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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Red First

My son came home from his second day of kindergarten this afternoon with his first “bad” mark on an assignment. In kindergarten around here, a L is what you get on papers instead of a bad grade. They were learning about the color red and had to color in a sheet with red things: an apple, a heart, a train, a bird, and a red crayon. My son had not finished. In fact, he hadn’t even done quite half of his coloring.

So his homework was to finish. I sat down with him with a box of crayons, had him find the red one, and watched what happened, waiting if he needed help. After about ten seconds, he dropped the red crayon and grabbed another color to fill in the details of the pictures: the bird’s beak, the train’s top, and the train’s wheels without bothering to finish the work he most needed to do. He wanted things to look pretty and colorful, and I think he was bored with the color red. He did everything he could to avoid using it.

My husband told me that he was the exact same way in school and struggled sometimes as a result. I don’t want my son facing those same challenges, so we did a lot tonight to try and get him on the right path to learning how to study and complete his work.

He may have his daddy’s tendency to vastly prefer to invest time and effort into things he is interested in, but my son also has my desire for approval, a fact we used to encourage good study habits.

We told him that once he colored all the red things, he could use the other crayons to add accents to make it beautiful like he wanted. (He even drew a lion with yellow crayon in the window of the train and black seeds in the center of the apple. I hope his teacher doesn’t mind.) He was much more willing once he realized he would be allowed to make it colorful. I also encouraged the concept that, for something to be truly beautiful, it had to be something he did his best on, which he embraced pretty well.

But the thing that solidified the whole deal, I think, was this: While coloring, he said, “Mommy, when I see that sad face, it makes me sad.” I asked him, “Well, would it make you happy to see a happy face?” He said, “Yes.” So I said, “Well, I bet if you do all your work tomorrow like you’re supposed to your teacher will put a happy face on your paper.” His face lit up with a glowing smile and he threw his arms around me and gave me a big hug. He was so delighted at the prospect of having a way to earn a happy face.

I hope this is the start of good study habits and a tendency to try his best and finish his work. But more, I’m glad that we were able to find a way to communicate with our son and that we understood him well enough to use his natural tendencies and personality to encourage him toward a productive path in life. Plus, that smile at the end and the huge hug was more than enough reward for taking the time to work with him.

What do you do to help your kids learn positive life skills? What helped you as a child?

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