How to: Help Your Child Overcome Plateaus and Ruts

Does it seem like your child is in a rut? Are they suddenly struggling with completing tasks? Learning new tasks? Or overcoming challenges? Meeting new milestones? Changing a few simple things about your daily routine and outlook can make a big difference in helping your child succeed. 

First, consider the importance of being in a relationship that is centered on trust. When children feel they can trust their parent, caregiver, therapist or teacher, they are likely to be more comfortable and confident in themselves and what they are trying to accomplish.

Your child may be experiencing pressures that you don’t even realize are there. Pressure can come from both positive and negative sources. Many view pressure as negative, such as being punished for the inability to complete a task (ex. If you do not put your toys away, you will not be allowed to watch tv before bed.) Positive pressures, like working to accomplish 10 correct responses by the end of an activity in order to receive a reward, can also influence the way a child is performing. Although they are working towards something they want, there is still pressure on them to do it correctly or else they will not get it. If your child feels pressure to complete a task, they may not be performing to the best of their abilities.

Take a moment and think about if you were asked to do something new, would you feel most confident doing it with someone watching you the whole time or timing how long it takes you to complete? Or would you prefer to be in a relaxed and familiar environment where you feel comfortable and not afraid to make mistakes?

By providing a pressure free or lower pressure environment, we can better promote trust and confidence we want children to have when attempting new and challenging tasks!

As a parent or caregiver of a child, it is important to take into consideration a variety of factors that may be affecting your child’s performance at any given moment. First and foremost, it is not often that a child is ‘choosing’ to have a bad day. Rather, they may be acting or feeling different due to varying factors in their lives.

In order for a child to be able to effectively complete a task – including communication – their systems must be balanced. Yes, each person is made up of a set of systems that are influenced by several factors. When viewing the body as a set of systems, it can be challenging for some children to find a steady balance of their physical, mental, and social-emotional systems, as they may be affected by both internal and external influences. Consider all of these systems as a set of interconnected rubber bands, when one is stretched out, the others move with it and will too stretch out to a certain degree. Natural occurrences such as growth spurts or other typical parts of development may interrupt what appears to be a period of growth, this is okay. It is not uncommon for children to show progression in one area and appear to be digressing in another area for a period of time. When considered as a set of moving systems, as one of these areas, or rubberbands begins to expand, we see an adverse effect in another area to allow expansion to happen.

Consider factors such as the weather, lack of sleep, illness, exhaustion from a long day at school, or being away for vacation. All of these factors can impact a child in different ways, whether it be feeling tired, congested, or out of their normal routine.

Take a moment and consider how you feel when these factors vary in your own life. If you are feeling sick with a cold or you just returned from a week long vacation, it may be more challenging to focus on the task you are doing or to even find the motivation to complete it.

Children may be feeling the same way when they are asked to complete a task. Your child may not be in a balanced place physically, emotionally, or mentally in order to be successful in that moment.  When our bodies experience variations in our normal routines, it takes time to re-adjust. If you notice your child is having trouble completing a task they previously did, don’t stress, it is likely that they are adjusting to the changes that they are experiencing.

In order for children to be successful, it is important that they have support, which can be provided in a variety of ways. Being there for your child, providing them with positive and encouraging words, or even just letting them know you are there to help them if they need it. You can provide a supportive and loving environment by taking time to ask your child what they learned at school and encourage communication. If your child is not able to use words to communicate yet, be sure to incorporate them in whatever you are doing, allow them to play a role in choosing what they want to drink or what book they want to read. Even just talking to your children about what you see around you so they know you are present with them.

Remember, you are the best support system your child can have! Doing simple things like keeping a positive outlook, considering pressures your child may be feeling and praising your child’s attempts and accomplishments can lead to increased success! If you begin to experience frustration, take a moment to consider why your child may be having a difficult time and what you may be able to change to best support your child while they work through challenges.


Written by LLA Therapy Speech Therapist, Katie George


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