Home Life by Bev and Phil Haas
According to Dr. Jim Burns, “99 times out of 100, our kids don’t learn how to do something ‘right’ because we don’t take the time to teach them how.” We’re not trying to place blame here; we’re merely pointing you in a direction that will help reduce your frustration and increase your son’s skills. There’s a simple four-step plan for teaching our kids to do something. Phil first learned about these sensible steps when he started out in ministry about 30 years ago. These steps will work with about anything you want to teach your children (or adults for that matter).
I do it and you observe. The first step involves demonstrating the task and communicating what you want your son to know about the task you are handing over. Talk through the task as you do it. For example, if you want the paint to be rolled in different directions when first applied and then rolled from ceiling to floor to smooth out the surface, make sure you say so. Take time to answer any questions and provide a brief explanation as well as a clear demonstration. Be careful not to overdo this step with teenagers. They don’t need to hear it as many times as you feel the need to say it.
I do it and then you do it. The second step involves demonstration followed by the supervised performance of the task by your child. Be patient.
Encourage him when he performs a task correctly and gently redirect him when more work is required. Remember, we all need time to learn correct methods and to meet someone else’s expectations. For example, if you have developed that special waxing technique that works best for a shiny car, be patient with your son. Don’t forget that it probably took you more than a few wax jobs to develop your method. Make sure you affirm your child as his skills and efforts improve—even if the results are less than what you desire.
You do it and I observe. Take a few steps back and let your child perform the task. Don’t walk away. Instead, continue to check on your child from time to time to see how he’s doing. This is a time to remain calm and keep affirming honest effort. Parallel parking, for example, can take a long time to learn! Depending on the skills involved, this stage may take the longest period of time to work through.
It’s all yours! Once you’ve seen that your child can perform the task to meet reasonable expectations, you can step away. Notice we said reasonable expectations. Our rule of thumb is if someone else can do the task at least 75 percent as well as we could, then it’s time to hand it over. This doesn’t mean there will never be an occasion for you to check back in with your child regarding the task. From time to time, kids will be kids and the task may not be completed as needed. If you follow these steps you should begin seeing your frustration level go down and your son’s skill level go up. You might even start planning the next task to teach your son. Continue to affirm what he is doing right and encourage your son on his willingness to step up and take on these tasks. Our children, like all of us, need to know they are appreciated. On at least two occasions Jesus heard his Father say, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17 and 17:5). That sounds like encouragement,
doesn’t it! Likewise, let your son know when you are pleased and make sure you focus on improvement, not perfection.
A Word About Responsibility
All parents face the same challenge: raising children who are responsible and have their heads on straight. One thing we know for sure is we can’t tell our kids to “be responsible” and expect it to happen. It doesn’t work that way. Responsibility cannot be taught; it must be caught. To help our children become more responsible, we must offer them opportunities to be responsible. That’s where handing over tasks and the four steps come in. The easy part is describing these steps. Now comes the hard work of applying them with your child.
Send your questions about family life to Phil and Bev Haas in care of The Lookout, 8805 Governor’s Hill Drive, Suite 400, Cincinnati, OH 45249, firstname.lastname@example.org.We regret that personal replies are not always possible. Phil and Bev Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They are the parents of two children, and they have one grandson.