May 9, 2013 by talkaboutyork
Next week my 9 year old son has a week of tests. According to the teachers, these are not something to get stressed out about. Passing or not passing them won’t have an impact on them getting into the next year. I’m not convinced they’re even used for streaming kids into sets yet.
However, the children were sent home a few weeks ago with a revision book and a list of areas they need to revise for the forthcoming tests. I’m not sure why they would do this if they didn’t actually want them to revise unless it was to get them used to the concept of revising so that when they’re older, they’ve got the hang of it.
Suffice to say that my son has done practically zero revision. I can’t say absolute zero as he has written one paragraph about a plateau in Mexico and can tell me the parable of the good samaritan. But that is where it ends.
Partly, this is due to the fact that he has very long school days and a lot of sport. This week for example he has gotten home from school/sport at 5.30 today, 8pm yesterday and 7pm the day before that. It doesn’t leave a massive amount of time for revision, particularly as he needs to be asleep by about 8.30, 9pm at the latest if I have a hope of getting him up in the morning.
And partly it’s because I haven’t wanted to get stressed about it based on what the teachers said.
BUT, I do feel he needs to do some revision i.e. read his books. I have offered to do this with him. I have offered to quiz him so it’s more fun, like a game rather than a chore he has to do all on his own.
He has resolutely refused to do it. Today we had agreed that he would do some revision. Crunch time came and he went into meltdown. I tried the ‘I’ll sit with you and we can make it fun approach.’ That was declined. There was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth and he said the only reason he would revise was so that he could then go on the x-box. I pointed out that he had argued with me for so long that he wouldn’t have time to now revise and go on the x-box. To which he then replied that there was no point in him revising at all.
We had a bit of a chat about that where I tried to point out the benefit of actually learning stuff, not to get good marks or be in a particular set or to earn TV privileges, but to actually have the info in your head that he could take with him and use whenever he wanted to. Like a gift.
What he heard was blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.
After he had flounced out of the room, I reached for my favourite parenting book in the whole world ever: Nigel Latta’s ‘Mothers raising sons’. If you’ve never read it, please do. Besides having lots of common sense advice, it is also hilarious. I like to dip in and out of it whenever I feel as though I am living with small aliens who don’t speak the same language I do.
And I was reminded of a two very important things which I thought might be worth sharing with anyone else going through a similar problem.
1. Say less
Try to keep whatever you want to say to under 10 words. As the book says:Keep instructions simple and clear, don’t over complicate things. The more words you use, the more opportunity you present him with to turn it all back on you.
2. Build confidence and competence
The way you build confidence and competence is first to have confidence in him and then let him discover his competence. If you believe in him, he’ll have no choice but to follow. The way to build his inner confidence is not through pep-talks or rousing speeches (ala my one mentioned above), but by letting him do things, including letting him fail. We learn more from our bloody knees than we ever do from pats on the back. This doesn’t mean you push him over, but it does mean that you let him take chances.
And so that is exactly what I am going to do. I am going to tell him that I have confidence in him. And that if he believes he knows the stuff, that he can confidently walk into the test. If he fails, I hope that he will learn from it. I am worried that this is just being a lazy parent and that at nine he won’t realise his own limitations, but I’m going to listen to Nigel, say less and let him trust his own competence.
I guess we’ll see the results in his report card. Wish me luck