“So Glenn, you’ve got two fractions and you need to divide one by the other.”
He begins to think. He’s working it out in his brain. He’s sorting. Accessing. Processing.
But before he’s able to complete the newly forming thought, a little mommy bird begins chirping in his ear.
“Do you remember?”
“What’s the rule again?”
“Think. There’s something special you need to do.”
“How does that little math rhyme go again?”
Peck. Peck. Peck.
About this time, the little line of thought that his brain was forming disintegrates, and he slams his pencil down on the workbook in frustration.
Here’s the truly sad result: he now believes he’s not good at math.
But the truth may be that he can’t do math with constant chatter feeding into his ear at the same time that he’s attempting an intense mental activity.
Here’s an idea. Stop talking. Wait. Truly wait. . . in silence. . . until he takes this thought as far as he can. Let him complete the download. He may not get the right answer. But you can deal with that after it arises. In fact, his wrong answer may give you a clear clue of just where he’s going wrong in his thought. But if you stop the process before that point, you may get nothing. And now you have no idea where he went off track.
But also possible, he may get the answer right. It’s just as likely that he just needed time to process the information all the way to the end, time to create the neural pathways that learning new stuff requires. In our house, we call this building new roads in the brain, and then building little garages in which to store this new piece of understanding. That initial garage is kind of flimsy and weak on the first journey. It will take several more trips down the road and into that garage to reinforce and strengthen it. But if the process is blown off track midstream by our “helpful chatter”, then the garage never gets built.
Sometimes we just need to let it be—allow our kids the freedom to think, to process, to work it through slowly till it makes sense. Sometimes we just need to be quiet.