My daughter wants to watch tv and play on her tablet. I tell her she can do that when she completes X amount of lessons that day. She doesn't manage to complete the lessons, it gets too late, she goes to bed and now the next day she is behind and instead of realizing she didn't get to do her activity she equates it to failure and then refuses to do anything the next day? What do I do?
There are a couple of words that stand out to me while reading this question: "manage" and "realizing" and "refuses". My first response would be that this is one very smart girl. She would like to convince you that she can't 'manage' to get all her work done in a day. She didn't 'realize' that she would be so far behind. She now 'refuses' to do anything the next day.
She has total and complete control of the situation. As long as she is firm in her belief that you will be upset/worried/annoyed/willing to remind her throughout the next day, she's got everything under control. You are now living at the bottom of the funnel with her. Her options have been squeezed in and so have yours. She may not be happy. She may show frustration but this is the dance she knows.
My daughter and I knew this dance very well. This is how we started to slowly change the steps.
1) I knew that she could manage the amount of work that was given to her each day. I set my expectations for her work by saying things like:
"I expect X number of lessons done each day. Thank you for understanding. Some kids choose to do nothing all day. That might not work out well in our house, but you can sure give it a try."
Leave that statement there to hang. Every child needs to wonder and ponder just what "that might not work out well" means. Go on about your work.
Let. her. sit.
You're now about to see just how smart this girl is. She may sit for days. Weeks. But she goes nowhere, does nothing. I continue to love her, feed her, give her hugs, do my job and then go about my wonderful life.
"In our house education is important and doing your job is paramount to the quality of your life. Some kids choose to live really sad lives. I hope that's not you, honey. We love being with you!"
2) She does "realize" what you're doing. But she may enjoy pushing the button on your chest that says, "I try to be fair. I told you what was going to happen. You should listen to me" etc. etc. Hold firm to the knowledge that she knows what it takes to get her work done. Hold firm to the expectation that completed work = life well lived.
3) I always considered us in 'training mode'. During training mode, each day is a new day with lots of possibilities. So for this chronic problem, Today i need x number of lessons done and then feel free to _________________" we can practice a lot! If they are behind because they didn't do their 3 lessons yesterday, so be it. Get them in the habit of succeeding first. New day = 3 lessons=tv/tablet time. Once you can measure just what she is capable of then you have a heart to heart outside of schooling time. Start with lots of questions: So what percentage of completion are you on? How are you doing with x number of lessons each week? Is that getting you to where you need to be by the week/month's end? What happens if you aren't as far as the school needs you to be? Lots of questions, that you obviously have the answers to but she needs to hear the answers come out of her mouth, not yours. Then come up w/ new expectations and solutions together.
4) Refusing to do work is her way of testing to see if you mean what you say and if you'll do what you say you'll do. It takes kids who are motivated by control (which is not a horrible thing) a little longer to figure this out. You'll up the odds for success if your expectations and requests are done with low pizzazz and lots of happy emotion.