Create agreements that make you both happy.
This week I’ve asked permission to share an email from a concerned family coach who is working with me. She has a young boy who is working on improving his Mathematics and reading and writing skills and he is a very skilled negotiator – even though he is only seven years old.
I just thought I would give you a heads up that we have had some real challenges with my son this week, to get him to do his reading, writing, and Mathematics work. He has been really pushing back about doing it, and has flown into “tantrum” mode at the drop of a hat. We have persisted and through a lot of negotiation (which feels a bit like black mail) managed to get him “eventually” to come back to the table and do the reading, writing, and Mathematics work (all be it very messy and under a cloud of resistance and stress).
Basically we have said – if he says no to his reading, writing, and Mathematics homework, then we will need to say “no” to something he wants, for example last week we said if he didn’t do his reading, writing, and Mathematics then he couldn’t go to his friend’s party. This week he has a school disco on Friday and we have said if he doesn’t do his reading, writing, and Mathematics without fuss then no disco, and then next Friday he is going to a footie game if he does all his reading, writing, and Mathematics without fuss. This usually gets him back to the table and doing some work. But my question/concern is – is this the right sort of precedent to be setting?
Also, with using the lure of a reward or something he really wants, he eventually does come and do the reading, writing, and Mathematics work, but not without tantrums and a huge fuss – so should we take the reward away the minute he makes a fuss? We would then have no leverage to get any reading, writing, and Mathematics done the rest of the week!? I suspect there is also something (?) in the way we are approaching his reading, writing, and Mathematics homework that sets him off, but I don’t know what, or if he is using “us” as an excuse to try and get out of it? He says we confuse him and put too much pressure on him. Is this just “a stage” and we need to persevere? He seems to put up barriers to working on reading, writing, and Mathematics no matter what we try (making it a game, making it fun).
From concerned family coach
Dear family coach,
I agree that blackmail/bribes never work for long, and they feel wrong too. I think it is a stage all coaches and students work through – the time when the honeymoon is over and the student wakes with a start and thinks, “What am I doing extra reading, writing and Mathematics for? I don’t want to do more reading, writing and Mathematics after school.” This is a time when the extra attention, new reading, writing and Mathematics skills, and new and amusing reading, writing and Mathematics activities no longer intrigue. Your son is very good at the art of negotiation and so we have to be skilful when we negotiate how he will work on his reading, writing and Mathematics skills with you.
Create a bottom line – the reading, writing and Mathematics coaching will happen regularly. From there you can create positive and negative consequences for when he is willing or not willing to work on his reading, writing and Mathematics skills. I’ll support you and him to find consequences he agrees to so they are part of a mutual agreement, and not punishments or bribes. He has to be very clear about our bottom line – that the reading, writing and Mathematics coaching is happening, for this long, and in these skill areas – but within that, he has to have some leverage, some choices. What about before we meet you explain to him that any fun thing that happens is not a right, it is something he earns, and it happens after the reading, writing and Mathematics work is done. So instead of saying you can’t go if you don’t do this reading, writing and Mathematics work….which is a threat….try – when you have practised your reading, writing and Mathematics skills …then we can…. Make consequences immediate for now rather than something that happens at the end of a week, for example he can play Lego, watch television, or play, you can read a story to him.
Examine your own thoughts/attitudes towards the reading, writing and Mathematics coaching and your son’s learning. Perhaps something needs to change there. As a coach I usually find that it is my thoughts about how a student is learning to read, write and do Mathematics that needs to change first, then everything else falls more easily into place. Spend time examining your responses to his avoidance behaviours when learning reading, writing and Mathematics skills.
Never shake on a deal immediately. Negotiations on working with reading, writing and Mathematics at home, especially win-win negotiations, take place over time, which allows both parties time to examine and change the agreement until they are both happy. After you have re-examined your own fears, hopes, beliefs, attitudes, relating to your son’s reading, writing and Mathematics learning, talk with him so he can realise that he will still be doing the reading, writing and Mathematics practice, no matter how many tantrums or blocks he puts up. Don’t argue with him. Instead if if you quietly and clearly explain why you want him to have good reading, writing and Mathematics skills and how exactly you want him to learn them, he will gradually become more willing to learn reading, writing and Mathematics skills with you.
His point of view is also valid. Who wants to do extra reading, writing and Mathematics work at home when you have never enjoyed this work? However, that doesn’t mean we are ‘soft’ on him. Instead we are creating a workable win-win situation for all of us. In the process we ensure he will do extremely well with reading, writing and Mathematics skills at school.
I hope that these thoughts are helpful and check out my blogs on www.excellyourchild.com and see if there are more ideas there you can use.