What do I mean by ‘students do well if they can‘? At the end of the day I personally believe that no student goes out of their way to fail or not do as well as they can.
Too often parents rush to find an answer to questions like why:
- they don’t do their school work
- we can’t get them off the x-box to come to the dinner table
- they are always late getting out the door for school
- they are always forgetful and losing things
- keeps putting off homework or tasks
- runs out of steam before finishing work
- does the work but then forgets to hand it in
- struggles to break down long term or large tasks
- forgets to bring home the right materials from school to complete work
- they are always doing their assignments the night before they are due.
And the list naturally goes on and I am sure parents can think of many other reasons!
Another way of looking at the answers to these questions, is that sometimes parents, and others including teachers, can have the perception that a child is:
- lacks focus
- just wants to be difficult
- lacks work ethic
and therefore that is why they are behaving the way they are. Often the behaviour of a child, particularly those with executive function challenges, can be seen as the problem when in fact it actually isn’t.
Usually there is something getting in a child’s way and the issue is that they probably lack skills in a particular area, or more, as to why they are not doing what they need to do or meeting expectations set. Some time back I wrote a blog about 10 skills we often assume students have but they don’t and this can be part of the problem.
What is vital is to find out from a student what their challenges are, what is or isn’t working well and then work with them to ensure they gain the skills & put into practice the necessary strategies to assist them. As I highlight in this blog, time and time again, I regularly see the same challenges in students and it doesn’t seem to matter whether students attend public or private, primary or secondary schools. Part of the work I do is to undertake a thorough and detailed assessment with a student to find out what the key challenges are so we then can set about working together for them to make the necessary changes, create new habits and ultimately succeed at both school and in life.
There is another school of thought too that the punish v reward model doesn’t often help as this approach sees parents focus on the behaviour rather than the issue being the lack of skills causing the problem in the first place.
In order for parents to be able help you need to be proactive and get into problem solving mode, both useful skills that you will also be teaching your children at the same time. I suggest it can be useful to have a discussion with your child to hear from them why they feel they are struggling with rather than making assumptions and thinking you know what the solution might be. Take the time to really listen and ask questions in order to get to the bottom of the problem if you can. It is also important for you to work collaboratively in finding a solution – another important life skill you are teaching your child in this journey.
For some students it will naturally be easier than for others and those who struggle with executive function challenges may need further assistance. In order for students to make changes they firstly need to be conscious and self aware of the challenges before they will be able to make the necessary changes to what they are or are not doing in order to improve. This usually won’t occur over night and it can take time for new habits to form. Some students will also need more scaffolding and support in order to make these changes. Dr Ross Greene, a clinical psychologist, made a comment in some professional development I recently participated in that really resonated with me in relation to the over all process – “This sounds hard but doing something that isn’t working is harder”! Why not give this a go as what have you got to lose – you might very well assist in changing some of the behaviours and in doing so it might also assist with others!
- work out what the challenges are,
- work out how to equip the students with the right tools & strategies,
- support and encourage them along the way
in order to meet the ultimate goal of developing independence and taking responsibility for themselves. At the end of the day all students do well if they can!
For more information on the work I do with students of all ages please don’t hesitate to get in touch via email or give me a call – 0409 967 166.