How To Motivate Children Who Are Resistant to Learning
You Want to Keep This One in Your Parenting Bag of Tricks
“No! I don’t want to…” wailed my five-year-old as I pulled out the word list his teacher had sent home for him to practice.
“Why don’t we play beat the clock?” I suggested in a chirpy voice. “It’s really fun!”
“No! I don’t want to do it!”
I sighed, resigned to the fact that nothing I could possibly say would convince my son to read the word list. He had totally and completely set himself against it.
Playing the Boob
Then I remembered a trick from Dr. Harvey Karp’s book, The Happiest Toddler on the Block: How to Eliminate Tantrums and Raise a Patient, Respectful and Cooperative One- to Four-year-old. Granted, my son was no longer four, but I had a feeling this parenting trick was going to work.
Dr. Karp calls it “playing the boob.” On his website he says:
We all pretend to be klutzes sometimes when we are playing with our kids. It makes them laugh, feel clever and strong (by comparison to their inept parent) and makes them want to be more cooperative. Sound odd? Embarrassing? Unnatural? Well, actually it’s a silly idea that’s super smart…
Beat the Clock
I pulled up the stopwatch on my phone and handed it over to my son. Sitting down at the kitchen table with his reading list in front of me, I asked him to push the green start button and then I started to read.
“D”… “ay”, “d”… “ay”. I sounded out the first word dragging the sounds out as long as I possibly could. Finally, I put them together. “Day” I said with a big grin. My son laughed.
Slowly and painfully I read my way through the word list finally finishing 46 seconds later. I told my son to press ‘stop’ and then I bragged about how good my time was. 46 seconds! Isn’t Mommy a fast reader?
By that time, my son couldn’t wait to have a go. He knew he was going to beat me. Since he had already heard me read the words the task now seemed manageable.
When I timed him he finished in 20 seconds flat. Then he started dancing around the kitchen overjoyed that he had read faster than I did.
As the youngest he doesn’t often get to ‘win’ or feel bigger and better than the rest of us. “Playing the boob” (despite its ridiculous name) is a brilliant technique for encouraging cooperation and motivating children.
What young child doesn’t long for the opportunity to be better at something than his/her parents?
On the happiestbaby.com website, Dr. Karp lists several way to play the boob. He encourages parents to be babies, to be blind, to be klutzes, to be pompously incorrect, to be ridiculous, and to be weak pushovers.
I’m now devising ways of using this technique to get my children to do more housework. I wonder if they will take over the mopping if I slosh water all over the kitchen? Somehow I don’t think so.
Common Vowel Teams to Practice at Home
I use this technique to practice digraphs with my son (a.k.a. special friends, vowel teams, etc.)
Dr. Seuss’ classic, Hop On Pop, has several of these vowels teams and is a fun resource for children to see the words in context.
Here are some common vowel teams to practice with your early reader:
ay – play, say, may, stay, hay, spray, day, way, bay, ray
ee – see, three, tree, seen, green, sleep, jeep, beep, need, keep
igh – high, thigh, light, bright, knight, night, fright, might, sight, flight, tight
oo – too, poo, moo, zoo, food, pool, moon, spoon, brood
oo – look, book, took, hook, shook, foot, look, crook
ow – blow, show, low, snow, row, know, slow, flow, throw, bow, glow, mow, tow
oy – toy, boy, enjoy, Roy, deploy, royal, loyal
oi – foil, soil, oil, toil,
ou – out, mouth, round, sound, found, shout, loud,
ow – plow, sow, allow, wow, bow, cow, how, now, pow, row, vow
‘r’-controlled words (Bossy ‘r’)
ar – car, far, start, part, smart, star, sharp, tar, tarp, bar, hard, yard, card, spark, dark, park
or – or, for, sort, fork, horse, short, sport, snort, worn, torn, born, door, floor
ir – girl, dirt, whirl, bird, twirl, sir, fir, third, swirl, thirsty, squirm, squirt
ur – fur, blur, burp, spurn, turn, hurt, nurse, purse, church, lurch, burst
air – hair, fair, air, chair, lari, stair