It's Okay to Play
When 10-year-old Melissa refused to do her homework right after school, her mother didn’t know what to do. She tried telling Melissa that she had to stay in her room until her homework was completed, but her daughter ignored her. Heated arguments ensued. Despairing, Melissa’s mother came to me. I suggested Melissa be given one hour of free time before starting her homework and that she be allowed to choose her own start time. Melissa agreed, and the problem was resolved.
Let Them Choose
All kids need to play for healthy development. They learn from fun and games. When work is entertaining, they absorb information more readily.
By 9 years old, many tweens are ready to make more decisions on their own. They can now plan ahead, think problems through, apply their own ideas, and learn from their mistakes. In addition, your tween may know more about what he wants, so if you claim to know him better than he knows himself — especially if you get him “wrong” — you can expect frustration and anger. He’ll also resent attempts to organize him too much and control his choices. Overemphasize work, and your tween may think you believe he’s lazy, incompetent, or needs prodding in order to do well.
How You Can Help
- With the stress of school, it is vital that tweens have time to relax and broaden their interests. It will help your child avoid burning out or opting out.
- Be a good role model. Put play, reading, downtime, etc., in your personal schedule. Create and value family fun.
- Give him real time. Make sure he has time that’s free from pressure to practice sports, do homework, or tidy his room — time that you’re not directing.
- Factor in friends. Let your tween have fun with friends — if his pals are local, let them sometimes do homework or plan projects together.
- Encourage outdoor play. This gives them scope to be creative and learn to be responsible out of your range.
- Show respect for her likes, however strange or trivial they may seem to you. At the same time, encourage a healthy balance between different play activities (not only TV or computer games) as well as between work and play.
- Take the pressure off. Whether it’s in the schoolroom or the swimming pool, accept “good enough” success. Make it clear that you love her for who she is, not for what she achieves.
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