Parenting Coach

Practical ideas for social, emotional and behavioral challenges

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Take notes on what’s frustrating her.

What you can do

Observe your child closely and look for patterns in her behavior. Start taking notes on when your child sticks to a task and when she 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 she 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 she’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 she 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, daycare providers and other caregivers.

What you can say

“Sofia, I’ve been watching you this week as you clean up after playing with your toys. You seem to get stuck part way through and have a hard time finishing without some help.”

“Do you think it would help you if we take a picture of how the room looks when it’s all clean and organized? Then you can use the picture to help you see where your toys should go after you’re finished playing with them.”

“I know you can do it. But I also know it can get a bit confusing when you have lots of toys out at once. Let’s take a picture now that the room is clean and tape it right next to the bookcase. You can look at it if you get stuck.”

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 her see what she can do on her own and figure out what she needs to finish the rest. Anxiety, frustration and lack of confidence are very different from a true lack of skill. It’s 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 her 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 and specifics to look for.

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