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Are you Unintentionally Discouraging your Child from Learning?


Whether we realize it or not, our children look to us and our attitude towards learning is often reflected in their own behaviour. Many times parents will complain about their child not reading, not completing homework and being disorganized, but in the majority of cases the problem actually originates with their own attitudes. Outlined below are some of the things parents do to discourage learning.


Reading as a Punishment

I completely understand that being a parent is hard and unrelenting and every parent needs some quiet time. If getting that piece of mind comes from sending your child off to silent read, you actually end up alienating them from the joy of reading. Reading needs to be something we do for enjoyment. I want to admit that I have done this myself.


My suggestion is to make reading a reward. Take the kids to the library or book store and let them pick out a book (which usually isn’t at the right level) and you pick one as well, which hopefully at the appropriate level. When I do this, I get a book myself and we all read together.


What Is Everyone Else Doing During Homework Time?

Once, I worked with a student, who during Tuesday sessions he was a diligent and focused on his homework. Yet, when I came on Thursdays, he had an attitude and it was very difficult to get him to do his work. I asked his parents what they thought, and the answer became clear. On Thursdays, while he was doing homework, his brothers and Dad would go to the park and play hockey. For a boy who loves hockey this felt like a punishment. The parents had the best intentions by getting the two young boys out of the house, but it actually made the older son less attentive during his session. This has also happened with other families when all the everyone is watching tv together while the tutoring session is going on. Again, the child feels that they are missing out on crucial family time.


The lesson is clear. If everyone else is having fun, homework or tutoring feels like a punishment. The message that ends up being sent is that because they have learning issues, they get to have less fun. I’m not suggesting that everyone work during these times, but part of tutoring succeeding is sometimes working while others are busy doing tasks of their own. That's just a part of life.


My suggestion is that the person that is being tutored should not feel that they are being left out of an activity. Everyone else shouldn’t be having fun together while they’re forced to do work that is difficult for them. Perhaps this could be the time of day set aside that everyone works on homework or perhaps this is the time of day that everyone else in the house is reading. Being mindful of the message we send is essential to helping kids with learning issues succeed.

What Are You Saying About Their Homework?

Even as someone who enables children to complete their homework assignments night after night, I groan internally when homework comes into my own home. Sometimes I can just anticipate the emotional roller coaster that a book report or math questions can bring. My attitude is contagious, so if I’m feeling negative about it, they will too. I share this because I never want my advice to appear like I’m preaching. Homework is hard on the whole family (which is why I am against it Read “Let’s End Most Homework”).


If you want your child to look at homework differently, you need to discuss it in a different way. A great way to frame it is to say, “I bet you’ll do a great job on this,” or “I love solving problems.” Connecting homework with real life skills also helps them understand why they need to do that particular type of question. For instance, “At work, part of my job is to write formal pieces every day. This is good practice.” Hopefully, this will help them see homework as having a purpose and not just something they are made to do.

Being a parent is difficult and having a child with learning differences come home with homework they struggle with is quite stressful. Slowly promoting independence and an attitude of self-reliance ends up benefiting the whole family. This isn’t about perfection, either. Being a parent isn’t about always getting it right, it is always just trying to do better. These tips are about empowering you to change the message you send about homework, and to hopefully improve your child’s attitude towards it. How our children feel about school shapes the work that they do and how hard they are willing to try. I hope this helps change the way your child thinks about their homework.

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