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Problems In Teaching Children

When things get stuck 

Here are some general principles that are useful if you find you are experiencing the same problems over and over again.

Problems In Teaching Children

1. Step back from the problem and admit failure
Take a break from the problem! This allows you some space to look at what you are doing that may be contributing to the continuation of the problem. If you feel you are stuck, it may be worth considering what would happen if you did the reverse of what you are doing now. This may not always be possible, but it is worth accepting that doing more of what you are currently doing won't work either.
2. The problem is the problem 

Rather than trying to blame yourself or your child, avoid spending much time on self-recrimination and blame. The problem is the problem, whether it be aggression, lack of motivation, drugs, alcohol, or school failure. The people involved are not.
There's not a lot of point in trying to work out why a problem exists; it's more important to work out how to get rid of it. Even if you work out exactly why you have a problem, you end up with an explanation but you still have the problem. Instead, use that energy to create a difference.

3. Notice what is happening when the problem isn't
Sometimes we become so burdened by the power of a problem, we don't notice what's going on when the problem isn't there. Keeping a diary each day can be helpful; notice what is going on either when the problem stops or when it is not around at all. If you can find out what's going on when there is no problem and make more of that happen, there will be less time for the problem to occur. For example, you may like to ask yourself.
  • What happens when she does her homework?
  • How do these arguments we've been having end?
  • What is happening differently when we don't argue? 
  • Who doesn't she fight with? How come? 
  • What happens when she does become motivated? 
4. Behavior is linked to responses 

Bright kids often behave to an audience - their parents. Try by all means to alter the behavior, but if that doesn't succeed try to change your response. As mentioned in Point 1, ask yourself what would happen if you did the reverse of what you normally do when the problem happens. Sometimes this won't be appropriate, but even so, it will probably start you thinking more productively about ways to change your response.
5. Aim small

Think about the smallest possible change that you could make to the problem. Don't try to solve the problem in one step. Try to change one little bit of it.

Most times, when people get stuck, it's because they are trying to shift a whole problem or pattern at one time. Most problems shift and free up if we make slight changes to day-to-day activities. More often than not, simple things will do. It may be useful to ask yourself, "What is the smallest change I could make that would have a positive effect on the problem right now?"

6. Pay attention to the child, not the behavior
It is easy to forget about your relationship with your child in the middle of a problem that keeps repeating. Generally it is not the child that is the problem. It is the behavior that is the problem. Whether the behavior is anger, fear, jealousy, or rage, everyone is pushed around by it, including the child or teenager.

One 17-year-old commented despairingly to me that his parents gave him all the responsibility and freedom of a 12-year-old, all the expectations of a 20-year-old, and forgot entirely that he had a 17-year-old's job to do. The message was clear: don't allow problem behavior to make your child invisible to you. To find out more, you can check out Problems In Teaching Children.