We, as parents, all struggle in one way or another when it comes to our children. We often find ourselves clueless as to how to get them to do the things that they need to do. Reading is no exception. We struggle to find the line between pushing them too much or not enough. More times than not we thrust the job off on the child’s teacher, after all educating our kids is what they get paid to do. However, it is not solely their responsibility, we have our part in the process.
Here are a few pointers when we find ourselves frustratingly grasping at straws:
Don’t Push them Too Hard
Again, the struggle to find that line between too much and not enough can be daunting. We can fail our children when we fall on either side of this line. And that line is thin. A few things we should avoid are:
Expecting Them to be Like Oher Children- Your oldest son will not learn like the youngest. Your daughter will not learn at the same pace as their brother or sister. Your child will not learn as quickly as the neighbor’s kid. It is unfair to compare your kids to any other kid, especially within their earshot. This is not only harmful to the learning process it can be detrimental to your child’s self-esteem. Don’t do it. Ever.
Moving to a New Reading Level Before They are Ready- Just because your child’s entire class is on Reading Level O and your child is still on Level N is no reason to force them into Level O. Yes, there is a time to do so, but if they are struggling to master Level N, then they will struggle even more with the next level. You will know when they are ready. This is something that you should work on with your child’s teacher. They can often see what they are having trouble with that you may not.
If laziness is an issue and not comprehension, then that needs to be addressed as well. Again, working with your child’s teacher is your best bet to come up with a solution that both of you can use with your child.
Punishing for Missing the Mark- There is no benefit to punish a child for not reaching certain levels. Even if a child is lazy, making reading a chore is not going to help the issue. Rather than punishing them, reward them for every effort. Even if the goal reached is small. If they read only ten more words than before or get 2 points higher than the last time, then that must be rewarded. Rewarded and praised. There is nothing more motivating than verbally communicating praise for any accomplishment.
Make Sure You Push Them Enough
In contrast to pushing too hard, there are times when we fail to push enough. Today, everyone is afraid of offending anyone. This has now, unfortunately, carried over into how we deal with our kids. We are nervous about hurting their feelings. We are afraid they won’t be our friend. We are scared they may give up altogether. First, sometimes feelings must be hurt to make a change. Second, you are NOT their friend; you are their parent. And third, we cannot fear the unknown. If they do want to give up, you can cross that bridge when you come to it. But for now, their success is worth the risk.
Don’t Give in Too Easy- When your child says, “It’s too hard,” don’t give in and tell them they can stop. First, discover why they find it too hard. What do they not understand? Is it because their favorite show is coming on in twenty minutes or is there a real issue that is keeping them from comprehending what is before them.
Many internal issues can prevent a child from successful reading. Too many to get into this blog. I have addressed them in previous blogs. In summary, your child could have vision difficulties, attention struggles, or learning disabilities that have not been diagnosed yet. This is why it is good to probe to find out why your child finds reading too hard. Again, talk with a teacher to compare notes. And consult a doctor if necessary.
Keep Up with Reading Assignments- Speaking of communication with your child’s teacher, your child’s teacher will be one of the key people when it comes to your child learning to read. Your child has weekly assignments to complete, and they are most often written in a Homework Notebook that is with them. You know, the one item that at Meet the Teacher Night that you were wondering why they need $12? It’s for that notebook.
Every night it is crucial that you check that book and follow up to make sure your child is keeping up with the required assignments. Most often when a child is getting left behind, it is because a parent is not checking that book to make sure their child is completing assignments. Your child is not going to offer up information that they have homework, especially when that show is coming on soon. We need to ask.
Read with Our Children- If you are not reading to, or with, your child, not only are you hurting their progress, you are missing out on an incredible opportunity of quality time with your child. Reading time is bonding time. The books you read with your child today will be etched in their memories. They will draw back on them when they are older and have kids of their own.
I know your day is busy. Mine is too, and it never seems like there are enough hours in the day. Just because we as parents are busy, doesn’t mean that we can push that off on our kids. They are important and raising them is our primary job. Those fifteen minutes will be rewarding. Not only for their abilities but to your bond with your child. You can worry about bills, deadlines, and the car the other twenty-three hours and forty-five minutes of the day. Your child needs your time and attention.
Never Make Assumptions
It’s Not the Teachers Job- Your child’s teacher is just a part of the reading cycle. They are there to educate; your child is there to do, you are there to reinforce. If there is a breakdown in any one of these tenants, then your child will fall behind. Don’t assume your teacher will do all the work. Do not blame them when a child gets a poor grade or cannot get beyond a reading level if you are not doing your job of supporting them in what they are doing. The worst thing you can do is to contradict your child’s teacher or to tell them something is not important. Always support and reinforce. The two of you working together will ensure your child’s success.
They May Not Understand- It is also important to ask questions. Sometimes a child will be afraid to admit that they do not know something. Ask questions about what they read. Questions like: Who is the main character? What are they doing? Not only can you ask direct questions, ask open-ended questions that will get them talking about the story. Why do you think the character did that? How would you feel in that situation? Open-ended questions get their minds working and helps them with communication.
They May Not Do What They Say- We all have gone through it. We ask if they read for the night and they tell us they have. You may find this hard to believe, but children are not always truthful, especially when that program starts in five minutes. Don’t assume. I’m not saying always to doubt their truthfulness. I am saying to trust them, but always verify it through seeing their homework notebook. OR you can ask questions about what they read. That will be the telltale sign of whether they did their work or not.
Your child can be successful at reading. However, we need to make sure we are doing our job as parents. It is not anyone’s fault when our child struggles. Blame only makes things worse, on everyone. It is best to get down to why there is a struggle. Make sure we are on the same page with our child’s teacher. Ensure we are walking that line between too much and not enough. It is okay to mess up. It is a learning experience for you, as well as your child. Find what works and stick with it. Rewards are a good thing, punishments only hinder. Don’t give in to complaints to quickly and push enough to get them motivated.
Finally, a good dose of prayer is always a good thing. I can honestly say that if you are not daily praying for your children, then you are missing out on a tremendous blessing. Not only for them but for yourself. When lifting someone up in prayer, you are creating a deeper bond with them in your heart. Pray for their abilities. Pray for the struggles they may be having. Most of all pray for your patience and understanding in how to work with your child on their road to reading success.
Jeff is a writer with a passion for God that comes through in everything he writes. A local First Baptist member and truck driver he loves to create works that glorify God. In addition to his freelance work, Jeff has written a series of books called the Elissa the Curious Snail series which helps parents introduce basic faith concepts like prayer, even in the face of adversity, into their teachings in a fun and entertaining way. No faithful home with children or grandchildren should be without a copy. See my books at www.elissathecurioussnail.com