16 February 2019
Dan Blore is Manager and Educator at Extended Learning Centres, Mooloolaba
In my previous post, I explain why many kids and teenagers have a negative conception of ‘tuition’, and why Extended Learning can have greater effects than what most people think of as just ‘tutoring’.
By now, I hope you’re on board with what we do. But, your child might not be.
So, how to start bringing your son or daughter on side?
Any intervention has better chances if we start with a student in the right frame of mind, to have the affect heuristic working for us, not against us. If possible, we want to all be pushing in the same direction from the get-go. So, before we even meet your child, it’s important that you talk (and LISTEN) to your child.
Before I continue with ‘what to do’, I do like Andrew Fuller’s take on ‘what not to do’:
Below are some suggestions for intercepting the similarity heuristic by ‘re-framing’ the idea of getting help with their learning from us. (Notice I avoided those trigger words: ‘tuition‘ or ‘tutoring‘.)
You know your child best, so pick and choose and adapt these pointers in a way that is likely to engage them and have them answer constructively.
1) Conversation starters
When they’re in a happy, relaxed mood, in an emotionally comfortable place, start a conversation with open questions and just listen:
- What ideas have you had lately about what you’d like to do after you finish school?
- Which parts of school do you enjoy at the moment?
- Which subjects do you wish you found easier?
- When is the last time you remember enjoying maths/English/etc?
- Why do you think you started to not enjoy it?
Before having your say, give them plenty of opportunities to have their say. Change has to come from within them, so don’t jump in with your two bobs’ worth just yet. You might even save your suggestions for another day. Today just show them that you’re interested in what they’ve been thinking, and aren’t just pushing your agenda on them.
One thing we do at ELC is constantly join the dots between their efforts today and their hopes for their future. You can do this too with offhanded lines about, “When you’re at university…” or “It’s exciting you have so many more careers to choose from than we did.”
But keep it light, almost surreptitious.
2) They’re not alone in this
Make it a shared problem and a shared journey.
The person who has the biggest impact on the situation is them, and neither you nor we can ‘do it for them’. But they are not alone. If they choose to give it an honest, red-hot go, then you and we will be there to support them – as far as they want to go.
Phrase sentences to avoid starting with ‘You’, because kids, particularly teens, can hear this as accusation or blame. They can get the impression that they are to carry the burden alone.
“You haven’t enjoyed maths since Ms So-and-so’s class in Year 7.”
“I/We’ve noticed that maths doesn’t make you as happy as it used to before Mr So-and-so’s class in Year 7.”
3) Focus on happiness, not marks
I’m confident in assuming that happiness is what you want for your child.
In fact, I guarantee that that’s one thing you both want. So build on that.
Steer clear of talking about marks and reports and tests. Your child’s abilities cannot be reduced to a grade. The discussion needs to be much more holistic than that.
If grades are below average or declining, then your child is already well aware of it. They’ll be touchy about it, and will probably feel they have little-to-no control over it.
Instead, talk about:
- wanting to make their school life less of a struggle;
- reducing frustrations from homework and assignments;
- realising that their worst-seeming subject is where they could make the biggest improvement, with the right tips and tricks;
- finding some enjoyment again – they did enjoy learning once, even if they can’t remember that now.
4) Know what you want them to hear
Try guiding a conversation with your child in this direction (wait for their responses, avoid monologizing at them):
- “I remember you were thinking of studying/being/doing … when you finish school. We want to help you work towards that, as well as keeping your options wide open, so you can choose to change direction later if you want to.”
- “We see that you are great at (subjects) and really enjoy them. You should be very proud of that! Not all kids do as well as you.”
- “We also realise that since (situation), (subject) has become one of you most disliked subjects. We’re sorry that has happened. You used to enjoy it more.”
- “We know that’s frustrating for you, and we want to help. We’re not experts at that though, but we’ve heard of some people nearby who have been able to help a lot of other students turn things around. Even ones who though they couldn’t be helped. They know how to “play the school game” – to make school work for you.”
- “I’ve heard that what Leo and Dan do makes your school-work less stressful, so that you’ll become faster at it, you won’t feel so behind, and you can even start to enjoy it again. But mainly it’s about you being able to choose whatever you want to do with your future.”
- “If you’re interested, we can find out more, or go and have a chat to them.”
If your child has had a negative tuition experience in the past, you might need to be proactive in bringing that up, so they don’t think, “Oh, man, here we go again.” Ask them what they disliked previously, and explain why you are confident this will be better.
If the dialogue turns sour – if you hit a nerve, and they become defensive – it’s usually better to just change the topic quickly. Leave it for now and broach it again at another time.
5) Get a mate to talk us up
Finally, they don’t have to ‘take your word for it’, or even our word. Positive peer pressure is marvellous thing!
Most of our new ELC families come from word of mouth. And I don’t just mean parents talking to parents, but students recommending us to their mates!
If you can find one of your child’s peers – one who they respect – who has experienced ELC’s approach to extended learning, let your child hear it from them.
Talk to us
Keep in mind that you can always chat to us about your child’s specific situation if needed.
We’ve asked you to make your child feel like they’re not on this journey alone. Well, this is the part where we tell you that you’re not alone!
And even students who are not quite ‘on board’ from the beginning usually come around if they at least agree to meet with us or attend a few sessions. It can take longer to get the ball rolling, because we have to focus much more on building a connection with them before we try to present much content. But in most cases, we’ve won them over sooner or later.
And they thanks us.
They might be well into their thirties before they realise they should be thanking you!
You might also like: My child is more interested in sport than academics.