As the mid-year break approaches, I can read the eyes of our parents. They reveal a common dilemma. What if my child wants to do something during the holidays that I don’t want them to do but they use their kid artillery to wear me down?
As I ponder this problem, a technique used during Guided Reading comes to mind – it’s called “I Think That Means” or ITTM. Students read a paragraph of text silently in the presence of an educator. They then retell their personal understanding of what they have read. The teacher asks the students to then unpack the text one sentence at a time. Each child in turn explains what the sentences mean at a literal level as well as at an implied level. The “roadblock words” which are difficult to understand in the passage are identified and discussed. A game of CONVINCE ME is then played as the final conclusion to the reading session during which the teacher nominates a roadblock word and the child who is offered the challenge has to convince the teacher that they understand the meaning of the word and are the master of the context. They use all the deep knowledge and understanding of the text and provide a sound argument validating their actions.
“Convince me” gives the child voice and agency and establishes ownership of the text once all the nuances and complexities of the text have been understood.
Michael Grose, author of Parenting Ideas, suggests the use of a similar “Convince Me” technique when children of all ages attempt to wear down the resistance of a parent who denies permission for them to go somewhere, or use something (mostly technology), due to lack of safety or suitability concerns.
Unfortunately, many children wear parents down by using annoying methods. These include:
- repetition (Can I go? Can I go? Can I go?)
- questioning (Why can’t I go?)
- guilt (You never let me go anywhere! Everyone in my year has a TikTok account!)
- nagging (Please, Please I am desperate!)
- whining (Ahhh! Whyyy Caaan’t I gooo?!)
Often, the exhausted parent gives in just to gain some peace, which makes pester-power a useful strategy as kids achieve what they want.
One way to avoid this obnoxious pestering is to ask them to convince you that they are responsible enough, grown up enough or aware enough to be allowed to complete the action they desire.
When the parent says, “I am not sure I should allow you to go to a get- together at X’s house as there is no parent supervision and I am worried it might not be safe. Convince me that you can do so safely,” this response puts the onus back on the child or young person to think and counter your concerns. Listen carefully to your child’s response as it will indicate whether he or she has really considered your concerns and is aware of the depth or range of potential difficulties. At the same time, this process alerts the child to the inherent dangers in a situation. Like the “I Think That Means” routine, the child deepens their grasp of the life text under discussion.
It is important that parents educate their children that to “win” the “convince me” challenge, simplistic responses will not be accepted.
If they respond with simplistic comments such as; “I’ll be okay”, “we’ll stick together” and “I won’t do anything stupid,” then they are probably unaware or unprepared for contingencies that may arise.
However, if they provide a response with more depth, they may demonstrate their readiness. This includes seeking a compromise, understanding online safety rules and an alternate plan that enables the child to keep their dignity and engagement with their friends but remain safe and secure. Instead of simply begging for one toy after another or an additional online game, the child might rather rationalise; “Can I do a series of chores and save up over time to purchase this game? I am also willing to put a time limit on my play sessions so that I don’t give in to my techno-tantrums.”
Answers such as the above show they understand your concerns and also that they have some strategies in mind to minimise risk. As a parent, it is unrealistic to remove risk completely from the lives of our children. Instead, we equip them with the weapons of self-regulation and rational thought.
As children grow up, their world rapidly expands taking them further away from the safe confines of home, and the wise counsel of their parents. Potential risk is a reality of their world so including the “convince me” thinking routine as an intuitive process is critical.
“Convince me!” may well be the smartest two words you’ll ever use as a parent. It may stop pester-power in its tracks and at the same time induce your child or young person to think ahead and better prepare for spreading their wings when you don’t feel they are quite ready. Regardless, it will most certainly lead to good conversation and improve their NAPLAN scores as they structure a purposeful, persuasive oral text to promote their cause to an authentic audience. I wish you a safe holiday and look forward to our students returning to the varied exciting Term 3 learning opportunities that their educators are already planning.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lynda Fisher is the Head of Primary School at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.