What should you do if you have a child who won't do the work that you assign? Do they need discipline or help? In this video, I discuss what factors to consider and what to do if you determine that laziness is the problem.

Download on Soundcloud or listen here:


Here is the transcript:

Well, hi there. It's Kelly Harbaugh with Working Homeschooler. And I want to talk to you about what to do when you have that child who is lazy and not wanting to do their work. How do you keep school from being an argument and a shouting match every day? It's a common problem. And that's what we're going to discuss today.

Now, let me give you a full disclaimer and say that if my oldest was standing here beside me, watching me tell you that I was going to give you advice about how to not get into arguments over this in your homeschool, he would probably laugh in my face. I am going to teach you the things that I learned along the way and how we improved this process. So if this is a struggle right now know that it is very, very normal. And most of us have had to go through it

So there are a couple things that you have to rule out before you treat this problem as laziness and discipline. One is the age of your child. When you have a younger child, then you really need to be careful. Are you expecting a lot of them as far as busy work? Are you...are you doing more of requiring a lot of things rather than fostering a level of learning? Those are all things that you can do with your very, very young children, where there really shouldn't be, there really shouldn't be much issue with needing them to do something they're refusing to do. If that's a huge problem with a younger child, then, most of the time the issue is more that you are pushing them to do something they're not quite ready to do. So there's a big difference there.

Now, the older that your kids get, and one of our other factors is, how long have they been in school? Then this can start turning into, we're pushing the boundaries, trying to see what we can get away with, especially if your kids have spent a long time in school. Remember, if they have spent years in a school setting, they have really been programmed to be in this mode of, let's do what's required. Let's just do the minimum. How much can we get away with? It's a very passive learning process. It's very much the opposite of what you try to teach children from the beginning if you get to start early.

But sometimes we start late. I did, and we just have to work with what we have at the point where we start, right? So this is one reason why deschooling is important. This is one reason why you don't just pull out of school and start with a stack of books the next day. That deschooling period helps a child transition and go from that passive learning point to being, you know, learning a little bit more how to take responsibility for their education.

So you do want to make sure if you are at the very beginning of your homeschool that you haven't just rushed right into full force school work without taking time to step away from the trappings of the school system and connect as a family and just kind of take a breather to...especially for your child (you both need it), especially for your child to get used to not being told exactly what to do every second of every day. Those things are important. 

So let's say you have the older child, you've deschooled or you have schooled them from the beginning where the schooling wasn't necessary, and you are still having issues, the final thing that you want to rule out is that there's not a learning challenge there, some type of difficulty with what you're asking them to do. Unlike the younger kids, where you can just put it off until they're ready, because because readiness for those things, it can vary widely. It could just be with your older child that you need a different, something that addresses a different learning style or just different materials or, you know, just just a different method of approaching it. Or maybe they need a little bit more one on one help. You just have to be very, very observant about that before you outright just say your child is being lazy, especially if that's not their normal habits.

Now, so here's where we get to where you as the parent or an expert. You know your child well, you can usually, usually observe and tell the difference. Sometimes it can be hard. But if you have been through all of these other factors, and you know that it's not a learning challenge, you know, they're very able to do it and they're just pushing those boundaries, then here's what you need to do. And honestly, this is something that it's good to proactively do from the beginning. Before you start homeschooling with an older child who's going to have some dependence and some ownership on getting their work done on time. Make sure you identify things like "when you are finished with your work for the week, then you can do A, B, and C. And if you aren't finished with your work by Friday, then you're going to have to do that work over the weekend and you won't get to do A, B and C.

Same thing can work on a daily basis and You can even do this on a positive nature: "Hey, if we get everything finished up on time, then this is what we're going to do that's fun as a family." So there can be kind of a positive and a negative influence there. But the primary thing is that you are not... you don't want to be nagging and getting on them. "Have you done your work" and, and you know, "you always do this", you know, "you're lazy, I always have to push you Why do you do this to me" - I know those things that come out of your mouth, because they came out of mine.

What I learned is that very diligently and working through those things, just giving the responsibility to the students and letting them deal with the consequences of not having their work behind. It may take several weeks, but they will start to get it. They will start to get that they have ownership of it. And the other thing is, there's the flip side of that, where they will start to catch on that if they work diligently, they might get done early and have more free time than they realize. And when that clicks in, then things get a little bit smoother.

Now, it could take a while, and you're going to have to enforce those boundaries. But enforce them in a way where you are matter of factly saying, "Oh, so sorry, you did not make it this time to getting your work done on Friday. You're going to have to work through the weekend, but let me know let's talk and see how I can help you to maybe meet that goal better next week."

Be their guide, be their supervisor. Think of how you like to be supervised at work and try to be that type of guide and that type of manager. Because that's really what you are as a homeschooling parent, you are the manager who's teaching your child how to take responsibility for their own education. And the more that you can do that, the better your homeschool will become. And the sooner you will be able to get past these hurdles, because you see the arguing and the yelling, it doesn't move you forward, it moves you backwards and it puts more issues in the mix. And that's why it is so, so important to just make these decisions up front. Put those consequences in place, and just hold them to it. And you need to make sure that the ones you set in place for once, you can hold yourself to don't make empty threats.
Now, one less last word of caution. You do need to also be flexible and evaluate if you're giving too much work. Sometimes we can we can pile a lot of work on to our kids and not be realistic about how long it's taking them. So, you know you've got to use some discernment You've got to, you've got to give and take a little and try to listen to if there's a real problem there. If you know, I know in those high school years, sometimes it can take more than the four hours. But if it's really taking them like an eight hour day to get their home, home, home school work done, then that's probably too much. It should still be as close to that four hours as possible. If you're really giving them too, too much work, if it's that much of a struggle to get done. So, I just want to caution you on that you can't just enforce those consequences without being observant and flexible as a parent to evaluate where you may have, you know, put too high that expectations.

So, I hope that those parameters helped you decide what your child needs and how you might be able to handle it better going forward. It may take some work, it may take a little trial and error as you try to discern what the real problem is. But if you do that as patiently as possible and as calmly as possible, without the arguments, you'll be able to get through it a lot quicker. I hope that helped you have a great day.