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The Struggle Is Real (And Absolutely Necessary)

Updated: Mar 4, 2020

Parents often step in and help fix their child's problem. In fact, many educators often step in and fix a child’s problem! They like to pave the way, removing obstacles and provide the child an easy road through their journey. Of course we do, it’s in our nature to protect, right? We are doing it out of love and care.

Is it doing more harm than good?

When we pave the road clear of bumps, we are removing any opportunity for the child to figure it out. To feel a little discomfort, to work through the difficulty and come out the other side feeling the sense of achievement. They didn’t need an adult to rescue them. They did it themselves. What power! What life skills!

My teaching style has always been to go beyond ‘independence’. I want the child to know they can work it out for themselves. To learn they are problem-solvers. I have seen many a child grow from being worried about the unexpected, to an unafraid, go-getter. Giving your child little obstacles to overcome can and does work.

Safety around horses is a priority. If there are moments I can leave to unfold with a clear (and safe) consequence, I will. For instance, saddling up a pony for the lesson; saddle blankets go on backwards; girths are hard to reach; buckles can be tricky to undo. Walking towards the mounting block, the pony is led to the wrong side. Under-saddle, a hand is brought too far back for a turn.

Do I interfere? Not always. Not at first. I might role-model a technique, scaffolding the steps. I do not do it all for them – we work as a team. I ask the child to self-assess, “How does that saddle blanket look to you?”. “What happens if you put your foot in the stirrup from this side?” Under-saddle I am lucky enough to have a pony that gives the feedback for me. A hand going too far back, my school pony stops. Brilliant. What better feedback. I may ask “Why has Harry stopped?” and the rider knows – “I confused him with a stop signal”. By giving your child time to either a) struggle or b) self-assess, the learning that happens is deeper and more meaningful to them. If learning is deeper, it will become embedded in their memory and therefore used again. Not to mention the feeling of achievement! The confidence this brings cannot be underrated. Making mistakes works in the same way. 'The Talent Code', by Daniel Coyle is worth reading on the benefits of deep learning and correcting mistakes as you go. We can all be talented, in his opinion, if we practice the right way.

It is therefore important that you, as a parent during lessons, also give your child time to self-assess, struggle a little, and let them do the thinking. Passing them the bridle, calling out they are on the wrong side of the mounting block, telling them the saddle blanket is on backwards, is counterproductive to our goals.

If you want to do all the work for your child, by all means, correct everything and take over. In doing so, they might not gain any new skills.

If you want your child to know how to look after their pony every step of the way, let your child do the learning.

Pam Reid

MTeach(EC), Dip.ES, BSc (Hons) Psychology


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