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