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Child Who Refuses to Work

January 26, 2010

We have probably all encountered a student who refuses to do work. While we can do our best to engage the child and build a positive relationship with him, we cannot do his work; we can only do ours. At some point it becomes necessary to stop expending so much energy on one child who refuses. When I have had a child like this and have tried the motivational tools I know – including being sure to involve the parents and administration – I assign the work. When I notice the child is not working, I walk to their desk and quietly say something like, ‘I notice that you have not begun the work. Is there anything I can do to help?’ When the child says no, I quietly say, ‘Choosing not to work is a poor decision. I hope you will choose to begin working.’ Then I walk away and don't say anything more. Any time the child does work, I make sure to quietly say, ‘I see you are choosing to work. Good decision.’ With some passive aggressive/oppositional students, I have found it best to just give them a private thumbs-up or wait until the end of the period, because drawing attention to their compliance can backfire.



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