Recently I attended yet another parenting seminar, in the ongoing quest, I suppose, for anything that may assist with the challenging role we face as parents. This seminar was aimed at helping parents help their boys with learning.

It was geared towards secondary school, but I found much of the advice relevant for our younger sons as well. As usual, it was well attended by genuine, caring parents so it is always a bit like preaching to the converted.

Shame the parents that would really benefit from some sage advice generally can’t be bothered.

The presenter was a well known educationalist by the name of Joseph Driessen. Some of it I had heard before, but you know there is never any harm in being reminded.

The key points I took were.

  • Less is best — this was pretty much directed at mothers who generally want to know every minute detail of their sons’ lives and who get incredibly frustrated at the lack of forthcoming information. In a nut shell, the more verbal we become the less likely we are to get a response or at least a positive response. So don’t engage and certainly don’t rant and rave (which is me to a T). Clear and simple instructions with definite consequences in a calm and controlled manner is likely to achieve more than shrill repeated instructions. I note how true this is with teachers as well, our boys do not respond to the “psychos” as they call them who scream to get order.
  • Big Breakfasts — not sure if this meant the big fry up, but generally we all know this is the most important meal of the day. He really meant big cereals followed by eggs, smoothies etc and Omega 3 — not the type contained in fish and chips. Lots of boys are too busy to eat at school and at least a big hearty breakfast will get them through some of the day. Currently we are drowning in smoothies.
  • Reading — one of the key factors to enhancing boys learning. Easier said than done. In our busy house with plenty of action who would want to sit quietly in the corner and read. If you have older children get them to read to the younger ones. Similarly spend time reading to your children or get them to read to you. Tiresome I know because after 4 kids I am as much over reading as I am being mother help. The material doesn’t matter comics, sports mags, whatever they like.
  • Time Management — stop getting them out of trouble; stop running their lunches to school if they are left at home; and stop writing notes if they haven’t done their homework. They will soon learn, but you have to help them with being organized. A whiteboard with everyone’s activities each week and homework schedule. I have to say none of this works in our house. Some of mine couldn’t organize themselves out of a paper bag.

Anyway a few more good tips, if you have boys you will soon realise that the education system is not geared towards males. Obviously this is a little different in single sex schools, but if you want your sons to succeed you can’t just sit back and hope for the best.

 

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Dame Susan Devoy is New Zealand's Race Relations Commissioner, and a World Open champion squash player. She's the former CEO of Sport Bay of Plenty and super-mum to four boys.

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