Today I had an interesting conversation with a dad as I watched my daughter’s volleyball game. It’s a conversation I have with so many moms and dads: that when it comes to us parents teaching our own kids (especially academics), they don’t seem to want to take the information from us. Hire someone to teach them the exact same task and they will be all ears and ready to learn!
Another parent once told me that even though his profession (and business) is teaching kids with special needs how to ski, when it came to teaching his own kids how to ski, they didn’t want to learn from him. He had to hire a ski instructor to do it!
So why the resistance from our kids?
From many years of teaching experience and working with families, here are a few of my thoughts on the subject:
1. Parents are Life Coaches. If you think about it, as parents, our days are really made up mainly of life- coaching our kids. Whether it’s about healthy eating or the proper tooth-brushing technique, our kids are continuously listening to our advice, guidance and counseling all day/ everyday. This need for direction never goes away, no matter how old they are and no matter how much resistance they put up. This parental guidance gives our kids reassurance, a sense of security and makes them feel loved and cared for. It doesn’t take away from the fact that our kids also see us more as their ‘life coaches’ rather than ‘academic’ or ‘professional sports’ instructors.
2. Kids are Protective Of Their Learning. Although they know you have been through school, they still may feel they want their teacher/coach to teach them how to do math, soccer or drawing. If you attempt to teach them ‘your way’ you may hear : ‘that’s not how Ms. Talent showed us!’ They get worried that you’re going to confuse them because your way is the ‘old way’ and you haven’t been in the class with them to know what is going on.
3. Sense of Achievement. Just as we adults love to feel that sense of success and achievement, so do our kids! They want to feel that they didn’t need anyone (meaning YOU MOM & DAD) to figure it out on their own.
4. Judgment and Opinion . This may be true especially if you have a perfectionist child or an over-achiever. Such children may feel that if you are explaining something to them, that they are ‘not good enough’ in your eyes. You will hear words like ” I know that already!” or perhaps as soon as you start to explain a concept: frustration tears appear or even a temper tantrum erupts. Perfectionist kids are embarrassed to let you ‘down’ because they attach how much you love them, to their high performance.
So what do we do now?
Parenting is a continuous learning curve, because we are ALL unique. You can only do your best, but know that by you reading this far, you are a wonderful parent and your not alone!
Here are a few ideas that may let you in as your kid’s TEACHER:
1. ASK THEM. Before you teach your child ask them a simple question: Could you choose me as your teacher/coach today? I would love to help you. I want to share where I think you’re doing great and how I think you can improve on a few things. Is that okay? (if it’s a no, say: Okay, walk away and keep reading.)
2. TELL THEM a life story about how you struggled in math/soccer/drawing/French when you were a kid. Kids LOVE life stories and your connection will be more human once they figure out that you’re actually NOT a Super Hero! Tell them a story about how your mom/dad/grandparent once helped you get ahead. Give them that reassurance that they are still a winner in your eyes and always will be, even when they ask for help.
3. It’s One and the Same. This part may be a bit time-consuming however, we do need to invest some time for our kids to trust our teaching methods for them to slowly accept us in their ‘teacher’ category. If you find your child resisting ‘your way’ of solving a math problem, reassure them that you’re not taking away their learning in school but showing them a new route. Encourage them by giving the following example of getting to school each morning: “Hey Jack, how do we get to school every day? Is there only one route to school or many? (wait for the answer). Your right, there are many roads that lead to school, and all the roads will get you to the same destination. Some roads may be a shorter route, while others more scenic and pretty. It all depends on what your comfortable with. The more roads you know of, the more choices you have to reach your destination. That’s what I would like to show you here with long-division, that there is more than one way to find the answer.” Then see if they will accept you showing them a ‘new route’ to the math problem.
4. No Matter What. Some children have very high expectations of themselves and will associate ‘not knowing’ with being ‘dumb’ so they will resist asking for help or they will tell you “I know it already!’. The best method for this is to keep repeating what Henry Ford said: ‘mistakes are opportunities to try again.’ Help your child understand that just as we wouldn’t know what happiness is without sadness, we can’t know what success is without having bumps along the way and that you will always love them; no matter what.
Written by Dana Ben Halim
B.A. Economics; B.Ed (Hons.)
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