How to Handle Reluctant Learners

How to Handle Reluctant Learnes

Reluctant Learners: Keep your Son Engaged with Learning

Parents of boys are more aware than anyone when their bright, eager sons hit an invisible wall somewhere near fourth grade, after which they go from engaged to unengaged, discouraged, and disaffected. But as parents, we don’t always know what to do about that, and we hope the school will solve it. No! Let’s take back the power and pleasure of raising our boys, and figure out what we can do outside of school to help halt that potential slide down a slippery slope.

Here are 5 solutions

1. Engage him with books

  • Read with or to him for at least 15 minutes per day.
  • Let him fidget!
  • Don’t push a certain type or amount of reading! You want him to associate reading with pleasure.
  • Read in a comfy, fun place, preferably somewhere he’s not usually allowed, like under a table.
  • Get your son to be a reading buddy to someone else: Suddenly, he experiences someone looking up to him for his reading skills.

2. Limit screen time.

  • Screen time increases kids’ aggression, obesity, and impulsivity while decreasing their attention span.
  • Let him “earn” extra screen time by reading. One hour of reading earns a half hour of screen time.
  • Turn off media during dinner. Children who talk with their parents over dinner get higher grades in school.

3.  Male role models

  • Boys need to see men reading and discussing reading.
  • Send him with a male role model to the bookstore for books. Because when a boy “owns” a book, he’s more engaged with reading, esp. if a male accompanied him to buy it.
  • Check out Watch D.O.G.S.” (Dads of Great Students— watchdogs), maybe get it happening in your son’s school.

4. More choice

  • Since boys have a harder time than girls finding books on their own, pre-select books that might interest him (esp. with male protagonists); place them in a basket and then let him choose.
  • Boys tend to like adventure, thrillers, suspense, sports, horror, fantasy, and humor; also comic books and graphic novels.
  • Expand tolerance for toilet humor, fighting scenes & picture books.

5.  More Effective discipline

What is more important than the relationship with our children? Sadly, most parents focus more on the behavior, and correct in ways that harm the relationship. Punishing, pampering and hovering all leave the child discouraged; a rebellious child is crying for encouragement. The number one rule when correcting is to keep yourself calm!  A child is frightened and goes into fight or flight mode instantly when the parent is angry. Secondly, use tools of connection to correct the child. Examples include: A question “Are you asking me or telling me?”  “How do you think we can solve this problem?” A choice: “Do you want to clean up the bathroom or do the dishes?”  A time-in, where the child sits near you until they calm themself down and are ready to talk. Limits need to be firm, but enforced with empathy.   You can encourage your son to read, and succeed! Our book contains over 200 helpful tips & techniques to turn parents’ fear and guilt into can-so confidence, to be sure your son beats the odds and becomes a lifelong learner.

During her thirty-year career as a high school teacher, Cynthia Gill worked on innovative curricula development and served as an academic dean, while winning acclaim for her work in the classroom. She completed her master’s degree in Adlerian psychotherapy and counseling in 2006, and has since worked with families, adolescents, and children as a licensed marriage and family therapist. She currently counsels fulltime in Chanhassen, MN.

Cynthia teaches as an adjunct instructor at Adler Graduate School, Richfield, MN, and enjoys public speaking, particularly on parent education. She has led numerous groups of students on educational and service trips to Russia, Germany, and Latin America. A former homeschooling mom, Cynthia also served as a consultant to homeschooling families with an accrediting organization. She and her husband live in Chanhassen, MN and like to bicycle and travel. They have three grown sons, two daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren. Her website is




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