This is part three of my series on parenting. If you haven’t read my previous two articles on this topic, they’re probably worth perusing. It will provide you with a better foundation as you read on. You can easily find them listed online at independenttribune.com. If for some reason, you encounter difficulties finding the earlier stories, just send me a quick email and I will forward you the link. Okay, so let’s dive in.
As a short recap, I mentioned before that prior to age six, most children operate on a survival instinct or that of self-preservation. After the age of seven however, children become self-aware. They become conscious of their own feelings and the emotional state of others. But more significant, they finally start to understand what that means for them – as they journey towards adolescence. Now, the average six-year-old has a vocabulary of maybe 4,500 words. This poses a challenge to adults when communicating tasks which include three or more steps and/or variables.
As we perform the needed parenting functions, how do we make sure our tutelage is being received? But more important, how do we confirm it’s being understood by the target recipient? That’s simple, you just ask them. However, that said, we must do as the Russians say, “Trust but verify.”
On the other hand, we don’t want to cast doubt on developing minds by routinely questioning their understanding of tasks. We want to make sure children’s positive behavior is regularly applauded. Children are quite brilliant in their own right. Nevertheless, in the instinct of self-preservation they will deduce what they believe you want to hear and say it. So what does that mean? Simply said, children want to please, so if you ask them if they understand, more often than not, they will say, “Yes,” whether they do or not.
So again, their eagerness to please and the sharing of less than accurate information does in no way suggest they’re lying. It’s simply a product of self-defense. What we need to do is be clever and ask them to paraphrase our instructions. We need to offer support and reassurance since paraphrasing directions is even difficult for some adults. Nonetheless, it’s a needed instrument.
Make it easy by asking them to repeat the required steps. If the tasks have multiple variables, then help them see the different possible outcomes and think through the solutions. For example: Go clean up your room – is a simple task. Now here come the steps and variables. Place your toys in the proper toy box and any dirty clothes in the hamper. Place books on the book shelf and loose papers on the counter or in the trash.
Now, ask them, what if the proper toy box is full? What if you find items that don’t belong in your room or what if you don’t know if something is trash? Their answers or lack thereof will help crystalize the task objectives. Your input will provide the clear guidance necessary in the event they encounter unforeseen obstacles. If we were to follow these simple instructions, we would notice that their chores would be completed quicker, with more accuracy and with less parental involvement.
Don’t forget to praise the desired outcome. Issue rewards – like points – which they can later cash in for prizes – like games, toys or candy. That will become a huge positive motivator. This will encourage your youngsters to do more forward thinking and apply problem solving tactics to future scenarios without prompting.
As they get older, instead of providing answers to possible variations on tasks, ask them what they will do if they encounter different hindrances. Forward thinking gets easier as they get older. Helping them think through and solving simple tasks when young will help them resolve more complex matters later in life. Teenagers, for example get into more car accidents than adults. It’s not because they lack experience behind the wheel – although that might be a contributing factor. The truth is, their forward thinking skills are not well developed and they’re unable to predict the possible outcomes to specific actions or lack thereof.
Our normal stage of emotional development takes decades. But our forward thinking and problem solving talents solidify much younger in life. Nevertheless, it’s a skill set most of us fail to teach our youngsters. It’s expected that this function will just materialize out of our conscious mind or manifest itself into reality when needed or required. Well, that turns out to be true for most of us. However, aiding our offspring to improve their problem solving abilities earlier in life will generate better forward thinkers in the future.
I’ve explained before – in past articles – how limited a child’s mind is and when their capability for rational thought begins. I have also explained how it’s easier for children to fail at following directions with a combination of three or more steps and/or variables. So how do we ensure and support rational thought? Again, that’s easy. We continuously challenge them. We encourage them to do more reading and play problem solving games. I hate to say it but video games generate a huge advantage since problem solving scenarios are always introduced. As parents we need to benefit from that – but within moderation.
We seldom consider the mental complexities required of our children. But we absolutely should. We are in many cases oblivious to the difficulties specific tasks represent because those chores are relatively simple for us. Failure to understand that we’re dealing with children places an enormous amount of stress on these precious souls. So I humbly suggest we consider our target audience. Now, children of course misbehave. And corrective action is often required.
For the best results establish a routine. First a verbal warning and then a reprimand followed by say a five minute time out. Keep in mind that for a child sitting still for five minutes is equivalent to an hour for an adult. So in short, if you force your child to sit still for thirty minutes it’s like asking an adult to sit still for six hours. One can argue that with enough repetition, this type of punishment can easily be considered abusive.
I believe it’s fair to say we would never intentionally apply unnecessary pressures on our youngsters. But unfortunately, ignorance often leads to that outcome – whether intentional or not. Therefore I propose – as parents we start our day with do’s and don’ts in mind. As we issue requests to our children, we need to consider all the factors. Keep in mind that an objective with over three stages and/or elements becomes exponentially more difficult with every step or variable added.
So, in conclusion, on a positive note, I mentioned in a previous article the healing power of laughter. It can be argued that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter has an anesthetic effect. Neurophysiology indicates that laughter is linked with the activation of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which produces endorphins. So in short, generating laughter within children routinely during the day and at bed time helps solidify the love, kindness and joy that exist in their lives. If you don’t have the time to make that happen – please find it.
Alberto Perez wrote his first book titled, ‘The Second Coming: The Arrival’ almost two years ago. The book illustrates an account of the Rapture. The 4th edition is now available for sale. His second novel titled, ‘The Second Coming: The Gathering’, will be available for purchase through Amazon in Spring 2019. You can learn more about him at www.albertoperez.co or join him on Twitter @albertoperezmba. You may also visit his Go Fund Me page at https://www.gofundme.com/publishing-christian-books or email him at email@example.com. Perez’ new book is available here: