For any parent who has sat with their child while doing work that is frustrating, it is common knowledge that there will be grunts and groans and maybe even worse. I view part of my job as training kids away from those responses which are designed to accomplish 2 things. First is to get a small break from doing the thing and second is to express how disappointed they are in themselves and the fact that they have to do this at all. The hope is that someone else will take them away from it because it is painful. Some parents do that, which is very bad training, as it will solidify that response, but that is the topic for another blog post someday. The truth is, that developing an automatic response in these kids that gets them back to work quickly is the ticket!
None of us likes to be constantly faced with our failure and to have to sit there and take it for a long period of time. Throughout my years of working to improve processing skills, I have found that if I interrupt the grunts and groans the second they start, and bring the child back to the rote practice, that over some time, the habit of grunting and groaning goes away. The less time they spend grunting and groaning while going back to the work quickly, like a computer or robot as I like to compare it to, especially for the little boys as they love that comparison, the more that response goes away. Anyone who is familiar with conditioning of some very famous dogs trained to salivate at the sound of a bell, will understand what I am trying to do here.
I am working with a 10 year old boy who is a champion at grunting and groaning. He doesn't even have to make a full mistake on the exercises we do, before he is throwing himself back in the chair and grunting, "oh man I am bad at this". So we have started to do a humorous interrupt of that right when it happens. I have told mom that during the practice of my exercises only and not regular homework yet, when he starts grunting, for her to clap loudly and do some sort of upbeat exclamation herself, like "YOU CAN DO IT", with a smile or "you are the man"! At first, it shocked him as it should have. He is not used to his mom being a loud cheerleader for him. But then after a few more times, he expected it. Right around the 6th time, his mom reports to me that he made a mistake and just went right back to doing the exercise before she could even cheer. She was excited, but didn't know if she should say anything because she didn't want him to stop working. She said that inside she was doing cartwheels! :) It is not perfect yet for him, and will take some time, as this is a very hard habit to break completely, but based on all the other kids I have worked with on this, training that response away is only a positive thing. I often tell the kids and parents that we become good at what we practice. So if we practice grunting and groaning every time we make a mistake, what are we going to become good at? Yes...grunting and groaning. If we practice being automatic and just going back for another try, while interrupting negative thoughts, that is what we will get good at and that says it all.
Dr. Sherri Singer is a Processing and Motivation Skills Excellence Coach who works with you in person, 1 on 1, live via webcam. Contact Dr. Sherri
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