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Sometimes life requires us to apply our minds in situations that we have no interest in. But for progression to occur, we must indulge ourselves wholly regardless of our lack of interest. Children also go through the same in the schooling environment. It is normal for children to be disinterested in some school subjects – even when they excel at them.

On this week’s #ParentingMonday, we explore ways to help you manoeuvre around a situation where your children may be disinterested in a school subject(s). Clinical psychologist Dr Marcia Zikhali and Pholoso Matsafu director of Easy Waze, a tutoring organisation, share their expert advice on how to develop your child’s interest in subjects they’re not interested in.

Be Tender With Your Child

Dr Zikhali urges parents that it is important to give your child more positive affirmations than criticism when they do not show an interest in subjects, or anything in general. ‘’If you can give your child positive affirmations most of the time, your child will have a strong sense of being secure and confident. Affirmation may serve as positive reinforcements to a child to want to do more of the things they may not be interested in,’’ she says.

Giving yourself time to listen to your children is also important. Dr Zikhali shares that, ‘’parents should get into the habit of listening attentively to their children. Some children will need several conversations to be able to fully express their thoughts and feelings and to explain the motivation for their actions. Parents need to identify the recurring topics that, when pieced together, could indirectly explain things to them. Young children do not have the maturity to give specifics on the reasons for their behaviour, and parents should not expect that. Parents have to be able to figure out the common themes by listening to their children.’’

The more extensively you as a parent understand your child’s interest, the greater the positive impact on the child’s overall well-being. Dr Zikhali explains, ‘’parental involvement not only enhances the child’s well-being, but it also has a positive influence on the child’s attitude and behaviour.  A parent’s encouragement of a child’s interests can affect the child’s attitude toward those areas of interest, self-esteem and motivation.’’

Introducing Tutoring To Your Child

Matsafu assures that not everything in academics is a hasty remedy. ‘’Parents should consider getting tutoring services for their children because not everything in academics is a quick fix. It’s a learning process and at times, helps attend to a child’s underlying issues that affect their academic performance. Tutoring also plays a big role in teaching a child to be an independent and more of an attentive thinker.’’

Matsafu emphasises that your child must like their tutor. It shouldn’t only be based on academics but on a genuine relationship. ‘’Most kids who dislike their teachers will evidently fail or perhaps excel at a subject depending the relationship with the teacher. Hence parents need to ensure they give the child and the tutor time to openly talk about other things in the midst of their lessons so the child is more relaxed around them. Parents should only interfere in the case where a child lacks discipline and respect for the tutor,’’ she adds.

Tutoring requires additional time outside the classroom and this can seem like a tedious exercise for children, some may hate the idea of bringing school home. Matsafu shares that at Easy Waze they, ‘’make children look at it more as ‘easy school’ since everything will be according to their own time and own pace. We also make them look at the bigger picture which is helping them find new ways of enjoying their school work without it always being a task.’’

One thing that home-schooling is getting right is finding a way to balance and incorporate learning with fun educational (outdoor) activities to keep children interested in their subjects. Matsafu explains that, ‘’for foundation phase, what I’ve found to work best when applying academics outdoors, is physically laying out items and helping them move them by counting, adding or removing items for maths problems. For English, pointing at objects and grouping them, thereafter creating a story from using those objects. For Natural science, going outside and physically creating scenarios or practically applying the activities provided in their textbook. It varies according to age or the subject.’’

Benefits Of Tutoring

●        It gives the child individual attention that they don’t receive in class.

●        It allows the child to freely ask questions without feeling embarrassed about what the next person is going to say, which is good for boosting their confidence.

●        It helps the child to become open-minded and more willing to learn important learning skills.

●        It teaches a child to adhere to a schedule.

●        It encourages a child to work harder for themselves and not to impress a teacher or their parents.

Discovering Your Child’s Learning Style

Every child has a unique learning style.

Dr Zikhali gives insight, ‘’even at a very early age, observational clues can indicate a likely learning style. Knowing whether your child absorbs information by touching, looking, or listening will help you assess their learning style.’’

Matsafu also shared the following ways to explore in order to discover your child’s learning style:

●        Visual style by drawing pictures and mind maps.

●        Audible style by storytelling and creating scenarios for further analytical thinking.

●        Colour-coding key words or sections.

●        Reading and writing in the form of making notes or summaries.

●        Quizzes in the form of a game for memory refreshing.

Dr Zikhali advises parents that once you identify that your child learns primarily by looking, listening, or doing, you can help shape their educational experience so that it prioritizes this primary learning style. You should do this without ignoring the importance of well-rounded learning. She expresses that parents will probably notice the specific strengths of their child. If the child displays a strong attraction for one learning style, they can tailor the study and assignments (especially at home) to support that strength.

Misconceptions About Tutoring

Matsafu dispels some misconceptions about tutoring, ‘’most parents have the assumption that tutoring is only there to fix their children’s marks due to a seasonal bad mark. What they’re not aware of, is that there’s usually more to that than they think. Another problem is that parents aren’t patient enough to understand their child’s thought process, and only focus on academics. Unfortunately, not everything in academic work is common sense.’’

Wrapping Up

It is important for parents to remember that children develop a sense of themselves in how they are experienced by their parents. Parental expectations can have a harmful, shaming effect on children with emerging identities. At the same time, parental expectations may also have the benefit of encouraging children to develop and hone their innate abilities.

The answer to this dilemma might lie in whether the expectations emerge out of the parents’ being tuned to their child’s unique interests and talents.