OPINION: 'It's too hard", "I can't remember", "I'm no good", "it won't go right", "it's not my fault".
Some children will look for ways to keep going when faced with a problem while others seem to give up very easily. The latter usually come up with a multitude of reasons, usually in whining tones such as those above.
For every suggestion you offer you get more countering reasons and possibly tears and tantrums.
You get the feeling that your child lacks motivation, patience, persistence or even courage.
Children usually give up because they don't know how to approach a problem, who to ask for help or even how to ask. They mightn't be able to see how to start or to finish something or whether or not they are on the right track.
Sometimes, parents unintentionally give signals that they think something is too hard for the child or have got themselves into a pattern of solving all their children's problems for them at the first wail.
Sometimes, the parents are people who, as a matter of course, regularly put things into the too hard basket themselves.
Once a child has got into the habit of giving up it can become the only option for even the smallest setback.
The way to assist is firstly to get to the bottom of the problem by breaking it down into smaller and smaller components.
Don't ask for solutions but try to get them to describe the problem.
"Which bit is too hard? What bit are you having trouble with? What bit don't you understand? What bit scares you? What bit means you can't go? Which bit is it where it goes wrong?"
Sometimes, an adult solution may be called for because the child can't see how something can be managed because they've no control over transport or money.
Maybe it's a confidence issue – they don't know how to ask the teacher or are scared of being rubbished by classmates for asking. Perhaps there's an eye/hand co-ordination problem that needs addressing.
Otherwise, they need some support and reassurance and help working out a step-by-step approach to the problem or a sequence or flow chart on paper that allows them to see the end as well as the beginning.
Working together on a jigsaw puzzle is a good way of teaching youngsters basic problem-solving – what colour do we need? What shape will fit here? What does the picture on the box tell us?
Once given the skills to practise, along with your support, giving up stops being the only option. By giving them a framework and not doing the solving for them you also avoid making them dependent on you for every solution.
© Ian Munro 2012. All rights reserved.