I almost lost my cool yesterday afternoon while helping my son study for a Spanish quiz. He kept making the same mistakes on something we’ve been studying for about three weeks. Or more.
When was the last time you lost your cool with your kids? If you answered, “Gosh, so long ago I can’t even remember,” then PLEASE do share your secrets, because we’d really like to know (but also we probably won’t believe you and we will all secretly hate you–so there’s that).
So yesterday, in my growing frustration, my voice started doing funny things: the volume went UP and the pitch went HIGH and I started saying something like, “C’mon, we’ve been studying this for three weeks! Can’t you see that Spanish verbs are not masculine or feminine?! An ‘o’ ending goes with the subject pronoun ‘yo’ and an ‘a’ ending goes with the subject pronoun ‘el/ella/usted’!”
Once I got to the “can’t you see” part, I had a funny feeling that I was the captain of a sinking ship. When I heard myself sort of yelling the words “subject pronoun,” I knew I had steered us aground. Grammar terms should never be shouted. They are confusing enough to most people when said with a neutral tone.
I’ve been working hard on helping my son keep his cool. Express his frustration in words. Understand when he needs to take a break. Use the Tony Robbins mantra “change your physiology-change your focus.” But at the moment, I was ignoring my own teachings as a parent.
I hate that.
I don’t want to be a “do as I say, not as I do” parent.
And in my Inbox just this morning, I found Michael Hyatt’s great blog on Leadership at Home.
I noticed my elevated heart rate, my frustration, and the look on my son’s face . . . and I said, “Hey, Jake, I need a break for a few minutes. I want to change my focus. Why don’t you take a break, too?” In his eagerness to escape me and ‘-ar verbs’ he dashed out of the kitchen before I finished my sentence.
For a second, I stood in the kitchen trying to process what just happened. I looked at verb conjugations on the dry erase board. It looked so simple to me, but Jake wasn’t getting it. Somehow, I realized I had not taught this in a way that he would understand it. That’s what teaching is, right? Teaching so that your student, in this case my son, will understand it.
I called in Ghirardelli dark chocolate reinforcements and pondered some more, then, mouth full of chocolate, I checked a couple of news websites for the latest goings on outside in the world beyond my homeschool classroom/kitchen.
Calm and chocolated, I called Jake back into the kitchen. He was wary. I said, “Whew, I was becoming very frustrated, but I realized that I hadn’t explained this to you the right way. Let’s work on a few ideas.” What I realized is that Jake already feels badly enough when he doesn’t “get” something the other kids seem to “get.” My getting upset with him about his learning challenges was only going to make that worse.
So, we made up a rhyme, did a bunch of verbal exercises that had us moving around the kitchen, and repeated the same things over and over. Finally, I saw the dawning of recognition on Jake’s face.
And then we stopped.
We may have to do it all again.
Hopefully I won’t run out of chocolate.
What are your strategies for keeping your cool with your kids?