Monday, November 12, 2012

Reading Problems

There's this phenomena, noted often around my house, where a small child is basically exempted from being expected to do typical behaviors. The child looks very young, so s/he must be so. It's a huge benefit to both of my children, and I'm sure I benefited from it along the way. Larger children, on the other hand, receive disapproving looks when they snag a toy from someone, bump into someone smaller, or do any number of completely age-appropriate things because they appear to be older than they actually are. Expectations matter. And even when people learn new information, it seems to be extremely difficult to update that expectation.

Here's that same phenomenon, in a different context. We observe Connor reading fairly difficult texts. We observe Connor as a child with loads of self control. We decide, then, that he is older than he actually is and expect him to behave that way.

At night, we tell Connor he may stay up and read for some defined amount of time before he turns off his light and goes to sleep. Often, we hit that time and, remembering our own childhoods and how difficult it can be to put down a good book midstream, we tell him he can finish the chapter he's reading. We do this night after night. Every night we expect the book to be put down. It never is. This, as you might imagine, proves endlessly frustrating.

If any other parent described the above to me, I would tell them in a minute that a seven year old - especially a somewhat compulsive seven year old like Connor - just doesn't have the will power to stop reading. I'd tell them if you want him to stop reading, you need to help him learn to close the book. You need to not put this on his shoulders, but on your shoulders.

And so it is that we are trying something new. Now, rather than telling him to stop at the end of the chapter, we will go up to his room, read to the end of the chapter with him, and then close the book and place it on the shelf for the night. I explained to Connor that the only other options were to (1) ban books or (2) give him crappier reading materials so he wouldn't want to keep reading! He didn't think either of these solutions was tenable.

He's not nearly as old as this photograph makes him look.


  1. "You need to not put this on his shoulders, but on your shoulders. " This is so true of many things... I often need this reminder. If I want my child to act a certain way or do something, I need to put it on my shoulders to guide/teach them, and with time, when it is age appropriate, they will be able to take it on themselves. Thanks!

  2. So well timed for our house. I have to remind myself every day that the 5 year old is capable of more and the 7 year could stand to do a little less.