Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Writing and Phonics

As an aside to our tale from yesterday, I thought I'd chat about the Phonics workbook we were doing, and the Playful Parenting technique that, I felt, gave us a massive breakthrough in working together.

I know, it sounds hideously boring, but I managed to demonstrate to myself that Playful Parenting really *does* work better than having a conversation, sometimes. I'm in no way connected to the author of the book, I simply had it recommended to me and found it at a good price on Kindle.

The premise of Playful Parenting is joining the child in her world, instead of forcing her into the parental world of 'Do As You're Told.'

For example:
NP has become very anxious about 'doing writing.' I blame the school nursery entirely for this because they regularly forced the kids to write their names, making NP do it against her will by holding the pencil with her, so that they could assess her. After this, she was unhappy about writing unless someone was helping her in this way. I also think she has performance anxiety about getting it perfect (which is probably inherited from us freaks ;)

Yesterday she dearly wanted to have a go at the workbook, she flicked through and found the pages she wanted to do (as I bit my control-freak tongue about working through the pages in order) and found the letter 'M', which we haven't officially 'done' yet (in terms of listening to the songs etc, we have, however, been writing 'Mommy' quite regularly).

We chatted about the page and NP had a go at a capital M. Then she told me I had to do the rest. I wasn't about to start filling in the book for her, how would she learn anything from that?

I decided that the situation here was about control. She was trying to gain a little power in a situation where she felt unsure and inadequate. I felt I needed to give her a way of having power without confirming her belief that she wasn't good enough to do it (which is what I thought would happen if I filled all the letters in perfectly for her).

So I decided to have a tantrum. I huffed and grumbled that I was rubbish and I couldn't do it. I said "I can't!" I pretended to cry about it. I said she had to help me do it.

With a tiny smirk, she filled in the first letter, free handed. I looked at her, wide-eyed, and said "You wrote a 'mm'" Not praising, just a statement.

This game continued until all the letters were filled: she would tell me to do it, I would have a little tantrum, and then she would cheekily fill it in herself. She finished the whole page independently.

Now, they weren't perfect, and she didn't mind, we'd had a fun game and she'd managed to do it all.

Playful Parenting and self-reflection are things I'm really keen to share with other parents because it's so easy to fall into the trap of only ever treating your kid 'one way.' We tend to speak to NP in quite a mature manner, having conversations and reasoning with her about behaviour or routine. This works OK if she can see the point of what we're saying. However, sometimes she gets into this state of mind where she wants to 'play up,' causing escalating irritation and eventual arguments that negate the whole point of what we were trying to achieve at the time.

'Playing up' normally happens when one of the Onions clan (myself or Mr O) is trying to 'teach.' Be it writing, drawing, cooking or how to use something, NP gets frustrated, we get frustrated, she giggles in our faces and we get annoyed. NOT the best way of inspiring self-directed learning, huh? On many occasions we didn't adapt our approach, we just kept forcing our way upon her, to little success (see where the self-reflection comes in?) So, in the future, instead of seeing it as 'playing up' I'm going to think more about 'playing,' period.

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