A lot of times when I sit down to work with Chana, I'm feeling stressed or like work is something that I have to "get over with," or that I have so much else to do (clean the house, prepare food, do errands, be with the little ones). It's never great to sit down to learning when feeling I have "so much to do" or feeling rushed or reluctant. Or like last night, when it was 8pm and I had forgotten about it and I was just tired from the day.
It's negative because with my teenager, we don't get so much together time and this is the time we have. It can be a bonding experience or it can be something that increases strife. When I walk into it with a negative attitude, I'm stacking the deck against building a positive relationship with her.
Another reason it's negative is because it gives her negative associations with learning. The learning isn't fun and spending time together isn't fun. I give off the impression that I'm a sourpuss who just wants to get things over with. That's the opposite of the impression I want to give her--that learning is joyous, interesting, and something to savor.
Yesterday I was cranky and since Chana's in a good mood these days, it didn't affect her much except that the learning wasn't joyous or pleasant or especially positive. (And had it been during a phase where she is more moody, it could have easily slid into disastrous.) Today I made an effort to be pleasant,* and spending time learning with her can be so much fun and with lots of laughs and jokes.
It made me remember how important it is for me to make an effort to be pleasant when we sit down to learn together. It seems like such an obvious piece of advice: Make an effort to relax and to smile and exude pleasant and positive energy. It may seem obvious. But when I think back to the amount of times over the years that I have neglected this, I think it pays to say it.
*Actually, I said to Chana, "Let's learn now." And she said, "Let's learn later." And I said, "But I'm grouchy when we do it later." And she said, "So don't be grouchy!" which was very funny and helped me turn around. Because on one hand, it's not so easy to just shrug off grouchiness. But on the other hand, don't I have free will?
**One should not pray as one carrying a burden who throws it off and walks away.