Early on in my teaching career, I came across a 10 year old student who seemed very disinterested in most subjects. He was failing almost every subject and didn’t seem very bothered about trying to learn. One day on a particularly disruptive day in class, I decided to talk to him to find out why he wasn’t focused, especially since exams were approaching.
He told me, “I don’t need to listen in class because when I get home, my parents will check what we’ve done in class today and explain it to me anyway.” It turns out the parents were making themselves completely responsible for this student’s education and that made him completely reliant on them. He would wait everyday for them to explain things to him instead of putting in the effort on his own. After many failed attempts to try and explain this problem to his parents and them insisting on doing all his work for him, this student continued to get bad grade after bad grade. He didn’t believe he could do it on his own and this made his education not important to him.
As parents we are so concerned with making sure our students do well that we tend to take on their education as our responsibility but the problem with doing that is the student never really learns the importance of depending on himself/herself. We become very preoccupied with their grades and day-to-day homework activities that we actually (unintentionally) hurt our children’s ability to find out the true importance of taking hold of their own learning.
If we as parents can be supportive to our children but not save them every time they get a bad mark, then that child might be able to reflect on his/her work and do better next time.
Here are some quick tips to helping children take responsibility for their own learning:
Use ‘You’ instead of ‘We’
I find a lot of parents saying, ‘let’s do our homework’, “let’s study for our Maths exam,’ this gives children a feeling that their work is not entirely their responsibility. This can lead them to rely on you to study for them or solve difficult problems for them and that takes away from their learning experience. Instead, try saying, ‘You need to study for your Maths exam, if you need anything, let me know’ and then leave them to it.
Teach them strategies for learning
No one is asking you to throw your child into the deep end without floats. You simply need to teach them the tools they can use in order to grasp the subject. Teach them different studying strategies such as making flash cards, coming up with a catchy song to remember, taking notes etc.
Make them responsible for their own decisions
A part of taking responsibility is making your own decisions. Give them the freedom to choose which time of the day they want to study, “would you like to study before or after you eat?” As well as when they want to study a certain subject: you can have them make a schedule for the week showing when they will study each subject.
Don’t make a bad mark feel like the end of the world
If your child doesn’t do well on a test, instead of making them feel bad about it try saying, ‘What will you do next time so that you can improve your mark?” let them come up with a plan, discuss it, write it down and then stick it next to their study area so that it can remind them of what they need to do.
As a teacher, I see parents terrified of letting their children fail, when failing might be the thing that moves a child to trying to do better next time. I had a student who failed a quiz earlier this year and begged me not to inform his parents. When he later took a test about the same subject two weeks later, he got a brilliant mark because he now knew that he was responsible for his own education and took the matter much more seriously.
We need to leave the responsibility of learning to the learner. If we as parents can trust our children to be independent then what we will end up with children who value education and learning in a way that we could have never expected if we had done all the work for them.
So parents, please, stop rescuing your child and let them take responsibility for their own learning experience.