When do stimulating children become ‘pushy’?

Mother: “Sometimes I don’t know what positive stimulation is and what pressure is. My daughter (11) indicates that she has difficulty with English. Together we find a plan with all sorts of fun parts to improve her English. The plan must of course also be implemented. By itself, but it doesn’t happen. I can ask a few times ‘Do you still need help?’ but if nothing happens… what to do? The same applies when preparing (Cito) tests. How far will you go with stimulation? Or rather: do you allow your child to bear the negative consequences of their own behavior 100 percent? Even if it’s a teenager?”

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Annemiek Leclaire


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Jelle Jolles: “Motivation becomes ‘pushing’ when parents impose a plan on their child without empathizing with what their child already knows and has experienced. If your daughter isn’t carrying out the plan yet, it’s probably not clear enough to her. Many parents do not realize that they themselves have enormous knowledge and experience. What they consider ‘a convenient approach’ is often not so clear to the child. Children have language, but no understanding and no ‘mental representation’ yet, and therefore cannot translate what is requested into an action. A question like ‘Do you still need help?’ is too abstract.

“What matters at this age is not ‘management’ but ‘inspiration’. You can help your daughter by letting her express what the assignment or topic is. Her paraphrasing, supported by you, anchors the knowledge in another part of her brain.

“It is important that you realize that your daughter is in a vulnerable position: she feels that her mother knows how to do it, but she does not yet. As a result, she may consider herself ‘stupid’ and this may give her a sense of failure. Many teenagers at this age tiptoe, afraid to fail. Make it clear that ‘not being able to do anything’ is part of it; that she has the right to be ‘work in progress’ at all.”

Her plan

Tisha Neve: “It’s great that you are making a plan together with your daughter. Be careful not to submit everything. Let your daughter think and come up with ideas, the chances of success and her commitment are greater, because then it really is her plan. This also prevents her from getting into resistance.

“After making the plan, you can ask, ‘How are we going to make this work and what is my role in it? Do you want to try it all yourself, do I remind you, do I test you?’ Also include it in the plan. It’s good if you set limits: ‘I always want to test you, but then you have to let me know in time and not right before you go to bed.’

Above all, tell her that ‘learning’ is also ‘experiencing’. What are negative consequences? A failing grade is not a failure at this age, but an indication that she needs to do things a little differently. You can watch it together again.

“Let her be in charge. You don’t actually have to study for a test in elementary school, but if your daughter wants to, you can stimulate her in the aforementioned way.”

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