School is easy for two of Dana’s three children. She rarely needs to help them with their homework, and there are no surprises at report card time. Yet, the situation for Dana’s third child is much different. School does not come easy for him, and Dana is concerned that he is getting behind. She knows his homework takes longer than it should, and he is getting frustrated every night. Dana feels stuck—how can she help her son without making him feel like he is “different” than his siblings?
This is the third and final part in our series on determining how your child is doing in school before the first report card. In part one, we discussed four methods that parents can use at home to identify reading and math skill gaps. Last week, we took a look at what we can learn from the circumstances leading up to the beginning of this school year. Today, we will talk about what to do when your child is frustrated about school.
Everyone makes errors when they are learning something new. Getting things wrong will involve a certain level of frustration. Even as adults, we experience frustration when a new skill at work does not come easy for us. Adults have learned ways to cope with frustration, and know how to manage these feelings much better than a child does. As we help our children manage frustration, we can take an active role in gauging how much is too much for them.
Engaging, Challenging Work
Children are resilient. They do not give up when trying to learn to walk—through repetition (and some coaching), they figure out how to do it. Yet, they decided when to try again. In school, it is now the adults who decide how often a child will attempt new skills. As parents, we need to manage the success/ error mix our child is exposed to while learning. A child’s ability to endure difficult situations develops as he or she gets older. When students experience success, no matter how small, they will develop the confidence needed to keep learning.
What to Do About Continual Frustration
A parent is a child’s learning guide. It is often our job to go out ahead of our children, show them the difficult terrain ahead, and teach them how to navigate the coming obstacles. Often, that is the “easy” part. The “hard” part is knowing what they are ready to attempt new challenges, and knowing how much help to give them at each difficult moment.
Since each child is different, the only way to know how much help to provide is practice. Difficult skills need to be broken down into bite size pieces. Find out exactly what your child knows and find out where the sequence of learned skills stops. Provide your child with as much help as he or she needs at this point, and practice the skill until there are repeated successes. Do not move on until both of you are confident that your child understands what to do.
At Sylvan, we know the terrain students will face in the coming year, as well as the years ahead. Before beginning a Sylvan program, we take time to discover the obstacles students are struggling with now and in the past. This is an essential first step for skill development. Our Skills Assessment pinpoints the foundational skills that students are missing and shows us exactly where to begin. Each reading and math program is personalized, tailored to your child’s strengths and weaknesses.
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