I firmly believe that little to no good comes of power struggles. If the parent wins, then the child is still resentful; if the child wins, the parent’s (often reasonable) goal doesn’t get met. I’d much rather work with the kids than against them, no matter how I personally feel about their position.
Whenever we ask E to do something learning-related there’s a greater than 50/50 chance she’ll refuse. Sometimes she resists by standing her ground—literally—and stamping her feet; sometimes she cries; sometimes she acts silly and starts doing things like hanging upside down from the hammock. Today, hoping to avoid the usual standoff, I tried something new:
“E, do your stuffies know how to read? I don’t really know much about whether they went to school.” I asked casually.
“Bubbles can read,” she mused, “and the others know a little but they’re not very good.”
“Do you think they’d like to learn?” I inquired. “We could teach them. Why don’t you ask them if they’d like to join the Grade One class for reading today?”
“GOOD IDEA!” She enthused, and ran off to set up the “classroom.”
For someone who’s not usually interested in playing pretend, I certainly had fun teaching a class full of stuffed animals. E was really more of a teaching assistant than a student today—she helped the stuffies raise their hands, come to the board, and give the answers. We covered an entire (relatively long) lesson of All About Reading, including the lumberjack game where you have to chop words into two separate syllables; we had no complaining and zero goofing off.
That’s not to say there weren’t some elaborate pretend scenarios: Hearts wouldn’t come up to the board without Softie, her twin. Summer was a bit too shy to speak, so she authorized Bubbles to answer for her. By and large, though, all of my plush students sat quietly at their desks until it was their turn to answer.
E is a smart kid: she knows that it’s her, and not the animals, reading the words and answering questions. But still, she’s far more engaged when her stuffies join the class. It worked so well, I think I’ll be inviting Bubbles, Hearts, Softie, Tundra, Snow, and Summer to join our class permanently.