Posted by: Sara Carbone on: April 13, 2012
A sample from one of my tutoring sessions with a 4th grader:
Me: You seem kind of bored by what we’re doing. Am I reading things right?
Me: Hmm. Long division can be kind of dull sometimes. And tricky.
Him: It’s stupid.
Me: I’ll bet you wish we were doing something else right now.
Me: Like maybe playing catch outside in that nice sunny backyard you guys have. Or sitting in a pool drinking lemonade.
Him: Yeah. Or watching a baseball game.
Me: Or in a pool, drinking lemonade while playing catch with Derek Jeter.
Him: (laughs) Yeah! With A-Rod and Derek Jeter at Yankee Stadium.
Me: During the World Series.
Him: Yeah! Cool!
Me: Very cool! (pause) Now, would you be willing to give this long division another try? We only have 20 more minutes to go. Then you’re a free man.
Him: (thinks for a minute) OK, I’ll try it again.
A little fantasizing together – plus a dash of humor – can go a long way. When you acknowledge homework can be a bummer and give voice to what he’d rather be doing it tends to help him relax and reengage.
In How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish call this granting your child in fantasy what you can’t give him in reality (in this case, dumping long division to play ball instead). They say a key part of this is to “really let yourself go, to be ‘far out’ fantastic” so that he knows you’re taking his longing into account.