Fostering self-discipline - Mothering Forums

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Old 01-20-2011, 05:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So, I tried posting about this the other day, but I was really incoherent - turns out I was coming down with the flu, I'm not totally losing it! :) Anyway, my question is, how do you encourage your children to develop self-discipline.  I love the idea of following my children's interests and encouraging a love of learning for the sake of learning.  I wonder though about teaching them that sometimes you just have to suck it up and do something that you don't feel like doing.  So, now they don't have to be forced to do pages of busy work (like my oldest did when he was in ps and I had to fight with him every night over homework).   I'm glad that they don't, but I'm thinking of when I was in college.  I wanted a degree in biology and loved my science classes, but I HATED stats class.  I had to force myself to do the work for that class.  I'm just wondering how a kid who hasn't had that experience before deals with it.  I'm sure it works out, I'm just not sure how.  Do you do it with required household chores?  By setting a good example (I don't feel like shoveling, but it has to get done; I'm tired, but I'm still going to go to the gym, etc.)?  Something else?

 

I'm just really interested in others' thoughts on this.  Thanks!

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Old 01-20-2011, 07:49 PM
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Hmm . . . great question. I've heard alot (from my in-laws) that my kids *need* to learn to do stuff they don't want to. And I just can't see why. I don't do anything *I* don't want to do, nor does dh, nor does anyone I know. We do do things we don't *love* doing, but it is because they serve us in some way. I hate certain household tasks, but there is no option not to do them. It's a drag to drag myself out of bed to run, but I know I need it, so I do it.

 

 

If DH tried to *make* me get up to run when I disd't want to, I'd smack him. And when I nag him to do things he hasnt done, it doesn't work. He neds to see the value, for him, in doing it. kids are no different, IMO.

 

Recently my son took guitar lessons, his choice. His teacher taught him a new bit each week.He never practiced, so by next lesson, improving on what he'd learned that week wasn't possible, and eventually we stopped lessons. No issue, no anger or pressure from us. I asked him about it awhile later, saying how was that, did he enjoy learning guitar etc? He said he wanted to be able to play it, but didn't want to do he practicing to get there. Aaaaaah. A feeling we all know. We discussed how I could support him by reminding him to practice, creating a space in our routine to do that, strong-arming him if I had to. Because he *wants* to learn it, he'll be willing to have my 'help'. If I tried to make him learn because *I* thought he needed to, it'd fail for sure.

 

See what I'm saying? I dont think the tasks you give a child (chores, etc) can teach self-discipline. Self means it comes from within, not from Mom or Dad. Sure I model when I can, or share how I'm failing at it (I had to ditch my own fiddle lessons because I never found time to practice). But if I want him to want clean laundry, I need to show him how and then let him *want* it. Getting him to do it because *I* say is more of a power dynamic, not self-discipline.

 

 

(I feel I should footnote, while I wholly believe in what I've said above, I also feel as a parent that my job is to set the tone of expectations in their younger years. Not my expectations of them, but what I feel is a healthy life of balance re: tv, food, exercise, etc. Meaning I don't let them learn self-discipline by gorging on candy and getting sick and fat. I preach healthy living and slowly let the cord out on their choices and what ones they make for themselves. KWIM?)


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Old 01-20-2011, 08:41 PM
 
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My kids are still relatively young, but I find that these issues naturally come up with my 9 y.o.  She generally has a number of things that she wants to be doing and working on, ranging from making a batch of cookies to learning to play the recorder or training her parakeet or keeping up in math (her words, not mine).  But actually getting these things done can feel difficult--she is someone who gets wrapped up in whatever is in front of her, and can easily spend the whole day listening to an audiobook and doing a jigsaw puzzle.  And really, I'm fine with that--but often she gets to the end of the day or the week and is frustrated that she isn't doing the things that she wants to be doing.  So basically we collaborate on how to set up systems to support her, which have included things like making a daily plan and even making a pretty detailed daily schedule.  And truly, I would consider these forms of self-discipline, because she is the force behind making them happen.

 

It's hard for me to know how much of this is her personality, but I feel like if we are regularly having conversations about her plans and projects and goals, we talk about things like making choices about how she uses her time, how practice (which isn't always fun) can help you get better at things, etc. etc.  That way, she's not learning "sometimes you have to do things that are not fun" exactly, but more that if you have plans and goals that are beyond the immediate moment, sometimes you have to buckle down or make a choice to do things that further your goals.

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Old 01-20-2011, 09:49 PM
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Originally Posted by boysmom2 View Post I wonder though about teaching them that sometimes you just have to suck it up and do something that you don't feel like doing.  So, now they don't have to be forced to do pages of busy work (like my oldest did when he was in ps and I had to fight with him every night over homework).   I'm glad that they don't, but I'm thinking of when I was in college.  I wanted a degree in biology and loved my science classes, but I HATED stats class.  I had to force myself to do the work for that class.



I think you kind of answered your own question... they want something enough to suck it up and do other stuff they'd rather not do. That's the natural thing to do when you really want something... I think it's people who haven't been unschooled who sometimes don't see this connection, because they've been forced to suck it up when they really didn't care about the ultimate reward. With unschooling it's always been a natural progression: you want to be in this musical so you work at your audition piece; you want to dance on pointe so you work on ballet; you want to go to a highly selective college so you work on SAT prep and classes you really don't care about.

 

There's this idea that kids who aren't forced to suck it up and git 'er done will never choose to do this, but I haven't found that to be true.


 
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Old 01-20-2011, 11:17 PM
 
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 By setting a good example (I don't feel like shoveling, but it has to get done; I'm tired, but I'm still going to go to the gym, etc.)?  Something else?

 

 

I'm trying to set a good example for my kids, but more along the lines of "I'm not entirely in the mood to shovel but I want to get it done because XYZ." Or "I'm choosing to do dishes [not my favorite activity] because a cleaner kitchen is less stressful for me, easier to cook when I'm hungry", etc.

I'm trying in my own life to shift my focus away from hafta gotta must to wanna choose to & desire. Still working on that!

HTH!


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Old 01-20-2011, 11:25 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boysmom2 View Post I wonder though about teaching them that sometimes you just have to suck it up and do something that you don't feel like doing.  So, now they don't have to be forced to do pages of busy work (like my oldest did when he was in ps and I had to fight with him every night over homework).   I'm glad that they don't, but I'm thinking of when I was in college.  I wanted a degree in biology and loved my science classes, but I HATED stats class.  I had to force myself to do the work for that class.



I think you kind of answered your own question... they want something enough to suck it up and do other stuff they'd rather not do. That's the natural thing to do when you really want something... I think it's people who haven't been unschooled who sometimes don't see this connection, because they've been forced to suck it up when they really didn't care about the ultimate reward. With unschooling it's always been a natural progression: you want to be in this musical so you work at your audition piece; you want to dance on pointe so you work on ballet; you want to go to a highly selective college so you work on SAT prep and classes you really don't care about.

 

There's this idea that kids who aren't forced to suck it up and git 'er done will never choose to do this, but I haven't found that to be true.


This EXACTLY. 

 

 


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Old 01-21-2011, 10:46 PM
 
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Dar, I liked your response and have generally kept faith that that would be true (it really does require faith for me, being / being surrounded by high achievers) but I wonder about it.

 

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There's this idea that kids who aren't forced to suck it up and git 'er done will never choose to do this, but I haven't found that to be true.


But what if it is true for some people?   Is there something to worry about if your kids does not seem to be much interested in anything that requires much of an effort.    There are many things dd does well and academically she is fine for her age but I don't think she put much effort into these things -- like reading, which she does very well.  She has a great mind for math and logic, sits and talks about abstract concepts while in the bathroom but still struggles with basic arithmetic.   I often feel that even after showing interest dd gives up too easily - whether due to perceived difficulty or because "it's boring." 

 

But as someone recently said, things dont become fun until you are good at them ...


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Old 01-22-2011, 07:47 AM
 
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But as someone recently said, things dont become fun until you are good at them ...

 

I think this is a dangerous myth, currently being promoted by Tiger Mom.  I do lots of things that I'm not that good at and I still enjoy.  Part of the enjoyment comes from getting better at them.   And my kids do lots of things that they aren't particularly skilled at and get a lot of enjoyment out of.  Of course, this enjoyment is contingent on the priority being the process and the experience, rather than the production of a skilled product.  I'm sure that if I was worried about doing pirouettes perfectly and preparing for a public performance, I'd enjoy my ballet classes a lot less.

 

For example, it sounds like your dd enjoys math--the higher thinking part.  Arithmetic--not so much.  At some point, she's likely to decide that her life would be easier or improved by having better facility with basic math skills.  And then she'll probably learn them, in the service of some greater goal.  My dd (9) decided about a year ago that she hated feeling "behind" in math--which was really her way of describing the realization that the mechanics of math just don't come as easily and naturally to her as, say, reading.  So she's been doing more math practice--which she sometimes finds frustrating and decidedly un-fun.  I see my job as helping her remind her of her bigger goals (in this case improving her math skills) and helping provide support and structure to accomplish them.

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Old 01-22-2011, 10:36 AM
 
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What Dar said. nod.gif

 

 I've always maintained that we do things for a variety of reasons. Generally because it's useful, fun, necessary in some way, interesting, or just because we're bored and it's a time suck lol. It's the "useful" and "necessary" that's relevant here.

 

My unschoolers were brought up with the line of thinking that basically, a lot of things suck but sometimes we find ourselves in a position where we need to do them anyhow. I always framed it with a "why do you need to do this? What's it going to do for you?"  So that can be anything from how getting up from your cozy spot on the couch to let the dog out to potty outside means you won't be setting yourself or someone else up to clean up piddle later, causing the dog to get in trouble for going inside, and so on. Or, you take the class you hate for the degree you love. It's gotta be worth it, and the more a person understands why it is or isn't worth it to them the better.

 

My 17 yr old Dd is a new college student. We visited yesterday and she told me she's already learned many things. I asked if she hated any classes yet. She said, "Not yet. I have a feeling I'll be less than thrilled with statistics, but whatever... it's got to get done eventually."  She knows she'll need that stats class to pursue her current goal.

 

Also, I've always openly shared my own personal "Gawwwd, this blows but if I don't... etc etc" situations with them. It means so much IMO.


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Old 01-22-2011, 11:56 AM
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But what if it is true for some people?   Is there something to worry about if your kids does not seem to be much interested in anything that requires much of an effort.    There are many things dd does well and academically she is fine for her age but I don't think she put much effort into these things -- like reading, which she does very well.  She has a great mind for math and logic, sits and talks about abstract concepts while in the bathroom but still struggles with basic arithmetic.   I often feel that even after showing interest dd gives up too easily - whether due to perceived difficulty or because "it's boring." 


I guess I've never know anyone for whom it was true, but that doesn't mean there aren't any people like that. For many people, though, it doesn't happen until after puberty. I really think there's a cognitive shift that's at least in part biologically based, that gives people the ability to make and carry out long-range plans more easily. FWIW, at 6 or 7 this was really not happening in our house at all... Rain did what was fun, and that was it. Sometimes things were fun for long enough that she improved her skills in an area - like soccer, or reading, I guess, or drawing - and sometimes they weren't. It wasn't until her preteen years that it even started, with theatre, and it's only been within the last 2 or 3 years when it's been "fully developed", I guess. 

 

I really believe that the fun stuff she did for the first 10 or so years or her life laid the essential background for the stuff she's done afterward, though. People work much harder and *better* when they truly feel that they have agency in their lives, that they're doing what they want to do. *This* is what Rain has, and what has made her so successful, IMO. 


 
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Old 01-23-2011, 08:22 AM
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But what if it is true for some people?   Is there something to worry about if your kids does not seem to be much interested in anything that requires much of an effort.    There are many things dd does well and academically she is fine for her age but I don't think she put much effort into these things -- like reading, which she does very well.  She has a great mind for math and logic, sits and talks about abstract concepts while in the bathroom but still struggles with basic arithmetic.   I often feel that even after showing interest dd gives up too easily - whether due to perceived difficulty or because "it's boring." 


I guess I've never know anyone for whom it was true, but that doesn't mean there aren't any people like that. For many people, though, it doesn't happen until after puberty. I really think there's a cognitive shift that's at least in part biologically based, that gives people the ability to make and carry out long-range plans more easily.

 

I avoid talking about this with people because (to me), it's embarrassing, but my DS1 is one of "these people." He has always been a difficult individual to deal with, partly because of medical issues that were improperly diagnosed when he was younger, and partly just because of temperament. Nobody has ever been able to "make" him do anything he doesn't want to do. He simply doesn't seem to care about any imposed consequences, and most of the time the only natural consequences affect the rest of us.

 

He will be 19 next week, and is EXTREMELY intelligent and articulate, but lacks any sort of motivation beyond entertaining himself. He has no plans for college at this time and is currently unemployed. He had a full-time job for a few months but was fired due to lateness and missing work. He spends most of his time playing video games. I have no problems with him living here but tell him he has to contribute; he won't do any job hunting on his own. I basically have to look for the leads and sit with him to apply. I know a lot of people would be like, "Kick him out!" Seriously....it's 16 degrees outside today, we have no family in the area and he only has a handful of friends (introvert), all of whom are the children of my own friends. Where would he go? I am frustrated and upset with him but certainly am not willing to contribute to him being homeless. Yet I feel like we're enabling his laziness. I'm really not sure what to do at this point. I will no longer get child support for him as of next month, so money is an issue, too. He doesn't get it or doesn't care....I'm not sure which.

 

DS2 is the complete opposite. It's so weird how two kids raised the same way by the same people can be so different!

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Old 01-23-2011, 08:37 PM
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What do you think has make the difference? medical issues? Temperament? I can't remember, have you unschooled all along? If not, do you think that influenced things?

 

It does seem that there are a lot more boys who struggle with this than girls, and that's something I've been thinking about more. It there some biological basis to it, or is it about the way parents/families/societies treat boys and girls differently? And it also seems that video games are often a part of it, and video games in general seem to be more of a guy-thing... I mean, I know there are many girls who play (my sister plays a lot more than either my brother or I do), but when I hear about people playing so much that it has a negative influence on other parts of their lives, it almost always seems to be a guy...

 

I'm not sure what the answer is... it would be interesting to hear BTDT stories from parents whose teens weren't motivated as late teens. Actually, I did know one kid who hit 18 with no desire to do anything except play video games and mess with computers and hang with his friends... of course, at 19 he applied for and got a job an another state doing something computer-y and making something like 60K, but he may have been the exception.


 
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Old 01-23-2011, 08:53 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Very interesting discussion, thanks everybody!  I guess I'm insecure about this for a few reasons: my oldest is only 8, so not a ton of maturity around here yet, this is our first year hsing so I'm still figuring out how I want to do things, and my dh is not so much on board (and so is very concerned that we're doing enough "school").  I really hope that my children will choose to go to college and that they will be happy and successful (by their definition) and I worry that I might not provide what they will need to get there, but obviously there are plenty of kids who go to ps who are unmotivated after hs, so that's clearly not a guarantee.  I really want to trust this, it's just hard to do!

 

I feel like there's this fine line between pushing a child to try something/try harder at something, in a good way, and demanding a child do something, in a not so good way, yk?  For example, my 8yo was taking swim lessons.  One day his teacher pushed him to swim farther than he had before.  He did fine, but found it to be a scary experience and so wanted to quit.  I was there the whole time, and while I realize he really did think it was scary, nothing dangerous happened, he didn't flounder or need to be rescued and there were several adults (teachers, lifeguards, and other swimmers) very close the whole time.  I sympathized with him, but insisted that he return the next week.  He didn't want to do it, but once he did, he was glad he did it.  I feel like if I hadn't pushed him to do this thing he really didn't want to do he may have been stuck at that place of being afraid of the deep end of the pool, instead of getting past it.  I just want them to be passable swimmers for safety reasons, I would never insist that they HAD TO be on a competitive swim team if that just wasn't their thing.  I guess what I'm trying to figure out is how you know when to push and when to let them choose, yk?  

 

Also, my oldest is very gifted, and maybe his brothers are too.  We made sure he got into the gifted program at his school last year to make sure he was being appropriately challenged, but now it feels a little backwards to NOT be pushing him.  Does that make sense?  

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Old 01-24-2011, 08:54 PM
 
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Very interesting discussion, thanks everybody!  I guess I'm insecure about this for a few reasons: my oldest is only 8, so not a ton of maturity around here yet, this is our first year hsing so I'm still figuring out how I want to do things, and my dh is not so much on board (and so is very concerned that we're doing enough "school").  I really hope that my children will choose to go to college and that they will be happy and successful (by their definition) and I worry that I might not provide what they will need to get there, but obviously there are plenty of kids who go to ps who are unmotivated after hs, so that's clearly not a guarantee.  I really want to trust this, it's just hard to do!

 

I feel like there's this fine line between pushing a child to try something/try harder at something, in a good way, and demanding a child do something, in a not so good way, yk?  For example, my 8yo was taking swim lessons.  One day his teacher pushed him to swim farther than he had before.  He did fine, but found it to be a scary experience and so wanted to quit.  I was there the whole time, and while I realize he really did think it was scary, nothing dangerous happened, he didn't flounder or need to be rescued and there were several adults (teachers, lifeguards, and other swimmers) very close the whole time.  I sympathized with him, but insisted that he return the next week.  He didn't want to do it, but once he did, he was glad he did it.  I feel like if I hadn't pushed him to do this thing he really didn't want to do he may have been stuck at that place of being afraid of the deep end of the pool, instead of getting past it.  I just want them to be passable swimmers for safety reasons, I would never insist that they HAD TO be on a competitive swim team if that just wasn't their thing.  I guess what I'm trying to figure out is how you know when to push and when to let them choose, yk?  

 

Also, my oldest is very gifted, and maybe his brothers are too.  We made sure he got into the gifted program at his school last year to make sure he was being appropriately challenged, but now it feels a little backwards to NOT be pushing him.  Does that make sense?  



I'm not an unschooler fwiw but do follow a very relaxed almost unschooling approach with my oldest (who is almost 13). Like your son he was identified as gifted in the school system before we started homeschooling.

 

Over time it became clear that there are times that he needs a gentle nudge towards things in order to get "unstuck". He'll sometimes spin his wheels due to fear or perfectionism or just plain inertia. While he would be a model academic unschooler, I realized that there are times he needs adult direction and some level of imposed expectation in order to move forward.

 

Handwriting for example. When he was 8 or so he became extremely reluctant to write down anything (a consequence of some not nice school stuff) and giving it more time meant that he was less and less motivated to try because he was becoming more and more concerned with his inability. We talked about why the skill was important and I imposed some expectations - that he write something daily - that only he needed to see/read it but that I need to see him trying and clarifying that the goal was "good enough" mastery of the skill he started writing, then got interested in caligraphy and developed the skill enough that it didn't stop him from participating or trying other things.

 

For that particular kid of mine, I don't push mastery of content and instead focus on helping him not get stuck on skill areas which hamstring him in other ways (ie we worked on faster recall of math  computation when he wanted to participate more confidently in a math programs). For DS, many things aren't fun when he doesn't feel confident in his ability and so he will sit on the sidelines and miss out and then feel sad that things went that way. Journalling and active observing has been a real help to me in seeing these patterns for my kid and in being able to talk to him about what his goals are and how to help him get there. Sometimes that means that the responsibility for helping him move forward rests on my shoulders.   

 

For now I'd say that just being aware is probably the best first step. I think that you will develop a feel for when parental guidance or nudging is necessary for your particular kid.

Good luck.


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Old 01-25-2011, 08:51 AM
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What do you think has make the difference? medical issues? Temperament? I can't remember, have you unschooled all along? If not, do you think that influenced things?

 

It does seem that there are a lot more boys who struggle with this than girls, and that's something I've been thinking about more. It there some biological basis to it, or is it about the way parents/families/societies treat boys and girls differently? And it also seems that video games are often a part of it, and video games in general seem to be more of a guy-thing... I mean, I know there are many girls who play (my sister plays a lot more than either my brother or I do), but when I hear about people playing so much that it has a negative influence on other parts of their lives, it almost always seems to be a guy...

 

I'm not sure what the answer is... it would be interesting to hear BTDT stories from parents whose teens weren't motivated as late teens. Actually, I did know one kid who hit 18 with no desire to do anything except play video games and mess with computers and hang with his friends... of course, at 19 he applied for and got a job an another state doing something computer-y and making something like 60K, but he may have been the exception.

 

I don't know. He has literally been hard to handle since he was born. He was an unhappy infant (I figured out when he was 3-4 months old that he preferred being left by himself and would only cry louder/harder if anyone tried to soothe him). He was diagnosed with all sorts of things over the course of his childhood in order to explain his rage and behavioral issues, but it turned out he had sleep apnea (which wasn't figured out until he was 13). Once he started getting proper sleep, he mellowed out considerably, but is still stubborn and seems to lack a proper amount of empathy. He is very self-absorbed. However, people generally like him and he isn't an a-hole or anything....it's just really difficult to get any sort of effort out of him for anything. And him having sleep apnea doesn't mean he's NOT afflicted with some other sort of spectrum or psychological disorder. Sometimes I think he meets some of the criteria for Asperger's, but then other times I don't.

 

He has been addicted to video games since we bought our first system when he was 6yo. I didn't want it, but his dad did. And later, when the video games became a serious issue for us, his dad refused to get rid of them. If DS wasn't playing a game, he was thinking about playing a game, watching someone else play a game, or talking about a game.

 

No, we haven't unschooled all along. DS went to public school until the beginning of 2nd grade. Then we were what's called "relaxed eclectic." The "lessons" we had....I tried to make them fun, sort of unit study-ish. I think we crossed over into something resembling unschooling when DS was 13. That was a big year for us, with him being diagnosed and having surgery, and our family going through a divorce that involved infidelity and moving twice that year. I also had to get a job, so I had less time to be really present for them for schooly/unschooly stuff, but we still did quite a bit outside the house, and we lived with friends who did stuff with them, too.
 

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Old 01-25-2011, 05:20 PM
 
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This has been an educational thread to read. I do feel somewhat better about my own concerns for my 14yo ds. He will work to get money. He just won't have anything to do with books if he can help it. Anyway, I went into that in another thread.

 

dd2 was one who didn't put much effort into anything. I couldn't make her do anything. For my own sanity and safety, I wouldn't let her go to public school since 6th grade (she has only been to public school a total of ten months in her life, by her own accounting). So my solution was just to ignore her, schoolwise. At the beginning of the year we might talk about what books she was planning to use, but I basically left her alone.

 

She gradually changed without me realizing it. Now, she has been working out and/or running on a fairly regular basis (I helped her buy a treadmill a couple of years ago - and it fits in the travel trailer she's using as a room right now), she writes blogs on the internet (one is a collection of "interviews" with animals - another is logging her experiences and experiments with hair care, face care and such), she has decided to draw manga books and learn Japanese (asked me to buy the books that would teach her), she is involved with natural beauty and health products (she recently wanted me to buy African black soap and shea butter off Amazon, and she decided to make her own "chapstick" because she uses so much, and so forth). She doesn't like math but realizes she needs to know it. She saw the workbook I bought for her brother and asked me to buy one for her. Recently, she brought a stack of books in to me, to show me the books she was using for school. She is very much self-disciplined now, but I would never have believed it 7 years ago (when she was ten).

 

My point is, that I believe there is hope - and I hadn't even realized until I read this thread that there is. I hadn't made the connection that my daughter had changed and that my son really was a self-starter in areas that interest him.

 

To 2xy, if your son is almost 19, he's still 18 and that doesn't seem too old to me right now. My oldest is 19 (as of the 12th of this month) and is frustrated because we aren't in a position for me to hand her her dreams, so she is surreptitiously trying to make them happen herself (which I didn't even realize until recently). I obviously have no advice on how to convince your son to "be responsible" but I do believe you'll discover the answers you need.

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