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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Our 6 year old started 1st grade last week. She has fabulous communication skills and a unique understanding of peoples' motivations. Dh and I have raised our girls to be concious communicators and really try to help them analyze different situations. Her teachers/family etc. are frequently 'praising' us on these things, but sometimes I wonder if we have doomed her by giving her too much information.<br><br>
So, in 1st grade they start science and technology. She was SOOOOO looking forward to these classes (though so far dissapointed because they have not yet done any vial/beaker/let's get dirty experiments - yes, she watches too much myth busters and dirty jobs <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/wink1.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="wink1"> ). she told me this morning that she didn't want to go science. Why on earth would she not want to go? Apparantly the teacher is doing a "what is it" basket. The kids look/feel etc. in the basket, write down what they think it is with their name. If they get it right, on Friday they get to pick a toy/prize/candy. So, our DD forgot about the basket this week and didn't try to answer the question. She said "I don't want to go to science because I don't want to be jealous of the other kids who get a prize". I'm sad now, because our DD who LOVES science doesn't want to go for some reason completely unrelated to science.<br><br>
In typical fashion I asked her lots of probing questions. This is the first I've heard of this particular reward system (and FTR, I don't like these gimics at all, and I'm sure our DD is aware of my bias because we don't do it at our home). I asked her why she thought the teacher was doing this and she talked herself through it:<br><br>
"She wants the kids to try to guess what's in there and some won't do it if she doesn't give them a prize. But I would do it even if she didn't offer a prize. It's like when girlX tried to get me to do what she wanted by manipulating me. Mom, why would the teacher want to manipulate me? I don't like that! I don't want to do the 'what is it' basket if that's why she's doing it, that isn't ok. But, I also don't want to feel jealous. I don't think I'm going to do the box ever."<br><br>
She's going to 'boycott' this basket on principal. I suggested she ask the teacher why she's doing it but DD isn't comfortable enough with her yet, maybe we'll write the teacher a letter. This is one of those situations where I feel like her understanding may make her life more difficult, kwim?<br><br>
Thanks for reading!
 

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Wow! It sounds like your girl really does pick up on peoples' motives. I don't know what I'd do in that situation. We unschool; our oldest is 7, and she definitely loves exploring, checking things out, and getting dirty. My memories of science in the classroom are that it was way, way boring and I like it that my children can just stay home and keep on being the little scientists they naturally are.<br><br>
Is homeschooling/unschooling an option for your family? Here's to hoping and believing you'll find the best solution for your daughter!
 

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It sounds like she's old enough to keep talking about it, like to ask her to think about what would motivate her to answer the question (for example, the great feeling of getting it right), what is it that is making her not want to do it, and how she might feel if she doesn't get it right (outside of being jealous of the others). She could like to tell the teacher she doesn't want the prize, if she gets it (maybe you could write a letter to the teacher first). I think if you approached it nonconfrontationally with the teacher (you don't sound confrontational at all), the teacher would understand and also be delighted in a self-motivated learner. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/orngbiggrin.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="orange big grin">
 

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I honestly would tell her to get over it. Yes, it sounds harsh, I know, but this will not be the only time a teacher does an activity she doesn't like. You don't, as the student, get to inform the teacher of that. (Well, you can, but it doesn't mean she should listen to you.) The teacher can't change every single activity because one child doesn't like something about it. We're talking about an activity that takes up a couple of minutes a week. It sounds as if the teacher doesn't even take the basket around. The students are free to go over to it or not. So your daughter doesn't want to; I have no problem with boycotting on principle. It's just not fair to want the entire activity to stop because SHE doesn't like it. Anyway, the whole thing started because your daughter "forgot" to go to the basket and is jealous, not because she initially recognized the activity as something she thought was unethical.
 

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Oh gosh, now you will all think I'm an awful parent, but if my daughter had said to me what the OP's daughter said about how the prize thing feels like manipulation, and if my child had asked me the question about why the teacher would try to manipulate her, my response would be, "Well, some parents manipulate their children because they feel it is the best way to get them to comply. When children are accumstomed to complying only in the case of an incentive, teachers have a hard time motivating them in other ways. So the teacher must feel this is her only way to get children to participate in the activity."<br><br>
I'm a gimmick-free teacher, by the way! <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/winky.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Wink">
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>teachma</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/9060514"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">"Well, some parents manipulate their children because they feel it is the best way to get them to comply. When children are accumstomed to complying only in the case of an incentive, teachers have a hard time motivating them in other ways. So the teacher must feel this is her only way to get children to participate in the activity."</div>
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I would say something similar AND if she is going to be in this system I would also try to simply not make a big deal of it. Yup, it is manipulation. It isn't what we'd choose, but let's just observe it and roll with it. I have seen with friends that if you want to keep a kid in the system sometimes you are going to have to demonstrate not being high anxiety about stuff like this. Yup, it isn't what we'd choose, but in the grand scheme of things we can let it roll off our backs and not get too involved with it.
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>Roar</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/9060832"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">I would say something similar AND if she is going to be in this system I would also try to simply not make a big deal of it. Yup, it is manipulation. It isn't what we'd choose, but let's just observe it and roll with it. I have seen with friends that if you want to keep a kid in the system sometimes you are going to have to demonstrate not being high anxiety about stuff like this. Yup, it isn't what we'd choose, but in the grand scheme of things we can let it roll off our backs and not get too involved with it.</div>
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That's a helpful perspective.
 

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How strong is her writing? Can you encourage her to write out what she has told you and give the teacher a letter explaining her feelings and concerns? Maybe you can talk with your daughter and have her come up with three alternatives to the current system that she thinks may work for the class as well as her, and then encourage her to offer those three suggestions in the letter. Then, explain to her that the teacher may take the letter into mind and heart and modify, or she may not change a darn thing at all (it is within her right to not change her system), but that your daughter will be "doing" something about it and that it may help her process. Then let her know that it will be up to her to decide if she chooses to continue to participate if the teacher does not change the system; but encourage her to participate (maybe explaining that even though it is a manipulative and coercive system, that perhaps the teacher is trying her best to do things in a "fun" way and that likely many of the students do see it as fun... and that because she is part of this class and is under this teacher's instruction, it is okay for her to be part of this "fun" - almost like a conscious decision to play pretend... pretend). I have had similar talks with my youngest son and my oldest son; sometimes it helps, other times it does not. But I have never felt like I have harmed them by giving them "too much information". Too much is a relative term, and for my children when they are asking questions, seeking input, and critically thinking (even if it is advanced and/or harder for them in a situation than it is for their peers) I have not considered it "too much information".
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>BrandiRhoades</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/9059939"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">I honestly would tell her to get over it. Yes, it sounds harsh, I know, but this will not be the only time a teacher does an activity she doesn't like. You don't, as the student, get to inform the teacher of that. (Well, you can, but it doesn't mean she should listen to you.) The teacher can't change every single activity because one child doesn't like something about it. We're talking about an activity that takes up a couple of minutes a week. It sounds as if the teacher doesn't even take the basket around. The students are free to go over to it or not. So your daughter doesn't want to; I have no problem with boycotting on principle. It's just not fair to want the entire activity to stop because SHE doesn't like it. Anyway, the whole thing started because your daughter "forgot" to go to the basket and is jealous, not because she initially recognized the activity as something she thought was unethical.</div>
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Suck it up and cope? That's definately not a lesson I want to impart to my kids. Then again... this is one more reason i'm not a fan of school.<br><br>
I, too, would go with writing the letter, together, explaining that she feels the activity is manipulative and that it's not cool. Perhaps it is difficult for a teacher to motivate children who are accustomed to bribes and manipulation, but hey, why not try to teach them a new way?
 

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Well, this is why bright articulate 6 year olds still have parents! She's too young to take this to the teacher herself.<br><br>
I would call the teacher, or go in and ask for a meeting, and tell her what your daughter told you. Or if you daughter is willing to write it out, take your daughter's letter and YOU discuss it with the teacher. But at 6, that's a HEAVY burden to put on a child.<br><br>
The teacher will probably be stunned that your daughter sees this as manipulation (I agree that it is), and you can ask her if she can come up with a way to get the kids to do it WITHOUT a prize.<br><br>
I actually think it's a lousy system for about 5 reasons - it's manipulation, it takes the joy of discovery out of it, it discriminates against kids who have sensory issues (probably 2 or 3 of the kids in the class will hardly ever get it right and thus NEVER get a prize), it focuses more on being right than on exploring with your senses..... maybe you can point those adult perspectives out and help improve this teacher's teaching!
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>BrandiRhoades</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/9059939"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">Anyway, the whole thing started because your daughter "forgot" to go to the basket and is jealous, not because she initially recognized the activity as something she thought was unethical.</div>
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You don't think her jealous feeling may have given her some indication that the activity was unethical? A game where some individuals are always going to feel left out and jealous, doesn't seem like a good game to me.<br><br>
Yes, I realize we live in a competitive society where there are always winners and losers. I'm not saying our children should grow up without ever having experienced this. But I personally disagree with turning <b>every</b> activity into a competition with rewards.<br><br>
I think Alfie Kohn makes a good point, when he says the research shows that even when children enjoyed an activity without being rewarded, once rewards are introduced they focus on those and the actual activity becomes less enjoyable.<br><br>
It makes sense that a child who's not used to rewards and punishments, would sense something "off" when a teacher feels a need to give prizes for things most kids would love to do anyway.
 

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And yes, I realize we're only talking about <b>one</b> activity, not <b>every</b> activity throughout the school day. I just think it would be more fun, and less likely to generate hard feelings, without the prizes.
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>LynnS6</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/9072173"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">Well, this is why bright articulate 6 year olds still have parents! She's too young to take this to the teacher herself.<br></div>
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I agree. As a parent, I would talk to the teacher, and relay what your dd said.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks for all the responses! I really enjoyed reading all the different perspectives on this.<br><br>
I have been concerned for awhile that we have given our DD too much information in regards to human behavior and communication as it has exacerbated some issues in the past. She used to be much more open with her feelings/emotions progressing from telling people at age 3; "I don't like your tone of voice" to at 4; "I feel scared when you use that tone of voice" to at 5 not saying anything for fear of the persons reaction. She has informed kids at school that they are threatening and manipulating her (as well as adults) and this doesn't always go over well. After being teased for different things our DD has a tendency to ask other kids if they are teasing her because they are jealous, something else which tends to get more of a reaction from the teaser.<br><br>
We continue to give her information and encourage the questioning of reasons/motives but sometimes I wonder if we should take a different approach. She is a confident but highly sensitive child. She handles peer interaction with such maturity and does not take the peer teasing/manipulation personally at all. With adults it's a different story. She is very afraid of getting in trouble or breaking the rules, so much that she doesn't say anything. In this specific instance with the science teacher she would like to write her teacher a letter, and she would like to tell the teacher that she doesn't need to manipulate her. In the past, this kind of directness has not gone over so well with adults who do not know her, and know that this is her (and not me talking through her), KWIM?. We're struggling with how to balance this all out for our DD.<br><br>
In regards to the actual what is it basket etc.: I decided to do some research and try to get more information. The basket is something left in the hallway outside of the science class room. A new item is placed there every week and the kids can make their guess on their own time. This is not just for 1st graders, but for the entire elementary (this weeks item is a cecada). We have a parent night tonight and I am going to see if I can find out more detail on the reward system, if it used anywhere else in the school etc.. I have also contacted a number of other parents who have the same concerns with it as I do, but I want to follow our DD's lead here too.<br><br>
For her part, DD was excited for it this week. She knew it was a cecada, though informed me she spelled it wrong on her guess (but the teacher accepts creative spelling) <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/wink1.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="wink1">. She says she doesn't care if she gets a prize or not anymore. She thinks trying to guess is great fun and even though she would still do it if they didn't offer a prize, some kids might not. She thinks it's ok for the teacher to offer the prize to get the other kids interested in it. Oh, and it wouldn't be fair for her to offer prizes only to those kids who 'need' the manipulation, she has to do it to all the kids. Shrug.... She's rationalised around it in her head and she's ok with it, for now.<br><br>
Thanks again for reading. If anyone has any idea on how to help a (nature, not nurture) literalist, perfectionist, sensitive 6 year old get over intense fear of breaking the rules and dissapointing the adults around her I'd love to hear them. We've been trying lots of different things, and have even given her teachers a copy of DD's bill of rights (right to water, healthy food, bathroom, ask qestions, makes mistakes etc.). Like I said, we're still trying to find that balance.
 

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Your daughter sounds absolutely remarkable! I don't know if there's a way for her to express herself to her teachers about this, without them thinking you wrote the letter for her (or dictated the words). Her insightfulness is just that remarkable; I don't think they'd find it believable that a 6yo would come up with all that on her own, without any coaching.<br><br>
I'm trying not to express too much pessimism regarding public school -- but I have 13 years' experience as a ps student to back me up. IME, even with all the talk about encouraging everyone to embrace diversity, the main goal of public school is to increase uniformity. To eliminate prejudice by making everyone the same, or at least similar.<br><br>
To emphasize what everyone has in common, but neglect highlighting the differences which enable each person to make a unique, and needed, contribution. It sounds like they're going to have a hard time helping your daughter "fit in" and "find her niche." But that doesn't mean they won't try.<br><br>
It sounds like you're ready to support her in her fight to remain herself -- but I wish it didn't have to be a fight. It just seems so rare that highly unique children like your daughter are able to thrive in, and not be damaged by, the system.<br><br>
The good news is that your dd has a mom like you; you seem attentive, responsive, and willing to change educational methods if it becomes obvious that your dd will do better at home or in a different setting. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/hug.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="hug"> and best wishes to you!
 

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I can't remember if this has already been suggested, but you might offer your dd's teachers, as well as the school principal, copies of something of Alfie Kohn's -- such as <i>Punished by Rewards</i> or <i>Unconditional Parenting</i>. I haven't read the first, but I have read the second, and in it Kohn does touch on the issue of rewards and punishments (he calls them carrots and sticks).<br><br>
Kohn makes it clear that rewards (even praise) and punishments are really part of the same continuum. This was eye-opening for me; I thought I was being "non-punitive" -- then I realized that even making a big deal when my children do something that pleases me is punishment in reverse.<br><br>
Even though it's not intended as a punishment, if my children are used to hearing praise, if I neglect to give it they're likely to wonder what's lacking in their performance. Thus my praise may teach them to focus on performance rather than on enjoyment of the activity.<br><br>
I think it's impossible to read Kohn without having a life-changing experience -- so if any of the school staff are willing to open up and consider his writings, this could be a major breakthrough for your daughter's school. Of course, some might read Kohn and decide to leave the system for good.<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/lol.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="lol">
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>eilonwy</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/9072095"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">Suck it up and cope? That's definately not a lesson I want to impart to my kids. Then again... this is one more reason i'm not a fan of school.</div>
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I'm not saying that the teacher is right. I'm just saying that yes, if you choose to go to public school (any school, really), then there will be things that you don't like about it. I'm over-anxious. I get very high-strung about these types of things. One of the best lessons my mom taught me was that everything in life isn't a tragedy. Sometimes you do have to tolerate minor inconveniences, which is all this is. If the child wants to write a letter, that's fine, but if the teacher doesn't change anything, it's not going to be the end of the world. Sometimes our children do have to accept that. It's a great opportunity for a lesson about everyone not agreeing with us and going our way.
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>BrandiRhoades</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/9101089"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">I'm not saying that the teacher is right. I'm just saying that yes, if you choose to go to public school (any school, really), then there will be things that you don't like about it.</div>
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That's actually, like.... a part of life. There are part of it that you don't like. And yeah, most of us suck it up and deal with those bits. It's pretty unrealistic to beleive - or teach our kids - that every minute of every day of the rest of their lives are going to be rosy and filled with wonder.
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>mtiger</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/9101212"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">That's actually, like.... a part of life. There are part of it that you don't like. And yeah, most of us suck it up and deal with those bits. It's pretty unrealistic to beleive - or teach our kids - that every minute of every day of the rest of their lives are going to be rosy and filled with wonder.</div>
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Sure, I'm not going to claim that every minute of our unschooling day is "rosy and filled with wonder."<br><br>
But when you consider that children are born into this world with a thirst for knowledge, and an eagerness to explore and experience everything -- have you ever wondered why, partway into childhood, so many children start needing rewards to motivate them?<br><br>
It seems like public schools are doing something very wrong, in turning what should continue to be a joy, into a dreaded task that kids can only stomach by looking forward to the A or smiley-face (or in this case the prize) at the end of the dark tunnel.<br><br>
It seems tragic to me that there's not more of a focus, among public school staff and people in general, on chucking the prize-bags and getting back to the basics of learning for the joy of it.
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>xaloxe</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/9100577"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">If anyone has any idea on how to help a (nature, not nurture) literalist, perfectionist, sensitive 6 year old get over intense fear of breaking the rules and dissapointing the adults around her I'd love to hear them. We've been trying lots of different things, and have even given her teachers a copy of DD's bill of rights (right to water, healthy food, bathroom, ask qestions, makes mistakes etc.). Like I said, we're still trying to find that balance.</div>
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Part of the reluctance/fear of breaking rules is developmental -- at this age, children still view rules as inviolable. As they get closer to 8 or 9 (sorry, I don't work in this area, so the exact ages are a bit fuzzy in my memory, it might be a bit younger), they begin to see rules more as a social contract that is negotiated -- in other words, rules can be flexible.<br><br>
What we're struggling with for our 6 year old is the perfectionist tendencies and the intense fear of being asked to 'perform' - again nature, not nurture. He's been like this ever since he was born! So, I'd love to hear about how to deal with perfectionism.
 
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