“Ease up, ringmaster”

“Ease up, ringmaster”
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First Published: Sat, Aug 23 2008. 12 18 AM IST
Updated: Sat, Aug 23 2008. 12 18 AM IST
My 12-year-old daughter is good at studies — a 90% student. But when she writes her exams, I find that she often copies her answer wrong (from the correct rough work)—and hence, gets a zero for the sum. Sometimes she just forgets to label diagrams and loses marks on that account. I get her to study and do homework for at least 5 hours every day. When I get her to solve papers at home, she does everything perfectly. But in school exams, she loses at least 10 marks through such errors. She doesn’t even bother to check her answer-scripts and get a fix on her mistakes when they come back to her. What can I do?
Your daughter is possibly “overprepared” at home. Children whose parents work with them on their studies all the time tend to do this: They are on their toes at home, where they are being watched constantly, and they study hard and write all the right things, but there is, possibly, no real learning or retention. Once they’re away from the home atmosphere, they tend to “relax” — in school, they become part of a mass and don’t have anybody breathing down their necks, if you will pardon the expression. Since you have been quite demanding and exacting in your home study routine, she manages to perform well with you around and in the atmosphere of a great deal of focusing and concentration. However, at school she probably relaxes (over-relaxes) and blanks out, and this results in carelessness.
She is still young, and marks are not so very important right now. If you can let go a little and loosen up the home routine, you may find the situation reversing slowly, with her performing better in exams. Right now, you are the taskmaster, while school is where she can be a bit slack. It should be the other way round, really: The child should be on her toes while writing the exam, and able to relax a little at home, make some mistakes in the preparatory practices that you put her through.
There’s another aspect to this, too. You say that she doesn’t want to or couldn’t be bothered to look at the returned answer-scripts. Why would she, given that you study them in such detail and analyse what went wrong for her? You’re playing ringmaster and secretary rolled into one to your child! You possibly need to step back a little. Your perfectionism is cutting her off from taking responsibility herself. She knows that Mama is in control and will do not just the studying with her, but even the analysis of what went wrong. In this way, your daughter ends up staying completely out of the process of learning, retaining, focusing during exams, and staying connected to the result and the feedback on her paper.
While it is understandable that parents want to stay close to their kids on the homework and studies front, we need to give them the leeway to make mistakes, and note the consequences of those mistakes. This simply will not happen while you’re mentally taking the entire onus of her studies, exams and results. Your child has to begin to want to do well on her own, and not only because you want it for her.
Send your queries to Gouri at learningcurve@livemint.com
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First Published: Sat, Aug 23 2008. 12 18 AM IST
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