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How to Teach Our Children New Skills

I think sometimes we expect kids to know how to do tasks without properly training them.  We expect them to know how to sweep or vacuum the floor, clean the toilet, cook simple meals, wipe down the counter, do laundry, etc. when they reach a certain age.  After all, they’ve been watching us do these tasks day in and day out.  They really should know how to do all these things by now!!!

When I was working in the corporate world some years ago, we always talked about a high learning curve when a person starts a new job.  The idea is that when you first start a new job, you really don’t know what you’re doing.  You have to learn how the company operates, what’s the proper channel of personnel, specific tasks or job descriptions related to your project, and a new set of corporate jargon to be learned.   A new hire usually attends an orientation or a training session.  Typically for the first month or two, a new hire really isn’t an asset to the company.  It isn’t until he learns how everything works that he begins to contribute to the company.

Taking the corporate example, we have to have the same mindset when training our children to help out in the house or simply learn a new skill.  Remember, in the beginning there’s a high learning curve and it’s going to take time for your child to learn and perfect the skill.  I think there is a three-step approach to this.

Step 1: Observe and learn

Quite simply, the student is to observe how a task is done.  As a teacher, we need to be sure to talk through each step and explain it thoroughly.  When we perform a task over and over again ad infinitum, we simply do it without thinking about it because the task is so deeply ingrained.  Too often we expect our student to possess the same skill to the same degree without thinking that this may very well be their first time ever performing the task.  It is imperative that we keep on talking and explaining the specifics.

My husband adds this insight: how a person observes from a standing height of 4 ft. or less is drastically different from what they might see at an adult’s height.  So he recommends getting down to your child’s height to get a sense of what they are actually seeing, and how you might better teach and show them the task more effectively.

Step 2: Perform the task with supervision

After they’ve successfully observed and learned the new task, they are to do it with your supervision.  When it comes to actually doing the task, it is quite different from just observing it.  I find myself forgetting steps when I do a new task even though I thought I knew or remembered all the steps.  Having a supervisor to guide the student through each step is helpful.  When he errs, the mistake can be quickly corrected.  As a trainer, we need to be patient.  I know sometimes I’d rather take over and finish the task because it’d be lot faster and efficient.  If I do this, I wouldn’t have properly trained my child to do the task. Resist the temptation to take over, rather, instruct the child through each step.

Step 3: Perform the task without supervision

Having observed and performed the task successfully, the child is now ready to do the task without supervision.  Depending on the task and the child, steps 1 and 2 may be repeated several times before being able to do the task on his own.  Don’t have the expectation of only going through the steps once and expect the child to already know how to do the task on his own.

Honestly, these three steps aren’t rocket science nor are they an ancient secret.  These three steps came about as I interacted with my children on a daily basis.  I think it is important to note these steps because we often forget them and set improper expectations for our children.  So, next time you start getting frustrated over your children’s lack of progress, consider the aforementioned steps and evaluate whether you’ve properly led them through all the steps.

Posted in Homemaking, Homeschooling, Parenting.


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  1. Jenny says

    This is so true. I taught Gwen how to place a plastic grocery bag in the bathroom trash can. I didn’t think this needed explaining/training until I asked her to do it for me and she got frustrated. Then I took the time to show her and she was so proud to do it herself! Now she enjoys emptying the bathroom trashes and putting new bags in! Great for me. I hate that chore 🙂



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