In the last post we covered observing children as they go about learning. In this post we will extend that observation into all areas of our children’s lives. You may think that you don’t have time to watch your child but once you start you’ll find that less and less time is needed. Let’s use an example.
Do you remember when you first met your child? There was a time when they took up your whole day. Because you had to you got to know when they were hungry, soiled, bored, tired and their patterns of temper, attention and hopefully sleep! Their patterns may have changed over the years but they are still there if you take the time to observe. You probably already know that your teen is a night owl or that you can’t expect your young child to stay awake too long at night. Even as adults we can get irritable when we are hungry, it’s just human nature.
Now let’s have a look at your child’s usual week, as there is generally a recurring pattern due to their timetable of commitments. Sleep, eating, regulation of time with daily duties such as school or extra curricular activities, or even engrained habits of checking emails, switching on iPods or regular texting times play their part in ‘regulating’ your child. It’s their way of forming habits. Once you know your child’s habits you’ll know when they are the most alert, when they are generally the most tired/hungry and therefore moody and also when they are choosing to do a task or when they are being forced to do a task. This is a key point. If you know when your child is doing something because they want to, but at times it seems as though they don’t it could be because they just don’t feel like doing it at that time of the day or week but they have already programmed themselves with the habit of doing it. They may not have lost total interest in a subject, it’s just that their enthusiasm for it is not in line with their energy.
There are not many of us who really enjoy the repetitive job of cleaning, attending boring classes or
doing homework. Our children show their emotions more freely than us and although it may entice us to feel frustrated with them, or at them, they are only saying what we would probably feel if we were in their shoes. Yes, I don’t want to clean this messy room either, but I will because… well why? Why do you clean? Why are you the responsible one? It’s because it’s expected and you are used to it. Also you know that no one else will do it for you.
Now we’re getting right into the low motivation end of childhood. For all their get up and go we also have times when our children just won’t get up and go and do anything! If you put in the time and effort to observe them as learners, observe their routines, become more accustomed to ‘their perspective’ in life and truly try to walk in their shoes, you can be in the prime position to help your child. It’s certainly not an easy task and will require you to leave your ego at the door! This time of observation is not the time to think of what you would do in their shoes. It’s only through building up the genuine love you have of them and accepting them for who they are, just as they are that you can see them clearly. No judgement and no advice, just observation.
At the end of the day they will keep growing and one day go. When they do what will they do? Who will they be? Will they be living their life to please other people and repress themselves only to feel always a little less than truly happy? This doesn’t have to be their future. The first key point mentioned above is to ‘know’ your child through observation. The next key point is to get to know them from their own observation. Discussion, communication, time together will make any situation change. You are by far the most important person in their world. We are still very much creatures of habit and as we like our structure, stability, regular food and shelter we also like to know we are wanted, loved and that those people who chose to have us still want us, like us and are very much interested in our lives. Your child could be struggling with a foreign language course that you have no idea how to help them with but by being interested, open, observant and making it about ‘them’ and not you, they will naturally try that bit harder and with their lessons in Swahili, course book and tape you don’t actually need to speak the language it’s self. Here is an example:
Child sits down at the dining table ready to do Swahili language homework. Looks at book, flicks though without actually reading, makes a ‘humpf’ sound and closes the book looking around the room.
You could say “Get on with it” “Have a go” or many other well meaning motivating statements but the child is clearly saying “I’m really not interested in this and I can’t do it easily and I really don’t want to do it” So why not just ask the question “Are you finding it hard to get started?” Even if your child answers back in a short ‘yeah’ noise you could ask “Why?” Now you can sit back and listen. Avoid giving advice and just wait until they slowly come up with ideas themselves. Just as with a shoe that needs tying a bow what needs to be done will come to the child eventually, even if it’s a phone call to a friend from their Swahili class for advice. You should always try to avoid doing things for your child that they can do for themselves. If you do butt in and take over the message they receive is that you don’t have the confidence in their ability to do it themselves.
Confidence in ourselves as parents and our children’s confidence in themselves, without unnecessary boasting can leave us all to feel free and comfortable in helping others. Home Education Week celebrates not only people’s choice to educate their own children but the amazing communities that help each other all over the world. Home educated children are well known to be generally confident, social and able to make friend’s easily. This is due largely to them not having peer pressure to deal with, having multi aged friends to learn from (older children have been there, done that and they can be good role model’s in turn for their younger friends). The other reason home educated children tend to be so well adjusted socially is because they have dialogue with their parents daily about things that matter to them. In short they tend to feel ‘listened to’ on a daily basis.
Making ‘listening to our children’ a part of our daily routine can bring back the enthusiasm for wanting more in life, more from ourselves and more learning that can so easily slip away in over scheduled lives. One day off work and school, just staying home may seem incredibly drastic, but if it is doable take a chance! Stopping the machine just for one day so everyone can catch up with themselves and each other could make a huge difference. The key is listening, not talking, fixing, directing or ‘teaching’. Tutoring your child is like being their aid, always there if they need you but more than often they want to drive their own life and their own learning experience. You just help out when they feel they can’t do something by observing whether or not they really can’t do it, helping with the minimal of fuss or reminding them, lovingly, that they can do it themselves.
Swahili language book image courtesy of worldnextdoor.org