Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Flash of Inspiration

During my eight years as a mother, I have occasionally run into issues with my boys that puzzle me, force me to do some pondering, make me seek advice (from Jeff, other family members, friends, and books), lead me to prayer, and then--eventually--I feel confident in my strategy for dealing with whatever the problem is. I said "occasionally," but that's not the best word. "Often" is a more accurate adverb for that sentence!

My latest dilemma occurred with David Dear. We signed him up for the library summer reading program; and although he could get all the prizes by me reading TO him, I knew that he could actually do the reading himself and earn the prizes by his own effort. So I've been regularly taking the time to sit down with him and listen to him read. He's doing incredibly well. I continue to be astonished by his reading ability, and he's not even officially in kindergarten yet! This child that I thought would be so difficult to teach to read has actually picked it up at a younger age than his (very smart) big brother. I'm so proud of him!

I know David is smart, but--here's the issue that was driving me bananas--sometimes he acts dumb. For example, a few weeks ago, he was reading one of the Cora Cow books, and the word "ski" showed up a lot in the book. I realize that "ski" might be a confusing word--that's to be expected--so I was glad to tell him what the word was. In addition to me telling him the word, there were pictures all through the book of people (and, of course, Cora Cow) skiing. To me, it was beyond obvious what was going on, and I thought there was no possible way that David could forget/not understand what the word "ski" was.

However, as we went through the book and got to the word "ski" again, David stopped and acted like he didn't know the word. He half-heartedly tried to sound it out, ended up saying "skate," and then insisted that he didn't remember what it was. I pointed to a pair of skis in one of the pictures and asked him what it was. He said he didn't know. I told him I thought he really did know what it was. He told him he didn't. I said it wasn't funny to pretend that he didn't know something when he really knew it. He claimed, in a very dramatic voice, that he did not know the word. At this point, I was about ready to blow my top since I was SURE that he really knew it and was just being stubborn. However, one thing I've learned in my 34 years of life is that dialogs such as these are entirely fruitless, so I did the only thing I could think to do: shut the book and said that reading time was over and that we could try again another time when he remembered what that word was! That didn't seem like the greatest way to handle it, but I was frustrated--so frustrated--more frustrated than the event warranted--frustrated by the way I was being sucked into a power struggle over whether he did or did not know the word "ski!" Of course, there's no way for me to peer inside his brain and say, "Aha! You DO know the word!" So it was a very silly argument, and I knew that and just sought to end it as quickly as I could.

That wasn't the first time that it had happened, by the way. During this past school year, when we were more consistently doing reading lessons together, David would do the same kind of thing; and it would frustrate me every time. I dealt with it with varying degrees of success, mostly related to my own personal behavior and how patient (or impatient) I happened to be at that particular moment. But I never felt like I had a good strategy for dealing with it.

After the "ski" incident, I realized out-of-the-blue (but, I believe, God-inspired) that an alternative way of dealing with such dilemmas would be to quickly, freely, without any pressure, tell him the word if he showed signs of hesitation. Today as he was reading, he stumbled over "here," so I didn't wait a long time or give him a hard time at all, but immediately told him what it was. Same with "find." Same with "come." The beauty of it is that it completely eliminates the possibility of it turning into a power struggle. If he really doesn't know the word, he's immediately helped by hearing it. If he really does know the word and is faking ignorance, hearing me say it takes the wind out of his sails. Regardless, the repetition of him seeing it, hearing me say it, then saying it himself is an effective way to learn.

I'm not worried that by me telling him the words, he'll never learn how to sound things out, because he's actually pretty skillful at that already.

I am delighted that such a simple technique is already making a big difference in that aspect of my relationship with him.

I am wondering why I didn't think of it long ago!!

I am grateful for the way God plants certain thoughts in my head as He teaches me how to be a mother.


Sally said...

Thanks for your advice. I have the exact same problems with Hannah and Paul. For Hannah, it's saying "I don't know" for a letter sound when I know she knows it perfectly well. And she'll just sit there sucking her thumb rather than saying the letter sound. For Paul, it will be a word that he's sounding out, or something. I have had the power struggles (and made them sit it out and finally say the right thing that they knew all along, and maybe that wasn't the right thing to do), and if we start having a couple during one session, I end our school time pretty quickly. But, I'm also learning to just say the sound, or the word, and move on without making a big issue out of it. I think that works the best, even if it still aggravates me that they "play dumb" sometimes.

I am so very impressed with David's reading, even though I haven't heard him read yet. You and he are doing a great job!

Julie said...

Good job, Mom!!!! Thanks for being willing to share what you are learning. In my humble experience with readers of that age, it's kind of both ways...sometimes even though they CAN read and DO know the words, they also like just being read to. I've had certain ones of mine become frustrated when I tried to get them to read the words that they knew. They just wanted to hear me read. Hence, the "acting dumb" part.

This year Kirk did all of his own reading for the library, but I will admit that Chloe, Kanah, and Mairi were read to. Good for you to sit down with David to listen to him read. You are such a thoughtful mother. I am inspired by you, my friend!

Sally said...

These are a few comments on your Manna posts, which I enjoy so much and I'm commenting because I love Bible study, and this is a small window into that.

I also have been thinking recently about how I put a lot of effort doing what I can to lift up my paternal grandmother, and I neglect my maternal grandparents. I try to excuse my neglect by the fact that they aren't widowed or in a nursing home. But still, do I need to wait until that happens to call them or write to them? Certainly not.

Also, on your Grace post. God's grace extends further than I can imagine (and I'm glad, because I need it), and it covers more than I can fathom Him forgiving. I'm so glad He's like that. Just for balance, here's a passage in Ez. 18:24-32 (you have to read to the end of the chapter to really get the picture of God's grace). Yes, God has grace to cover the most hideous of sins, but His grace comes when we turn from those sins and repent.

I have been astonished at the way God could and did forgive King Manasseh at the end of his life when he "sought the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And when he prayed to him, the LORD was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea..." (2 Chron. 33:12b-13a) Both at the end of 2 Kings and the end of 2 Chron. it lists many horrible, unthinkable sins that King Manasseh committed (and he was Hezekiah's son, which makes me fear for my own children--we don't pass on our righteousness to our children). Yet, when he humbled himself and repented, God gave him back his kingdom and Manasseh turned from all that evil.

I think the account of Manasseh is about as big a picture of God's mercy and grace as we have in the Bible. I also know that just because God forgave him and restored the kingdom to him, it didn't erase the consequences of the sins he had committed for so many years. In Jer. 15 we read of all the terrible punishment that God sent on Israel because of the sins of Manasseh. Forgiveness does not necessarily eliminate the consequences of sin. Yes, it saves us from dying in our sins, the no. 1 consequence of sin, but the earthly, physical hardships are not necessarily taken away.

I just wanted to share those passages with you. I've enjoyed thinking about this and looking up these verses myself.

Davene said...


Well said! THANK YOU for sharing your thoughts on this!

Ezekiel 18 is a GREAT chapter!

And the story of Manasseh has always been compelling to me, especially because his grandson was Josiah.

I agree completely with you about consequences still existing after forgiveness occurs.

Thanks again!

Gail Puffenbarger said...

Thanks for this article on handling the "playing dumb/being ornery" aspect in reading. I have struggled so to know how to handle this with Bobby, and your experience has enlightened and encouraged me greatly! Thanks, Gail