Kids and adults often get stuck in a dynamic of enforcer and enforcee.  I spoke with a mom yesterday who is exhausted and discouraged that so many of her afternoons and evenings are spent just getting her son through his homework.  She’ll keep doing it if she has to, but it’s hurting their relationship.

Parents end up in these exhausting power struggles out of a well-intentioned interest in getting kids through.  They feel like they have to choose – put your foot down, or just give up. This dynamic of power struggle leaves kids to choose only between compliance and resistance. Continue reading

More on slowness

Slowness in young people tends to worry adults.  We often take it as a sign of disorder or dysfunction; something kids need help with.*  Sometimes our help is helpful – sometimes kids really do want us to help them do things more quickly.

But other times, they’re just plain taking their time.  Or they aren’t in an automatic hurry to get something done.  Or they don’t see the point of the thing. Or they’re choosing to be meticulous.  Or they’re reflecting on something else as they work on the task at hand, and the two fit nicely together.

What would it be like to get really interested in the slowness, to understand where it’s coming from and what it might reflect, what insight it might offer into the workings and preferences and capacities of the mind behind it?

(See also last week’s post on how kids make boring things more interesting.)

Misconceptions of “slow” readers

Kids tell me all the time that they’re slow readers.  Often, they’ve concluded that they’re slow because their friends finish books faster than they do.  Some of these kids actually do read more slowly than their friends (though in order to really know, they’d have to all be reading the same books under the same circumstances, which would be tricky to orchestrate).  But often, these kids just don’t spend as much time reading as their friends do, so they don’t get through as many books. It’s actually an error in their interpretation of the data they’re collecting.

I’ve also often heard kids say “I’m a slow reader except when I’m reading something I like.”  They actually think of it this way! In their worlds, the fact of the matter is slowness.  Faster reading is an exception that occurs with material they want to read.  How does this happen?  Why, I wonder, wouldn’t they tell me they read pretty quickly, except when they’re reading something they don’t want to read?