A mom asked, “Am I expecting too much of a six (almost 7) year old to work on an academic assignment without dawdling? Soooo frustrating. Any input?”
Internal Discipline Comes from External Discipline
Yes, strangely it is too much to ask. You see, that is what immaturity is. A child learns INTERNAL discipline only by the application of copious amounts of EXTERNAL discipline—actually experiencing what mental discipline feels like while sitting right next to a tutor. I used to educate my daughter while I was peeling potatoes or reading my own book right next to her, so I could point to the next problem when her mind would wander.
Gradually the child’s mind grows disciplined by DOING DISCIPLINE over and over. You, as the mom/tutor, will slowly and progressively change from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side” as this process takes place. Be encouraged: although it happens gradually, it does happen! My daughter grew to be incredibly disciplined via this daily line-upon-line focus, hour after hour, from her early childhood. I have to pull her off a task now—she has such a long attention span, even with tedious mental work.
What Does This Look Like?
Your young child may be mature relationally, but that is different from corralling the mind for cerebral tasks. Scheduling active vs. passive periods really helps. Have your child just do one problem, or just this one row, and then go clean the bathroom sink, or jump on the rebounder, etc. (This is one of the techniques described in 12 Optimal Ways to Trigger the Brain; download it for more of these ways to prime the mental pump. You’ll also find our booklet Motivation: Academic Energizer to be very helpful).
While your child is acquiring mental discipline, find lots of work for you to do right next to him. Do your work in your lap or on the table; fixing meals is the best. A mother can chop veggies for the whole day, etc., while sitting very close in proximity to help redirect the youngster’s mind with patience. In helping your child develop discipline, keep in mind that tackling the concepts is almost secondary to tackling the mental muscle growth. Five minutes with mama on piano or violin is way more powerful than a child trying to work for half an hour by themselves. The two different approaches result in vastly different outcomes. Think of Lipizzaner horse trainers putting those stallions through their paces again and again and again until sweat is pouring off those beasts—or think of the Olympic training coach who is hovering over those details, knowing that it is the route to excellence. External mental discipline wisely directed by a tutor grows champions. Stay vigilant and you’ll love the results.
By Renée Ellison
“Your home schooling tips are like brain candy to me!” Renee Ellison’s practical tips have been a boost to thousands of moms. With over 30 years of experience in Christian, private, secular, and home education, she has taught nearly all grade levels and was an elementary principal, head of a high school English department and Teacher of the Year. Her book, Teachers’ Secrets and Motherhood Savvy for Homeschoolers, is available at her website www.homeschoolhowtos.com and (along with a dozen other Kindle eBooks) on Amazon. Renee is also a workshop speaker at this year’s Christian Heritage Conference. Check out her sessions here.