It’s never too late to reason with logic with your children. I had the “pleasure” of teaching my nephew how to do a book report today. I would say his personality is the opposite of easy to deal with. Frequently when I talk to him, he’d be staring at the wall thinking about literally “nothing” and then I have to snap his attention back by calling his name several times. Then when we start doing reading comprehension, he’ll start playing with his pencil and try to show me how his eraser is pink. It was one of the most frustrating experiences. I thought to myself: what if I applied the baby concepts I’ve been learning on him? Would it work? I wanted to make him concentrate and work on his book report but yet this is my first experience in working with a 7 year old.
What was I thinking at 7? What was I doing in the second grade? Having just immigrated here for a year back then, I was still slow on getting my English vocabulary in order at the time and here my nephew is writing book reports! He goes to a private school that teaches 2-3 grades ahead. I figured the only thing to do is learn about his habits first. I flipped open the book on “Canada” he was supposed to read for his book report and asked him to read the first page. I immediately found he had trouble reading the book. Was he slow or was the book too hard? I called his dad and immediately I knew the book was too hard. For each sentence, about 90% of it was vocabulary. No wonder the kid doesn’t have any interest. Why on earth was this book picked out in the first place? Afraid he’ll lose interest, I immediately said to him:
You look frustrated when I asked you to do your homework. I can see that this book is a bit hard for your level. Maybe your mom or dad didn’t realize it was too hard when they picked it out. However, I’m here to help you work through the vocabulary that you don’t understand so we can make progress on your homework. If you try hard and with my help, I’m sure you’ll be able to create a good book report.
I did several things I learned from reading how to talk to children. I first acknowledged his feelings. Many times parents don’t acknowledge their child’s feelings and just say things like, “the book report is not hard, let’s just get it done.” Children are just like adults. They need people to “understand” them. They have feelings too. They want others to know how they feel but they’re not expressive themselves because they haven’t learned the true meaning of self expression yet in a deeper format. Then I acknowledged that the book is beyond his level. It’s very important that he is understood. No child wants to feel “stupid” but he needs to understand WHY he is not getting what he’s reading. He doesn’t want his parents to think he’s dumb or feel dumb. It’ll be a self fulfilling prophecy if he thinks this enough. Many parents will say, “this book is EASY” thinking that if they downplayed how hard it is, it would encourage the child but don’t realize how actually emotionally mature children can be. By saying it’s “easy” they’ll feel dumber and probably will give up and think it’s now nearly impossible. If something this “easy” is hard to understand for them, how can they possibly do anything that’s “normal” level? Lastly, I said if he “tries” hard, he’ll be able to succeed. It’s important for children to know that if they work hard at something, anything is possible. Don’t simply say “you’re smart and you can do it.” What if they can’t do it on the first try? Do they end up thinking they’re dumb and stop trying? 90% of the children feel that way.
Pretty logical thinking if you ask me. That’s the way adults with think in their unconscious mind. Next time you’re talking to your child, don’t downplay concepts of adult maturity. Most of the time it’s the parents who think their child would not understand the emotions behind everything. Children are perfectly capable of understanding logic and reasoning behind what needs to be done if you treat them with an adult mentality. I’ve seen this with my friend’s children where they treated him like an adult and he actually thinks and talks like one at age four, yes, FOUR. If I’m dealing with a 7 year old, it should be no different.
Result? He looked at me when I acknowledged his frustrations like saying “finally” someone understands him. He gave me more attention when I said the book was harder than his level. He slowly wiped the sad and stressed expression off his face and changed his attitude as I said I’ll be there for him when he needs help.
We ended up working through main points in a couple chapters of the book even though it was hard and he picked out interesting facts to “him” from the book.
Logic and reasoning is never too late. Respect and treat your child like an adult. This doesn’t mean letting them make all the decisions but reasoning with them is never too early. Telling them the “reason” and “logic” of “why” we do things is very important. Never say things are easy when you see they’re struggling. Always mention how “working hard” is important so when they are faced with a problem, they will try harder to get it right.
Tomorrow we’ll be doing other aspects of the book report. I’m interested to learn more about children’s behavior and see how much I can change his attitude for the week that I have him.
Wish me luck!