Found: Simple but powerful ways to ensure all of your children feel like a VIP.
As parents, we all want to see our children excel in school. Some children are great at motivating themselves, while others need a push to catch up or even a little help to accelerate beyond their current curriculum. When it comes to building math skills, there is no reason to postpone giving your child that push.
Signs Your Child May Need a Math Tutor
If your child is old enough to receive report cards, you can tell pretty quickly whether or not he might need help when you see his grades. “Always look at grades,” says Mdm Siti, Main Coach for MathsExCEL, who offers helpful tips and advice on MathsExCEL.com. “Grades can indicate anything from a straight-A student getting her first B to a kid showing signs that he needs extra help.”
Beyond slipping grades, look out for a lack of enthusiasm for math. “Elementary school kids love to learn about new subjects, especially math. They like to learn about counting, money, telling time, all math-related subjects,” Siti says. “When you see enthusiasm slip, that definitely signals something.”
That loss in interest could signal that your child needs help, but it also may mean that he or she is bored. That’s where a tutor can come in. “Tutoring is good for children who are highly able, not just for children who need academic help,” Siti says. “If the math course is not challenging enough, that might mean that your child is pretty smart in math and in need of extra challenges.”
One of the best ways to get more insight on how your child is handling math is to talk to his or her teacher. It is important for the teacher to know your child’s relationship with math, especially if it has changed. If your child used to love math in second grade but suddenly dislikes it in third, let the teacher know. Since you cannot be in the classroom, starting a dialogue with the teacher will help you identify how best to help your child.
Get Help Sooner Rather Than Later
Whether you choose to hire a tutor or provide more games and learning opportunities at home, it’s important to identify your child’s signs of needing extra help early on, particularly in math, due to its linear nature.
“No subject is more important than math when it comes to vigilance,” Siti says. “Each new year, each new course builds on the previous lesson and course. Once you miss a lesson, once you don’t master a particular skill, it’s difficult to build something on top of it without it all falling down.”
By delaying the process of getting your child the help he needs, you risk letting him slip further behind as well as lose confidence, which is essential to continuing learning, Bavaria cautions.
Hiring a Tutor
By the time your child has reached second grade, it will be pretty clear whether a tutor would be helpful. Once you decide to find a tutor, take your search seriously. You want someone who is properly trained, will assess your child correctly, has a good reputation, and will provide lessons that are age appropriate. Stay away from tutors who rely mostly on technology, because the time spent tutoring should be focused on the child and tutor working together, Mdm Siti says. That being said, the tutor should attempt to make learning fun.
Above all, you want a tutor who will be a partner in your child’s education. This means that communication is key on many levels: between student and tutor, parent and tutor, and especially between tutor and teacher.
“For tutoring to be effective, the tutor needs to have contact with the classroom teacher in order to discuss the current curriculum and classroom goals, teaching styles and practices, and gaps the teacher is seeing in the school,” says Kathy, a private tutor in reading and math. “The tutor should support the learning in the classroom by reteaching or accelerating. The tutor becomes an advocate for the student’s learning for the school and a support for the parents.”
When you select a tutor, make sure you explain to him or her what you (and your child) expect from the experience. To determine this, first sit down with your child and identify two to three goals you want the tutor to focus on, Siti suggests. Consider whether your child wants to catch up, keep up or get ahead. Does she want a higher grade? Does she want to study for tests better? Does she need help organizing? A good tutor should ask you some of these questions to help set goals.
When you establish the objectives, also determine how the tutor likes to work, so you can provide the best learning setting. “I like to have a quiet workspace. I don’t like the parent to be hovering, but it could be important for the parent to be in earshot to hear the language that is being used,” says Kathy, who tutors children in their homes. She also recommends parents explain to their children that tutoring is not a punishment, but rather is designed to help them succeed in the classroom.
“Half of my clients are tutoring for enrichment, not for remedial support,” Kathy says. “Tutoring is not looked at as something only for the kids who are behind and need a tutor; often they are at grade level, but parents want them to be challenged.”
Helping at Home
Math may not have been your best subject in school, but you can help your child by dusting off your math skills and knowing the lingo. If your child asks you to look at her geometry assignment, you want to be ready to relate as best you can.
“When you suspect that your child is having a little trouble in math, or any other subject, that may be a time to start boning up on stuff that you have forgotten since you were in a math class,” Siti says. “That doesn’t mean you have to be in expert in quadratic equations, but you should at least have the vocabulary to know what your child is talking about.”
You can ask your child’s teacher or tutor for ways to provide support. Another great way to keep in touch with your child’s schoolwork is by checking out the teacher’s web page, which many teachers maintain on the school’s site. Don’t let your child’s latest math challenge be a surprise to you.
Keep in mind, though, that you’re not required to be the teacher. If your child is struggling, let his teacher know that he needs more help and has been having a hard time with certain assignments. “Parents can encourage kids by giving them time to do their homework and by giving them a place to do their homework,” says Mdm Siti, “It’s not their job to be the teacher.”
Tutoring, especially if you do it on a weekly basis, can be expensive. With sessions running $35 to $75 an hour in many places, you may be interested in other options. Luckily, there are numerous free math websites that offer lessons, games, or a combination of both. These include funbrain.com, which has tons of math games, and sylvanmathprep.com, which offers free instructor-led videos.
You can also work math into the regular day. Kathy recommends normalizing math language in the home and conjuring up real-life math problems throughout the day. On the way to the store, talk about how long it takes to get there, then ask your child what time you will arrive. When you set the dinner table, ask your child how many forks you need, including how many to take away if Dad won’t be home for dinner.
“Math is everywhere,” Kathy says. Use that to your advantage and give your child the best chance for math success.
Constantly screaming and yelling at your kids is abusive, useless and stupid (if it was useful, you wouldn’t have to do it more than once). Most parents scream because they are frustrated; their buttons have been pushed and they feel like they don’t have any other options. However, the minute you lose it, you lose all the power.
You would think that screaming would make your kids fear you. It doesn’t. As a matter of fact, it does just the opposite. Kids lose respect for you when you start screaming and yelling because you’ve lost control. They know that the yelling will pass, or they become so frustrated and angry that after a while, they become immune to it and don’t take you seriously.
Now, just as all kids misbehave, disobey, talk back, ignore chores and fight with siblings, all parents are going to holler every now and then. However, you need to pay close attention to how you’re yelling. Blaming and shaming – “You’re a loser,” “You’re useless,” “You’re the reason I’m upset” – are very destructive, especially if the child is being told that he or she is responsible for the parent’s problem. According to The American Journal of Psychiatry, emotional abuse is the most significant predictor of mental health, even more than sexual or physical abuse.
Here are 10 things you can do to stop yelling at your kids:
- Set clear boundaries.
Kids are not psychic – you have to make the rules clear. If the rules aren’t clear, kids have trouble following them. You may assume that your child heard and remembers something you said to them in passing, but they may not. So, you need to be really clear. Instead of saying, “Don’t come in the house with wet shoes,” say, “When you come in the house, I want you to take your shoes off and leave them by the front door – whether they are wet or not. That way, we won’t bring the trash and germs from outside into the house.” Now that’s clear. Or, if you want your child to pick up their room, physically go in there and show them what you mean (when I was a kid, throwing everything into my closet and closing the door was my idea of cleaning my room).
- Set simple consequences.
Many parents threaten consequences and then don’t follow through on them. However, empty threats don’t work.
- Speak to your child on his or her level.
Bend down so that you’re eye-to-eye. Getting face-to-face makes it easier for them to hear you, listen to you and pay attention.
- Be sure your child understands what you are asking.
After you’ve instructed your child to do something, have them repeat it back to you. That way, you’ll know if they’ve actually heard it.
- Respond every time a rule is broken.
Be consistent. Each and every time a rule is broken, calmly impose the consequence.
- Remind your child of the rule only ONE time.
Your child gets one reminder. After that, they get a consequence.
- Immediately deliver the consequence.
- Ask someone to remind you when you’re yelling.
Pick someone who knows you well (a spouse, parent, friend, etc.) and ask them to give you a signal when they see you yelling.
- Respond kindly when your child yells at you.
Instead of shouting back when your child is screaming at you, just calmly say, “I know you’re mad at me right now, but please talk to me like I’m someone you love.” That stops everyone in their tracks.
- Take a “parent” time-out.
Sometimes even parents need a time-out. It doesn’t mean you have to go sit in the corner, it just means that you need to take a break. Take a shower. Have a cup of tea or a glass of wine. Revisit the situation later when you’re not feeling so angry. In fact, walking out of the room inspires fear far more than yelling does.
Every start of the new year, we sit our three sons down and have a goal setting activity – listing out our goals for the year and for life. Writing down the goals help identify the steps to achieving them and to keep the timeline in-check. Other than annual academic goals (which I insist since they are students), they have non-academic goals like ‘get a yellow belt for Judo’ and ‘get my driving licence’ (yes, the youngest son, 5, is involved too). The goals are pinned up next to their bed. When they achieve a goal, they put a smiley face next to it. – Vicky Chong
“We inevitably doom our children to failure and frustration when we try to set their goals for them” – Jess Lair
To support your children in achieving their goals, make sure that the goal set is attainable. During the process, plan how to achieve it. Help them to review the steps and encourage them along the process. Encourage your children to set a time table. When they achieve each little step, motivate them with a hug, a word of praise or a little reward. Do not blame them even if they fail to achieve the goal and let them know they can always try again. – Sheila
Setting a goal is an uphill task for a child of tender age. What I did for my girl was to help her break the goal into little milestones so it is more achievable and less intimidating. With that, we work out a schedule to meet these little milestones. And in no time, she will realise she is not too far away from achieving her goal. I give her a lot of encouragement and support along the way. Sometimes, I also throw in a reward to motivate her further. – Cindy Tan
It should be the goal of THE CHILD, not the parents. Parents should support and guide the child to see what he can achieve and not just meet the parents’ expectations. As a mother, I will help my young child by planning his learning process and create a step-by-step guide for him. It is very crucial to be supportive and encouraging along the way to build the resilience in him. As he grows older, he will have a mind of his own and have more self-awareness. Parents play the role of a lighthouse that points out any dangers and guides him to the right path. – Poh Xian
Editor’s Note: Thank you Vicky, Sheila, Cindy and Poh Xian for your contributions. A big thank you to all who took the time to submit your views. We invite you to participate in our next issue of ‘Your Say’.
For next issue’s Your Say, we are having a kids special. So share with us what you think is the most effective way to teach kids good old fashion values such as respect and integrity. Fill in the form below to let us know what you think. Your contribution might just be featured on MathsExCEL newsletter! All participants will be eligible for a parent-child reward gift vouchers.
MathsExCEL Your Say April 2014 Issue
- Is your child motivated to do homework and study or do you need to ‘strongly encourage’ your child to do the work?
- Has homework time become a battleground?
I understand how difficult this can be for you once things get out of hand but DO NOT DESPAIR. In my last article Teaching Young Children To Study, I explained the importance of teaching even young children how to study so they can become independent learners at school. A key component of being an independent learner is motivation.
Here is the brief version:
STEP 1: FIND OUT WHAT THE BLOCKAGE IS
For you to be able to help your child overcome homework problems you first need to become a detective like Sherlock Holmes. The important thing to keep in mind is that there is no point forcing your child to do work that he/she is not able to do. All that will happen is that you will both get more emotional and will not be able to think clearly or work with each other effectively. There could be a variety of reasons why your child won’t get on with homework such as:
- doesn’t understand the work
- hasn’t or can’t read the instructions properly
- doesn’t know where to start
- lacks the basic skills to do the work
- hasn’t got the materials needed to complete the task
STEP 2: Break the work that needs to be done into a series of SIMPLE STEPS
Thus get your child to DO ONE STEP A TIME.
STEP 3: HAVE PATIENCE
Rome was n0t built in a day. Your goal should be to help your child get a few more skills and a bit more confidence every day. Research shows that the best way to build up good habits is to take small but regular steps. Just do as much in a sitting as you can both manage without getting tense. In the early stages it is often much more effective to do three 10-minute sessions than one 30-minute session.
Remember, if your child is not doing her/his homework effectively at the moment, then small positive changes on a regular basis is far better than no change at all.