Hey, parents! Want to take a test?
Here's how to tell if you're a good parent, or a BAD parent.
Situation: Your almost-nine-years-old daughter is sitting at the dining room table doing her math homework after school. You're seated next to her, doing some work of your own. It's a nice, quiet afternoon. Sunlight is slanting in through the windows. Why, is that a bird chirping outside? How pleasant! Just you and your child, each working peacefully on your own, side by side.
As your daughter works her way through her math problems, you start to sense her getting just a tad squirmy beside you. She's making little sounds of frustration: "Urk. Urk. Hmph." Like a pouty little bomb, waiting to go off. Do you:
A) Ask, "Precious, are you having difficulty with that big bad math worksheet? Can I help you?"
B) Tell her that noise is irritating as hell, and you'll thank her kindly to work in silence.
C) Gently wrap a sweater around her head, and continue working.
D) Ignore her.
Let's say, just hypothetically, you choose d. You refuse to play her game. You feel that if you jump in and offer help, you'll inhibit her ability to solve problems on her own. And even though that noise is irritating as hell, it's not good parenting to say so until it starts to make your forehead vein pulse.
A few minutes pass. She keeps making her little urking, hmphing sounds, waiting for you to notice. Finally, she turns to you and says, "I can't do this. I need help." Do you:
A) Tell her that not only will you help her with all of her math problems, but it's probably just easier if you do them for her to save time, and afterwards, you can both MAKE CUPCAKES!
B) Tell her, "Math's hard. Life's hard. Good luck."
C) Tell her you'll give her the answers for fifty bucks.
D) Explain that you're 40, which means you don't have to do math anymore.
Hmm. Is that one a bit tougher? Ok, let's add one more option: e) You tell her in the kindest possible way that if she gives that troublesome math problem a good honest try and still feels stuck, you'll help her figure it out -- but you won't do the work for her.
She looks crestfallen and stressed. You see, your daughter has a Default Setting where, as soon as a task goes from Easy to Slightly Difficult, she gets frustrated, throws up her hands, and tries to quit. You have NO idea where she got this from! Certainly not from you! Ha! Ha ha ha ha ha!
She feebly attempts to puzzle out the math problem again, then looks up, her little face creased with worry and shame: "I can't do it!" You take a look at the worksheet. Hmm. These math problems are about estimating, and rounding numbers. Why is this giving her so much trouble? You clearly remember her learning this last year. Not only did she learn it, she killed it -- she was rounding numbers left and right. With ease. For fun. Yet she's frustrated now, and her face is getting hot. Do you:
A) Remind her gently that she learned this stuff last year, and if she just stops and takes a few cleansing breaths, it will all come back to her.
B) Remind her that this is easy crap she already knows, and if she can't remember what to do, then maybe she should do less drugs.
C) Suggest that maybe a snack break will help her regain focus. Maybe with CUPCAKES!
D) Suggesting that the two of you look at the problem, and just try to figure out what the first step might be. Just the first step.
That D sounds pretty good, right? D is obviously what a kind, patient parent would do. So let's just say you chose that.
And let's say it doesn't work.
Let's say you try to be patient as your daughter starts huffing and puffing, and slamming her pencil down. Let's say you realize that she's not even trying anymore; she's just spiraling. Let's also say that you've conveniently blocked out how you used to do this exact same thing when you had hard homework, and your dad stood over you and urged you onward, and even when he tried to help you, it just made you feel really stupid, and you always hated feeling stupid in front of your father, more than anything.
Let's say you've forgotten all that.
Your daughter's eyes are getting damp. She's about to cry. This is easy math that she knows how to do, but she's moments away from a total System Meltdown. You should be feeling sympathetic towards her. Yet somehow, seeing her like this makes you feel really, really frustrated. With her. Do you:
A) Take a deep cleansing breath yourself, and try to remember how you felt when you were a little kid, what it was like to feel frustrated, and embarrassed.
B) Make some sort of stupid cupcake remark again, as a way of pretending that this whole thing is just a jokey blog post.
C) Let your impatience show by getting short with her and saying, "Listen. If you can't calm down, I can't help you." Thereby ensuring that she'll feel even worse.
And... pencils down!
Pass your tests forward when you're done. I took the test earlier today, and I can tell you that it really all comes down to the final question. I personally did ok, up until the very end. My score?