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Working With Your Child

Working with your own child can be very tricky.  One important thing to keep in mind is that when your child is generally successful, he or she can handle some challenges and difficult work.  If every part of your child’s day (or most of it) is stressful, she or he will work that much harder to avoid difficult work with you.  Also, you are the parent, and your relationship is extremely important; more important than any particular homework assignment.  Your job is to help your child with her or his challenges as best you can.  Thus, three very important guidelines:

  1. Help your child create a life that is 80% full of things he or she has mastered and feels successful at.  This will greatly improve her or his stamina for the challenges that come along.
  2. When working with your child, make sure he or she is correct ~95% of the time.  You can do this by making sure the material is at the child’s level, or give the child enough help/information that the ~95% correct mark can be met.  There are a few reasons for this:
    • We can only hold a few things in out short-term memory.  If your child is trying to remember or learn to many things, the first things get booted out of short-term memory before the information has a chance to be filed away into long-term memory.
    • Automaticity.  Most reading skills need to be learned to a level of automaticity.  Sounding out a word like ‘this’ is not good enough for reading.  Most words need to be learned and remembered so well that we know them automatically, without thought.  Reading and working on skills your child is successful at builds automaticity, thus boosts reading ability and fluency.
    • Success breeds success.  The better your child feels about the work, the more effort she or he will be able and willing to put into it.
    • Click here for ideas on:  How do I help my child be 95% correct?
  3. Set up a plan so the challenge (homework or other assignment) comes from the teacher, and you are there to help your son or daughter if (and how) he or she wishes.  If your child does not complete an assignment, she or he will face a consequence at school.  If your child does not want this consequence (staying in from recess to complete the work or whatever the consequence is) he or she can ask you for help, and you can be the hero who helps.  “You need to read three chapters by tomorrow?  How about I read the first one to you, you read the second one and I will read the third.”  You may need to say “Oh, no… your teacher would never let me read all of them to you…” Let the teacher be the bad guy so you can be the good guy.
    • Stay in communication with the teacher about how you are helping your child with homework.  It will help the teacher if you write a note explaining “Three chapters would take my daughter an hour to read, so I read the first and third chapters to her, and she read the second on her own.”
    • Click here for specific ideas for tutoring non-readers and beginning readers