Math can be tough

I came across an intriguing idea about parenting yesterday. It is a principle that I unknowingly already practiced, and which I now have expressed in words so that I can focus on getting better at it. It is regarding using the conscience of a child to teach them lessons. To explain, let me tell you what happened yesterday.

Once a week I have a chance to tutor two (and soon to be three) boys in school. Only a few years ago they were pulled from public school to start homeschool. The problem is, both parents have jobs, and the mother is only available to teach the boys once or twice a week. Both grandmas alternate babysitting and schooling the boys for the rest of the week. Neither the grandmothers nor the mother know how to teach math well. That is where I come in.

One of the grandmas of these boys lives very near me and she asked me if I could tutor her grandsons in math. I put them on a new curriculum that I help them with and they are doing very well now. It’s a win-win for me, because the boys live on a farm, while I live in the city. I get to visit their farm once a week and help them with their schoolwork, and then we get to play for the rest of the day. I am good friends with the boys, and we will often play card or board games, go out sledding, do farm chores, or explore the property together after school is over. To me it seems I get to play with my friends on a farm and get paid for it!

But tutoring isn’t always fun. Some days, like yesterday, the boys will get moody or act up during school time, which puts me in an awkward position. I try my best to be gently firm with them and to be positive enough to coax them to continue their schoolwork with a good attitude. But since I am their friend as well as their teacher, I feel awkward being stern or doing much more than gently chiding them for their misdeeds. If the boys will not cooperate, I will usually suggest that they take a break for a little bit until they are ready to do their school well.

Yesterday, the oldest of the boys, who is generally quieter and more broody than his brothers, was having a somewhat frustrating day. He got in trouble with his grandma for the way he was picking on his little brother, and he had an extra long day in school. Things weren’t going his way, and so after lunch, I couldn’t get him to actually think about the questions in his lesson. I did my best to persuade him to put effort into his work and do well, but he didn’t listen. When I asked him a question, he would respond with “I don’t know” or wouldn’t respond at all. I asked if he wanted to take a break or to switch to a different subject, but he just wouldn’t answer me.

I resorted to telling his grandma that I thought he needed to take a break in his room because I couldn’t make any progress with him. I turned my attention to his brother, who had finished his school and wanted to play a game with me. But unbeknownst to me, he and his grandma had a conversation that would warm my heart when I heard about it.

The grandma asked the oldest boy to help her carry something upstairs. He obliged, and upstairs, as his grandma later told me in private, he sincerely apologized for the way he had been acting. He actually started to cry, and the apology and the tears caught his grandma off guard. She forgave him, and he didn’t protest when she hugged him.

I learned all of this later when his grandma told me. She was very surprised and proud of her grandson for apologizing, and she told me that she had overheard me earlier, teaching him a Bible verse about how every man thinks that he is in the right, and how God knows everyone’s heart. She told me he must have been influenced by that verse, and I agreed.

That is when I realized: the boy apologized because his conscience told him that the way he had been acting was wrong. If I had gotten angry with him, or punished him for not listening, he would have felt justified in they way he was acting because of the way I was acting. He would’ve gotten angry at me, and justifiably so. But because I was kind, optimistic, and firm towards him, after he had a moment to think about his actions, his conscience weighed heavily on his heart and he apologized earnestly.

I’m not the best at this. Even the best of us are prone to become angry and harsh when others are continuously ignoring our best efforts to help them. We all need to work on being kind even when frustrated (me especially). But if we do, we may allow space for consciences to be pricked and true repentance to come about. I hope this realization helped you as it did me.

Be blessed, friends.

-Wanderlust Bear

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