Coming from left field: How to use reverse psychology when coaching reading, writing, or Mathematics skills.

Surprise works! Your main aim when teaching your children is to encourage your student to stay alert, or in optimal learning mode while learning reading, writing, or Mathematics skills. So I often do the opposite of what an adult teaching a child normally does.

For example: Is it useful to remind a child who doesn’t concentrate well to concentrate when working with reading, writing, or Mathematics skills? Try it. They concentrate briefly on the reading, writing, or Mathematics they are doing, then they stop concentrating again.

Instead, I try to beat them at a simple game called ‘First up to 5 points’. I assure them I should win because they can’t possibly concentrate enough to beat me. Play while they are working independently on completing reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks.

  1. Randomly check whether they are concentrating on their reading, writing, or Mathematics work or checking out the room. Take a sneaky peep or look at them suddenly while they complete the reading, writing, or Mathematics task.
  2. If they are working on the set reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks I have to give them that point, which I do with a show of reluctance or disappointment.
  3. However if they are not concentrating on their reading, writing, or Mathematics task at that moment, I gleefully give myself a point!

I have played this game with off-task students from five years old to teens as they complete reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks. They love to beat me. I hate losing and love to beat them. Sometimes whoever wins gets a sweetie. I have often sucked it with enormous pleasure in front of them. It is amazing how fast children who didn’t seem to concentrate well when working on their reading, writing, or Mathematics, keep their heads down throughout the reading, writing, or Mathematics task, or when there are distractions around, look up, check out the situation, then get on with their reading, writing, or Mathematics work.

Warning: Take your child’s disposition into account the first few times you play this game when they are working on reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks. They should never feel greatly discouraged, just convinced that if they concentrate when completing reading, writing, or Mathematics activities, they will beat you. For easily discouraged children you can subtly ‘cheat’ in the beginning by noticing slightly more when they concentrate on completing reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks.

Tips to help your child concentrate when working on reading, writing, or Mathematics activities:

  • Competition is a good thing for all of us – when we have a reasonable chance to win. Teach them the rules so they understand exactly what they have to do.
  • Play like a foolish gambler. Always give them the impression that you believe you will win every game you start when they are completing their reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks; and when you lose, show surprise.
  • Play each game wholeheartedly. Be disappointed when you lose and pleased when you win. They will deeply enjoy and indeed gloat when you lose, and when they lose to you, they will be determined to beat you the next time.
  • Play more than one game if possible. While they complete reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks you can play several games in a row. I often say, “Darn! Thought I’d beat you then. Let’s have another game!”
  • Don’t give up playing if your child cries or tantrums when they lose. In the long run losing isn’t bad for them, but not playing the next day or making the game too easy so they always win is bad for them. I have played this game with students who usually were ‘bad losers’ but who learnt to handle losing after a few games.

Other possible situations you can use reverse psychology:

  • Play ‘first up to five so they use the correct hand-grip while completing reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks.
  • Trick them with wrong reading, writing, or Mathematics answers when they tend to say ‘yes’ without checking (many children do this so watch out for it).
  • When they are reluctant to read and/or write or do Mathematics, show your keenness. For example, be super keen to have your turn when you share-read or share-write with them. If they read or write more than agreed-upon, you can indignantly say, “You just took my turn!”
  • When I want children to write I tell them they are only to write for ten minutes.
  • Be surprised when they write more than expected, or master a reading, writing, or Mathematics skill faster than you thought. I tell them that I didn’t know they could do that so well or so fast.
  • Congratulate them as one intelligent human being to another. Tell them that they have mastered a particular reading, writing, or Mathematics skill and shake their hand.

Don’t act like many other ‘kind’ adults who usually:

  • Praise children as they work on reading, writing, or Mathematics skills using a kind voice.
  • Earnestly tell children that, “You can do this reading, writing, or Mathematics skill if you just try.” It hasn’t worked for them before, why should it now?
  • Tell them how well they are doing with learning reading, writing, or Mathematics skills when the child knows perfectly well that they aren’t achieving well in relation to their peers.
  • Call them ‘good children‘. Calling them ‘good` can be manipulative and patronising. ’Good’ generally means that they are doing exactly what you wanted them to do. Your child is actually an ‘intelligent child‘, when they master a reading, writing, or Mathematics skills.  What I want children to do most of all – is to think for themselves so call them intelligent rather than good and see what happens.
  • Check out further advice here
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About annethecoach

I coach families how to help their children, and their children how to become excellent students. I love my work!

4 responses »

  1. Scott says:

    A great article Anne – reverse psyshology works a treat. I love the up to 5 game, and advice for parent’s doing it wrong.

    Like

  2. Scott says:

    A great articel Anne – I love the up to 5 game. and advice for well meaning parents.

    Like

    • annethecoach says:

      Glad you liking Scott. Will get another up next week. Managing one a fortnight at the moment.I hope that you are enjoying yourself -new house, new job, new/old country…..let me know.

      Like

  3. […] like to keep the coaching of new skills as light and easy as possible. Look at the post on coming from left field to help your child remember faster how to hold a pen. Just reminding them works so much slower than […]

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