What do these behaviors sound like to you?
o Not handing in homework consistently
o Avoiding responsibilities
o Not sustaining mental effort
o Underachieving (by everyone’s estimation)
I bet you are thinking something like ADHD of the inattentive variety or some form of executive function deficiency. I know when parents bring their kids in with these behaviors, that’s what I am usually thinking.
Something that nags at me though is the question of anger and whether the child is exhibiting good old fashioned “passive aggressiveness.”
When children are not compliant, especially with meeting school expectations, parents frequently implement a series of punishments – “You’re grounded…You’re finished with video games for a month…You’re off the team, etc.” sprinkled with a heavy dose of yelling, ranting and haranguing.
How does the kid react to these? Does he go to his room and think, “You know, my parents are right? I’ll get all my work done, so I can go see my friends again.” I doubt it.
More likely, is the following thought process:
“My parents are such jerks. Their stupid punishments won’t work. They think they are so smart. I’ll show them. F – them.”
That position can be very powerful.
Ask yourself, are your punishments reaching their desired goal?
One approach that may work if you think your child may be in such an angry state would be to take a few educated guesses:
“You think I’m being too hard on you, huh?”
“I bet you you’re real angry with me now, right?”
“You think I’m over-controlling, right?”
When there are no other distractions around (especially other siblings), try one or two of these. Perhaps in the car when it’s just you and your child it would be a good time to give it a shot. You don’t have to agree with what comes out, but listening can have powerful effects. Releasing some of the anger may lead to less of a desire to “stick it to you” and a perception that both of you are on the same, not opposing teams.