New Year resolutions apart, it is often really productive to start the new term by agreeing some goals or targets with your child.
I’m not just speaking of academic targets that you, as a parent, would like to see achieved. That may well be part of the process but, more importantly, it is a chance to find out how your child feels about various subjects, where uncertainties or insecurities may lie and even, perhaps, some ambitions of which you are totally unaware.
It never ceases to amaze me what a really young child can come up with and what a light, guided conversation can reveal. The conversation should never be heavy – just something along the lines of ‘I was wondering if there was something you’d like to have as a goal, something you’d like to improve or get better at this year (or term)? Maybe something you’re already really brilliant at but you’d like to do even better or something that is a bit of a problem?’ The wording would depend on the child and on your relationship. But steer clear of statements like ‘Well! We’re going to sort out ALL your times tables so you know them all perfectly!’
What is wrong with such a statement? Well, you want his or her goal, not yours. How are they going to tell you if you fill up the space with your own ideas? Also, you run the risk of a silent rebellion. You set the goal and they privately decide that, as you aren’t willing to listen, there is no way they’re going to do what you say!
I have had a seven year old tell me he wanted to get better at writing stories. Digging a little deeper, I discovered that he actually found it impossible to think of ideas. So I was able to show him some ways to get ideas even when his mind was a blank. It was a good goal. We wrote it down and at the end of term I asked him if he had made it. He felt he had. So now, not only had he achieved a goal but he KNEW he had – accomplishment is a fantastic encouragement.
If a child cannot come up with anything, it is perfectly fine to prompt gently and ask round the subject. However, remember that children (and adults) often take a while to come up with an answer. You have to be patient. Don’t think it is always going to come tumbling out to order. Once you have it, write it down and check you have a wording that they like. Make a great show of putting it in a safe place. Give it value.
Sometimes you’ll be given a goal that has nothing whatever to do with education: a skateboard, a trip – anything. That is your chance to say what a wonderful goal that is and ask what they will be willing to do to achieve it. Here you can suggest knowing your tables; reading x number of books; doing an educational quiz on certain days or anything that you know has been a problem area. Then again – write down the goal as before, incorporating both the means and the end reward. Then you will both have a purpose to work towards!
Is there anything you’d like to know about education? If so, then EQ’s Knowledge Bank is the place to go! It’s a valuable resource for parents, aimed at finding the answers to the questions you want to ask about education and schooling. Not only that, it’s also crammed full of advice and guidance on issues such as bullying, children’s self-confidence and raising happy children. It’s a veritable mine of information waiting to be discovered, just one mouse-click away!
Guest Blog by Cathy Bird
Since retiring from full-time teaching Art and English and her post as Assistant Head and Sixth Form Tutor, Cathy Bird has concentrated on her painting and now runs art courses and sessions at her own studios in Kent. She also tutors students at all levels in Literacy, Comprehension and Essay-writing.