Won’t Work On Her Own? – Q&A July-August 2010

HEM’s Questions & Answers for the July-August, 2010 issue:

How Do I Handle a Child Who Won’t Work On Her Own?

My older daughter [now in college] was easy to homeschool because she was independent and liked to read on her own. This freed me up to pursue my own interests.

My youngest daughter is the complete opposite, and this is causing me a great deal of frustration. Emily wants to be amused minute-by-minute and does not work independently at all. If I suggest certain activities, she’ll say, “I don’t want to do that.” She won’t color or play with puzzles or do anything unless I do it with her. She won’t read unless she can read out loud to me. When I want to devote time to my own interests, she complains that she’s bored and that I’m not spending time with her. I find myself having to spend four or five hours doing things with her, which I feel she should be doing on her own, and this has pretty much left me with no time of my own to pursue my own dreams. By the end of the day I’m spent and unhappy. My daughter is too dependent on me. We have many things available to her in our home, but she won’t do anything unless I sit down and do them with her, and this is really draining me. How would you handle this? Lorraine

Please use the comment section below to share your response. Our deadline for answers to this question is March 15th. Please recognize that your submission may be edited for length or clarity, and indicate how you would like your answer signed.

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9 Responses to Won’t Work On Her Own? – Q&A July-August 2010

  1. Camille on March 31, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    My daughter has always been this way as well and for a long time, it was very draining on me. I’m a very private, introverted person and her need to be with me at all moments drove me absolutely batty.

    I found that the more quality time I spent with her (not teaching, just playing or hanging out – doing whatever she wanted) early in the day, the more likely she would be to give me some time to myself in the afternoons. Perhaps some change in your schedule where she feels like she’s getting 100% of you at a regular time everyday will give her more confidence that it’s ok to be on her own. Also, explaining that you need your own time as much as she needs time with you might help. Ask her what she needs from you now in order to get some time to yourself later. Depending on how old she is, it might take awhile before she actually gives you the time you ask for.

    Recently (and I mean very recently) I’ve really come to enjoy spending hours together with my daughter. She learns more through interaction with me (and others) and as long as I am attuned to her needs, we get along fine. It’s more important that she be happy than I get my way and remembering that has made a huge difference in our homeschooling efforts.

  2. Simply Sonita on April 1, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Well you don’t say how old she is so could it be her age contributing to the problem? She may be prone to not like alone time to begin with, but her age may exacerbate the ‘problem’.

    Try using a timer. Go to walmart or target and buy her her ‘own’ kitchen timer. Set it for ever how long you decide (I’d start small, depending on her age, 5-10-15 minutes to start) where she has to entertain herself. Tell her once the timer goes off you’ll spend 20-30 minutes with her. (again, use the timer)

    This way she knows you won’t be ‘ignoring’ her forever. She’ll know the reward will be time spent with you.

    As she gets used to it up the time 5-10 minutes at a time every week until you reach the point where she is entertaining herself for ever how long you think is age appropriate.

    My kids (3 and 6)LOVE timers, as do I LOL. We time how long they get to play video games, how long they have to clean for, do school work for, ect.

    I use it to clean my house 15 minutes at a time. LOL I know it sounds silly but it gets my house clean and I don’t feel like I’ve spent ALL day cleaning.

  3. Stuart Marshall on April 2, 2010 at 7:06 am

    On my life! Is it me!
    Surely this is the whole point of home schooling – to spend time with your children. This poor child is clearly effectively an only child who is bored and craving attention.
    If you don’t want to spend time with her – send her to school and free up some time for your interests. Or possibly book her into before and after school club too. Then when she gets home she will be so tired that you can put her straight to bed.
    In all seriousness home schooling is a 24 hour commitment – especially when the kids are young – and I am sure that as she gets older she will want to spend more time alone. What about getting some home school friends for her? My kids spend hours playing with other home schooled kids – giving us some adult time over a mutual cup of tea/coffee.
    I think this parent needs to give some serious thought to whether home schooling really is for them at this stage of their life.

  4. Lorraine on April 2, 2010 at 7:43 am

    Stuart,

    Your response to my question was offensive, and I wish to challenge your statements. First of all, I do spend time with my daughter. I just don’t believe that homeschooling means that a parent should have to spend all day long doing the same activities with that child. The purpose of homeschooling is so that children can learn what they want to learn on their own. It is not so that parents can sit with them 24-7 spoonfeeding them, as you seem to infer. I was hesitant to submit my question in the first place because of people like you, who would misinterpret what I wrote, and bludgeon me to death with self-righteous platitudes. Nowhere in my question did I indicate that I was not willing to spend some time with my daughter, as you have interpreted. Perhaps you need to work on your reading comprehension skills before attempting to shell out advice to the rest of advice. So, in answer to you question, “Is it me?” Yes, Stuart, it IS you.

    • Carrie on April 12, 2010 at 6:13 pm

      Lorraine,
      Not to fight your battles here, but I had the same reaction to Stuart’s post. Like you, one of my goals in homeschooling my son is to make him an independent thinker so I totally get what you were saying. Don’t have the answers for you. I’m looking for a few myself as I struggle with a 13 year old reluctant learner who I rarely trust with independent work. It is exhausting, to say the least. United (most of us) stand.

  5. Lorraine on April 2, 2010 at 7:46 am

    Stuart,

    Your response to my question was offensive, and I wish to challenge your statements. First of all, I do spend time with my daughter. I just don’t believe that homeschooling means that a parent should have to spend all day long doing the same activities with that child. The purpose of homeschooling is so that children can learn what they want to learn on their own. It is not so that parents can sit with them 24-7 spoonfeeding them, as you seem to infer. I was hesitant to submit my question in the first place because of people like you, who would misinterpret what I wrote, and bludgeon me to death with self-righteous platitudes. Nowhere in my question did I indicate that I was not willing to spend some time with my daughter, as you have interpreted. Perhaps you need to work on your reading comprehension skills before attempting to shell out advice to the rest of us. So, in answer to your question, “Is it me?” Yes, Stuart, it IS definitely you.

  6. DeAnna on April 12, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    I think it’s important to always remember that each child has a different personality and way of doing things. Your older daughter may very well have mostly your personality traits and ways of doing things, thus her ability to work well on her own. The baby child just has a “community” personality, and obviously works better when surrounded by people…namely you. :-) I think the timer is a great idea (sounds like FlyBaby thing to me!), and I would def try that if I were you. They grow up so quickly, and one day, we’ll be wishing for all these days back! Hope it works out for you.

  7. C. Trzasko on April 12, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    What kinds of dreams do you want to pursue? Are they things that she might join you in somehow or are they things that are beyond her? If you can find a way to include her, that would be great. Even if it means letting her sit near you with a book or something while you’re busy at a computer, you’ll likely have fewer problems if you explain to her that she can work near you or has to go to her room or something instead. Or let her know that she has to let you have a certain amount of time to do your work and then you’ll be able to spend a half hour (or some other amount of time) doing something that she wants.

    It also sounds like she’s a bit lonely. Is she involved in activities with other kids? If you can find some classes or homeschool support group activities that she can do with other children, she might be a little less dependent on you. I know some homeschool parents who bring their children to events and they work while the children are busy. Others socialize with the other parents and get a sense of grown-up time that helps relieve this problem.

    It may also help you alternate activities. Make her spend 30 minutes working on something by herself and then 30 minutes doing something with you. Or resort to my mother’s tactic when she needed time off from the children; tell her that she needs to find something to do on her own or you’ll give her something to do (more chores). She’ll either learn to become more independent or you’ll have a lot of extra work done around the house.

    Good luck.

  8. Bettina on April 22, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    My son is hard-wired as an extrovert, really chafing in isolation. He learns best by being able to process information out loud with feedback, to work cooperatively on activities. As Deanna rightly said, kids have different personalities.

    I think his extroversion will serve him well in life, but it didn’t in public school. Very verbal, he would get in trouble for wanting to interact during all those long stretches requiring him to silently work at his desk. Homeschooling seemed the alternative.

    Yet this trait is especially challenging for me to try to meet this need solo during homeschooling when he wants my full attention as a teacher and then as a buddy during the breaks. I simply can’t provide as much sociability as my son would like, since I do have responsibilities to do on my own and, frankly, since I can only sustain a small amount of interest in kids’ games (for my son it’s Legos). Yes, exhaustion is the result.

    My solution echoes advice from Camille and C. Trzasko: I try to provide real quality engagement with my boy in the morning and at lunch time, which does seem to sustain him a bit. Definitely, for the afternoons, I schedule group activities and classes or trips to places, such as parks, where many children will be. When he is engaged with others, I too use that time for tasks such as phone calls, reading, lesson planning. I really encourage playdates since other kids are happy to fully participate in his interests (those Legos). Knowing that he will have time with friends after school helps motivate him to do lessons on his own.

    My other advice for getting through the school day is to make sure that you are at least in your child’s presence. I sit right next to him, or definitely nearby, whenever possible, both of us doing what we need to do. I set up his desk within eyesight of my computer. Indeed, I find this good modeling for working diligently for an extended period.

    To reiterate the good idea of C.’s mother: I offer my son the opportunity to help me with my chores so it goes faster or play on his own until I finish. I certainly let him do activities at the kitchen table (crafts for example) while I work there. Yes, I’d prefer just to focus on meal prep without having to chat, but it’s doable.

    Like the others, I also used to rely on a timer. This was as much for myself in order to pay attention to how long my kid could go without needing to connect. If we both knew we could go relatively alone for 30 minutes, we were more efficient.

    HEM, you are wise to take seriously the feeling of being drained. Overall, I’m glad my child is so attached to me. But of course I wish I had a lot more breathing room. I have to work hard to ensure that I get time to be quiet and alone to hear my own thoughts or time with adults free from kids’ activities. When I don’t meet those needs of my own, I admit to getting a bit resentful of my son’s demands for my attention. Balance is required.

    But to sum up, what you perceive as a lack of independence is not necessarily a character flaw that must be fixed. Understanding your child always benefits; you can learn more about extroversion in many sources such as Myers-Briggs books. Focus on the strengths that underlie her temperament and foster them. Sure, certain skill sets can be taught to help your daughter work well with your inclinations–but also to help you with hers.

    I’d finally underscore the best advice of all, remember you may want this back. (Thanks April.) Soon enough this socializing will be directed to peers and well away from you. I hope you’ll never come to regret missing your child’s invitations to spend time in her world, in her games.