Often after a winter break, a holiday season, during periods of particularly cold, gloomy weather or on days when white, sparkling snow seems just perfect for outdoor activities, children attending afternoon language courses start to rebel and refuse to go to classes.

As I have been experiencing this as a mother and several parents have approached me lately with this problem, I have decided to make a list of tips which might help us deal with such situations. Obviously, there are as many solutions as there are children, which is why I will mainly focus on methods which have worked for me, but I encourage everyone to leave their tips and advice in the comments below.

Firstly, we have to find out if our child’s reluctance has been caused by the course itself or by any other external factors. This seems quite easy – all you need to do is to observe your child’s reactions before and after classes. If before a class he or she sulks, throws a tantrum, demonstrates active or passive resistance, but in the end, after being convinced of even forced to enter the classroom, leaves the class smiling a happy or excited smile, you are good. And if, when asked about the lesson, your child responds with a more or less detailed story, you may assume that the teacher’s approach or the way classes are taught are okay, that the problem does not lie with the language course. But if you notice the opposite, for example that on leaving the classroom the child still does not show any enthusiasm towards the course and swears never to come to class again, and if this happens regularly, several times in a row, then you definitely need to consult a methodology consultant at your school or a Local Method Coordinator in the case of a Teddy Eddie course. Such situation requires that your child’s reactions be seen “from the inside” by a person supervising the language course. However, if you are dealing with the first scenario and your child leaves the classroom in high spirits, you have to search for the cause elsewhere.

Try to figure out what circumstances give rise to protests and objections by modifying your habits and routines, testing different situations. Let me give you a few examples from my experience as a mum of a little rebel.

  • My son attends a preschool, where he usually spends eight hours a day, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. We try to pick him up early if possible, but I’ve noticed that when we get back home before 3 p.m. he immediately hides in his room and starts to play. I guess that this is his way to calm down after preschool, which is quite a busy and noisy environment. So when I wanted us to leave the house again at a quarter to 4 p.m. (this is when our English classes start), I encountered fierce protests and opposition. My son was definitely not happy to have to stop playing and to leave for group activities once again. So I changed our schedule and on days when we have afternoon classes, we go to our English lesson directly from preschool which usually is the best way to
    avoid any problems.
  • I’ve also noticed that my child doesn’t like to be taken by surprise and prefers to know his daily schedule. Now, as a five year old, he already remembers days of the week and he knows on which days we have English classes, but when he was younger, he would often be surprised on being told that straight from preschool we were going to visit Teddy Eddie, and his plan for the day would be ruined. So I introduced a new routine, and each day during breakfast we remembered what day it was and what our schedule was for that day. This method helped me avoid any unpleasant surprises in the preschool cloakroom, which was really helpful not only in terms of language classes but also other errands we had to run in the afternoons.

Secondly – consistency is key. Let’s be honest, we also don’t feel like doing anything at times… And even our favourite yoga or zumba classes don’t seem that appealing when we have to force ourselves to leave our warm and cozy home. Our role as parents who believe in early language education is to motivate and not to give up. We have all surely had our children try to convince us that they don’t have to go to preschool because they don’t feel like it, or that they don’t have to eat dinner because they’re not hungry, etc. But as these are important and inevitable things in the life of a preschooler, they simply must be done, and the same should apply to a language course. Let me share one more example – my son knows very well that trips to the playground, a playroom or to the cinema are optional and we can always decide whether we feel like going or not, we always have a choice. However, both of us also have duties, which we cannot say “no” to – mum has her job and he has preschool and English classes. By giving equal status to these activities, we eliminate the sense of their being optional.

Thirdly – the right communication. We never stop learning to communicate with our children. And there is no one universal approach, because all children are different, as are their problems, protests and crises. Dilly-dallying or regular protests when it’s time to leave for language classes can often (let’s be honest) drive us crazy. But it’s best to keep your nerves in check and make an effort to find, by trial-and-error, a method which actually works for our child. Let me, once again, share the approach I use, which might be helpful to some of you. My son loves making things up and telling silly stories (as do most kids, I guess). So when he starts to moan and doesn’t want to put on his shoes to go to his English class, I start a conversation along these lines:

  • Well, I’m totally with you on this. I don’t feel like putting my shoes on, either. I’d like to have a pair of shoes that would jump right on my feet by themselves. But is it possible?(This is usually where the moaning gradually subsides, replaced with curiosity). What do you think, would these be with strap closure or laces? And how would they be able to jump on our feet? Would they need a pair of wings? Or some springs attached to them? (At this stage, my son is totally engaged in the storytelling process, offering his own ideas, while at the same time getting dressed and slowly leaving the house).

Fourthly – what I always advise against is bribery and offering rewards for attending classes. This kind of “motivation” is a very short-term solution which teaches children that when they force themselves to do something, they deserve a treat. It might stop working very soon: “I prefer not to get any sweets but stay at home!” or might leave us with escalated demands: “Today, I want a surprise egg but next week I won’t go anywhere without a new Lego Star Wars set!” Bribery makes children develop a demanding attitude to life and takes away all the pleasure of learning. It also destroys intrinsic motivation, which we want them to develop as it is the only truly sustainable motivation.

Dear parents, don’t give up! We all know that they will thank us one day!

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The author of the text is Ola Komada, co-author of the TEDDY EDDIE licensed method, teacher, the main trainer and methodologist of the company responsible for the product development. She is Zuzia and Emil’s mum but sometimes treats the “bears” as her children, too. If you have any questions, drop a line to the author: ola.komada@edubears.pl.