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Overcoming the “I Don’t Get It” Blues
“Not getting it” happens to every child.

SOURCE: The Well-Centered Child, February 2007

 Most of us can recall a time in school when we just didn’t ‘get’ something. Maybe you, too, have a few memories of how it felt when you didn’t understand something that was being taught.

One dad recalls spending most of the third grade hiding the fact that he couldn’t tell time. He was horrified when his teacher asked him to take a message to the principal’s office for her—“at exactly 1:45.” He had to confess that he hadn’t a clue what that meant…a mom remembers when her construction paper turkey didn’t look at all like the example her kindergarten teacher made for them. She recalls, “Mine looked more like a duck on a bad hair day.”

Small matters, right? But not to a child. When asked to describe how they felt way back then, both parents agree: “Less than brilliant.”

We all know that our own kids are bound to have a similar experience once in a while. “Not getting it” happens to every child. What we want is for them to bounce back, to not lose confidence in themselves as capable learners. Our faith in them helps, of course. So does having their teacher’s support.

But there’s something else that can restore a child’s competence, even during a long spell of “not getting is.” And this old-fashioned remedy is always effective, even when your child hasn’t let you in on a discouraging experience.

Ready? Here it is: Simply give your child a chance to play every day. (It has to be real play, though, where your child decides what to do and how to do it.)

Here’s how having time to play helps kids bounce back from “not getting:”

  • When they’re playing, kids usually choose tasks that challenge, but don’t overwhelm them. “How high can I jump?”… “I’ll bet I can use this cardboard to build something neat with.”
    In play, children set their own challenges and find out they can succeed.
  • When they’re playing, children don’t worry about failing. Play, after all, is supposed to be fun. And you don’t get evaluated on fun. What’s more, because play is a no-risk situation, children often find themselves attempting more and more.
    In play, children try out new skills and discover they can perform at a higher level.
  • When they’re playing, children can pretend that they’re the ones in charge. Instead of being told when to get on the school bus, a child can be the driver. Instead of having to finish his vegetables, he becomes the cook. Instead of taking a test, she gives it. Play builds self-confidence.

In play, children put aside feelings of being powerless and experience being capable.

Give a child time to play, and you’re giving him time to recharge. A child at play is someone who solves problems, generates new ideas, is curious and creative. A child at play is someone who sets and meets challenges, risks trying out new skills, and experiences what it’s like to feel capable and in charge.
And sometimes, a child who plays is someone who is bouncing back from a temporary bout of “not getting it.”