Wednesday, October 12, 2016

GAT Parenting Skill #1 - The No Emotion Parent

Continuing my series of parenting skills, under the slogan "A GAT Child usually doesn't happen by magic", I'm introducing the #1 skill of a parent.

The No Emotion Parent skill allows a parent to remain completely emotionless to the child's performance and the result of each attempt on a question, especially math and thinking related questions.

If you child is working on a math question, for example, and takes 45 minutes and 8 attempts to get it correct, the parent is happy.  At least the parent coveys that they are happy, but you don't know how they really feel.  A parent with this skill takes correct versus incorrect answers out of the equation. Speed isn't important.   Dead-ends, failed attempts, and solution strategies that went in the wrong direction are part of the process.

Wrong answers are especially valued, because during wrong answers, learning is taking place. During correct answers, your child is just displaying that they were either lucky, or already know the material, and you both just wasted your time on the question, unless it took 20 minutes to answer it.

Until a parent masters this skill, learning is hampered and their child is not going to make real, accelerated process in their thinking related activities.  A parent who is lacking this skill is destined to produce a child who hates math homework and feels like "I just don't get it".  Speed is the enemy of learning.   Right and wrong answers are the enemy of learning.  Good grades are the enemy of learning.

What makes this skill so rare is that our entire school system is based on speed, memorization, and incorrect versus correct answers.  This is why so many gifted children at age 5 become non-gifted adults. At school, your child is going to become programmed to fail, especially between grades 2 and 4, and your job of a parent, The No Emotion Parent, is to undo the damage.

For younger kids, unless the parent has this skill, the child will never get to gifted.  "What's 3 + 4?" you ask your 4 year old.  If you indicate that you expect the child to know this, and know it now, and they're either going to be right, in which case mommy loves you, or wrong, in which case mommy is disappointed in you, learning is dead forever.

When I bring a math book home, the first thing I do is rip out the solutions and throw them away.  I make a big performance of this, yelling my disgust at the educational system and telling my child that he doesn't need them because he doesn't know any of it anyway or else why the heck would I waste money and time on this book.   I also choose material way beyond "3 + 4" if in fact my child is at the level of "3 + 4".

The second thing I do is give him plenty of safe space to spend the next 2 weeks on the first page and get it horribly wrong repeatedly.

The third thing I do is yell at him for being distracted and not paying attention.  The No Emotion Parent has a limit to patience, after all.   Then he starts yelling and I ruined the whole session.   But this is a different skill, next on the list, and will wait for the next article.

I have a rule that if my child spends a lot of time on a work book page and gets every question wrong, we all go out for ice cream to celebrate.  I think we did this about 5 times so far.

The No Emotion Parent is always rewarded with a child who works quickly and accurately.  I am always rewarded a few months or more after that abysmal performance on the first page with a child who will zip through 2 pages in one sitting with a good score.  This is the irony behind not caring - truly not caring at all - about incorrect answers or speed.  The only way to get speed and accuracy is by not asking for it.

When I wrote Test Prep math, I had this skill in mind on every question, regardless of the other objectives for the material.  Many of the core skills that the child needs like reading a question multiple times, concentrating on the question and not answering it, and trying again, are based on the parent mastering the No Emotion skill.  I think I mentioned in the introduction that one of my objectives is to train the parent, but I didn't mention that my ultimate goal was for their child to be in graduate school in my child's class, and this was the way I was going to succeed.  

Keep in mind on COGAT practice tests, we never got beyond 50%, even after 2 years of test prep, even with the test a week a way.   Apparently, getting practice answers right is not on the list for the GAT Child that they will need to do well on the test.  I'll talk more about this when I get to The Parent's Speech before the test.

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