required End of Grade tests and passed to the 6th grade! Makes me think that my son is a real genius…imagine how well he could do if he would actually ‘attempt’ school and didn’t just ‘attend’ it. I would love any suggestions!!

  • ChristineJ Says:

    By the way, when my kids complain that they are sick and need to stay home. I tell them that will be for the school nurse to decide and make them go to school anyway. 9 out of 10 times they forget that they were trying to stay home by the time they get to school. Another thing I do is I will make the kids put a school staff on the phone with me when they call to come home and ask the staff member to look at them. If they were their child, do they look sick enough to need to come home? Are they warm? Do they have dark circles under their eyes or is their face flushed? If the answer is no, I tell the staff member to tell them, “Nice try”, and send them back to class. Works everytime!

  • Brooke Williams Says:

    Great idea that I am sure I will need soon.

  • Laura Bullock Says:

    I am new to the newsletter and transformation program, and so my problem may have been addressed already in earlier blogs, but here is my problem. My 14 year old son is a hermit. Yes, he’s a video gamer big time. But we have also tried getting him involved in lots of things his whole life, from soccer, to baseball, to fencing, 4H, dog training, etc. etc. We take him to church and try and get him involved there. He refuses to go to camp. He’s quit piano and drums and refused to do marching band in high school. He’s a little overweight and so we’re trying to help him work on that with excercise in the mornings and helping him change eating habits. But he has no friends. He’s no desire to have any either. He’s had kids over here a lot, but the favor is never returned. He’s never been invited to anyone’s house for a party. His friends go hang out at the mall, go to movies, etc. but he’s never invited, yet they are always willing to come to our house. Hence, he’s decide he doesn’t need friends. I’m sure he’s afraid of the rejection. He buries himself in another world of video games and t.v. I worry about him and am at my wits end on how to get him into the social scene. Every suggestion I make is met with an argument. What can I do? Any suggestions?

  • Denise Vulgamott Says:

    I have a 16 y/o that would always manage to miss the bus, although she has several issues, Adhd, mood disorder, severe depression. I always gave her medication 45 minutes before she had to get up, and I went to work. Weell she started her junior year of high school on probation for attendance for missing so many days last year even though most of the time I left work to run home and take her (when she called to let me know she missed). This year she had to pick up an early hour class and night class to ensure graduation on time so I arranged to change my work schedule to start 30 mins later and I take her. On days when she was suspended last year I would remove all cable boxes, computer modems, etc. (We don’t have any game systems, she has no TV in her room.) So far this year, school is going great, she is even doing better grade wise.

  • Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor Says:

    How to motivate kids to want to do their homework–that sounds like a great topic for the blog, or for an article in EP. I’ll post it and see if other parents out there have some good solutions. (My son is in kindergarten, so I’m not dealing with the homework issue…yet.) And Laura, your question about your son’s video game playing is a great one. I think people are now starting to wake up and see that this can become a full-blown addiction. Check out this site and see if it’s helpful in determining if that’s what is going on with your son. http://www.netaddiction.com/ We’re also planning an article on this topic in EP, so please stay tuned!

  • Dr. Joan Says:

    ChristineJ, it sounds like you have your hands full! May I recommend two books for you to help you with you son and his ADHD? The first is “ADD/ADHD Behavior-Change Resource Kit” by Grad L. Flick. This book has great strategies to help kids do better in life, but mainly in school. The second is “The Organized Student” by Donna Goldberg. This book helps kids get and stay organized. It sounds like your son is very bright and may in fact be using his intelligence to get away with quite a lot. It’s time for you and your husband to take back control of his school situation and set down the rules with what you expect of him. It certainly sounds like you’ve been trying, but I feel it’s time to do something new. I really think these books can help you determine what strategies will work for your family. I also am wondering if he has seen a practitioner about the severity of his ADHD? If you and the school feel like things are getting worse, maybe it’s time for a visit back to whomever diagnosed him in the first place. This is not easy, but it certainly sounds like you are motivated to help him. Good luck!

  • Anna Janice Says:

    Laura Bullock,

    Do you know if your son has faced bullying? Rejection from your peers is a tough thing to handle for anyone. Seems your son is trying to guard himself from rejection. Have you tried one on one play dates sometimes you can be invisible in a crowd.You may want to try to use the video game as a reward for efforts towards building a friendship, and you may have to help him in this regard, hopefully there is a mom in your community who can partner with you. Just some thought and lots of prayer.

  • ChristineJ Says:

    Dr. Joan,
    Thank you for the 2 books. I will definitely go check them out. As far as seeing the doctor regarding my son’s ADHD, no. He hasn’t been in awhile because of the insurance for the ‘mental health’ stuff. It isn’t something we can afford (copays are really high)right now. Forgive me for thinking this, but I think we can do it without them because all they wanted to do was to put him on this kind of med’s or that kind of med’s. Nothing seemed to work. We have never given him any meds during the summer months because we are able to deal with any situation that came up where as the schools’ hands are tied as to what they can do legally. My son isn’t horrible and is really easy to get along with most times. He is very sweet and wants to help me cook dinner, help clean house, etc. He actually begs me to clean the isle way in the barn where we keep our horses. Or I will simply make a general statement that a water trough needs to be scrubbed out and he jumps right on it. He enjoys riding (which he doesn’t do often enough) but isn’t fanatical about it like I am. It is just at school or with school work that the problems arise. He has this wonderful idea that he doesn’t need any of it to be able to support himself later in life! Yes, he actually thinks that he can quit school and get a job right now and be able to make enough money to support himself. We have been trying to explain to him that it is not only impossible but illegal for him to do that. I am not talking about jobs like delivering papers, mowing grass, etc., but construction type jobs. I don’t want to set him up to fail, but I am beginning to think that I need to supply him with some wood and tell him to build me a bird house so he can prove to himself that he can’t do it. So I am working on the details of how I can pay him to work and work would be school. For instance, if he has 4 classes a day, then he gets so much for each class that he attends. He gets bonuses for excellent work and deductions for bad work. He would also have to pay me for room and board. I know alot of readers are probably saying why not just give him an allowance for chores, etc. We tried that. He was given so much a week for simple chores and deducted from that weekly amount what he didn’t do. He ended up owing us money. So that didn’t work very well. When I get all the details figured out about how to make sure that he doesn’t go so far into debt oweing us the first week I will let you know. I am hoping that this will help him learn the value of a dollar and paying your own way isn’t as easy as it looks.

  • Michelle Walford Says:

    Please, I need some suggestions. I have a 6 year old son, only child, I’m a single Mom. He just started Kindergarten and has pretty much been in trouble every day for the last 7 weeks. He has completely different behavior in all other environments. He is a spirited, independent and extremely bright boy. At school, he is being disrespectful, disruptful, controlling group lessons, speaking out of turn, pushing in line, irritaing to others, bossy and on and on I could go. His teacher is a first year teacher. He does not behave this way with me, at Kumon or at Taekwondo. I don’t know what to do or what suggestions to make. He has the ability to kind, use manners and be a pleasant child, but he’s not displaying this at school. What can I do to change his behavior?

    Thank you Michelle

  • Leslie Says:

    I have five year old in kindergarten this year who does get homework and is already having “motivational” issues to complete it. We are using various “reward” systems with only limited sucess. It takes alot to sit him down to do the work. I would love an EP article on this issue.

  • Elisabeth Says:

    Michelle:When you talk to your son about school, what does he say to you about it? It’s interesting that he only acts up in kindergarten and not at his other activities. Did he do the same thing in pre-school, or is this a whole new thing? Or perhaps kindergarten is less structured than home, etc., and he’s pushing the limits a little.
    I’ve noticed that my son’s behavior has changed a bit as well, and have been surprised to realize that he’s turned into the class clown, which is new for him. I think it’s because a lot of the kids in his class know each other already and he’s kind of the “new kid.”
    If your son’s teacher is willing, I would try sitting down with her and coming up with a game plan. I’ve also found that role-playing with my son is really helpful–I try to role play different social situations and have him come up with good behavior choices.
    Leslie: Homework in kindergarten — wow. It sure has changed since we were in school, eh? I’m curious: what type of homework does your child have?
    To answer your question, we definitely are going to feature an article in the near future on motivating kids to do homework, so please stay tuned. In the mean time, any tips from other parents out there are much appreciated!
    PS We also have an article from James Lehman in EP now called “Homework Survival for Parents”. Here’s the link, in case you haven’t read it yet: http://www.empoweringparents.com/homework-survival.php

  • Megan Devine, LCPC and Parental Support Line Advisor Says:

    Without knowing more specifics about your child and his school environment, I can only give you some general suggestions. First, because he behaves so radically differently at school, have a conversation with him about what’s different. You’ll have better luck figuring this out if you are curious about it, rather than punitive. For example, you might start: “You seem to have a really hard time behaving at school, but you behave just fine in other places. What’s different about school?” He’s young enough that he is still likely to answer your questions! His answers may give you some insight into the problem(s) he is trying to solve by being pushy and aggressive.

    Secondly, it’s not uncommon for kids to have strange behaviors when they start school. They are adjusting to new schedules, new relationships, and are being asked to do a lot of new things. It sounds like your son is trying to show that he’s “in charge’ at school, which is sometimes a response to a completely new experience – some people withdraw, some people control. Your son needs to learn how to deal with the school environment appropriately, rather than try to control the situation through aggression or other inappropriate behaviors. When you talk with him about what’s different at school, you might identify some areas where he feels stressed or overwhelmed, and has been using inappropriate behavior to deal with those feelings. Working together, come up with some new behaviors to practice, and identify ways you and he will know that he’s making progress. You could even build on some of the skills he has learned in other environments, like Tae Kwan Do. Think of it as helping your son learn the skills he needs to succeed in school, no matter how stressful or challenging. By helping him learn more appropriate problem solving skills now, you set a great foundation for the rest of his educational career.

  • Alice Says:

    Thanks for all your interesting articles. Everytime I get a news letter from Empowering Parents it hits the nail on the head (so to speak) everytime. I have a teenage son and a twelve year old and believe you me I have faced most of these problems. That’s why I appreciate your articles each and every time.

    Thanks Again

    Alice

  • Rhonda Says:

    When my oldest daughter decided that she was too “sick” to go to school I would usually allow her to watch tv, but she couldn’t go out to play. Well, this became quite a habit so I bought some cod liver oil and told her that any time she wasn’t feeling well enough to go to school she could have a big yummy dose and it would make her feel all better! One dose is all it took! She didnt miss any more school!

  • Debi Says:

    When my grade school age children (I have 3 boys) haven’t wanted to go to school or say they don’t feel good and I don’t believe they are sick… I have said, “Okay – I’m going to take you where kids who don’t want to go to school go.” I get dressed and put them in the car and drive to a shopping center, park the car at the far end of the parking lot. I turn off the car and say, “okay – we are going to sit here until 2:00 when you would get out of school.” (Be sure to put the child locks on the back doors so they can’t try to run out!)

    I’ve done this with 2 of my children, and never had a problem with them going to school again. One lasted about 1 1/2 hours, the other 35 minutes, before saying, “okay, I’m ready to go to school.”

    Think about what kind of torture and boredom that is to a child – they will not think school is so boring after that!

    My kids know that I am never bored – I bring reading material, bills, or listen to talk radio (because that, too, is torture for a child). I am perfectly willing to sit there until 2:00 and they know it.

  • eliane Says:

    Hi, I have a 16 year old that wakes up on time for school but takes so long and makes me late waiting for her to be ready. Finally, I have left her at home and go off to work. Now I find things missing. She waits for me to leave and either takes something of mine that she wants or just skips school.
    I am finding that she has no concern about being late. She is out of the regular school system and is an alternative school this year because of skipping school. What can I do to get her out on time.

  • Cindy Adams Says:

    Regarding ADHD and other kids who refuse to be responsible for homework: Have you considered paying them? After all, school is a child’s employment. Of course, you would have to make sure they didn’t have other sources of income, but I have known this to work with elementary-aged children.

    Regarding the kindergartener who won’t do his homework despite rewards (Regular homework in K? What are they thinking????) you might try deprivation instead. “It’s homework time. If you refuse to do your homework you will sit in the time-out chair (or other dull environment) until you are ready to do it.”

    Good luck, everyone!

  • Leslie Says:

    Wow I’m surprised that having homework in kindergarten is that unusual(this is my first child and its been a long time since I was in kindergarten). He even had homework in pre-K. His homework in kindergarten is regular homework, besides handwriting activities, he has reading and math (yes, things like 2+4=?, 7-3=? etc..) In anycase, things recently have been a little better, though not great. When he comes home from school we set a timer for appropriately 10 minutes or so for playtime then it is homework time before any snack or further playtime. Any minute past the timer going off before starting homework is longer doing homework or earlier going to bed. We have been doing this about a week or so and so far things are a little better. Thanks for the help and I look forward to the upcoming article.

  • Abby Patrick Says:

    Message for Laura Bullock

    For a ‘hermit’ teenager who loves video games have you thought of this ? buy a fitness bike and an XBOX with an internet connection. Your son can play with friends he meets on line ,talking to them through a mike/earphone while playing. These friends will share his love of the game they’re playing and will not judge him for the usual criteria he meets at school (smart talk, figure, etc)and in this way increase his self-esteem . Achieving good fitness level on the bike can be rewarded with time on the XBox and a higher self-esteem may gradually lead to more friends from his school/neighbourhood. My son (13) plays on the XBox twice weekly and at weekends and has made friends (we’re in Italy) with a Ductch Boy, a German family and a boy from Texas to name a few! He chats endlessly to them while playing about interests in common and I can occasionally listen in through his headphones to make sure they sound genuine.

  • Abby Patrick Says:

    My son is 15, nearly 16. For the last few months he’s been missing on average 6 days of school per month. He says it’s because he’s too tired in the morning to wake up and get organised in time to make the car ride. My husband drives him and our youngest (13) to the nearest town. We have tried contracts, bribes, suspending priveleges and we are now turning off modem and removing electronic items at bed time so no distractions. Usually he lies in bed on ‘off days’ and shouts at anyone who tries to raise him. When he does manage it he gets dressed but still can’t make the 8.15 deadline drive to school. His head teacher has phoned a couple of times and this morning I told her blatantly that he just can’t get organised in time to make school or simply won’t get out of bed.. He will probably be kept down a year because his marks have dropped from average 7 to below 5 (a fail here in Italy) and he insists he really couldn’t care. He actually seems to be laughing in our faces. We are at our wits end ! Help

  • Abby Patrick Says:

    a P:S: for Laura Bulloch

    A great XBOX game for music lovers to play together is called ‘Rock Band’ it might be cheaper where you are but it’s a great investment. If your son agrees he could even play with mine (a guitarist) Alot of people think that ‘video games’ are a bad addiction but with the online game I’ve mentioned it’s a bit like having foreign penpals and a great way to find friends with similar hobbies.

  • Pops Says:

    As to the “sick” issue, our family rule is, a minimum, 24 hours in bed—zero TV, radio, books—“horizontal, eyes closed, deep breathing” is the mantra. We went from double-digit sick days at school while they were in foster care, to one (1) day missed after “they adopted us” (as we like to say).

    To get them to bed and out of bed, we use a dual-alarm CD clock/radio and iTunes.

    Every morning, “What a Wonderful World” by varying artists starts the day. They have specific songs that stay the same which provides timing over the hour for teeth brushing, eating breakfast, getting school stuff together, and jump in the car. In between these songs, I rotate humorous songs, songs from “my generation”, multiplication tables songs, School House Rocks songs, clips from Podcasts, songs we sing at Church, I’ve recorded them saying things (alter their voices in funny ways) and recorded spelling lists to practice during breakfast. They get up every morning to see if it is a new CD.

    I make 30-minute, “Go to Bed” CDs and the alarm clock starts the CD at 7:55pm. “Over the Rainbow” starts and ends the CD (Judy’s version at the end, naturally). The first 15 minutes are fun songs and the last 15 minutes are instrumentals. My kids know and can do the entire back-up vocals (and dancing) for “Midnight Train to Georgia”…wooo-woooo…..

    We also have special CDs for “Saturday Morning Soccer”–ole ole ole ole–and “Get Ready for Church”. They don’t “beg” to school, but its sure easier getting ready for it now. And my 12-yr old girl thinks Elvis is awesome.

  • Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor Says:

    Pops: I want to live in your house! What a great, creative solution to motivating your kids to get to bed and go to sleep. (And the policy about sick days is smart. I really think the key is to make home less fun than school.)
    Thanks for you comments — great ideas!

  • Cherie Miller Says:

    I’d like to comment on what do to about older children who are sick and need to stay home when you’re working. My 16 year old was suspended from school for 3 days for smoking on school property. He DIDN’T get to lay around at home watching television – he came to work with me. My bosses were cooperative, understood the problem and came up with several jobs for him to do while he was out of school. He went gladly back to school and never was suspended again.

    I dragged him out of bed that morning and plopped him in the car with me. It would have been much easier to leave him home – but I’m glad I did it!

    P.S. I was a single mom of 3 sons at the time this happened – now I’m the mom/step-mom of 7 sons!

  • Dr Sutherland Says:

    You do realise that even though you have succeed in getting your son to go to school you have created negative images of home. There are many reasons children want to stay at home sometimes it’s simply because they can’t be bothered but other times it’s serious problems such as anxiety. They want home to remain a fun happy place because they are anxious or unhappy in school. Despite that I can understand how you’d want your son in school so that he can learn but I think that kindergarten isn’t that an important time for children to be in school however high school is. Of course that’s just my opinion and I have always done the same things with my children let them try sick days in kindergarten but be stricter In high school.

  • Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor Says:

    Dr. Sutherland: Thanks for weighing in — I hadn’t thought of it that way when this was happening in our house, but you’re right; many kids have very real anxiety around school. With my son, that was not the case; he was simply trying to “play hookie.” He didn’t feel like going to school because home was more fun, and he expected that he’d be allowed to watch TV all day long instead of doing schoolwork. I’m happy to report that the behavior stopped and he hasn’t tried to skip school in years. (He is now 9.) P.S. Once in a while if he’s had a very stressful week and needs a break, we let him stay home and take it easy for a day. Everyone needs a “mental health day,” as an old co-worker of mine used to say. :)