Exasperation is NOT the Best Instructor

Have you ever been trying to reach a goal with a child and finally, in exasperation, set a deadline that came back to bite you?  One of our favorite family stories centered around the art of teaching writing and setting a deadline for task completion.

Any parent worth their salt has said to their kid at one time or another, “You cannot do so and so, unless you finish Task X by a certain time.” It is written somewhere in the parental handbook.  And it is the stock in trade for a homeschool mom who is trying to get a kid to finish an assignment.frustration

Enter my then Calvert 6th grader, who was given the assignment for an advisory test to write about living in Tudor England.  She was having a heck of a time even coming up with the first sentence.  We batted ideas back and forth, but she procrastinated right up to the point I had to leave for an engagement.  Therefore, her sixteen year old sister was put in charge of seeing that she finished her assignment.  As I departed the door, in a rush, as usual, I emphatically stated, “You will NOT go to the horse show later today UNLESS you manage to give me a well crafted essay of at least 100 words.”

First mistake.  Not outlining the goal clearly. I should NOT have given her a word limit, rather I should have designed the task with a clear rubric of what her final essay should look like.  But that was not how I was operating that day –  exasperation had entered, and taken over common sense in my head – with a vengeance.

Three hours later, I got a phone call from my elder daughter.  She was laughing like a hyena, and almost hyperventilating with mirth.  She said, “Mom – MOM!  I HAVE to read you the opening sentences of this essay!!”

Then she launched into the essay, much to her younger sister’s absolute fury.

“Tudor houses were made for living.  They had windows in all of the rooms that needed windows and doors in all of the rooms that needed doors.”

She then collapsed into fits of laughter, and I could hear her younger sister in the background, loudly proclaiming that all I had said was “100 words – they did not have to be GOOD words”.

Needless to say, I was the one who learned the lesson that day.  Never let exasperation shortcut your ability to give clear direction.  Always practice the art of learning how to help your child set a goal they can reach, in a successful way.

Years later the phrase “Tutor houses were made for living” has become synonymous in our household with sloppy writing and the ultimate symbolism for a “do over”.  Don’t let exasperation build your house!!