Consciously skilled

Julie Neal and I teach Positive Discipline (from Adler, Dreikurs and Jane Nelson).  In the parent educator training, we are given a fat book of experiential exercises to help participants feel the way children feel when we act certain ways.  There are also exercises to help adults examine why and how we do what we do, and feel what we feel.  All fascinating!

At the end, we often do an activity called : The Continuum of Change (Positive Discipline Association).  In this, we are invited to remember a hard learning that involved brain and body.  The point of the exercise is to help us forgive ourselves for not knowing everything, and for feeling uncomfortable during the learning.  It has been so long since we learned something completely new, of COURSE it feels awful, like stalling out in the middle of heavy traffic, or making a turn onto gravel and flying over the handlebars!  One can think of riding a bike, driving a car, using manual transmission, or learning to knit.  Remember that mind-blowing struggle at the beginning?

The continuum goes something like this: first, you are unconsciously unskilled.  You don’t even know what you don’t know (maybe how your preschooler sees you driving; just turning the wheel- la dah!)  Then, you are consciously unskilled: “oh, I will NEVER get this!  What do I do now???? Oh, %$^&.”

Next, you get to be consciously skilled: “I can do this, if I concentrate and stick out my tongue, and don’t breathe, and now my brain is fried.  I need a break!!”

After a long time, some say 10,000 hours, you get to be unconsciously skilled.  That is when you can drive the car, eat a sandwich, talk to your kids in the back, and decide what to have for dinner, all without missing a beat.

And, how do we get to Carnagie Hall?  Practice, practice, practice.  For adults, this process is terribly uncomfortable, perhaps because we have perfected so many skills, that it feels AWFUL to go back to incompetence.  So hats off to those who take up a new instrument, or a new language, as adults!

On to children.  As you can imagine, they live a lot of the time between unconsciously unskilled and consciously unskilled.  They are not good at much, especially the first time.  And, if they live with mostly adults, then it is discouraging that everyone else is good at EVERYTHING!  Why bother?

Fortunately, children seem to be hard wired to learn hard stuff.  Like walking and speaking a language, with grammar and all.  So, that’s what they are good at.   Montessori saw, however, that, if we gave children a lot of opportunities to become consciously, then unconsciously skilled, from a very young age, they felt good, and learned skills and confidence that allowed them to consider learning more and more things.  The movement from consciously unskilled to consciously skilled did not feel so impossible.  In fact, it might even be fun, and definitely worth the risks.

So, she created a lot of self-corrected learning materials, that intrigued hands and minds.  She also placed importance on something she called: Practical Life (or Grace and Courtesy).  This is the process of actively teaching self-care and life skills, in a fun, accepting way, from blowing your nose and wiping your own bottom, to how to ask for help or tell someone to leave you alone.  It also can include dressing yourself, folding clothes, hanging up your coat so that you can find it again, cooking, cleaning…anything that is “practical” to “life” in your culture, would be useful.  And, of course, at home, things that your family and your child value: washing the car, gardening, taking care of pets, making art, playing music….

So, we take the time to break down many tasks into small parts, and give many, many stress free opportunities to practice, with as much help as needed, so that children will have many, many abilities at a young age, and feel competent in many things, before they interact with much that is “academic.”

Think of the intense satisfaction you feel as you have mastered something.  Don’t all people, including  children deserve the opportunity to feel that they are masters in many things?  They can do so, if they are given opportunity, time, instruction (if needed) and support.

 

Parenting goals

capable child

Another Positive Discipline activity I love is called: Two Lists.  It helps you remember the bigger goals behind parenting, separate from “getting him to brush his teeth”, or “getting her to listen.”  Imagine your child as an adult.  What do you want him/her to be like?  What attributes would you love to recognize in them?

Jane Nelson has a list of seven, to help you focus:

Strong perception of personal capablilities: “I am capable.”

Strong perception of significance in primary relationships: “I contribute in meaningful ways and I am genuinely needed.”

Strong perception of personal power or influence over life: “I can influence what happens to me.”

Strong intrapersonal skills; the ability to understand personal emotions and to use that understanding to develop self-discipline and self-control.

Strong interpersonal skills; the ability to work with others and develop friendships through communicating, cooperating, negotiating, sharing, empathizing and listening.

Strong systemic skills; the ability to respond to the limits and consequences of everyday life with responsibility, adaptability, flexibility and integrity.

Strong judgmental skills; the ability to use wisdom and to evaluate situations according to appropriate values.

So, when you are teaching, modeling, correcting, inviting….think about what skills will be taught, directly, or indirectly, by your methods.

A new twist on natural consequences…

N11Aa“My sons are 24 and 27 and that is definitely the way I disciplined them…there are lots of opportunities for them to learn their own consequences…I used to make them “watch” the clock and tell Mummy when it was time to drive them to school, got them to tell Mummy when it was time to do the laundry because the basket was full – all this seemed to make them more aware and share the responsibility of being a family.” (Oh2bhuman, on http://happinessishereblog.com/2015/02/punishment-vs-natural-consequences/#comment-8539)

I love this so much. Of course, don’t start abruptly and throw yourself under a bus (“tell Mummy when she needs to send the mortgage payment.”)

Another poster asked: “What do you do when one gets ready, and the other doesn’t?” Well, we have Jane Nelson of Positive Discipline (http://smile.amazon.com/Positive-Discipline-Jane-Nelsen-Ed-D/dp/0345487672/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424184172&sr=8-1&keywords=jane+nelson) (based on Adler and Dreikurs) who says: “put them in the same boat.”* (Hence the graphic. I’m sure they should be wearing life preservers, but it is a metaphor.:)

This goes along with what my newest hero, Brene Brown says (I am paraphrasing); that siblings know each other’s biggest weaknesses, so that they must be taught that they are always on the same team: no teasing and no shaming. Ever. (We all know that the biggest shaming comes in families.:(

So, to avoid having rivalry (“Look how quickly Poirot got ready!”), they are in the same boat, as the whole family is in the same boat. Let’s all row together, toward community goals (so to speak.)

These are lessons that will serve children for their whole lives

* This is part of the “4Bs of sibling rivalry” from Jane Nelson’s work: “beat it” (don’t be an audience for it), “boot em out” (get them out of your space, like, outside), “bear it” (as in, ignore), or put them “in the same boat”. (One way to use this is: “it is not safe for me to drive while you are fighting; I will pull over and (knit, read my book, sing with my cd, play on my phone) until you both tell me that you are done.” This is really boring. If you can try one or more of these, you may find that this is all for your “benefit” or that, without someone’s attention to compete for, there is no fun in fighting.

Behavior is the tip of the iceberg

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http://www.positivediscipline.com/files/MistakenGoalChart.pdf

This comes from Positive Discipline, which is based on the work of Adler and Dreikurs. More here http://www.adlerian.us/dealing.htm.

The biggest clue for which mistaken goal your child is living in is how you feel.

Check the chart: annoyed, irritated, worried, guilty- attention; angry, challenged, threatened, defeated- power; hurt, disappointed, disbelieving, disgusted- revenge; despair, hopeless, helpless, inadequate- assumed inadequacy.

We all have a right to attention, power, empathy and help, but children do not know how to ask for these appropriately, or at a good time. Either do we, as adults, do we?

So, again, we are teachers.

A parent friend told me a lovely story about a family member redirecting a “bad” child to her lap; he only wanted attention, and got it there. A power child needs some appropriate control; a revengeful child wants to be heard; a discouraged child needs some support, and less help.

Is this easy- no!

It may feel like rewarding bad behavior. This is old school thinking. If you have had a bad day, and want to tell your husband about it, what would happen to your relationship if he said: “If you can’t say anything pleasant, go to your room until you can.” Wow. However, he doesn’t have to be your doormat, either. He can say: “I hear you’ve had a rough day; so have I. I’m going to walk the dog, and then I’ll be ready to hear your news when I get back.” Respect for everybody.

Game of Thrones :)

Game-of-Thrones-Toilet-Decal-1
I hate to take this on, but this is one area where nice, normal people go crazy, so I might as well join in. The craziness seems to be most acute in America. Not to pick on anyone, but here is a lovely blog post that describes, and pictures a wonderful “prepared environment” for self-toileting: http://midwestmontessori.tumblr.com/post/108937575341/toilet-learning-phase-2

Really, it could not be better set up! My concern is that the procedure is very adult dependent. Has anyone noticed how oppositional toddlers can be?  Of course, the main pit that all adults fall into is that of providing too much, or not “helpful” help to children. I certainly did this with mine. I would give you more details, except that my adult children probably would not appreciate this over-sharing.

“Montessori” is about prepared environment, teaching skills, and allowing independence to develop…independently.

That is, what skills are needed in self-toileting? Undressing, dressing, reaching the toilet, how to sit on toilet (boys), where to put soiled clothing, how to “wipe” effectively, how to wash hands, how to reach sink. These can all be taught: the rest is internal: when do I need to “go”?

We want the “when” to be in the child’s control. If not, there are two directions that can lead to great distress: #1 the child is convinced that they cannot know when and how to “go”, so they remain dependent on an adult to tell them “when”, and, perhaps, go with them. (I cannot begin to tell you how many horror stories: the child will not poop unless his head is on mom’s lap, the child will prefer to poop in pants than to attempt to wipe, the child will not go to bathroom alone, the child who will not use toilet unless mom sets an alarm on her watch to remind her, the child who will pee in toilet but must poop in diaper…)

OR #2 so to speak: child is in power struggle with reminding/cajoling/reminding/helping/ well-meaning adult. (More horror stories: child who holds urine until adult arrives, and pees on adult, child who pees in anger on toys, child who stays non-independent for years and years, impacted feces…)

So, prepare the environment, and prepare the child. Children can participate in undressing , and dressing from well before they can sit up. http://www.janetlansbury.com/2010/05/how-to-love-a-diaper-change/ As soon as they can stand, they stand and help in changing. Then, when you feel they are ready, and they have all the skills needed, let it be their learning. That is all you CAN do, in reality. We cannot make children eat, sleep or eliminate.

Here are some words from Jane Nelson of Positive Discipline: http://blog.positivediscipline.com/2008/03/potty-training.html

Oh, and, equally important: believe that they can!

Warmly,
Mary

Cultivating Your Child’s Character

Interesting Powerpoint on developing character in young children. One important point, “decision fatigue”: that is, the truth that the more choices we have to make, the worse job we do. So, much of character development is fostering positive habits. Mary

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It was a pleasure spending the evening with an engaged group of parents to think about what we each want our Character Legacy to be and how to practically go about passing that on to our children.  If your parenting partner was unable to attend or if you would like to participate at home, please feel free to email me and I’d be happy to send along the Cultivating Character Worksheet Packet to you.  Please keep me posted on your discoveries!

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