Strategies for Learning and Life from Dr. Selznick
I often refer to parenting as a journey, built upon roads that wind and traverse, that are as smooth as silk and as bumpy as craters – just make sure to buckle up for the ride. The way in which I view parenting is most likely what drew me in to Dr. Selznick’s new book, School Struggles – A Guide to Your Shut-Down Learner’s Success. His own goals resonate with me:
“How can we better help the child traveling down the rough road, whether it is for academic, social, or behavioral reasons, or all of the above?”
Even if you don’t think that your child is on a rough road – maybe the road just gets a little narrow or challenging to climb at times – there are likely some tools in Selznick’s book that you can add to your parenting toolbox.
Practical Points for Parents: Tools to Help Struggling Learners
I am not intensely drawn to books that doggedly drag on and tell me how woeful the situation is, why I must take a stand, or why I need to try an approach, if they don’t actually give me real, tangible tools for accomplishing anything. Dr. Selznick got my attention in his book when I flipped through the pages before ever reading more than a sentence. At the end of sections and chapters there are Takeaway Points and Try This strategies.
My attention perked up like the hairs on the back of my neck do when I find a healthy recipe that everyone in my home loves – good information for parents is food for the soul (and my family). But would these points and strategies prove to be helpful to me? Not all of the verdicts are in, but there are several key factors that have me nodding in agreement and being willing to continue trying some of Selznick’s methods and suggestions.
According to Selznick, reading, spelling, and writing challenges are at the root of many of school struggles that children go through on a regular basis. Before you dismiss this idea because you think your child can read well enough, but you are still watching him struggle with something, consider these 3 points that Selznick highlights throughout the book.
Teach children how to recognize their own strengths.
After reading about this particular topic in Selznick’s book I had the opportune moment to put it to the test – a frustrated child who was feeling inadequate. I used the strategy suggested by Selznick of creating with your child a chart of strengths (not just academic), as well as addressing weaknesses. I included my own chart for my personal strengths and weaknesses to demonstrate that we all have both – a humbling process. This tangible tool really clarified for my child how to acknowledge strengths and feel proud of them, but also how to recognize weaknesses and develop plans to improve those weaker areas.
Pay attention to your gut instinct.
My grandmother and Dr. Selznick would probably get along quite amicably together – as their philosophies seem to mirror each other. Grandma always said that if by the time you’ve raised your children you haven’t learned enough to be a teacher and a doctor, you weren’t doing your job well. When we pay attention to our instincts, even when faced against the odds of school testing administrators who don’t see much more than black and white lines on scales of learning, we are champions for our kids. Selznick gives many suggestions for working with doctors, schools, and other professionals who are involved in your children’s lives to develop a solid plan worthy of your child.
Look for opportunities for your child to problem solve and weigh the options.
Children seem to naturally be inquisitive about the world – but sometimes we are moving too quickly through our days to allow them enough time to explore their options. I know I have been guilty of rushing through a task or activity for my own personal goals and needs and forgetting the patience that is required, leaving one or more of my kids as a passive participant (when I know in my heart of hearts I want to be raising actively participating kids). Ask your kids questions, get them thinking about answers, and take the time to listen to those answers and provide genuine feedback.
Learning Disabilities – Dangerous Territory
One of my favorite things about Selznick’s approach is his lack of bandwagon riding. He doesn’t push for labels such as ADHD and regimes of medications, because he sees kids as more of a mixture of skills and abilities, along with struggles, and labels and drugs don’t always offer help for those challenges.
- Be wary of expensive, quick fixes.
- If you seek professional guidance for your child, make sure you understand the goals the professional is establishing, and that those goals meet your concerns (remember – pay attention to gut instinct).
- Give your struggling child support – dedicating time together not focusing on the struggles, but just enjoying each other’s company.
- If you seek a 504 plan for your child’s education, make sure that it is tailored specifically for your child and is not just a generic check-list. * Don’t jump into a plan without considering how the interventions will impact your child’s self-esteem and emotional well-being. Will it make him feel like he stands out even more?
More Help for Struggling Learners
If you’re looking for strategies to help your children grow, especially if they are struggling with reading, writing, and basic executive functions, take a few minutes to review School Struggles by Richard Selznick. The more tools we add to our parenting toolboxes, the better off our families will be.