Undeniably, the role of parenting becomes more challenging as children grow. One of the more difficult tasks is helping your child deal with failure.
Early on a Sunday morning, before the holiday rush, on 18 December 2022 I chatted to Brother Faizal Suleman on CII regarding how to deal with children who don’t make the grade. Follow the link to listen to the podcast, or continue reading the abridged transcript.
What factors contribute towards a child’s poor performance at school?
There are so many factors, but some of them are so simple that we are silly to not recognise them earlier.
How sleep can affect performance at school
One of the first things I ask parents is what time does your child go to sleep, and what time do they get up. Kids need an adequate amount of sleep in order to perform optimally. Figure out what time your child needs to get up, and work backwards from there to calculate their ideal sleeping time. Little children need at least ten hours of sleep. As an example, I refer to sleeping schedules in my home. At grade R or 1, kids should be in bed at 7:15pm. Then, with each subsequent year, add 15min (grade 2, 7:30pm … grade 8, 9:00pm). Counting your sleep hours is important as, even as adults, we struggle on the days we had less sleep.
Nutrition affects performance at school
The quality of breakfast and school lunch is imperative. Children cannot be expected to perform optimally on an empty stomach.
Wellness is holistic. Your mental vitality is influenced by your physical wellness. It is the same for kids. Encourage them to get active after school – be it a walk around the yard or half an hour playing with a ball, whatever fits their lifestyle.
Some other, more obvious causes
- Absenteeism, due to illness
- Being bullied, or bullying
- Time management – especially when it comes to gadgets – this begins with parents. If parents themselves don’t have the right balance, then how can we expect kids to have the right balance?
- Bored in class, due to the work beign too easy or too difficult, or low motivation
- Socio-economic status – does the child have the required books and stationery?
- Language barrier
- Learning difficulties – required assessment?
- Development – is your child in the correct grade for his age? – I have written an article regarding my view that children should not begin school too early. May lead to unnecessary labels.
- Laziness – due to lack of motivation, or no instant gratification.
How can parents influence their child’s grade at school
- Generational cohort of parents influences parenting styles – Young millennial (Gen Y) parents are more progressive, embrace peaceful parenting, kids tend to lack discipline. Older millennial parents tend to have a blended parenting style (Gen X (discipline) + Gen Y (peaceful))
- The household’s attitude of schooling – Everyone wants a smart kid, but how much effort are parents putting towards giving their kids the tools needed to perform well?
- Some parents take a backseat approach to their child’s education. Parents need to be more involved
- Be realistic – Not all children fit into the mainstream educational system
- Lack of respect for ‘school nights’ – Kids are expected to fit in to parents’ schedules
- Give your child the tools that they need to succeed – leads to high self-esteem – Kids know that they have a solid support structure
How can parents cope with a child who is repeating the grade?
- It’s better when the child is younger – more resilient
- Don’t play the blame game
- Reflect on your role in your child’s life. You are his primary caregiver. This is not the first or the last failure he has experienced. It is up to you to teach him how to weather the storm. Build his resilience and offer him the tools and resources needed to overcome this challenge.
- Get support from a mental health professional, or go for family counselling, to help you find a way back to positivity
- Anger gets you nowhere. What’s done is done.
- Talk to your child. Perhaps the system is not correct for him, or perhaps the subjects he is doing aren’t his strengths.
- Depending on the age of the child, if you feel your child will not manage in the same school, or that he is being bullied, consider removing your child from the school. There are many schooling options these days (online, cottage schools, smaller private schools)
- Prove that you are the support structure that your child needs.
What to say to a child who has failed
- Use age-appropriate language
- Younger children – “Perhaps your little mind was not ready to learn it the first time, and now that you’ve grown a bit, you will do better at it the second time.”
- Older children understand failure. Talk to them. Perhaps they were in a bad crowd, or that they are doing the wrong subjects. Talk about different career paths.
- Teach your child a skill. Invest in the skills they love. Instead of focusing on (and investing in) the subjects they are doing poorly in, why not invest in their strengths?
Tips for parents whose child is repeating the grade
- Set your child up for success. Give them the tools that they need.
- Prioritise school. It is not a pastime. Your child needs to know this.
- Manage your expectations – Not all childrent are build for all careers
- Don’t be bullied by other parents or extended family regarding what your child ‘should’ be doing. You know what is best for your child.
- Be present and hands-on at school meetings.
- Be on your child’s team. Talk to them. Be their support structure.
- Go back to the drawing board, literally with pen and paper, and create a career path with your child. Build something they can work towards.
- Hire a tutor to help them.
- Don’t expect a different result if you’re not doing anything differently.
- Be consistent!
Stay well, inside and out
Waheeda, a.k.a Waydi
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