Remote Learning: Why Your Child Gives You Such a Hard Time

By Dr. Laura Markham

Is your child enrolled in school, but doing remote learning, either full or part time? If so, you may be ready to tear your hair out, even though school has barely started. If you’re facing defiance, tantrums, and tears, join the club. The problem is not with your patience, or your child’s motivation. The problem is that remote learning is NOT how children are designed to learn. 

There’s not a perfect solution, but there are strategies to make remote learning work better. Anything we can do to help the child feel more related to the teacher or other students will engage her, so that needs to be prioritised. 

Then, make learning rewarding for your child in other ways: 

  • Give your child more control and autonomy. 
  • Foster their curiosity, excitement and sense of discovery so the learning is fulfilling. 
  • Set up the environment and schedule to support your child in staying focused, so they begin to enjoy a sense of mastery and competence.  

Finally, consider how your relationship with your child affects your ability to teach them, and make that work for you, not against you.

In fact, you may be surprised to learn that your most important job during remote learning is connecting with your child and reducing their anxiety. 

Over my next few posts, I’ll be sharing practical strategies to help your child stay engaged with remote learning. Today, we begin with one of the most common questions I’m hearing right now from parents: 

Why do children give their parents such a hard time during remote learning, when they perform just fine at school? 

Puzzling, right? But it turns out there’s a good reason. All children fear that if they “fail” to show their parent how smart they are, their parent will stop loving them. That’s much higher stakes than failing to impress their teacher. So they resist applying themselves and get belligerent. They probably couldn’t articulate this, but they figure that if they don’t even try, they can’t fail, and you won’t see that they aren’t quite as smart as you’d hoped. 

Why on earth would your child have this fear? Because they need you so desperately, and children always worry that parents will find them lacking and stop loving them.

Unfortunately, the daily experience of most children in school is coming up against the limits of their knowledge and their skills.

That’s normal for a student. But it’s worsened by the way we often teach, which is to constantly evaluate kids, telling them what they did wrong and what they need to do better. That’s an experience that could easily cause a young human to conclude that they’re inadequate. 

The Secret That Transforms Learning: Growth Mindset 

To settle down and learn, your child has to know that you love them unconditionally, and that you’re totally unconcerned if they struggle to understand something or aren’t magically good at something — because you know they are more than enough, exactly as they are. 

The reason you’re comfortable with your child not yet knowing many things and not yet having many skills is that you know they’re a kid — they’re still learning. You also know that it’s fine that your child has to work hard at knowing those things and developing those skills. That doesn’t mean they’re not “smart.” It means they’re normal.  

In fact, it’s time to move beyond the whole concept of “smart,” which implies that kids are either intelligent or they’re not. That’s one of the beliefs that makes kids give up on learning, and it turns out to be false. The truth is that our brains are always growing in response to our experience, so we can always work on getting better at things. So it’s never about being smart; it’s about growing your brain. 

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