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How to parent a stubborn child who lacks interest in studies?

Thursday, 08 September 2005
Answered by: Dr. S. Anandalakshmy
Consultant in Child Development & Education,

Chennai
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Q. This is regarding my son who will turn twelve this year. We have noticed a very arrogant streak and some behavioural changes in our child especially when it is time to study. He studies for a short time and then gets restless. If we beat him he becomes violent and dangerous, and hits back. He does not like to be beaten and hence we cannot correct him. Last year he fell from the cycle and got a big lump at the back of his head, which subsided later. A scan of the head was done and the report was normal with no skull injury. He only wants to enjoy life and rest, and take life easy. Please let me know if he should be taken to psychiatrist? Some months back when he was in school in the classroom, he got a black out with acute pain in the head and could not see anything. He slept with his head on the desk for a few minutes and then was fine. He is thinly built and is very fussy about food. He is excellent at playing video games, chess and football. What should we do?

A.  Dear Parents, You are interested in your son doing well in school, so that he can have a happy and successful future, I think. But in the process, you are making it very hard for him to be happy or successful in the present. Let me explain. He has had a head injury, eight months ago and a blackout a month ago. Perhaps it has not occurred to you that his minor behavioural problems could be a result of the injuries. I use the word minor deliberately. Nothing that you have reported suggests a major problem, except perhaps in your perception of your son. He enjoys video games and chess, you say. That is a good level of brain functioning. He enjoys football with his neighbours, you say. That is a clear indication of appropriate social functioning. I find that you are very severe in your judgment of him. By treating him as you do, it can be expected that he will get angry and retaliate. Why should you beat a child who does not tell you what he has just read? Give him a little more psychological space. Let him take responsibility for his own work, without the nagging presence of parents. If he gets pulled up in school, he will learn to pay more attention and to complete his assignments. Surely, being playful as an 11 year old, cannot be a crime! Children of this age are gradually outgrowing their childhood and would not like to be under an autocratic regimen, in school or home. A little gentleness and humour on your part will certainly help. Share some of his interests with him. You say that he does not like to be beaten (slapped). Do you know anyone who likes it? We as adults use our power and authority over children to arrive at some goal that we have set. Each child is unique and individual in interests and inclinations. There is no standard mould into which they must fit. If you continue to be so harsh, your child will submit for the time being and then get away as soon as he can. Your child is given to you in trust (Kahlil Gibran has a beautiful verse about it). Use your parenting years more enjoyably.

A.  Dear Parents, You are interested in your son doing well in school, so that he can have a happy and successful future, I think. But in the process, you are making it very hard for him to be happy or successful in the present. Let me explain. He has had a head injury, eight months ago and a blackout a month ago. Perhaps it has not occurred to you that his minor behavioural problems could be a result of the injuries. I use the word minor deliberately. Nothing that you have reported suggests a major problem, except perhaps in your perception of your son. He enjoys video games and chess, you say. That is a good level of brain functioning. He enjoys football with his neighbours, you say. That is a clear indication of appropriate social functioning. I find that you are very severe in your judgment of him. By treating him as you do, it can be expected that he will get angry and retaliate. Why should you beat a child who does not tell you what he has just read? Give him a little more psychological space. Let him take responsibility for his own work, without the nagging presence of parents. If he gets pulled up in school, he will learn to pay more attention and to complete his assignments. Surely, being playful as an 11 year old, cannot be a crime! Children of this age are gradually outgrowing their childhood and would not like to be under an autocratic regimen, in school or home. A little gentleness and humour on your part will certainly help. Share some of his interests with him. You say that he does not like to be beaten (slapped). Do you know anyone who likes it? We as adults use our power and authority over children to arrive at some goal that we have set. Each child is unique and individual in interests and inclinations. There is no standard mould into which they must fit. If you continue to be so harsh, your child will submit for the time being and then get away as soon as he can. Your child is given to you in trust (Kahlil Gibran has a beautiful verse about it). Use your parenting years more enjoyably.

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