A sweet 9-year-old student whom I tutor came in the other day in a somewhat low-key mood. He got ready to do the math that I had planned for him. We were working on calculating the area of various shapes that had combinations of triangles, rectangles, and circles. When I started showing him the first of these, he couldn’t immediately see how the combinations worked and got frustrated immediately. “It’s too hard! Give me another problem.” I thought for a second and then decided to try another problem that was slightly simpler. I knew that he was capable of doing both problems. It was well within his reach. But once again, he said, “It’s too hard. I don’t want to do this problem. Give me a different problem.”
He was now more visibly frustrated. I knew at this point that it was not the problems that were the problem. There was something else going on. So I decided to stay with the second problem and gently said, “I think you can do this one.” At this point, he was ready to tear up the papers and I didn’t let him. He got off the chair and threw himself onto the carpet. Tears flowed.
I asked, “What’s going on, sweetie?” That morning his mom had sent me an email saying that his dad had been traveling for nearly 2 weeks and was due back the next day, and that her son was missing him a lot. So I paused and then asked, “Are you missing your dad?”
It was apparently the right question. The floodgates opened. He talked about how he had been talking over the phone and over FaceTime, but how it was still not the same as having him be there in person. I agreed, “It’s not the same. I’m so sorry you’re missing him. I bet he misses you too.” And he said, “Yes. And I kiss him over the computer, but it’s not the same as kissing him directly. I have to kiss the little camera on the computer. It’s just not the same.”
It was just such a tender moment. A boy missing his dad. I sat there and simply listened to his feelings.
And within a few minutes he was ready to move on and was able to easily grasp how a certain shape might be viewed as a rectangle minus two other smaller rectangles and how a certain other shape might be viewed as a circle minus a square. And he could then see how the areas could be calculated.
And all it took was a little listening to clear up his vision and ability to recognize the combinations of shapes!
—Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor Usha Sangam
You can learn more about Parenting by Connection in the Listening to Children booklet set.