We are frus­trated be­cause our eight-year-old is very neg­a­tive and lacks drive. Please help.

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - PARENTING -

?WE have an eight-year-old boy who is ex­tremely sen­si­tive but bois­ter­ous, in­tel­li­gent but lazy, and get­ting him to do ba­sic things is al­ways a chal­lenge. The ma­jor is­sue at the mo­ment is his neg­a­tiv­ity and lack of drive.

BEAR in mind that your son is only eight years of age. Eight year olds are not known for their in­de­pen­dent “get-up-andgo” men­tal­ity. Eight-year-olds rarely have life goals or fu­ture tar­gets that they are aim­ing for. Mostly, they live in the now, of what­ever is catch­ing their in­ter­est at any given mo­ment.

Be­cause you and your hus­band are highly mo­ti­vated, con­sci­en­tious, hard-work­ing and dili­gent, it might be dif­fi­cult for you if your son Life is “bor­ing” to him and he just won’t put ef­fort into anything. We are very frus­trated as we both work hard at ev­ery­thing we do and this at­ti­tude is so an­noy­ing. We spend our days nag­ging him but noth­ing changes.

How can we turn this around? I feel that he has so much po­ten­tial if he would just ap­ply him­self. seems chal­leng­ing, but maybe your ex­pec­ta­tions of him are too high. Per­haps he just can’t mea­sure up to your stan­dards, be­cause he is only eight. Be­cause he doesn’t seem to “shape up” to your stan­dards, you both sound like you are very down on him and crit­i­cal of him.

It is un­sur­pris­ing that he ap­pears to be neg­a­tive since you are also very neg­a­tive about him. It sounds like he gets crit­i­cised for many things. It is hard to stay pos­i­tive if you are sub­ject to reg­u­lar crit­i­cism.

Af­ter a while, he may come to be­lieve that he is “bois­ter­ous” and “lazy” if that is how he is reg­u­larly cat­e­gorised. It is hard to sum­mon up any en­thu­si­asm or en­ergy if we have a very low or neg­a­tive view of our­selves, based on the feed­back of other peo­ple.

If your son was 18, then you may have very good rea­son to be con­cerned about a lack of in­ter­nal drive or am­bi­tion. But I don’t think you need to be con­cerned about this in an eight-year-old.

Most eight year olds will adapt their be­hav­iour to the ex­pec­ta­tions of the adults around them. They will be mo­ti­vated to do things for re­ward, or out of fear of pun­ish­ment.

Some­times, those re­wards are in­trin­sic (like the fun they have when they play with friends, so they want to play more with their friends). Some­times, the re­wards are more specif­i­cally in­cen­tives (“you can have some story time as soon as you are ready for bed”).

Sim­i­larly, when the con­se­quences of their be­hav­iour are neg­a­tive (for ex­am­ple, they miss out on some TV time be­cause they re­fused to turn off the TV the last time they were watch­ing it), we hope that they learn to make dif­fer­ent choices the next time (like turn­ing off the TV when they are told).

It is un­re­al­is­tic, how­ever, to ex­pect them to pro-ac­tively re­mem­ber to do chores, tidy their room, stop play­ing com­puter games, get them­selves ready for bed or any of the other “ba­sic things” that kids have to do.

It is our job to re­mind them of what we want them to do, to in­cen­tivise them, or to re­mind them of the con­se­quences if they don’t do what we want.

We may also have to guide them in these tasks, work­ing along­side them, rather than send­ing them off in­de­pen­dently to carry them out.

Nat­u­rally, any child might chal­lenge any re­quest. There could be any num­ber of rea­sons for them to chal­lenge our de­sires for them: they may be tired, they may not like what we ask, they may have some­thing else they’d rather do, and so on.

So, rather than nag­ging your son and at­tend­ing to his fail­ings, try to fo­cus on the things he does well, or the times when he does com­ply with your ex­pec­ta­tions.

“Catch him be­ing good” and you may find that you no­tice his pos­i­tive qual­i­ties and his strengths, and he be­comes more mo­ti­vated to con­tinue to gar­ner this praise and pos­i­tive at­ten­tion.

If you can re­cal­i­brate your ex­pec­ta­tions of him, you may also find that you are less ir­ri­tated by his nat­u­ral re­luc­tance, at times, to do what you tell him.

If you can hold back your frus­tra­tion with him, you may also find it eas­ier to no­tice his skills and tal­ents more than his deficits.

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