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How do you stress the value of education without creating excessive pressure to achieve?

(21 Posts)
ZilphasHatpin Wed 15-Mar-17 20:16:16

I have a DS due to start secondary school in September. He has had an "easy" ride of it so far wrt school. He hasn't needed to work hard to do well and leans towards lazy if left to his own devices. (E.g. His handwriting is appalling because he writes as fast as he can to get it done as quick as possible) but other than that he loves school and does his work without any quibbles. He really has caused me no trouble at all.

I am very aware that secondary school will be a different kettle of fish and he is likely to struggle with some classes where he never has before. Knowing him as I do, struggling leads him to think he just can't do it and he gets very stressed, crying and deciding he is stupid and will never get it. He is very capable if he can get past the "deer in the headlights" stage of total confusion. I know he will do well if he wants to and I want to foster an attitude of hard work = achievement = opportunities later in life. But I am conscious of the impact pressure has on him and he will just flip into stress mode if he think I am expecting top marks from him. I am not at all, I am expecting quality effort from him. I am not a high achiever and wasn't blessed with his brains, I struggled all the way through school and left at 15 believing I was thick, I think if he has the ability it is a shame not to get the most out of it now while he is at school which can make the biggest difference to his future.

I have been thinking about having a conversation with him along these lines before he starts in September but I don't want him to feel it as pressure to perform. Should I say anything or wait and see how things go? Wait and see if there are problems?

rogueantimatter Wed 15-Mar-17 20:19:51

I'd wait. You would probably inadvertently stress him more by this sort of talk before he has even started.

senua Wed 15-Mar-17 22:55:32

I wouldn't stress about work yet. Year 7 is all about finding his feet: making new friends, finding his way round the school, coping with lots of different subject teachers, organising himself, etc.

You can crank up the pressure in later years.grin

relaxitllbeok Thu 16-Mar-17 07:47:04

I disagree with previous posters: by this age I'd definitely want my child to understand the value of hard work, and if you think yours doesn't I'd act now, not later. About then my DS's school introduced "effort grades" of which I rather disapprove, so I wrote him an email about effort - email rather than just talk so I could ask him to file it and reread it in future. The main points I made was that only he can tell whether he's really putting in maximum effort; that he gets to choose where he puts maximum effort, and a bit about how he can make those choices; that he can't put in maximum effort to everything all the time (that's like saying "run this marathon at a sprint"). I was mostly concerned about burnout - my DS is very academic and very compliant - but actually the same "you're in control" message might work here too. Several times afterwards we discussed his choice of where to put most effort, how to operationalise that and how it was going; seemed helpful.

Wellthatsit Thu 16-Mar-17 08:15:22

OP, your DS sounds very similar to mine. I would say that, first of all, he will probably get a bit better at coping with time - mine has, as he has matured.
But also, I wouldn't necessarily have a chat with him. Rather, try to teach by example. Whenever he has to do something that's difficult and he is panicking, try to get him to slow down, take a few deep breaths and think. Encourage him to take his time. If he's really stuck, suggest he leave things for a while and come back to it as our brains often work things out subconsciously etc etc.
Does he have any hobbies that require resilience and patience to succeed? (Like playing a musical instrument, or competing in a sport)? Use it as a comparison for how it can take time and effort to do something properly.
If he's naturally bright he will probably do ok at secondary, to be honest, so I wouldn't panic too much about him coping. But I would make it a bit of a mantra that he should be prepared to set aside time to work and not leave things to the last minute (as that increases the panic stress response even more).
I have had to use a mixture of carrot and stuck to get mine to not procrastinate (XBOX is a big bargaining tool 😁)

ZilphasHatpin Thu 16-Mar-17 08:40:29

Thanks everyone.

relax some really useful points in your post I will definitely use.

well yes he does guitar and gymnastics so I can use both of those to show how practise makes perfect.

I think I'll wait for now but let him know that If he struggles with anything to come to me rather than stress over it and let it build up to become a problem.

cingolimama Thu 16-Mar-17 18:21:24

OP, I understand you don't want to upset your DS. However, how helpful is it to suggest that he can have a "stress-free" existence at secondary school? That there won't be "pressure", from either you or his teachers?

I think we need to be honest with our children about stress - it's not all negative, in fact a stress-free life would be incredibly boring. And stress reflects that they are doing something important.

As to pressure from a parent - isn't this about expectations? Can you hand-on-heart say that you have none? Personally I have no qualms about putting a bit of pressure on my DD to achieve, because I totally believe in her and her abilities.

Sallysadlyseescertainty Thu 16-Mar-17 18:25:35

Place marking

BeyondThePage Thu 16-Mar-17 18:30:14

I also have no qualms about a bit of pressure. DD16 would be hmm if she did not think her education mattered to us.

There is a lot of pressure from teachers, home pressure is different - pressure to revise, to take time away from friends sometimes to put your future first, it is just that the stresses are on being the best you that you can be rather than being academic-success based.

If he has had an easy ride so-far then something is not right somewhere - my girls are academically top-tier but have been stretched all the way - which has been a great preparation for them.

RJnomore1 Thu 16-Mar-17 18:32:41

You need to show him that it is ok to fail. As long as you try again. That's how you build resilience.

Is there something you can do together you aren't great at but you can show him it's ok for you not to get it right?

ZilphasHatpin Thu 16-Mar-17 19:02:31

how helpful is it to suggest that he can have a "stress-free" existence at secondary school?

Who suggested that? You've entirely misunderstood my question if you think that's what I am aiming for.

Can you hand-on-heart say that you have none?

No. Read my post again. I have stated my expectation.

If he has had an easy ride so-far then something is not right somewhere

What do you think that might be? He has had an easy ride in that he has had no major issues. There is nothing that has been flagged up as an ongoing issue that he has needed extra help with outside of class time. Obviously he has encountered topics he has had to think a bit harder about.

Perhaps I should state that I am coming at this from the perspective of having another child who has struggled with almost every aspect of school since day 1 so when I say an easy ride, I guess I mean, he doesn't have problems in the way my other son does.

shockthemonkey Thu 16-Mar-17 19:24:36

OP, you seem a bit prickly.

I would imagine that you can get your message across indirectly. By example, as others have suggested, by commenting favourably on the efforts of others, perhaps when your other son goes the extra mile you can show that it's effort and not just grades that matter... any cousins who are at good universities -- you could comment on the opportunities opening up to them in coming years.

Another winner is getting involved in the school -- are there any places on the PTA? Or simply volunteering for the various PTA initiatives that go on. This delivers a powerful message about your level of investment in their schooling and therefore by implication the level of investment you are expecting from him.

Badbadbunny Fri 17-Mar-17 08:48:22

Transferable skills are the answer. As said by a poster above, lead by example. Make it so that it isn't about school.

You need to instil perseverance, work ethic, etc in ALL walks of life, not just their education. Lots of support and praise for every achievement and development they make. When they come across something difficult, remind them of a similar past occurrence where they initially struggled but eventually succeeded, whether it was a particularly difficult musical chord, or a hard lego model they built, or reaching the top level in a computer game.

If you, as a parent, are doing something challenging. then include them in some way. Eg if you're decorating a room, get your child helping out, demonstrate to them that it's a long process, having to do each stage at a time, importance of preparation (i.e. making sure you have bought enough filler and paste), but more importantly make sure they see it in its worst state with no paper, cracks and holes, rubbed down woodwork, etc., and then let them watch the transformation through to a beautifully completed room again. It demonstrate that hours/days of hard work pays off and that sometimes you have to take a step back, return to basics, before you can make progress.

Open a bank account for them and encourage them to put their birthday and christmas money into it, along with any money you make from selling their old clothes and toys. Over the years, they'll see it build up, encourage them to spend a bit of it if they want something nice between birthdays and christmas. Teach them the virtues of saving over a long period to allow them to buy something really special, as opposed to spending as soon as they receive it on tat and sweets that are gone the day after!

When they're into the years of secondary education, you can build on those lifestyle skills in the education environment. The first time they really struggle with a homework, give them your full support - don't do it for them, but guide them to work it out for themselves. It builds their confidence and proves to them that they can do it if they concentrate and put the effort it. Show them different ways of problem solving, i.e. if they can't "get it" from the worksheet or textbook, go online with them to find alternative resources (loads of youtube videos on virtually all school topics these days). Seeing something explained in a different way, or even by a different person, can often be the lightbulb moment. When they've struggled with something and eventually understood it, they'll have more confidence to persevere next time. When they struggle again, and can't seem to get anywhere, remind them of the last time they struggled and how they overcame the problem and ultimately succeeded.

I don't know if you watched the NCIS series, but Gibbs who is a no nonsense, demanding boss (but highly popular by his team) made a very profound statement. Someone said about him teaching his team well, but he came back with the comment that he didn't teach them, he watched them learn. He did that by being demanding of them, making them think for themselves, making them be one step ahead, etc., but also being ultra supportive of them like a close family - so a case of "tough love" really.

lljkk Fri 17-Mar-17 10:35:36

if I understand OP.... I suggest get him to set aspirations as high as you can (gently) encourage him to. If he sees a path between what he does now and in near future, and where he wants to go, then he will want to achieve to match that path.

Other problems will arise that may juggle for your attention to deal with (girls, bullying, self-doubt, etc!), but you have a background ongoing message of asking him to try to do HIS best, whatever that is. Also, That you are always there to support him.

Eolian Fri 17-Mar-17 10:52:27

I would be trying to emphasise the 'interestingness' of school work and what you can get out of it, rather than its importance.

I think it's usually a big mistake to try to urge kids to work well at school by telling them it's important, vital for future success, a good job etc - partly because most of them simply cannot engage with that idea at their age because the future doesn't seem real or urgent to them. And partly because it reinforces the idea that school work is a chore, a means to a far-off end, something that makes you fee you must be bad and lazy if you don't just get on with it.

I'd take a curious interest in his work, ask him about it in a relaxed, non-pressured way, let him feel like he's teaching you something when he tells you about it. Get him to sometimes explain to you what he's doing as he does his homework- that will help him slow down and think about what he's doing.

ZilphasHatpin Fri 17-Mar-17 11:12:23

Thanks everyone, lots of great advice. I am taking all this in.

Sorry for being snippy cingolimama

GnomeDePlume Sun 19-Mar-17 06:55:57

I think Badbadbunny's suggestions are excellent. I particularly like the suggestion about decorating a room. Could that be a project for him?

GetAHaircutCarl Sun 19-Mar-17 08:39:12

I have two 17 year olds who have almost finished their school career shock.

They have done well ( so far. Fingers crossed for forthcoming exams).

I can honestly say that they have always given if their best academically and haven't really stressed ( other than normal flutters at peak times).

I think that this must partly be down to personality?

But also partly down to the culture at school and home.

What have we done? Well we led from the front. DC have always seen us giving of our best, working hard, challenging ourselves. I don't think it's enough to just tell DC how you used to roll.

We're always honest about how the world works. Money, careers etc. We explain how rampantly competitive some of it is. How tough.

We've encouraged lots of extra curricular stuff even when it has been a right old PITA for us.

We've kept a sense of humour and proportion. Family motto - No one died.

irvineoneohone Sun 19-Mar-17 11:20:55

Most of the primary work is set at the middle level, so reasonably bright child shouldn't struggle. But when it comes to secondary, it become more deeper and specialised. So, the child's attitude towards work start to determine if they achieve or not, imo.

ZilphasHatpin Sun 19-Mar-17 11:59:11

Thanks again.

Unfortunately we aren't allowed to decorate in this house so that's not an option. He did see me working towards university and getting in a couple of years ago, and then having to give up because I couldn't handle the workload on top of working in my job and looking after him and his brother. I'm hoping the message he took from that was "do your work in school so you don't have to do it later while juggling a family."

JustRichmal Sun 19-Mar-17 22:15:31

With dd in year 9, I am finding secondary a slow process of passing the responsibility of succeeding over from me to her. In year 7, it was very much me telling her when to do her homework, asking what she was doing and making sure she understood the work and was doing the homework as required. It was built into home life: the expectation that she would be do her best at school.
Now I negotiate times when she will do her work and times when she will have to relax. I ask her what she has to do and either let her get on with it or have a discussion about what she is learning. If she is procrastinating, I will still step in and help if she wants help or get her to get on with things herself. We do still have arguments, sometimes, of course, but it usually ends with my sitting down with her and explaining I want her to do well and asking if she does too.
The best way I find, now that she is old enough to want to succeed, is to ask her why she is not getting on with it, is she worried about getting it wrong or does she feel like she is failing at that subject?

As ever, the best way to get them to do well is to listen to them.

However, your son has not yet even started year 7. Ask him what he is or is not looking forward to in starting the new school, and cross the bridge of getting work done when you come to it.

I also think you are right about letting them know they have opportunities which were not there for the generation before them. The idea that education is a privilege and not open to everyone is, I think, not a bad thing to let children know.

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