My son is smart. He’s so smart that he was climbing out of his crib several months before he turned two, could somersault out of the porta-crib at 14 months, learned how to stack up stuffed animals to reach the light switch by 22 months, and knew how to remove safety doorknob covers at 2 1/2.
Suffice it to say, he kept us on our toes.
We would often joke that he is super-smart when it comes to being devious, but when it comes to academics, he’s just not that interested. And I have to make a confession that pains me: I would often think that he was choosing to be lazy when it came to school work.
Here are some of the descriptions we’ve heard from daycare staff, camp counselors, or school personnel:
“Connor is very smart and knows what he’s doing. He knows when he’s doing something he shouldn’t be.”
“Connor is very capable, but only if it’s a preferred activity.”
“Connor can be lazy, and doesn’t want to put in the effort if it doesn’t involved playing and having fun.”
After a while, some of that seeps into your subconscious. And getting through first grade this year, I started to wonder if maybe there wasn’t some truth to him being “lazy” when it came to reading or doing spelling and math worksheets.
This weekend, I was trying to get Connor to read one of the new early reader books I’d bought him. He refused, and wanted to keep going back to the same book he’d read twenty times already. I told him they were both Level 2, and it wouldn’t be a harder book.
Finally I asked, “Why? Why don’t you want to read a book that is the same level as the other one?”
His response? “Because I don’t want to get any words wrong.”
I’m not Attila the Hun when it comes to reading. I help him to sound out words he doesn’t readily know, and I cheer him on as he reads, saying “good job!” or “Nice reading!”
But for him, it’s the anxiety that accompanies not knowing something. The simple act of not knowing bothers him to such a degree, that he doesn’t want to venture into any new territory.
I was struck by a terrible sadness for thinking it was sheer “laziness” that kept him from reading new books, when all along the issue was anxiety-related.
Now I need to fix this. I need to find a way to motivate him and alleviate the anxiety of learning. We’ve talked at length about how getting things wrong is part of the process of learning. And it’s okay. Everyone gets things wrong sometimes.
Still, it’s going to be a long road. I wonder, what do you do when your child’s anxiety prevents them from moving forward in school??