If at first you don’t succeed . . .

. . . your first inclination may be to throw your hands in the air and cry “uncle.”

I know that was mine.

Pea Pod (7) and I had hit a stale mate. She was absolutely not interested AT ALL in learning to read. This was quite a change from before, where we blissfully played reading games and snuggled on the couch. Simple sounds blended into short words, which became easy sentences. I THOUGHT everything was going well.

And then one day, she was done. No reading, no how. No matter what I offered. No matter how I “inspired,” she wasn’t interested. I was failing somehow. (Insert mournful background music here!)

So I backed off. But inside I was freaking out. She was seven. She was doing well. She seemed to “get” reading so much better than her older sister had. (Pepper’s reading trajectory is a whole different story!) What happened?!?

I did a lot of thinking. I did a lot of praying. And I came up with a two-part plan.

Part one: Step back and work on the relationship. Relationships are key to inspiring. They build the foundation. (See my post about making sure your home is safe.) Somewhere along the way, my relationship with Pea Pod had gotten off track. It felt like everything had a judgement attached to it . . . and we didn’t have a lot that was just about “being” together. I started reading more books, doing more snuggling, doing more listening. I stopped asking for ANYTHING that would require me to “assess” her (except where I asked her to do a good job with the work around the house).

Part two: After the relationship was on better footing (it took a lot less time than I thought), I brought a brand new early reader, “Biscuit,” to our private bedtime snuggle. I had happened upon it at Costco almost a year ago, and now was the perfect time to bring it out. I said I had a special book that we would keep a secret. I wanted to read it to her. I mentioned, casually, that maybe one day she might want to read it to me.

Then I read the book to her. It’s a sweet story about a girl and her new puppy. The words are cute and very repetitive. Pea Pod loved it. I told her I would read it to her the next night.

And then it happened. She looked up at me with her soulful brown eyes and said, “After you read it to me, Mommy, could I read it to you?”

Are you kidding?!? (Insert “Hallelujah Chorus” background music here!)

And so that’s how it’s been. I read the book to her. She reads it to me for the next few nights. Then I pull out a new one. I’m still not sure how much she’s memorizing and how much she’s reading . . . but I don’t care. Because she WANTS to read again. That’s what matters.

A few nights ago, I asked her why she started reading again. She told me that she liked that no one knew about it but us. (She did finally let me tell her dad!) She liked that no one was watching. [I asked for permission before I posted this. She assured me it was okay as long as nobody told her siblings!]

What she didn’t say, but what I also think is that she likes that it’s just the two of us. It’s something special that we are sharing. Being the third kid can be tough, and I think this reading time doesn’t feel crammed and rushed into the middle of the day. It feels all warm and happy and private. Something just for her.

For me, it’s a great reminder that often inspiring isn’t about the perfect game or the perfect book (although that can help). Often it’s about creating the right environment. If you get the environment right, the rest will fall into place.


Filed under Examples and Stories, Theory Behind It All

4 responses to “If at first you don’t succeed . . .

  1. Rebekah

    Beautiful post, Tori. Thank you.

  2. Thank you! I really believe that before you can teach, you need a great relationship. I love the parenting pyramid by Arbinger. If you haven’t heard of it, here is the link: http://www.krapu4.com/psy/PDF/ParentingPyramid.pdf. Thank you!!

    • taperkey

      I completely agree with your assessment of the Arbinger pyramid. Isn’t it great how truth is found in so many places!

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