Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Low-Energy Child

I have a son who has left a trail of teachers rethinking their career choices in his wake. He has the energy of an atom-bomb, the volume of a rock concert, the curiosity of a dozen cats, and the impulsiveness of a college student with his first credit card. I've come out of many a parent-teacher conference feeling apologetic, sympathetic, frustrated, and sometimes homicidal all at the same time. It's been a rockin' roller coaster ride, to say the least.

I have a daughter who is a school teacher's dream. She's quiet and compliant, but not reticent or shy. She raises her hand often but never speaks out of turn. She does her work neatly, carefully, and follows all the rules. At her parent-teacher conferences, I hear nothing but glowing praise and compliments for my daughter, me and my husband, our parenting, our intelligence, and on and on.

and this is my cry for help because I am at my wits end struggling with...

my daughter!

I recently instated a "chore chart" in our house. It's a pretty standard thing with chores such as washing the dishes, washing the car, cooking the rice, cleaning the bathroom, taking out the trash, etc. Instead of rotating the chores weekly or even monthly, we're going quarterly to minimize the confusion, let the kids develope some expertise, and so no one accuses anyone else of doing a sloppy job making it harder for the next person.

When it's chore time, my son eagerly jumps to his tasks and gets them done. Sometimes he needs to be reminded to do things thoroughly and sometimes he makes another mess in the process, but he takes the corrections good naturedly and does everything he's asked in a timely manner.

My daughter on the other hand, no matter what she was previously doing, when asked to do her chores she dramatically falls to the floor declaring that she's tired. What follows is an hour or two of whining, crying, and rolling around on the floor. She eventually does get her tasks done but only if I watch her closely and repeat directions over and over (and invariably louder and louder). It's serious drama and it's driving me CRAZY!

I've tried one passive-aggressive way to motivate her to get things done in a decent amount of time. I've designated 4:30p - 5:00p as family trampoline time, but only those who have their homework and chores done can jump. The kids love it when I jump with them and we play a lot of games or put the sprinkler underneath. Well, my daughter didn't make the deadline and got left out once - and the crying, pouting and declaring that we were all mean was worse than ever. And she still didn't get her chores and homework done.

Anyone have any good ideas about how to motivate a reluctant, low-energy child? Otherwise I'm investing in a defibrillator.


Cheryl said...

Did you only enforce the missed trampoline time once? These things take time, my friend! Your attitude will go a long way to cement the consequence in her mind. The increase in her caterwalling...........remind her that it isn't your problem. She knew the rules and she chose not to benefit. Lead her to a spot away from the family where her dictraction will be at a minimum and inform her that she can cry, whine, whatever all she wants, but that she has to stay there not to spoil the fun for those who chose to do their tasks. Then......leave her there. Don't argue, console or debate. She made her choice and now she must live with it. You may have to remind her to stay there a few times, but don't engage emotionally. Remember, it was a choice that SHE made.

It sounds like you are on the right track, just be consistent and lavish praise when she does conform.

Our children are small for such a short time. Enjoy it!

Tim said...

I'm calling this one Karma. Refer back to the post where we discussed getting you out of bed. Holy stubbornness!! I'm sure that one of your teachers in school never would have believed the drama that went on one hour prior to your sitting like an angel in class.

Aimee said...

I hear beatings work... J/K.

Like Cheryl, I think consistency is the key. When we were chillins and we wanted to wail, my mom would make us go sit somewhere out of her direct line of vision. There we could wail as much as we wanted to... the theory was that she couldn't "hear" us, if she couldn't see us. We were able to rejoin the family after we calmed down, complied, etc. I suppose we fell for it every time, b/c it really seemed to work.

Sounds like a perfect problem for the Love & Logic method: Which was kind of what Cheryl was referring to.

Heather said...

I'm with Cheryl. BE CONSISTENT. Take away her favorite things if need be. The first day, she loses the trampoline time, the second day (or maybe wait a few days to give it time to sink in that she is not getting it back until she shows you progress) she loses trampoline and the wii. The next time, she loses trampoline, the wii, and her favorite toy. She cannot have ANY of these things back until she shows progress. Does that make sense?

Dad and Mom said...

I agree with Cheryl 100%. And tell her that Grandma loves her and knows she'll start doing those chores without any fuss. I posted the vacation pics, Ray. Take a look. Love ya.

ray said...

thanks for all the advice, sympathy, and words of wisdom. I know academically that being consistent is the right way to go. I just get crazy sometimes when I think, "you're wasting all this energy throwing a fit when you could use it to just DO YOUR CHORE". Yes, Cheryl, it was just once so far. I guess I can't expect perfection overnight. In the meantime, I struggle on.

Tim, if there truly is karma, I guess we can expect stories about Jacob threatening to fart on his siblings' pillows. or that he threw all the dorm silverware in the pool - in the dead of winter.

Ambie said...

oh dear, I knew who that was as soon as I saw the picture !

I would be angry too if my brother peed on me... oh wait , that was you.

Give the poor girl a piece of candy.

Ambie said...

lol aimee you win for comment of the day

Unknown said...