The best teachers in the world will make little impact on a child who is determined not to learn. Teachers will always try to motivate and inspire the children they work with. Parents can influence a child’s attitudes to learning and behaviour at school. Parents working with teachers to encourage positive attitudes can be incredibly effective.
It is good to be told how clever you are. Or is it? For children who have a ‘fixed mindset’ the label ‘clever’ can become a burden. If I am clever do I have to work as hard as children who are not? What if I see other children in class ‘get it’ when I do not? Some ‘clever’ children won’t try lateral thinking problems in class for fear of public failure.
For some children school is really easy until the serious exams begin. Not needing to revise for tests is replaced by needing to do revision for many exams. Having no pressure is swapped for stress and anxiety.
For others, university is the big shock because they have not been prepared for not being top of the class. Is your child getting along in their comfort zones or are they pushing the boundaries? Taking responsibility and making wise choices needs to be well established by 18 years old. Failing and learning from failure is normal in life.
Some children, especially younger ones, worry about neatness. Not all work has to be neat. Personal notes just need to make sense. Wasting time on work, which is not a priority, can become a habit. We call this behaviour ‘colouring in’. Children need to learn to prioritise and take responsibility for taking decisions.
Successful learners are willing to fail. Every person has to extend his or her comfort zones to progress. Children need to learn to risk going beyond their existing comfort zones.
When talking to a 12 or 15 year old it is easy to fail to CONNECT. Children grow increasing independent. Talking ‘at’ a child does not mean that they are accepting anything you are saying. When a child keeps the conversation going and gives more details about events, or their feelings, the adult is getting something right.
If your child is not concentrating well in class they might be advised to “pay attention”. If you have a good conversation you might discuss daydreaming and being distracted by other children. You might ask about what happens in different lessons. We offer practical tips and suggestions that children can understand. “If possible sit near the front to minimise distractions.”
Children may believe that they cannot ignore the distractions in their lives. Can you persuade your children to think they have a choice about reacting to, or ignoring, the people or things that seem so interesting?
Emotional Intelligence (E.I.)
Understanding self and understanding other people is central to personal development. Children with E.I. learn better and behave better in school. Adults can support the development of E.I. by talking to children about emotions such as anger. Children can be guided in exploring the ideas in Succeed at Secondary.
Succeed at Secondary and Succeed4parents workshops emphasis the unique situation that each child is in. While there are always ways to advise a child finding the best one, at any given time, involves exploring many options.
Some people give up too quickly and some people refuse to be beaten. Grit is something that your child may demonstrate in some situations but not in others. Understanding that we are tempted to give up too soon is a good first step towards having more GRIT.
Growing an Adult
If we imagine our children as adults we would hope that they would be happy, successful and able to manage the challenges that life offers. If we protect our children from everything they find difficult we do them a disservice. If we let our children develop as they see fit we are not giving them the benefit of adult experience. Why not actively seek to grow the adult you would like your child to become.
The real purpose of homework is to develop independent learning skills. If you support that you are helping. If you do the homework; you are not!
“How was school today?”
If the answer is “Okay” it is not very helpful. Busy parents may wish they had not asked when the answer takes 20 minutes. However, such conversations are central to shaping your child’s attitudes to learning. How can you support your child if you have little understanding of their ‘inner voice’.
IDENTIFY – CONNECT – EXPLORE (I.C.E. Approach) is the key to being a learning coach. Asking questions and having conversations allows a learning coach to understand a child’s ‘inner voice’. Only with some understanding is it possible to explore ways forward.
The first step is to talk about the day-to-day experiences of school. Each conversation is likely to provide two important results.
1. You will hear about the details of school life. These details allow you to ask more questions tomorrow.
2. The discussion will give you more insight into your child’s thinking about school, friends, their own learning and much more.
If you really listen to what is said, and what perhaps, is only suggested you will learn. If children are going to talk freely adults must talk to them not at them. It is vital to connect.
This expresses what we believe about ourselves and what we assume others think and feel about us. A ‘fixed mindset’ tells me I am OK at maths but I can’t do anagrams. I may decide to avoid new challenges because failure is embarrassing. But if I believe I do not know my limits until I have tried my absolute best; who knows what I might achieve.
Lateral thinking problems are a great way to teach children the ‘I don’t get it yet’ idea. Such problems usually appear impossible at first. When children hear the answer it seems so obvious. You know the attitude is right when your child says “Don’t tell me. Say it again I must be missing something.”
Joe has a Youtube channel with lots of examples. Just type in Joe Slevin. What is in the middle of gravity? Answer – V (graVity).
Coaching is about helping someone to improve, find personal success, and cope with life’s challenges. It involves making an impact on behaviours, attitudes, knowledge and skills. Successful coaches give excellent feedback and focus on the person’s ‘inner voice’.
Who is a perfect learner? Who does not have difficulties in some area or at some time? If children are to believe in the “I don’t get it yet!”approach adults need to ‘model’ being a learner. You can start by discussing your learning difficulties. You might try to learn something difficult to build some empathy with your young learner.
Learning Solutions Innovation Ltd
The company was started in 2012 and published Succeed at Secondary in 2013. Parent workshops began in 2015.
Carol Dweck developed the ‘Fixed Mindset’ and ‘Growth Mindset’ ideas. Moving a child from “I don’t get it” to “I don’t get it YET” can change everything. Joe uses lateral thinking problems on his Youtube channel to encourage the ‘yet’ attitude. https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve
Is it better to take the P.E. kit to school or let your child suffer the consequences of forgetting it? You can model being organised and you can advise and help. You can encourage and reward being organised. If you do the organising – or reminding – you may be slowing your child’s progress towards taking responsibility for themselves.
Three workshops are normally used. The first introduces the book and the ideas around becoming a ‘learning coach’. It also provides some simple questionnaires to open the conversation about school and learning.
In the second session parents share what they have learned from their conversations. The focus of this workshop is on how to respond to what the child says. ‘Learning attitudes’ and ‘growth mindset’ are also explored. A third workshop considers ‘coaching style’ and guides parents in self-reflection.
The teacher request “do you very best work” can lead to some children using time poorly and worrying too much. Managing homework and time pressures will be easier when your child learns to decide how much time and effort each piece of work requires. Sometimes the right approach is “this is good enough” or “this will do”.
Children, and adults, often talk of ‘stress’. Pressure is normal and needed in life. Pressure and excitement can be indistinguishable. What might happen if your child was convinced that ‘stress’ just means the pressure that seems too difficult to manage?
What might happen if your child learns to ask for more help, more time, or some reduction of the workload? Pressure builds and reduces. Stress is a word best avoided.
Some children are confident public speakers. Some children are not so confident. School is the place to gain confidence in public speaking. A wise child challenges the fear and worry and slowly gains confidence. If children hide away from the challenge – in their quiet comfort zone – many future challenges will seem impossible. When doing presentations or performances it is best to volunteer to go first. In class discussions it is good to refer by name to another person who has spoken in the discussion.
Some children learn happily without asking questions in class. However a positive attitude to learning involves curiosity and questions. For parents, asking better questions but nor interrogating, is the way to learn about a child’s inner voice. If you are trying to ‘grow an adult’ you need to identify which adult traits need to be encouraged.
Caring parents sometimes have a tendency to do more than they should to help their children. ‘Growing an adult’ requires that parents prepare, encourage and sensitively guide. Children have to take responsibility for their learning – and much more.
Many children get excellent advice on revision but fail to use it. If I believe I am not clever what is the point of revision? Children need to believe revision will work. They need to write revision notes, practise problems (maths) and, if possible, teach someone the material. Revision must be active. Reading through the text book or notes is not the answer.
Skills and Attitudes
Developing new skills, and greater confidence, is more likely if there is a determination to keep trying to improve. Carol Dweck found that teaching children study skills only made a difference when the children had the attitude that they could improve.