Know when to take a break – when 11 plus learning gets too much…

I know – we have to keep up daily learning with our children, especially over the summer holidays, if we are to reach our goal of running out of things our child doesn’t know by the time the exam comes round. In fact, you may never actually need the kind of break I’m talking about.

Have you ever found yourself in a head to head argument with your child over doing their learning? You set them a task and they dig their heels in, or cry, or have a tantrum. Ordinarily, they are fine at studying – they go along with the recommended hours, they have bought in to the whole project of giving it everything – but today, in that moment, rebellion breaks out. Does this sound familiar? If it does, there are two tips that may be worth trying. I didn’t know about these before teaching my daughter; I had to learn them to keep us both sane in those…moments!

Teaching the child that you care for is, at times, a very intense experience for both grown-up and child. You have so much invested in their success, you love them so much, it can be hard to know when to step back.

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Okay, I admit, I’m talking about how it was for me and I’m imagining it might be the same for you, at least occasionally. Due to that intensity, to the commitment to the goal of giving everything to the process, I found it hard to deviate from the timetable I created. This was noble, brave and mostly effective. However, it was also at times born out of fear and panic that if I let the moment slip, the time would never come back (true), meaning I might not be able to teach her everything she needed to know. Regardless, there are moments when you have to take control of the situation and think long term, not get caught up in the panic of the moment. So here are two strategies I’d absolutely recommend you try to keep your happiness, sanity, relationship and progress intact and healthy.

1. Acknowledge from time to time that it’s true, it is hard/annoying/tiring/ boring/ taking a lot of time – use your child’s language, the word they have used to describe the situation. Then, use AND to bring them back to continuing with it, rather than using ‘but’ or something stronger like ‘it doesn’t matter’ or ‘I don’t care’.

Examples:

  • “Yes, it is taking a lot of time AND as soon as we’re finished and sure we’ve learned how to calculate the area and perimeter of a circle, we’re going for a swim.”
  • “It’s true, it can be tiring to focus on a whole test AND it’s true that it’s also really helping us reach the top mark, isn’t it?”

The ‘and‘ can diffuse small grumbles and truly help your child understand the purpose of a session. You can even teach them to use it themselves, so they learn that even when we do feel a bit grumbly, we can still be brilliant learners and give ourselves the best chance. They might develop a phrase to keep themselves going: “I’m tired and I’m continuing, I’m tired and I’m still focusing,” or something similar. You can have fun with it: “Yes, I’m snappy, and I’m 11plushappy!”

There may be times when ‘and‘ isn’t enough. If a tantrum is breaking out, or you feel you are about to yell at them how important this all is, etc., then try tip 2:

2. STOP. Smile, put down the pencil and completely change the subject or do something else for 5 minutes, perhaps for as long as half an hour. It’s important (and difficult!) to be relaxed about this.

Control the moment and you can take away the fuel of the anger/upset. (The fuel may be panic, fear, frustration, or just simple reluctance.) Go play football for a moment, do some exercise, challenge them to a handstand competition or draw a picture together. Grab a drink and biscuit or fruit, go for a walk. You can make this explicit sometimes, letting your child know you’ve recognised you are heading the wrong way:

“Oh, look, this is funny, we’ve both got cross faces, let’s have a silly face competition for a minute.”

“Ahh, I’ve just remembered, we need a five-minute silly noise break, look at us – we’ve forgot how much we love each other.”

Or you can just action the break.

“Let’s have ten minutes to draw.”

“Time out – see you in ten minutes.”

Recognising how you are both feeling – this is about you as well – can be so helpful in getting the learning back on track. When angry or rebelling or upset, it’s unlikely that teaching and learning will be the best anyway. The brain is not as good at taking information in when upset as it is when smiling and relaxed. A short break in an intense moment can give you the space to breathe out and relax, resetting the mind, which could mean that when you come back, you could both end up doing far more than you intended. This last point is worth remembering. If you stop for ten minutes, it doesn’t mean you lose those ten minutes. You can subtly add them on to the session when you come back.

Step 2 is not for using all the time; you won’t need it all the time. Mostly, step 1 can help you keep on track. But nevertheless, there are key moments when you can learn to see you are both getting wound up. During every second of an argument, no learning is happening anyway! So knowing when to walk away for 5 minutes, change the subject or activity for a few minutes (“Oh, I’ve just remembered, you need tickling.”), to allow you a route out of the argument, is a really helpful tool when you remember that you are involved in a learning marathon.

Hopefully, you won’t need these tips much, but if you recognise any part of our discussion above as being true to your own situation, then I hope and and stop provide you with two more ways to continue helping your child reach for the stars and be the superhero that the 11+ student really is.

Found this helpful? Please share and visit https://11plushappy.com/ for more ways to help your child. You can sign up to receive new posts, grab a free course on micro-managing time during learning and the 11 plus exam itself, or take advantage of a better-than-half-price summer learning ebook bundle deal.

Thank you for nurturing your child’s 11 plus opportunity. Have an amazing, fun day of learning together.

Best, Lee