How to Help a Frustrated Learner
You probably have seen it a time or two in yourself or your kids—the meltdowns caused by frustration or failure. Messing something up, especially something assumed to be simple, can be so frustrating! There are many factors involved, but often a rewiring of the brain can be very helpful in avoiding future frustrations.
The Frustrated Learner
The frustrated learner avoids topics or tasks because they know they are tricky and will trip them up, usually in front of someone else. They clamp down. Stress can be clearly visible by distressed facial postures, grabbing the desk or chair very tightly or even tears. Often the stress they feel is so strong that they develop a complete mental block to the topic or activity. At this point, your task as the parent or educator is to help them develop a calm approach in order to learn the assignment before re-teaching or moving forward.
A Learning Mindset
It can be hard to help our students learn a topic in a stress-free manner if it has been difficult previously. It requires a lot of patience on your part and a great deal of trust on their part. The child needs to trust that he is still valuable to you even if he doesn’t grasp the concept quickly and that he won’t be left in the dust by others that are progressing much faster. This trust is built with a great deal of reinforcing statements and encouragement. When a student with a learning mindset approaches a new topic without negative opinions of their abilities formed, they are often excited about new topics. We can help our frustrated learners form new habits to become excited about learning.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
- Begin each lesson with topics or tasks you know your student does well and with little effort.
- Consider building each lesson using 75% familiar topics and only 25% new.
- Have your student read to or tell a pet or favorite toy about their lesson.
- Set a timer, visible to your student, for the amount of time to work hard, then take a break.
- Make a big deal about simple successes
- Point back to and remind the student about previous successes.
- Explain to your (upper elementary or older) student about the difference between the frustrated learner and the learner mindsets. Ask them about which they think they are and have them help you come up with ideas to help everyone become healthy learners.
- Verbalize your own tough topics and how you overcome those obstacles too.
It’s so hard to watch our kids struggle to grasp a topic or accomplish a task, but with lots of encouragement and some extra time, we can help them gain confidence and develop skills to use for the rest of their lives!
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