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Let them Do It - Issue 247
April 27, 2012
Hi there! ....

This week has been such a full week of family fun and activity. It started last weekend with us swimming in our dam. Peter has just made this dam weed free so we can enjoy swimming in it - we've been swimming a few times since. Peter has helped Daniel make a couple of rafts and yesterday I saw him set the sail on one of them and sail down the dam. Very cool! We went as a family to the Anzac Day dawn service. We have had a few conversations about the significance of Anzac Day and our national identity. It is good to talk these things over with our kids now they are older which are different than when they were younger. We celebrated Daniel’s 13th birthday. We had one formal study day and a homeschool co-op morning where we learnt tricks like balancing, spinning, catching and twirling different objects thanks to the circus man, TinTin, who comes to town once a year. A very full week.

Live life with your kids!

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Also if you are an Australian Homeschooler - Have you heard of this conference? I'll be one of the speakers, and would love to meet you there. Go to Mum Heart Conference website.

Let them do it!

When we teach our children a life skill there is a four step process

  • We need to tell them what and why for whatever it is we are teaching
  • We need to show them how to do it
  • We need to watch them do it
  • We need to let them do it, on their own

When we teach our children new skills, life will get messy – it can be no other way! The capacity we have to do whatever the task is comes with plenty of practice. Our children don’t have that experience – they won’t do it like us, not at first anyway.

Are we prepared to let life get messy?
Are we prepared for tasks to take longer?
Are we prepared for things not to be quite right?

If our children are to grow in life skills we must let go of these things. Being orderly, timely, and working with excellence – these are standards that happen as we gain confidence and experience. Once upon a time you couldn’t do these things like you can today. We need to give our children the opportunity to get their hands dirty, to try new things, to fail and to try again. Eventually they too will master skills with order, timeliness and excellence - but it takes time and hands on experience to get there.

When we don’t accept messy, longer and not quite right then we will hamstring our kids’ opportunity to grow in life skills. When we teach them (that is, tell them what to do and how to do it) but don’t actually let them do it we limit their experience and opportunity to practice and gain excellence.

We must let them do it.

Once our children gain some abilities you may find that they start doing things differently than you. I’m especially thinking teenage years here. This can be really frustrating – after all the effort you took to teach them the right way (read ‘your way’!) Instead of seeing our kids as cocky and responding to your desire of taking them down a peg or two we need to step back and see what is really going on here.

You taught them the skill and if you talked to them about the “what and why” then you have also given them an understanding of the thinking skills behind the task – the safety issues and the reasoning for why you do it the way you do. But that doesn’t mean there is only one way of doing it. Along side of teaching our children life skills we are teaching them the ability to problem solve. When they take on a task and do it ‘their way’ they are really experimenting with problem solving.

They may find a better way of doing a task.
They may stuff up!

The question we have to ask ourselves is - are we prepared to let them do it?

  • Even if we can see ahead of time that it won’t work?
  • Even if we can see a long list of repercussions?
  • Even if we can see that it will take longer?
You see it has come back to the same issues – are we prepared for it to get messy, take longer and not be right? For the sake of our children learning?

Experimenting, or trying new things, or problem solving – whichever way you want to put it is a part of growing up and making the life skills your parents taught you your own. If we don’t let them stretch their wings then they won’t learn to fly. (Note on the side: I’m talking age appropriate here – any deviation from what you taught is generally based on being able to do it the way you have taught first)

  • We need to let our teens give it a try – their way – without taking personal offense!
  • We need to be there for them if it does fail without saying “I told you so!”
  • We need to be there with praise when it works their way – maybe even be humble enough to change your way to their way if it really worked well!

I am amazed at how much kids can do. If only we let them. Life skills are one of the easiest things to teach kids because there is an obvious purpose to what they are learning and there is an immediate application. But unless we let them do it – it just becomes head knowledge, and they lose interest and focus.

When I was 12 I enjoyed cooking. But I did things differently than my mum. My mum was gracious enough to give me the kitchen when I wanted to bake – she had but one rule and that was that I cleaned up after myself. I don’t know that I cook that much differently than my mum today, but I sure did think I did when I was 12! Mum had taught me how to cook, I just wanted to do it myself. The same with sewing – when mum stepped back from looking over my shoulder all the time I started to enjoy sewing and took on trickier projects. I am sure I had many a flop in the kitchen and I needed mums help with my sewing but once I had the skills mum let me give it a go.

Is there something that you are doing this weekend that you can pass onto your kids? Cooking a cake, planting seedlings, fixing a motor or bathing the dog? Do your kids know how to do these things? If so let them. If not, have them with you and teach them and let them do it next time!

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Until next week

Belinda Letchford
Living life with her kids in Australia!

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Live life with your Kids newsletter is about being a deliberate parent, about enjoying family life and using the opportunities that happen to teach and train your children in righteousness (right living with God). I hope that you will find regular encouragement as you live life with your kids!

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