Making The Grade: Helping Kids Succeed Even In The Face Of Adversity And Difficulty
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By mia bolaris-forget
My husband recently made an inquiry on behalf of his nephew regarding what it takes to become a dentist. And, according to our family dentist, it take a whole lot more than it used to. In fact, it requires, according to our "expert", it takes getting straight As (or grades close to straight As) at minimum of all through High School and College. Yet, even for the best of students or those with the best of intentions...this may not always be easy.
According to recent studies, most kids lose their enthusiasm for school and studying by mid-year, especially post holidays. Moreover say experts, this is neither uncommon or unusual as kids have short attention spans. In addition they have a flair for the spontaneous, have lots of energy and expend both very quickly...which often leaves them feeling lethargic and unable to focus.
Still others may be experiencing some form or behavioural or learning issues, and either of these can intensify his or her lack of desire. Add to that that your child may feel like he or she just "doesn't get it" or that he or she is "defeated" and you have a recipe for self-imposed "failure"....and that just compounds other issues such as feeling beaten down and defeated.
Take note however that these process is a gradual one and one that happens over time, so slowly that you may not even notice the pattern or downward spiral, often leading kids to become introverted and withdrawn and even avoiding help even though they truly need it. And, besides diminishing grades and difficulties with school, this could be signaling other serious issues such as substance abuse, being picked on, or some other potentially serious issue that you as the parent need to have immediately assessed.
According to experts, a change in attitude is typically the first sign of distress alerting you that there may be a problem, usually one your child is NOT talking about; one he or she is ashamed of and unwilling to talk about; or one that he or she knows is wrong and that will ultimately get him or her into more trouble.
This is exactly where and when you need to step up, step in and take charge. While it's certainly recommended that you encourage your child or children to come up with solutions of their own, situations like these warrant intervention before it's too late. This intervention and interference because while many kids may have the "will" they don't necessarily have the "know how" to get out of a difficult situation on their own.
In addition, because teachers are often so overwhelmed, they may not fully notice your child's lack of performance or change in attitude or behaviour; or chalk it up to being a phase. And, what that means, is more and more kids, including yours potentially falling through the cracks. This, say experts is why it's imperative that parents have both a knowledge and an understanding of each of their kids, their personalities, and their potential...and that they keep close track of it all, noting even the slightest of changes....and making sure to keep an open and objective mind and opinion. All too many parents try to excuse their child's behaviour, attitude, and/or lack of performance, rather than admit to a "problem" and seek out a solution. Just remember to be diplomatic and compassionate, as kids are at a delicate age and stage and still need to be handled with "kid" gloves.
Experts suggest the following for dealing with a child who is experiencing scholastic and social difficulty.
1. Get and outside assessment and opinion: As parents we either justify our child or children, or are too harsh on them, expecting too much. Before trying to tackle a possible problem, its best to speak with a professional and have your child's grades, behaviour, and other red flags evaluated. Take note of a change in not only your child's performance, but also in his or her interests, energy levels, activities, friends etc....and don't hesitate to discuss with your child's counselor, pediatrician or other professional who is evaluating your child and current situation.
2. Get involved with your child and his or her schoolwork: Take an interest in not only areas you excel at, but in areas where your child is struggling...and if you can't help....find someone who can. Regardless of your child's "need" to be independent or keep you out of his or her room, you need to have an open-door policy literally so you can keep an eye on your child, his or her progress and behaviour. Studies and experts suggest that despite what kids say, they like, want, and need structure, and it's your job to give them what they need and not always what they say they want. Even if you child says he or she is doing fine on his or her own, you need to validate it for yourself and make sure he or she is telling you the absolute truth. Plus, "policing" your kids helps keep them on their toes and on track.
3. Develop a relationship with your child's teachers: Take the time to get to know your child's teacher or teachers and establish a rapport with him, her or them, encouraging him, her or them to inform you of your child's progress, behaviour, attitude, or lack thereof. Also, make sure to schedule frequent meetings to keep up with what's going on and to verify what your child is telling you, and perhaps what you have observed. Experts assert the importance of being direct and prepared to hear even what you may not want to hear and the stress asking the following:
* How is my child's attention and participation in class?
* How is my child's behaviour either consistent or different from what you've observed in the past.
* Does my child seem stimulated by the subject and the work or is he or she bored, tired and overwhelmed.
* How would describe my child's attitude and any changes you've observed.
Once all your questions have been answered confirm them with what other teachers have seen and are saying and then seek out help either scholastically or socially to help your child, always working with both your child and the school system for a common goal.
4. Have honest, emotional, but never accusatory discussions with your child: Rather than starting off with why or how could you, ask questions that start with "what".
According to experts asking why questions often put your child on the defensive and leave room for making excuses and blaming someone else. On the other hand, if you tackle the subject as if you already know what's going on and simply ask what's going on you open the door for communication, especially if you confront your child, gently but firmly about all the things that you've noticed and that have you concerned, and "demand" an adequate explanation.
In addition you have to be prepared to put into effect a plan of action, such as implementing more stringent rules, checking homework and monitoring friends and activities. Just remember to be loving and make communication with your child or children more functional than emotional. Why? because, according to the professionals kids respond best when they are not feeling like they are being judged and when their feelings are kept out of it, probably because even they don't know how they really feel or why they react the way they do. And, remember, that kids have emotions and moods that are very erratic, up and down in a matter of minutes, so expect them to be cooperative one moment and not the next.
5. Establish a rewards program for a job well done. Kids need to feel like you notice when they are good just as much, if not more so, than you take note of when they are behaving "badly". This makes it imperative for you to set up some kind of rewards program for progress.
Consider allowing you child an extra hour of television or staying up a little later for homework done on time and for good grades. Let your child know in advance that there will be a reward for improved behaviour, progress, etc. but don't take anything away from him or her for not being able to meet his or her goals....simply hold back on the reward until improvement is seen....but, it's your job to spur the motivation for this improvement by listening, talking, getting involved, and being there.
Remember, that while rewards are beneficial, kids won't always be rewarded for a job well done in "the real world" and it's up to you to teach that...and to teach them about the benefits of the reward to self esteem due to a job well done even if no one else notices or rewards them. In fact, problem solving and being held accountable are an integral part of ensuring your child feels good about himself or herself, his or her progress and good decisions, and about changing his or her potentially questionable actions and/or behaviour.
Academic performance, according to the experts is a complex subject and a topic parents struggle with daily....especially since parents want to encourage kids to work harder and do better, but without pushing them to be something they are not or do more than they actually "can" do, which may lead to more anger, frustration, and demoralization. So, it can be a matter of finding a very delicate balance...and that means parents staying super involved in their kids school and lives on a daily and frequent basis.
Keep in mind that setbacks "are" tough for kids, but that kids are also very resilient and bounce back quicker than most of us...especially if they have the love and support they need to get them back on the right track. In addition, many have strengths they haven't yet honed or realized and they look to those of us with more "experience" for direction and guidance, so keep a close eye on them so you know what to say and how to steer them. Basically find your child's strengths and put your focus (mostly)on "that".
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