Your son Aaron has had a good year with Ms. Kelly. At the last conference, the only concern she repeated was that he needed to get his work done on time. This was not news to you. You’re always working on it with him and it’s excruciatingly painful.
Yet here you are at his soccer game and overhear someone complain about the science fair project due Friday. “Weren’t those directions confusing?” and “What is your kid doing her project on?”
In the car, you say, “Aaron, do you have a science project due this week?” Yes, he says, but he lost the directions. Or they’re in his desk at school, he thinks. You buzz over to the school and get the custodian to open the classroom. Aaron finds them and you read them. An experiment? Research? Poster board? Argh!
While dashing to Staples for the tri-fold board, you try not to explode. “Haven’t we talked about procrastination, Aaron? Letting us know ahead of time that you have a project due?” Aaron is nowhere near as stressed as you are. You try again. “How can you do your best science project at this late date?”
Some reassurance for you–we teachers have seen this happen hundreds of times. It’s how some kids learn. Here are three tips I can offer you:
- Let Aaron do the work. You create the environment and then let go. Teachers want to see Aaron’s work, not yours. We can tell immediately if a parent did the work.
- Clear Aaron’s schedule, even it if means missing a sports practice. If there are penalties, well, that’s another lesson learned.
- If his finished project is less than stellar, send it to school anyway.
Try to keep your tone matter-of-fact throughout the ordeal. All of this is very tough stuff to do because not helping sounds harsh.
But look closer and you’ll see that it’s showing love. By remembering this, you let Aaron grow and learn.
If your children are lucky enough to enjoy life with a Yorkshire terrier, you’ll recognize our Teddy.
Happy. Self-confident. Highly intelligent. Persistent. Protective. Noisy. Wags a lot.
Barks at perceived intruders. Monitors the yard for mourning doves, squirrels, rabbits, or anything masquerading as such. Rages at roaming cats.
Loves car rides. Sits in his car seat for the sheer pleasure of it. Backseat driver. Announces trucks, motorcycles, scooters, baby carriages, runners, bicycles, and cars with other dogs.
Unafraid of any other animal. Bosses larger dogs with ease.
Follows directions that fit with his agenda. Chooses softest seating for himself.
Bounces back after day surgery. Turns neck doughnut into fashion statement.
Helped to raise our family with a sense of humor and unlimited tolerance for snuggling.
In the last post, I gave you a good framework to use when addressing back talk with your child. The last step to take is moving on, bringing her back into the family’s tasks and rhythms.
Of course, neither you nor your daughter may feel like falling into each other’s arms at this point.
That’s okay. By moving on, you demonstrate a powerful love and respect for her. I know you will do better the next time. I love you and will stick by you no matter what. I am here to help you even when the going’s tough.
A child’s development is rarely linear. There are not neat stages through which children pass, with infallible instructions for each. Growth is arduous and messy, trial and error, and many times the path is bumpy and rough.
Be proud of how you are raising your children to be thoughtful, thinkers in our world.
Do you ever say to your child, “I wasn’t good at math, either,” followed by “I’m more of a English (or other topic) person.”
Pardon the caps while I write, “STOP SAYING THAT!”
I know you’re probably trying to show sympathy as your child puzzles through math homework. Or trying to be honest. Or sharing that they’re not alone. Or trying to show that you, an important adult in their life, confronted challenges just as they are doing.
Today, we know more about math learning and the kind of encouragement that helps children:
- “I know you’re doing your best.”
- “Did you call one of your friends (or five or six of them) for help?
- “I’ll listen while you read the directions aloud.”
- “What does Mrs.—want you to do when you’re stuck?”
Also, if you are able to take apart a problem and help your child understand it, by all means do so. That can be a great strategy if you are able to teach them, not tell them.
Finally, tell your child to ask the teacher what to do the next time they need help with math homework. We parents want our children to feel confident about asking for help whenever they need it.