How to Encourage Skills Practice


The school year is coming to a close. Some of us have children who are not quite on par with society's academic standards, and this can be a cause for concern. On the one hand, we want them to relax during the summer. On the other hand, we know the value of consistent practice to master skills that don't come naturally.  

I live this struggle with my son, so I decided to set an expectation of summer writing practice to ensure he continues making progress. I had a conversation with him, and it went so well (which isn't always the case) that I decided to write it down and share it in hopes that it can help other families who need to have this dialogue.

I waited until right after lunch to chat with him, when I knew that he had a full belly, was feeling connected, and would be able to self-regulate more successfully. I started by pointing out the positives, acknowledged the challenge, offered choices, and validated his cooperation. I suggest you keep these points in mind if you have a highly sensitive child who is still developing a growth mindset.

Me: I want to compliment you because you’ve worked through all the content in math, grammar, and spelling that our state expects all the children your age to know. I understand that practicing those skills wasn’t always your favorite part of the day, but you stuck with it and made great progress. We’re going to take a break from our daily math and grammar practice for the summer, and I know that you’ll keep using your new skills to explore the world in all sorts of fun ways. 

Child: OK.

Me: Now, there’s one area that you’ve been practicing, that has been a little more challenging for you. Do you know what it is?

Child: Uh… Writing?

Me: Yes, writing. I know it’s not the most exciting thing in your view, and it’s a skill that requires constant practice if it doesn’t come naturally to you. Now, it’s the summer and I’m not going to ask you to practice five days a week, but I do want to ask you to commit to practicing three days a week, for five minutes. What would you like your practice days to be?

Child: Uh, I don’t know.

Me: I have a couple of suggestions. Would you like to hear them?

Child: Yeah.

Me: You could do Monday, Wednesday, and Friday so you can have a rest day between practice days. Or you could do Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday so you can be done earlier in the week. Which one would you prefer?

Child: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.

Me: Great, I’ll write it on the family calendar so we can remember. You have a lot to feel proud about. Thanks for being so responsible with your education!

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1 comment


I'm curious how the handwriting practice went during the summer?

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