When you show interest in how your child sees the world, that child will more naturally tell you the truth.
Your child tells you, “I don’t need math.”
You ask, “Why do you think that?”
Your child says, “I’m going to be a professional ball player.”
The temptation at this point is to say something like, “Professional athletes need math to calculate all kinds of statistics, their income, how to manage their wealth, and more.”
A ten year old child is not going to be motivated by adult concerns.
Try this instead:
But what if you lean in more and say, “That’s interesting to me. Setting aside professional baseball for a moment, tell me more about why math doesn’t appeal to you. What is it about math itself you find problematic?”
Your child may feel freer to say: “Math is hard.”
Now you’ve pivoted to the child’s inner life. You aren’t being deflected by the reason your child gave—you are addressing what’s happening inside. You resist telling the child reasons that aren’t related to why the child is not willing to learn math.
When we pay attention to what’s happening inside the child, we make room for truth-telling rather than reason-giving or excuse-making.
The proper response when a child says, “Math is hard” is not “You’ll need it when you’re an adult,” but “It is hard. I can see why you want to avoid it. I wonder what we can do to make it less intimidating.”