"Clearer, Not Louder" - July 31, 2006

by Mary Jo Thayer

I have a "little" problem that I have been trying to conquer. For years and years now, I have made regular trips to the confessional to get the help and the grace to overcome my biggest character flaw: lack of patience. I think all Catholic mothers have confessed this at least a dozen times, and sooner or later we learn strategies on how to cope. I am making progress, albeit slowly.

Children know that their mothers lack patience sometimes. No breaking news here. My children also know what sorts of things cause me to lose my patience and, as all children do, they can push my little patience buttons until they break! I don't think that they necessarily do this on purpose. It just comes quite naturally as part of the built-in structure of children. And with homeschooling, there are many more opportunities throughout each God-given day to test how those knobs work.

One of the things that starts to wear me down is when I think I have explained a concept a trillion different ways and the child still seems to be having trouble understanding it. What part of "Sit down and do your math!" don't you understand?! Had I not properly previewed the material with the child? Was I not saying things slowly enough to be grasped? Was the child not listening-again? Was I somehow explaining the Pythagorean Theorem when I thought I was explaining simple multiplication like I was asked to? Repeatedly, it continues to puzzle me.

When I am tested in this fashion, I begin to elevate. My blood pressure goes up, along with my volume. This can come on rather suddenly. The children used to act surprised when this happened. Now I am embarrassed to admit that they have gotten used to it. Eye-rolling ensues, at its finest. Anyway, I still start out by talking very slowly, thinking that perhaps, in my rush to get back to my laundry, I went too quickly the first couple of times. At this point I am also trying to hold my temper in check, making sure to e-nun-ci-ate ev-er-y sin-gle syl-la-ble clear-ly so that they can be-gin to grasp the con-cept. Yet, I am now getting louder as well. Kind of like this: Mul-ti-pli-ca-tion is GROUP-ING! If you take four GROUPS of TWO, what do you HAVE?! My selfish personality can also begin to take me down the pity party road of wondering if I am ever going to be able to go do something more fun than this. Gee Whiz!

I then proceed to get even louder, often repeating one of the above ways of explaining the mistaken lesson. After several attempts at this, one of the frustrated children will bring to my attention the real problem. "Mom, I said you need to be clearer, not louder! Louder doesn't help, Mom!" By this time the child might be tearing up, and I might be feeling ever so foolish for being preoccupied with the laundry, which seems at this point to be very unimportant.

So, I sit down next to my child and apologize–for the hundredth time. I begin again from the beginning, trying to strive to come up with yet another example to bring this concept into light for the child. I often end up repeating an earlier illustration yet, somehow, the child understands what I mean this time. I am always amazed at this until I realize that things are completely different. This time, instead of running around the house doing x, y, z and shouting the instructions between arm loads of clothes, I am sitting down one-on-one next to or across from my child and actually homeschooling like I have been called to do.

Amazing, isn't it? When we actually take the time to do things right in the first place, the outcome is always better, and we don't waste precious moments raising and straining our voices and causing children to cry. When we do things the way they were meant to be done, there is often lots of time to accomplish the other things, like laundry and maybe some fun stuff, too. Gee whiz! It's probably time for another trip to the confessional.

Used with Permission.
Mary Jo Thayer