Around now a number of parents will be coming up to that all important eleven plus chat. In its way the `Eleven Plus Chat’ is almost as important to a ten year old as the `Facts of Life’ chat. In other words it is an ongoing and continuous saga. A little drip here, a little drip there culminating in that nice long walk, just the two of you, when you reach out for insight into your child’s mind. (For some parents and children this will no doubt land up as the famed Eleven Plus Charter.)
You will need to cover a remarkably wide range of subjects so that your child is not immediately suspicious of your motives. If you start with, “And how is school?”
You will deserve the answer, “Fine.” You will need to show some finesse. You will also needs skills in interviewing and diplomacy. Further more you can not rise to an obviously absurd answer. Give yourself time to think between questions and answers. By your demeanour and bearing you will demonstrate to your child that you are serious and approachable. This is not the friendly post argument chat. You are engaging in the, “Rest of My Life” discussion.
What do you want to do and where do you want to go in your next school year?
(This next question will rely, to a certain degree on the replies to the earlier question.)
What sort of work do you think you will need to do between now and then?
Are there any subjects that you are worried about?
(This question could be a little specious to any child approaching a one topic eleven plus.)
What can we, as a family, do to try to help you to do as well possible?
Are there any facilities or materials that you can think of that would make your life easier while you are preparing? (Other than the last games machine that links to the internet.)
Do you want us to talk about the Eleven Plus or should we call your preparation by another name? If so what name would you like? (Some parents refer to Eleven Plus work by a wide variety of names ranging from `extra studies’ to the euphemism `fun work’.
Would you like to engage in a binding contract, called the “Eleven Plus Contract”, where we agree the type and extent of work? This would cover hours of work, amount of work, rewards, prizes and bonus of completion of contract.
Parents would need to be aware at this stage that their child has considerable insight into the thinking of parental minds. After all children know innately when to play mum off against dad. Children will also understand weak points in a mother’s reasoning; after all you could be up against one of the finest legal minds in the country when you try to build a useful and durable contract with your child. Any eleven plus child worthy of the name should be able to win a few good arguments against vulnerable, weak willed but very worthy parents.
As you return from your walk invigorated and fulfilled you will no doubt have some quiet moments for reflection. Once you have agreed on the contract leave the subject until you have it down in writing. Engage a neutral observer to look over the contract with you and your child. (If you do use bribery with the so called `neutral’, to make sure that the contract lands up in your favour, please do not do any negotiating in front of your child! You may live to rue the day. Bright children have long memories for so called injustice.)
A national `Eleven Plus Charter’ may arise from your pioneering work. You and your child could be recognised by every present and future eleven plus parents in the land. Every time you signed the charter certificate, as the national president and founder of the `Eleven Plus Charter’, you could think back to those few moments you took to talk to your child and listen and respond to the answers.