Friday, May 20, 2011

52 Tool Cards: Take Time for Training

There are many times when children aren't meaning to disobey or be difficult but really truly do not understand what it is that we want from them. 

We say something general like, "Now be good for Aunt Shirley."  What does "be good" mean?  We adults have a lifetime of experience to tell us what people generally mean when they say that phrase, but your toddler or young child lacks that experience, and also lacks the cognitive capability to consistently take abstract concepts and apply them to specific situations.  "Listen to Aunt Shirley's words and do what she asks you to do," is better, but still pretty general.

God designed children to learn by doing, by working alongside their parents or caregivers.

(A side note: In other punitive parenting contexts, "training" means punishing your child when they make mistakes, usually with physical punishment.  There are some who even advocate for putting your child in situations where they are bound to make mistakes--such as putting a tempting thing just out of reach and saying it is forbidden--and punishing them swiftly when they fall into the trap--say, slapping their hand if their impulse control falters and they reach for the forbidden object.  Let's be clear -- that is NOT what training means in this context!)

Training here means teaching children life skills, step by step, as follows: 
  1. Kindly explain the task as you perform it, while your child watches.
  2. Do the task together.
  3. Have your child do it by herself while you supervise.
  4. When she feels ready, let her perform the task on her own.
Sometimes I forget about this tool or tell myself I'm too busy in the moment, but whenever I remember to take time to show C how to do things at her level, it's always fun, and I'm always rewarded by seeing her joy and increased confidence.

For example, today C wanted to have a smoothie as a snack.  Often I just go ahead and make one for her, but today, I decided to let her get involved so she can begin to learn this task.

I narrated my activities as I got the almond milk out of the refrigerator, the strawberries out of the freezer and the Magic Bullet parts out of the cupboard.  She pulled up a stool and I helped her unscrew the cap on the milk and pour it into the cup.  I opened the bag of strawberries and let her select some and place them in the cup.  We talked about how many strawberries would fit in the cup with the milk.  I helped her screw the Magic Bullet base onto the cup, and then showed her how she could push down on the cup to start the motor of the Magic Bullet.  She had fun making it start and stop.  Whenever it stopped, I asked her if she thought the smoothie was ready.  We talked about how the strawberries needed to be all chopped up into the milk and to watch for the milk to turn pink with the strawberry juice.
She enjoyed drinking something she had helped to make.  She is only 2.5 so won't be doing this task independently any time soon, but we can have fun at the "do the task together" phase, and I'll slowly give her more responsibility for the task until she is able to do all the actual tasks with my supervision, and then one day, make herself a smoothie completely independently.

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