If the Kid Doesn’t Fit, You Must Acquit

by Queenie on February 25, 2010

Image of QueenieWhen I give an assignment to a child, it is my hope that each child has a natural inclination to study the topic at hand. But sometimes I fail, and I fail badly at it.

For the third time in one month Mr. Michael’s had come to talk to me about Little Ms. Sunshine. Apparently Sunshine was having a hard time completing the writing assignment.

We had been working on personal narrative writing for some time and, in my opinion, she was doing fabulous. But that morning I got some interesting news; Sunshine was beginning to hate writing.

As the father was telling me this, red flags went up instantly. I started talking to myself and thought,”This could be the moment where I ruin this child’s writing career!”

Luckily, I instantly remembered my secret weapon.

As the dad was talking, I abruptly interrupted him and said, “For the next week Little Ms. Sunshine doesn’t have to write anything. She is on a writing moratorium.”

He cocked his head, and he squinted his eyes, and looked me right in the face and said in a whisper, “Say that again.”

I told him again, and he said, “WOW! Thank you. You don’t know how much that means to me.”

In that moment I gave her something that often times we don’t give children.

We don’t give them room to take a break, to breathe, and to let it go.

As the adult, I know a week is not forever. And if I want her to experience the joy of writing. I have to allow her this moment of taking off any perceived pressure.

If your child is experiencing resistance to the work that you are asking them to do- I say tell them they don’t have to do it. Right in the middle of the resistance you will free your child in ways that you have never imagined. And, truthfully, you will free yourself from being the work police.

True learning will never come if your child starts to resist the very thing you want them to find personal pleasure in.

Like Johnny Cochran and the glove, each child has their own glove that fits seamlessly for them, whether its reading, writing or any other subject. And if your child is resisting to a point of complete disdain, let it go.

In due time they will come back to that place and effortlessly digest all that you have to offer them concerning that subject.

In other words, they’ll come around. Little Ms. Sunshine certainly did!

Queenie Lindsey is an academic coach and educational consultant. She is the founder of Tandem Teaching and Distinguished Learning Group, an academic coaching firm. Follow her on Twitter.


Joan March 21, 2010 at 2:05 am

Huh. I’m gonna have to chew on that one…

Melissa March 22, 2010 at 6:27 am

Queenie, thank you for reminding me about this. This trick has been so helpful for so many of my kids! I find they almost always come back stronger after a “sabbatical.” Megan recently said to me that we don’t expect a flower to be in bloom year-round. Why would we expect that in a child?

I want to make it clear that you have to be really in touch with the child’s motivations before using this strategy. I also had the pleasure of working with Little Ms. Sunshine, and know that she was hitting a wall because writing was so important to her, and she put so much thought and effort into every assignment. I think this approach usually works great with kids like that.