Thursday, January 17, 2013

Precision, Please!

I had some fun planned for our homeschool day.  First we’d get a little math out of the way.  ALEKS – Esmé doesn’t like computation practice, but she can do her review and master a topic in under 10 minutes when she has her game on.

Her topic choice of the day, however, left much to be desired in her mind.  Round two or three numbers and add the rounded numbers to come up with an estimated sum.  I explain how I use this little trick all the time in evaluating financials, working budgets in a group setting, etc.  It’s perfectly handy and good to know when you need approximate numbers on the fly.

But WHY would you calculate an estimated sum when you can calculate the actual sum?!  Absolutely ludicrous to Miss 5yo Esmé, who can calculate actual sums perfectly fine, thank you very much….

So she didn’t get her game on.  Refused to do it.  Insisted she didn’t know how. 

I tried various motivators.  I gave her a time limit.  Started taking the fun plans away one by one.  Sent her to her room for some serious time out.

She was fine.  No worries – she popped in a read-aloud CD and read along in her Bible storybooks, curled up on her bed. 

These are the times her intrinsic motivators kick in.  She couldn’t care less about the motivators I attempt to use on her, even less about my feelings on the matter.

Me – I’m miserable.  All these plans for naught – there is so much cool stuff we could be exploring together.

I wonder if I’m ludicrous to “discipline” my 5yo over her refusal to do 3rd grade math on a non-school day.

I wonder if I’m ludicrous for expecting my 5yo to do math that makes no sense to her.  Should I just let her lead the way?  I’m the one who believes she’s an autonomous learner.  Maybe I should back off.

My issue is not so much the math – I know she CAN do it.  It’s the refusal to follow directions.  To do what is asked even when it doesn’t make sense in her mind.  That is the biggest behavior issue her teachers have with her at school, and the biggest issue we have with her at home.

Now what?


Julieanne said...

You're right - it's not the math that's the problem. She's a smart girl, but she hasn't figured out the smartness of obedience and respect toward you, from what you've said here on your blog, and that's a very big problem.

I'd leave the academic extras behind for now and really focus on character training. There are so many ways to do this, and it is one of the most important things in life. If she knows you won't do anything fun, no listening to CD's (even if it's Bible songs, etc.), no reading books, no computer use, no playing with the dog, anything that is fun to her would be "outlawed" until she learns to show respect and obedience to you, this may change things up. You would be the "mean mama" in her eyes for a few days or few weeks, but if you're consistent and pray with her a lot about obedience and respect toward you as her parent, you might see her making some changes and see her spirit softening.

Since the teachers are also noticing that this is a big problem at school, this is definitely a character issue that needs to be weeded out of her heart.

I know she's strong willed, but the Lord can use that strength for His good some day when she is willing to surrender and be obedient to Christ! But she'll have to learn the obedience toward her parents and those in authority over her, first.

If this was in our family, whether we homeschooled or not, I would show much love on my face, much kindness, and with gentle words explain how our family isn't going to live this way anymore, having her show the level of disrespect that she shows...because if you think it's bad now, just imagine what it will be when she's 15! I know she can be a very sweet girl, so I'm not dissing her. We've had character issues in our children, too, and will always be working on them until they mature to adulthood, but this respect/obedience thing is huge.

When my girls were Esme's age, I found that when I gave them too many choices, they began to lose respect and honor toward me, and it made things miserable for a while until I figured it out.

So, I stopped asking them what they wanted for lunch, how they wanted different foods prepared, whether they wanted butter or jam or PB on their toast, etc. It didn't mean that they would never have those choices again, but as long as they continued to show disrespect toward their parents in our home, they needed to learn to take things as they are offered or as they come.

That was only one of the many things we did to curb this kind of behavior, and it really worked well. Even my very stubborn, strong-willed one is very compliant now most of the time. She learned that without showing disrespect, her life became pretty miserable. When she wasn't allowed to read books, listen to anything, eat snacks and treats, have any say on food choices, play with pets, play with electronic devices, play games with the family, play outside, just about everything removed that would be enjoyable in any sense of the word, her heart turned away from the "dark side". :)

Julieanne said...

But we also chose to do this without anger, screaming, unkind tones of voices. We explained to her that we had been allowing her to do X, Y, and Z at home, and it was starting to negatively affect her life in a dishonorable, ungodly way...and that we, as her parents, were commanded by God to help her get this character problem under control so she could avoid giving the control to Satan who was enjoying watching her be a brat all day long. (She's a smart cookie, too, like your Esme!)

With gentleness, kindness, and a ton of firmness that was consistent, she learned the basics over several months' time, and it made a huge difference in our home and our outlook on life. Plus, her Sunday School teachers, Awana leaders, etc. began to enjoy her much more as well!

I mention that to say that I'm not just offering suggestions based on no experience. We've been there, and because of some of the choices we chose to make with her, we had problems. But changing our parenting style and what we would allow in our home, plus praying with our daughter about this core issue regularly, did make a big difference.

Often, it's how we word things that will make a difference. We chose to say, "It's time to do such and such," so the clock became the "bad guy" instead of us. We didn't say, "Would you like to do your math now?" or open-ended questions where the strong-willed child is naturally going to say, "No!"

I hope some of this helps. I've always thought you were a fabulous parent - and still do! Your daughter's life has been greatly enriched by you! But this one character issue sounds like it is becoming a defining part of her life - and that's not healthy, honorable, or fun for anyone else to be around.

I'll be praying for your family! :)

lfhpueblo said...

Maybe a Bible story, showing how the disciples were first followers of Jesus Christ learning what he was teaching them and obeying him, so that one day when he felt they were old enough and wise enough that they could be leaders to teach others about Jesus Christ and leaders to set up Churches. A story showing that first we must be followers of mom and dad and then when we are old enough and wise enough we get to be the leaders. I don't know if that would help, but possibly.

lfhpueblo said...

You might show her daily for a few weeks the Bible Verse about honoring your Mother and Father so your days will be long on the earth too. Explain to her what the word honor means and explain to her by giving her examples of when she acts certain ways or says certain things that she is not honoring you. Don't know if it will help, but maybe.