The key is collaboration. Academic and social skills do not develop in a vacuum. They are the result of interactions between the child and his/her environment. Your child’s capacity to complete tasks independently occurs when skills have been mastered and external supports are no longer required. For example, complex academic assignments may overwhelm your child’s brain. She needs you to look at the task with her and collaboratively develop a plan for how the assignment or project will be executed. This means breaking the task down into steps, then creating timelines for each step to be accomplished. You might also have to work with your child to actually complete the steps. The idea here is not to do the work for your child but to do it with her. This collaboration will enhance his learning, while also helping her develop the organizational and planning skills necessary to eventually mange the work on her own.
As backed by numerous research studies, your ability to effectively model the following skills for your child will help you strengthen your relationship with him or her:
- Manage your difficult emotions. Your ability to identify and reflect on your feelings without acting on them immediately is critical to healthy relationships. When you react impulsively to your negative emotions, you increase the likelihood of saying something to your child that you might later regret. You are also more likely to be punitive, which also ruptures your connection to your child. I’m not suggesting that you absolve your child of responsibility, but I am suggesting that you hold him or her accountable in a thoughtful way.
- Appropriately express your emotions. Your capacity to experience, reflect, accurately label and effectively communicate emotions helps your child develop the same capacity. In fact, I think it is accurate to say that one’s ability to process and communicate feelings is fundamental to any healthy relationship.
- Listen carefully to your child. Take the time to listen to your child’s feelings and understand his experiences. It is important that you not impose your interpretation of his experience. Try to understand experiences from his perspective. The more time you take to listen to his feelings and help him label these feelings, the better he will become at managing difficult emotions over time.
- Problem-solve with your child. When challenging situations arise, it is helpful if you can problem solve with your child about how to address whatever the situation might be. This is how your child develops better problem solving skills. It is particularly helpful when you can anticipate difficult situations and trouble shoot with your child in advance.
- Maintain perspective on your child’s development. Brain development and emotional maturity is a process that takes time. While we cannot force the brain to develop any faster than nature will allow, we can remove impediments to brain development and emotional maturation. For example, if your child has poor impulse control, you will not find a punishment that makes him less impulsive. You can, however, identify situations where he is more vulnerable to more impulsive behavior and together come up with strategies for maintaining self control in those situations. In addition, if he does behave impulsively, you can discuss his behavior with him and have him take responsibility for his actions. Keep in mind that the brain’s breaking system responsible for filtering what is said and done will not fully develop until he is between 25 and 30 years of age.
- Adjust your expectations of your child and yourself. It is important that you understand your child’s strengths and challenges when setting appropriate expectations. Avoid using, age, grade or comparisons with sibling or peers when deciding on what your child should be able to do. Every child is unique with his own rate of development. There is no formula for setting and maintaining expectations other than listening to your child and trial and error.
A “reactive” parenting style focuses on a child’s observable behavior with a tendency to incorrectly assume negative motives for academic problems, behavior issues or social challenges. This is a mindset that is easy to fall into but it reduces your child’s challenges to intentional choices he or she is making, a perspective that will leave you feeling frustrated, angry and confused. In this state, you are more likely to react intensely and/or punitively. When talking with parents and teachers, I frequently hear them use terms like “lazy,” “defiant,” “attention seeking” and “bossy.” By using these terms, they are labeling a child’s observable behavior and making negative assumptions about his motives. Instead, what a child’s problematic behavior usually indicates is an issue with environmental demands (ie: home and school) exceeding their capacity to succeed. So, how do you make a shift in parenting style to help your child? The first step is trusting that children will do well if they can. Remember, children with learning differences, in particular, lack the skills to consistently meet environmental demands. Ask yourself why your child would choose to do poorly if they possessed the skills to do well. The human brain is not hard wired to work that way. Develop some curiosity about why your child is struggling. Is too much being asked of him? As a “reflective” parent, you can help your child feel that their thoughts, emotions and experiences are understood, considered and accepted. You might not agree with a child’s perception of an experience; however, you can still take the time to listen and try to understand. Assisting your child with describing his experience and learning how to name emotions helps him to tolerate and effectively manage challenging feelings. Listening to your child’s feelings without judgement allows him to experience you as a resource for coping with any challenge that arises.
“Helping Your Child with Language-Based Learning Disabilities” by Daniel Franklin, Ph.D. My good friend and colleague, Dr. Daniel Franklin has just come out with a new book for parents on how best to help their children with challenges like Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, ADHD and processing disorders. Dr. Franklin, who has been in education for over 30 years, is founder of Franklin Educational Services, which provides individualized school support services for students of all ages and needs. Franklin helps parents discover how a secure relationship between them and their child can optimize the child’s learning ability by enhancing motivation, reducing anxiety, and increasing flexibility. The book also contains practical strategies for navigating school and home life. I highly recommend it. For more information go to https://www.franklined.com/
The teen years are typically filled with stress due to the rapid physical, cognitive and emotional changes adolescents undergo. What stresses teens is often different than what stresses adults.
- Social awkwardness
- Being bullied
- Academic pressures
- Managing an overfilled schedule
- Self consciousness about physical appearance
- Peer pressure to use alcohol and drugs
- Dramatic physical and cognitive changes
- Family and peer conflict
- College transition
- Adapting to greater independence and responsibility
As a parent, you can help your teen manage stress. The best way to approach an anxious teen is to be as calm as possible. The first rule of thumb is to remember to contain your own anxiety. Be open and listen non-judgmentally. Listen more than you speak. Empathy and mirroring feelings can be very reassuring and will help your teen feel that his or her feelings are normal.
At a later time when your teen’s anxiety has passed, you might suggest some positive ways to manage stress like deep breathing, muscle relaxation, breaking down tasks into smaller steps, adequate sleep, exercise and a balanced diet, downtime, and enjoyable activities with friends. Help your teen find opportunities to build his or her unique strengths and deep interests, which will also reduce anxiety and lead to greater self confidence.
- Most children with learning differences are affected by multiple challenges.
- Learning challenges often surface when there is a mismatch between the child’s abilities and the demands of the environment. For example, an academic curriculum may be accelerated beyond the developmental level of the child (or many of the children) in a particular classroom.
- People with verbal learning disabilities have difficulty with words, both spoken and written
- People with non-verbal learning disabilities may have difficulty processing abstract concepts, abstract reasoning and conceptualizing concepts.
- A visual processing or perceptual disorder refers to a hindered ability to make sense of information taken in through the eyes.
- An auditory processing disorder interferes with a person’s ability to make sense of information taken in through the ears.
(To be continued)
Event Date: Wednesday, December 10th, 2014
Dr. Murphy gave a parent presentation at the Country School about the developmental needs of pre-school children, with a particular emphasis on the critical role parents play in fostering their child’s emotional, cognitive and social development. Topics included:
- Principles of effective discipline
- Coping with transitions
- Managing tantrums
- Facilitating social skills development
- Managing adult expectations
Other talks in this series will focus on Elementary and Middle School children.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in having Dr. Murphy speak to parents or teachers at your school.
The patterns of relating that children demonstrate with important adults in their lives, as well as their peers, are dependent on early relational experiences with parents or caretakers. If a child has had his or her needs met most of the time, they come to trust that others will also respond to them consistently.
As a parent, you do not have to be perfectly responsive for your child to develop a sense of trust in the world. In fact, it may come as a relief that if you were perfectly responsive to her needs, you would actually hinder her emotional growth!
Misunderstandings, disappointments and other types of ruptures are inevitable in all relationships. When misunderstandings do occur with your child, they become an opportunity for you to help your child process and resolve the experience. These ruptures and repairs actually facilitate emotional growth. Saying “I’m sorry” to your child now and then goes a long way.
“When am I helping my child too much and when should I step back?
“Am I enabling my child by providing help with homework or other responsibilities?”
Parents, as well as teachers, often struggle with this conflict. Understanding that children will do well if they can and that all children possess the natural human drive for mastery will help to resolve this conflict. My advice to parents? If your child is struggling, chances are demands are exceeding the capacities he possesses right now. Work with him to complete certain tasks, rather than doing the work for him. We all learn new tasks by watching others or by collaborating with someone who has more skill. Why should this process be any different for learning new academic concepts or completing tough assignments?
The truth is, when you don’t provide support for tasks that are over your child’s head, you run the risk of disabling him. If you insist your child complete his work independently when he is not ready developmentally, how is he going to make sense of this struggle? Most children will assume that if they are experiencing difficulty, something must be wrong with them. This is not the belief parents want their children to internalize about themselves. This belief not only undermines a child’s confidence in his ability to learn, but it also contributes to feelings of frustration, anxiety and discouragement, which further interfere with learning.
Healthy dependence promotes independence in children. If we teach our children how to approach difficult tasks and guide them through the learning process, ultimately they will acquire the necessary skills and be able to do their work on their own.
Have you found ways to decide when to let your child learn on their own and when to help them?