Reading, writing, and doing Mathematics: How not to help your child.
Think back to when you were a child and being told that you would like something you had already got to dislike. Do you remember how annoying and unhelpful those talks were? You didn’t believe them. You wished they would stop trying to convince you. You avoided talking with them about it if you could.
In my memory that well-meaning adult would just keep on trying to convince me that understanding Physics, eating lumpy porridge, or throwing a baseball was fun and easy. I have stubbornly persisted in not finding lumpy porridge or throwing a baseball easy. Fortunately I am learning to be very interested in Physics, but I have had some good coaches along the way who have persisted in discussing ideas with me, shown me how Physics ideas work, and believed I’ll understand physics ideas over time.
Here is what I find works when helping your child read and write and do Mathematics – and anything else, even Physics and skateboarding.
Don’t ‘just tell’ them something is fun and interesting. A mistake adults often make when helping their children learn a reading, writing, or Mathematics skill or any other skill, is to ‘tell’ them encouragingly how much fun and how interesting a particular skill or topic is that the child doesn’t yet like and can’t yet do. They won’t believe you, and why should they? Their experience is that that skill or topic is very difficult and quite boring.
Show them how fun and interesting you find a reading, writing, or Mathematics skill or topic. When you truly do like that skill or topic, you can show them it is fun and exciting by smiling as you do it, even glowing with enthusiasm and excitement. You can also talk enthusiastically about the topic. Just don’t over-do it, and keep enthusiastic comments brief. You can gently continue to say and show that you really enjoy/like/love that type of mathematics, that book, that topic, each time you work with them. They don’t have to like it yet but you already do.
Tell the truth. If you don’t like a reading, writing, or Mathematics skill or topic, be honest and tell them how you managed to learn it anyway, or how you will now learn it with them. If you also find that skill or topic difficult, please tell your child. You can let them know you will both learn how to do it together so that you both get to like/enjoy/master the skill. This means that you can work on an equal footing together, as two students, to understand and master difficult reading, writing, or Mathematics skills. I have personally found this a very powerful and useful way to coach a student when I am unsure yourself about a topic or skill.
As a coach, I have found that being honest about my thoughts and feelings when coaching reading, writing, or Mathematics skills is always the best policy. Some of my best coaching sessions have been when I was not comfortable with teaching the topic or skill, and we worked together to master it. As I tell them – the best way to learn something is to teach it.
Thank you for any feedback. Love hearing from you!