//Editor's note: Topic selected for Portal publishing
I have read with interest the problems and frustrations faced by parents with 'lazy' kids who refused to do homework and addicted to computer games. From my experience, most of the kids are plainly not motivated and disciplined to do well in school. In most cases, it's not their choice to behave so but are conditioned by their environment.
Many parents lament that their children need lots of pushing and cajoling to prepare for their PSLE. I have found that it is a misconception of many parents that preparing for the PSLE starts in P6. I normally advocate that my students start preparing for their PSLE while they are in P5 and start planning with their parents after their P4 final exams. It's my way of conditioning them to the idea of sitting for that all important exams. In fact, if your child picks up good studying habits when they starts school and are consistent in their work, they will not be stressed when they are in upper primary.
Sorry for the digression but my intention is to show the relationship between the children's undesirable and desirable attitude which will affect their preparations for the PSLE in the long run.
Let's nip the problem in the bud. Parents can avoid lots of frustrations if they start on the right foot and half the battle will be won.
1. Don't wait for the formal or even the preschool years to get your children started in their education. Start them off as young as possible. The best way to get started is to read to them while they are infants regardless whether they understand what you read. Establish a reading time and encourage them to cultivate the reading habit. Children who love to read are more independent learners than their peers. They are also motivated learners.
2. Children learn by playing and this is where parents can guide and help them to make full use of play time. Subconsciously introduce various topics such as language and maths during play time. A 3 year old can count cars or buses while sitting in a moving vehicle. Once the child can recognize the numerals, he can read out the number plates. As the child grows old, parents can make the game more complicated. I train my child in his mental calculations by getting him to add all the numbers on the number plate of a passing vehicle. Of course when he's competing with his mum does the game gets more fun and exciting.
3. When they are in preschool, wean them slowly away from play-based activities to more desk activities. Many children will have problem adjusting and this period is very crucial cos I've students who perform well during their preschool years only to hate school when they went to primary schools. Their main grouse was that learning was no longer fun and is gruesome. We shouldn't stop them from playing altogether. To get the child to learn spelling, try not to drill him immediately. Let him read and understand the words first. Think of various ways to have fun with the words like using the words to tell a story. If the word is an adjective, use the word to describe a person or thing but don't be rigid. It's fine if the child uses 'green' to describe the moon. You can in fact play along and say something like "the green rain fell on the green moon and makes the grass green. oh now I see why the grass is green." That way, the child won't feel pressured to give 'correct' answers all the time yet will continue to learn and soon differentiate what is make believe and what is real.
4. Don't confine learning to the school syllabus. Take the opportunity to make use of the spelling words whenever you can. Meanwhile, if you think your child is capable, let him trying spelling more difficult words. However, if your child is slow, take a break and try again later. If needed, go over the lesson as many times as it is needed. Revise previous lessons if he has forgotten them before making him learn the new words. This will boost his confidence. In this way, he will not view learning as a task that he has to accomplish in school but a life long process.
5. Discipline him if he doesn't study for his exams or put in effort to learn. Discipline comes in many forms and parents have to find the most effective method suited to the child. If a child has his computer privileges taken away before his exams, he has already paid for his laziness. If he failed his exams, don't mete out any punishment. Instead, you may set targets for the next exams and agree on how he should try to achieve them. Never punish a child based on his school performance cos a child will feel that his parents love his results more than him. If you have promised a reward for good results, give him a bonus if he exceeds your expectations.
6. Praise and encourage them when they get the correct answers and laugh off any mistakes they make along the way. If we made a mistake, admit it and apologize to the child immediately. Believe me, he'll respect you for it. You are also showing by example and he'll more inclined to learn knowing that making mistakes is part and parcel of life.
7. Don't underestimate your child cos this will show in the way you handle him and he'll in turn give up trying. In their minds, children will think that adults don't believe in them and don't see the need to prove themselves.
Whichever methods we choose depend on the individual child but it must be accompanied with love and understanding.The most important thing is to be firm and consistent. The main complaint from my students is that their parents don't understand them and seem more interested in their grades than their well being. Children give up cos they can't meet their parents' expectations.
How to get your child to learn.
Getting your child into that dream Primary school is just the start of a 6 year journey. Discuss issues you face with supporting your child's studies in Primary schools.
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