My 8-year-old daughter finds learning anything hard. She's bright, but with some moderate issues identified around sequencing and visual memory. But she resists any kind of teaching from her parents, though to a lesser extent at school. She gets angry, emotional and refuses to even look unless I cajole her. She flares up after a minute, or even less if she's tried the task before. Maths, rote learning, shoelaces, ball skills... She can't wait to get away if she finds anything less than a piece of cake. It's obviously frustrating for her (and maddening for me).

  • Have you tried offering incentives? Treats or privileges that she enjoys? It might be that if she has a positive reward to focus on, it would help her see the value in study, even if it is only a secondary value. Don't offer them for everything (tying shoes and playing ball are not requirements) but math and other educational skills are important enough that you might want to put a high "value" on them. And there are many online applications that make learning fun, and which will advance at the child's level of ability and interest. Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 22:35
  • Thanks. I have steered away from treats, not quite sure why: I guess because it seems to be an issue that crops up so frequently I figured we'd be handing them out left right and centre! Perhaps selective treats might help... She has various apps and school online platforms, but while they're great at practice and steady progression, they're poor at teaching - they don't (can't?) explain process, and it's that initial grasp of concept she shies away from.
    – MatW
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 15:42
  • @MatW Food as a reward is not a good choice, imo. Nor is anything that costs money. You won't always have something to give and your child needs to do things for herself, not for an exact reward. Privileges and fun activities are good rewards. I think TV and computer time are great incentives for work or chores being completed. Better still, a walk, a game of catch, a trip to the park, a family activity that you all love... so your reticence to avoid treats is right on.
    – WRX
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 22:58

1 Answer 1


Your own frustration level is your own worst problem. I know, believe me. Take a minute to calm yourself when necessary, or switch with your partner, if you are able to.

Some things are not necessarily important in this minute. If she needs her shoes tied and it isn't important in this minute -- (no school or important thing is happening), then ignore her request to tie them. I found that learning to tie shoes while they are not on her foot, the easiest way. I also bought two different colours of laces and tied them together at the bottom to make a long-enough lace. She will see the pattern they make. Then it is not hard to see the white lace and the black lace interacting. Then be happy -- this is not urgent. So what if she doesn't learn it in this minute? Let it go!

When it comes to maths/ colours/spelling, and so on -- perhaps look for teaching games -- some can be made by you, others might be borrowed from the library. Board games are a positive and fun way to learn basic skills. There are dozens in retail stores that are tried and true.

There are many computer games that teach these skills. The computer never gets frustrated and simply doesn't allow for the student to reach the next level until they've understood and accomplished the level they are on.

Unless you have reason to think that your child has a learning disability, learning at different rates from other children is perfectly normal. Johnny can make a basket during a game, but can't yet skip. Susie can skip but can't catch. It all works out in the end.

You might find this article from Huff Post interesting. If your daughter feels that you are displeased, it might be impacting her ability to learn from you.

  • "Your own frustration level is your own worst problem" - spot on! There's definitely something in our interactions that is putting a brake on learning; I use every ounce of self restraint to stay calm, but I suspect she can sense that, and knows that I'm anything but, inside. I have failed to find learning apps/sites with enduring appeal and that actually teach, but will look at board games. Love the advice re laces, will definitely try that!
    – MatW
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 15:46
  • @MatW -- I taught special needs kids and many are truly experts at being aggravating, so I had to learn to not let them know that they 'got' me. I really do know just how hard it is. Try to select learning times when it truly doesn't matter. Reward (with things she likes -- but not food or things that cost money) her working with you. I do wish you luck.
    – WRX
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 15:52

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