Methods On Teaching A Child Something They Are Not Interested In

Published by alvinauh on

As a swimming coach, I have come across many students who were ‘strongly encouraged’ by their parents to learn swimming. As such, there are those who would resist learning through wails, cries and sometimes, violence. As an educator, we would try to teach our students as best we can. However, how do you convince a child to learn something he doesn’t want to?

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For the purpose of this post, I will be speaking from the perspective of a swimming coach and English teacher. Some of the methods here can be adapted in teaching other subjects. In general, I find that most students are rather fearful to try something. I believe that as humans, we gravitate towards pleasure and shun pain altogether. Since learning a new skill or something new requires some practice, this is often equated to pain. Thus, most would be resistant towards it.

As an example, most students I know are fearful in learning swimming. The only difference is either they ‘protest’ loudly or they do so silently. For the loud ones, they would be yelling their heads off, while the quiet ones would be trembling in fear. My part in all this however, is to boost their self confidence.

Taking The Leap

In swimming, I would place my students at the edge of the pool. As I beckon them to take the leap and try swimming to me, I would promise them that they would only be in the water for at most, 5 seconds. I would promise them that I will pull them out of the water after 5 seconds is up.

Some of my students would take that leap. Upon me pulling them out of the water, they will start to trust me. Furthermore, it builds their self confidence. As such, they will be willing to try anything you ask to do.

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However, for the students who are fearful, they will spend a long time, trembling in fear at the edge of the pool. Normally, I would wait for them to take the leap. Most of them do eventually after 20 minutes or so. Then, there are those who would try to out-wait me. For these special breed of students, I would give them a slight ‘nudge’. After they have fallen into the pool, I will pull them out of the pool and encourage them to try again.

Cutting The Problem Into Bite-Sized Pieces

I find teaching essays and speaking to be two of the hardest things in English. Most students are fine with listening and reading tasks. However, include a presentation here and an essay there, the class morale would immediately drop. A lot of my students are unwilling to participate in such activities.

I have found a way around this but introducing the entire task to the students in ‘bite-sized pieces’. In other words, I would divide the task out for the students, encouraging them to complete several small tasks instead of one huge daunting task. An example is in the form of a long essay. In this case, I would not ask the students to write 500 words, instead, I would divide the task into several manageable 50 word tasks.

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After the students have completed all the 50 word tasks, I would combine them altogether and using this as a way to encourage them. I believe that if students can see what they are capable of, they are more willing to take risks and venture into the unknown of learning.


In the end, teaching students to learn something they don’t want is as much as encouraging them to venture out of their comfort zone. It is not easy and can be painful at times, but once they take that leap, it would build up their self confidence and willingness to try any task in the future.