If your child asks for help before even attempting a task or chore that you know he’s capable of doing, point out that he understands how to do the task. He has successfully completed it in the past. Remind your child how good that felt and how pleased you were.
Ask how your child plans to start the task and say that you’ll check in on how things are going in 15 minutes. When you come back, praise his efforts. Gradually increase the time he spends working independently before you check back in.
Remember that while it’s tempting to “rescue” your child by doing the task yourself, this won’t help build his skills. Instead, it will likely lead to more dependence on you.
What you can say
“Jacob, I know you’re upset about Friday’s spelling quiz. It’s OK that you misspelled some of the words. It’s not the end of the world. Last week you got almost all of them right. Let’s talk about why things went so well last week and whether any of those strategies could have helped you out this week.”
“Ah, OK, so last week several of the words followed that same pattern—I before E except after C. That’s a pretty handy little phrase. It’s almost like a poem. What do you think will help you remember your new spelling words?”
“That’s a fun-sounding rule—when two vowels go out walking, the first one does the talking! I like that. I bet that will help you remember that some of these words have silent vowels.”
“OK, let’s make some index cards to help you review. You’re getting really good at spelling. Now tell me again what worked for you last week and what you want to try in your studying for this week’s quiz. That sounds great!”
Why this will help
Children with learning and attention issues often expect to fail. They focus on past defeats, not past successes. You can help your child keep successes in mind, as well as the strategies that helped make big tasks feel more manageable and predictable.
Reminding your child what he’s already accomplished—and what strategies he used to achieve those successes—can help him feel more confident and less anxious. It can also improve self-esteem. Encouraging him to talk about past successes and explain what worked and why will help him apply those skills to similar tasks in the future.
Coming up with a plan can also ease his frustration and help him get started, which is usually the hardest part. Getting him into the habit of talking about these things will also help him learn how to express his needs more effectively.