My daughter Ava was born on June 10 under the zodiac sign of Gemini. A Gemini child is one who likes to explore and hates to be confined. Always on the move, Gemini children are easily bored and constantly seeking entertainment. In addition, Gemini babies are reported to talk earlier than other boys and girls under different signs, a chattiness that is never outgrown.
Where did Ava come from? She is nothing like little Gemini. She’s not interested in leaving the front or back yard, she is the first one to buckle her seatbelt, and we thought for a while that she suffered from Selective Mutism. The child smiles a lot, but that’s about all you’re going to get from her. Ava is not the extroverted Gemini by any stretch of the galaxy. Ava is just like her mother: Taurus the Bull.
Yes, meet stubborn, bull-headed Taurus, born on a date only a few weeks before little Gemini. Mother Taurus is a bull who’s happy to be by herself to graze, until she’s annoyed by another bull. At such time, Mother Taurus turns on her terrible temper, often brought on by a change in her once peaceful surroundings. When Taurus the Bull works, she works harder than anyone — a dependable, steady effort — but Taurus is hesitant to step beyond the capable line.
My Ava, wrongfully born under the sign of Gemini, does not want to participate in anything — not dance, not soccer and not even Accelerated Reader, a literacy program supported by her elementary school. Quiet and reserved, shy and guarded, independent reading should be the one thing that attracts Ava. But it doesn’t. She hates the thought of competitive reading and she really hates the idea of taking comprehension tests a few times a week. It had become such an issue in our house that I was concerned her attitude toward the program would kill her interest in reading altogether…and no child in the third grade should give up books.
If you aren’t familiar with Accelerated Reader (or Aggravated Reader as I call it), “AR” is an assessment that primarily determines whether or not a child has read a book. AR’s creator, Renaissance Learning, does not require or advocate the use of incentives with the assessment, although most schools use them to generate involvement.
There are three steps to using Accelerated Reader. First, students choose and read a fiction or non-fiction book, textbook or magazine. Second, students take a quiz. Third, the teacher receives information that is intended to assist, motivate reading, monitor progress and target instruction. Finally, reports regarding reading level and comprehension skills are generated for parent review.
The program — an outcome of the “No Child Left Behind” Act — is voluntary in elementary schools. When Ava heard this, she opted not to participate despite being told by her father that “Yes, you will do A.R.” Of course, she got upset and cried, which set off a domino effect of stressors to read enough books to take enough tests to earn enough points by the rapidly approaching deadline.
Incentives do not impress Ava. She is not interested in more time to play outside, being able to bring her Nintendo DS to school, or getting a goodie bag filled with trinkets and toys. She’s content — like Ferdinand the Bull — sitting under a tree watching the world go by.
“There’s no reason why she shouldn’t do this,” my husband countered when I suggested we leave the situation alone. “She’s an excellent reader and a bright student. She just doesn’t want to and that’s not acceptable.”
This is when Taurus charged Virgo in the kitchen.
“But she doesn’t want to do it! It’s an option! We shouldn’t push her! If we do, she’ll just pull out of it completely! This is not a battle worth fighting right now!” I protested, nostrils flaring and hooves digging into the hardwood floor.
Sensitive, individualistic kids tend to be more creative, but they’re also less likely to perform in front of others, which is why they’re often referred to as “The Diminishers.” And most of the rewards aren’t persuasive enough to bring them out of their shells.
Experts warn that introverted children will not perform well under timed pressure, and measuring their speed is a mistake. So what motivates an introvert to get moving?
Introverts, like our famous Bulls, couldn’t care less about money, candy or a new pony. They respond to intrinsic rewards — feelings of accomplishment and a sense of pride. Ava was comfortable with her situation: She could read well and well above her grade level, and she had recorded A’s in all of her classes. What more did she have to do?
Please her parents.
“I’m going to be disappointed if you don’t participate in A.R.,” Mike told her. “I want you to do this because you can, and you’ll be so proud of yourself when it’s over.”
One of Taurus’ weaknesses is accepting less than she can achieve. Slow, methodical, practical and reserved, this type of person is incredibly loyal — particularly to those people who provide her with security. Knowing Ava as well as I know myself, I sensed that she would do anything for her dad.
Fair or not, Mike asked Ava to “do it for me.” After days of protest and a few tears, she completed the Accelerated Reader requirements and met her goal just before Halloween. She bounced out of school announcing “I DID IT!” and showed me the books she had checked out of the library, which she hoped to read over the weekend.
Zodiac theorists believe that it is best not to try to force children to do things. The danger is that the child will turn stubborn and Taureans can hold their ground for a long time. It is best to avoid harsh commands because affection and empathy are the most effective ways to end resistance. But once this type of child learns something – the easy way or the hard way — it will not be forgotten.
Sometimes you just have to take the bull by the horns.