Parenting Coach

Practical ideas for social, emotional and behavioral challenges

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Study the distress signals.

What you can do

Observe your child closely and look for patterns in his behavior. Start taking notes on when your child sticks to a task and when he gives up or feels helpless. Is it due to frustration? Lack of skill? Lack of motivation? Lack of confidence? Fear of failure? When does your child truly give up and when does he just need a bit of encouragement to keep going?

Study the distress signals so you can learn when and how to intervene. Ask questions and then tailor your assistance after you’ve figured out whether your child lacks the knowledge to complete the task or whether it’s a performance issue. Maybe he’s freezing up midway through a task, like a deer in headlights.

By observing your child over time and taking notes on what you’re seeing, you can learn which kinds of tasks he finds easy, more difficult or overwhelming. Knowing this will help you anticipate when and how to step in. When appropriate, share this information with teachers, coaches and other instructors.

What you can say

“Jacob, I noticed this week you’ve been doing OK with most of your math homework. But the word problems really seem to throw you for a loop. Can we talk a bit about how you’re approaching these kinds of problems?”

“Do you try to answer them before you come ask me for help? Or do you freeze up just at the sight of them? I think you know how to do the math to solve these, so let’s see if we can come up with a system to help you tackle them.”

Why this will help

Kids with learning and attention issues often have a good knowledge base, but get tripped up when they try to organize or use that knowledge. They may stop working and feel helpless. They might not even think about whether they have any ideas on how to get themselves back on track.

Looking for patterns in your child’s behavior and asking a few questions can help him see what he can do on his own and figure out what he needs help with to finish the rest. Anxiety, frustration and lack of confidence are very different from a true lack of skill. It is crucial to understand the variables affecting your child’s stick-to-itiveness before you intervene.

The ultimate goal is for your child to complete a task on his own. In the meantime, figuring out when and how to help will increase the likelihood of your child completing a task as well as developing skills and strategies needed for completing other kinds of tasks down the road.

Explore more information on how to observe your child.

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