All posts by Jill Rickel

My Child Needs A Tutor But Refuses To Have One

Therapeutic Counseling

If you have a child that clearly would benefit from the services of a good tutor but resists having one:

First, recognize this isn’t too unusual.  It’s hard for anyone to admit they have “a problem,” and this can be especially difficult for children.  Many children believe that needing a tutor means they aren’t very smart.

Second, be confident in your leadership role as a parent.  This means that while understanding your son or daughter’s feelings is important, ultimately it’s up to you to make necessary educational decisions for them, just as you would about their healthcare.

A common counter-argument is that if a child “doesn’t buy in,” tutoring will be a waste of time and money.  Believe me, many children know this and won’t hesitate to play this card, and play it well.  In a sense, they are betting that they can outlast you.  However, part of being a responsible and effective parent is knowing when and how to call a child’s bluff.  And this often requires being a good bluffer too.

Of course, the key to a great bluff is to “act” emotionally neutral.  This means speaking as calmly, and as little, as possible.  The worst thing parents can do is to lose their cool, give long-winded lectures, angrily “take away everything,” or “guilt trip.”

Here’s a more helpful game plan:  Quietly and flatly inform your child that you have hired a tutor.  Give some specifics like time and place.  Tell them, as a parent, your job is to give them the tools to learn as well as possible.  This is an excellent time to affirm the value you place on education.  That’s it.  Just wait.

Maybe, because of your great presentation, they won’t react negatively.  But if they do, patiently wait for whatever outburst, door slamming, debating, crying, or pleading to end.  Then you can offer some compassion for how they are feeling but simply reiterate what is going to happen.  If they say they will not comply, a useful response is to peacefully state: “that’s up to you” and to reiterate that you are “just doing your job.”

If resistance continues, say that participating in tutoring is a responsibility, just like any other one they have.  Hopefully, the relationship of fulfilling responsibilities to earning their privileges is well established so they’ll immediately understand the connection between tutoring and, for instance, using the fun technology devices you have been generous enough to provide.  If this isn’t the case, you may first have to establish a positive home behavior plan that includes this concept as well as clearly specifies your value system before mentioning the subject of tutoring.

In most cases, if your child really believes that you are “serious,” they’ll eventually accept having a tutor.  It’s not unlikely that they will come to realize the benefits. It’s the kind of parenting that they are likely to thank you for later.

There are many issues between parents and children that are truly not worth the struggle.  In this psychologist’s opinion, ensuring that a needing child gets a tutor is important enough to be worth some temporary discomfort.

By: Jonathan Hoffman, Ph.D., ABPP

 

Is My Child’s Report Card For Real?

Academic Intervention

Ideally, report cards meaningfully reflect academic achievement and potential.  Yet, this isn’t always the case. “A’s” and “B’s” can have very different meanings from one child to another, depending on such factors like the “track” they are on (Regular, Honors etc.), as well as the grading practices of their school.

Why does this matter? Because if grades are not truly credible then “grade bubbles” can be formed.   Unfortunately, “bubbles” tend to burst and when this happens it is often accompanied by dashed hopes, frustrations, and blame finding all around.  It’s especially hard for a child that has been under an illusion that they are a “good student” only to find out that they have been “set up for a big letdown.”  For instance, imagine the feelings of a child learning too late that they lack the academic skills necessary to pursue their dream of becoming a veterinarian.  Sadly, over-protecting a child’s self-image often will lead to damaging it in the long run.

Signs of a possible problem include:

  • In comparison to report card grades, performance on standardized tests is significantly lower.  Explaining this away as “they just don’t test well” often does more harm than good
  • Grades artificially pulled up by extra credit assignments, volunteer jobs, good behavior, handing in homework on time, or other non-academic activities.  Although “effort” is certainly commendable, it is not helpful to confuse this with skill level.
  • Poor independent study skills, over-reliance on “memorizing”
  • Parents and/or tutors doing too much of the work
  • Hardly ever, or never, seeing the child show any intrinsic interest in learning for learning’s sake
  • A “low bar” for attaining high report card grades exists; this is also known as “grade inflation.”  Sometimes this practice may be rationalized as a method for increasing student’s self-esteem or reflects an unwritten philosophy of not “rocking the boat” by “discomforting” either students or parents
  • Cheating.  No one likes to think that their child is devious, but the fact is that technology generates ever more opportunities for cheaters prospering, at least temporarily, e.g. smartphones, which allow students to surreptitiously look up answers.  As an eye-opener, just ask your son or daughter if they’ve ever observed “anyone else” cheating

If you think there is a problem in this area, the question facing parents then becomes, what can I do?  The first priority is determining whether or not your child’s report cards grades are “for real,” followed by, if necessary, taking corrective action.

Bringing concerns about seeming discrepancies between report card grades and their observations as parents to the attention of their child’s teachers or administrators can often be quite helpful.  Further, to gather as much objective information as possible, parents can also obtain an independent evaluation of their child’s academic skills and intellectual profile from a qualified practitioner.  Sometimes, this process will result in a previously missed diagnosis that can be effectively addressed, like a specific learning or processing problem.  Depending on test findings and dialog with the educators, they can then make sure their child is in the best fitting classes, or school for that matter.  They can also seek appropriate interventions ranging from sitting closer to the teacher to individualized accommodations or private tutoring.

As difficult as it might be, coming to terms with a child’s realistic academic level often creates rather than limits opportunities, both for parents to provide more meaningful support and guidance and for children to pursue attainable scholastic goals.  Better to gradually and gently deflate a “grade bubble” now than have to pick up the pieces when it inevitably ruptures.

By: Jonathan Hoffman, Ph.D., ABPP