Something occurred to me recently that really helped me to understand the defensive behaviour around homework that we were seeing from the Tween.
And that is whether we tell our children often enough that ‘it’s ok not to know’? That it’s not wrong or shameful.
In fact I had a similar conversation with a friend earlier this week.
I am sure you will all agree that homework is often at the root of most family battles in even the most tender of households. It’s the time when we all want to leave the table.
But this post isn’t just about homework. Far from it. It’s also not just about young people.
Rather the fact that we all need to know that it’s OK not to know things. Because it happens to adults too. And it’s a learned behaviour. And we want our children to be relaxed around asking for help because that is where it all starts.
Some of the most defensive and aggressive behaviour in adults is often underpinned by a feeling of lack.
An embarrassment of not knowing, the notion that ‘I should know that’ or a feeling of inadequacy to admit that someone knows more than you.
And they may well do – but hey, doesn’t that make them a great person to learn from. We all have something to share.
When trying to understand Tween behaviour, I do try and dig deep to come up with a solution. I try to go back to when I was a similar age and try to remember how I felt about things. And I do distinctly remember sitting in my maths class in the last year of primary school and having a cry because if felt as though everyone was expecting me to know.
I was sat with two great books unable to make head or tail of what was in front of me. And I was fearful of getting it wrong for the teacher and in front of my peers. Teachers were pretty scary back then. This one particularly so! I’m sure her eyes came out on stalks when she was angry. She was the teacher that no one wanted.
There is always that fear of being laughed at and ridiculed by peers even if they don’t know the answers themselves. It’s always great to transfer the focus on to someone else.
And as for the teacher, well – that was one for Mr Humphreys! He was never afraid to take someone to task.
And all that does is make things worse. As children we don’t always know what to do in those situations and can be left with a feeling of inadequacy.
Schools and teaching weren’t so holistic back then and it was all about the academia. Thankfully, that is not the case now.
As adults, we are more easily able to see potential solutions to problems by rationalising things. Children aren’t furnished with that knowledge. It is something they learn as they grow.
It’s something that they need to learn to be comfortable with and to know that it’s ‘OK not to know’. That it’s not a weakness and that they are not silly. Neither should they compare their own ability to that of their peers.
And if we aren’t careful, this behaviour can be carried into adulthood.
We all face learning curves and change and quite often we don’t know the next step to take. One small step into the unknown can cause uncertainty. We place a huge amount of pressure on ourselves.
But we don’t have to feel like that. Doesn’t the best learning come from making mistakes? I certainly hope so!
Quite often, as we get older and are faced with different challenges, it can be harder to take the plunge, we may not know where to start or may fear looking foolish. We don’t always tackle things with the same gusto that we may have done in our twenties. But it’s OK to call out the fear.
You may well remember a time when it took you forever to complete something or you just didn’t attempt it because fear held you back.
Sometimes we go all around the houses trying to get answers when there is just one simple thing to be done. Yet it’s the simple thing that is the thing we fear. It’s incredibly frustrating.
And quite often the difficulty lies in the basics. Once we are over that hump, we then say we wish we’d done that sooner.
Yet we do exactly the same thing the next time.
I can relate to this in many ways and it’s one of the reasons why I will always hold my hands up any say ‘I haven’t got a clue’.
And yes sometimes it might be a pain to others and they may well think ‘get a grip’ because it’s simple – to them maybe, but not to you.
I remember working with people that would become very sensitive around IT. For some of the older people in the office, it was a challenge.
I can remember a particular member of staff that would always pull rank and exert her authority over the younger members instead of saying that she didn’t know how to use a particular IT package. She would create merry hell until someone stepped in to save her when all she needed was a bit of help with an attachment. It may sound simple but it wasn’t to her.
And it goes back to the same thing of being afraid to say that you don’t know. Or feeling that you should know. And in turn, that the not knowing would undermine her authority and reputation.
How many times have we all yelled out in class ‘Miss, I’m stuck’? It worked though. And generally, help was forthcoming. Even if the eyes were on stalks!
It’s about being comfortable with that and making others feel comfortable too.
Some of the time you will be coming from the back foot but there will be plenty of times where you will be the person to ask.
I can relate to this in adult life.
The way things evolve with technology will forever keep us on our toes. If ever there was a challenge in this area, it’s blogging. I even know stuff about technology that baffles Iron Man and that’s really saying something. Equally, there is a side to IT that I will never grasp, which he is able to master quite diligently. I’m fine with that. And then there are the TV ‘systems’ put together to dissuade anyone from watching.
There are also things where once I’ve done them, I marvel at the fact that I did. I will also remind myself that there was an easier way from the outset and how very stupid I did feel at not knowing.
But the frustration of not knowing makes it a whole lot easier to ‘fess up and tell it like it is.
I never want to be a person that closes down and blames everyone else for my own shortcomings.
Because that gets you precisely nowhere.
I wrote earlier last year about how I felt a lack and a need to learn more about the EU Referendum. How I wanted to learn more about the facts in order to make an informed decision. I asked for help. The area of politics is a very difficult one to access because it is an emotive subject and one where everyone becomes an ‘Expert’. It is also an area where you can be made to feel foolish for ‘not knowing’.
So, I put my head above the parapet and asked the people that I could ask. The people that will happily discuss things all day and share their different viewpoints. I has some amazing conversations and loved the debate. I steered clear of the shouters. I didn’t need to be told which way to vote, I needed information to inform myself on the best way for ‘me’ to vote.
I got some great feedback on this which is very interesting to look back on now.
And then there are the things that aren’t for you. For me that’s heights, fast rides, water, gadgets and motorways.
And then there are the times when you just have to ‘wing it’. When you just have to be the expert. Believe it until you become it.
There are always options.
And as far as parenting goes, there is a moral to this story because there will come a day when we have to tell the Tween that we don’t have the answer to the homework. In reality that day probably isn’t that far away. As she progresses with her education, there will come a time when as her parents we will be well and truly stumped. We will need her to know that that really is OK.
Hopefully, it will coincide with the time that she decides that we really don’t know anything about anything and we won’t be asked anyway.
But until then, it’s all hands on deck.