Monday, 21 May 2012

Motivating individuals

Well after our week of 'doing nothing' last week, we had a very busy weekend, travelling across the country to visit family, & back again.  We had three very tired boys this morning, and a houseful of tidying up to attack.  (Would somebody please explain to me how it is that being away from a house leaves you with more mess to tidy?)
So anyway, we had a very easy day today!  DS1 started the day watching Deadly 60 on TV (his all-time favourite programme), which his brothers were also happy to watch - and Mummy started on the washing.  Then there was a fair bit of trampoline bouncing... making the most of this weather as we're still a bit suspicious that it's going to start pouring down again as soon as we relax. This was followed by more playing with the big box from last week (today it morphed from a coffin into beds and then a train), and some arty time, and DS1 did a bit of a Maths workbook - nothing too arduous!
I decided not to go straight back to the Star Chart this week, as I wanted to talk to the boys and see if they had any ideas for how we could introduce a bit of 'structure' (not that I called it that, I just asked them how we were going to decide what we wanted to do every day).  DS3 was the first to contribute, gleefully shouting out "PAINTING!", and nodding emphatically when I asked him if that meant he wanted to paint every day!  Ah, the enthusiasm of a 3-year-old ;)  DS1 got right into the spirit of things, coming up with all sorts of elaborate schemes involving things like my writing sums on bits of paper and then him pulling some out of a hat to complete.  He loves making up games, so that appealed to him, although I think I may have to modify the suggestion to involve less work on my part ;)  He also liked the idea of writing down a list of things that we could do, and then rolling dice to decide which to do at any given time.  DS2 on the other hand had distinct reservations about agreeing to any scheme where he doesn't get to choose what to do for himself .  He is still very suspicious of doing anything that looks like work or that he doesn't want to do, and needs to feel in control of his choices.
So, unsurprisingly there is no single system that appeals to them all!  I have to say, DS3 is pretty easy - he has no qualms about making decisions, so I just have to have a short list of options up my sleeve for him (mostly Reading Eggs, art & craft, educational games, & doing anything with Mummy) - he'll tackle most things if presented to him in an enthusiastic way.  DS1 & 2 are very different, though, and whereas I think DS1 will be OK with any structure that allows him enough freedom to pursue his own interests (he even wrote down a list of things he liked, in case I forgot!), I think DS2 is going to need me to keep things varied and fun - not forgetting he is still clearly in the process of dechooling.  The biggest thing I think we need to tackle is breaking the mindset that we have to treat the boys all the same (I can feel the family star chart being rendered useless even as I type).  In school there was one system that every child had to fit into - some it suited, some it didn't - DS2 it definitely didn't!  The problem is, even though DS1 is quite happy to do 'school-type work', I think he would rebel altogether if he thought DS2 was getting away without doing any at all.  However, as long as I don't present it to DS2 as 'work', but something fun to have a go at with no expectations, I would think he'll be happy to have a go.  Regular readers will know he's been my biggest concern since we started this journey - it's so hard to see such a bright little boy lose all interest in learning, and at such a young age too! I just have to keep reminding myself that it's still early days, and hope that he will get there as long as I take the pressure right off him: it may feel like we're not making much progress - but at least we've halted the downward spiral.  Hopefully once he's stabilised & is feeling secure again, he'll find his groove :)  He really reminds me of the famous quote by Henry Thoreau:
"If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away. "
Anyway,  DS2 had a really good day on Maths-Whizz today - he was really motivated to get enough points to spend in the 'store' on games and personalising his room etc.  He is familiar with that concept from playing Mario on the Wii and accumulating enough points to unlock extra gadgets etc, so for once I'm grateful for the time spent on the Wii, as he can be quite unsure about traditional incentive charts - if he's not in the right mood he can see them as an opportunity to fail :(  Happily, Maths-Whizz incentives obviously fall into the same category as those on Mario Wii games - so he spent a long time playing and in the end I actually had to ask him to stop to let one of his brothers have a turn!
DS1 did really like the Star Chart though - he generally has more confidence to be able to tackle a challenge if there is something he REALLY wants at the end of it.  I don't want him to expect a reward for every single thing he does - he needs to know that sometimes doing something good is its own reward - but as he is motivated by incentives like star charts, I don't want to rule them out altogether either. 
So, this Mummy is doing more thinking: and instead of thinking "how do we as a family do HE?", I'm switching to "how do I encourage DS1 in HE?" - and ditto for DS2, and again for DS3.  It's certainly not an easy life, but my incentives are seeing each of my boys grow - and that is a reward that's worth no end of investment!

PS In case you're wondering, DS3 did get to do his painting today - we had a lovely time getting messy together while his brothers were occupied elsewhere - happy days! :)

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