Something I’ve learned.

Posted on October 26, 2010


My eight year old didn’t want to do his maths homework last week. We are busy most afternoons and nights with sports training and other activities. On Thursday night he was tired and only wanted to do one page of his maths homework. I helped him and encouraged him to finish, but it wasn’t worth it. He was getting upset, he was too tired.
It’s something I’ve learned. Don’t push.
This morning, Tuesday, in the car, I asked if he wanted to go to training this afternoon after school. “No, I want to go home and do my homework,” he said. Oh right. He never says that. Apparently when his teacher gave him his homework book yesterday, she said she wanted him to do both pages this week.
I didn’t have to push. I’m glad I didn’t.
I’ve learned that with children, you have to find their intrinsic motivation. I did a Master of Teaching at Sydney University and we learned about Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivation. It’s really important, it’s about whether we have the inner drive to do something or we have to be encouraged or forced by external factors.
It’s hard being a teacher and expecting your children to want to finish their homework. When he was learning to read, he’d get frustrated. When he was learning to spell and had spelling tests, it was so difficult to get him to practise. So one day I just gave up trying to help him. I said, “OK if you don’t want to learn your spelling, you don’t have to.” He got 5/15 in his spelling test. It worked. He did not like it one bit. From then on, he somehow gets 100% in spelling, as if he’s a natural. It was quite amazing to see the immediate turn-around.
The key for me was to let him fail. I had to allow him to make his own mistakes, to learn to want to do it himself. It’s as simple and difficult as that.
It applies to life. It’s not nice when someone tries to force you to do something, it feels dominating and controlling. It’s much nicer and more natural if you want to do it from within.

Posted in: Children