Everyone is making New Year’s Resolutions.
In 2019 everyone will be:
- losing weight
- going to the gym
- decluttering their house
- becoming a Better Person
At least they intend to do all those things. The year is new, after all, and Anything is Possible. You’ve probably made a few resolutions for yourself.
There are dozens (hundreds) of articles, blog posts, and Youtube videos on how to write SMART goals, how to keep yourself accountable, and how to track your progress. Just Google it if you’re interested and want to set yourself up for the best chance of success.
What about your child?
If anything is possible for you, then anything can also be possible for your child, right?
You believe this year they’ll succeed at all the things that were hard in 2018. Maybe they started slow at the beginning of the school year, but now that they’ve gotten used to the routines and the holidays are over, there will be no more distractions. They can accomplish all the milestones they’re ‘supposed’ to for their age and perhaps be all caught up by the end of the school year.
Do you have written or unwritten resolutions for your child?
You may, if you think, “By the end of the school year my child will”
- be talking in full sentences
- be able to sit through an entire story time at school
- sit through an entire meal at the table and try every food on the plate
- be understood by strangers when he talks
- follow directions at school without having to be reminded
Sometimes these thoughts might not even be conscious ones. They’re just hopes you have once in a while when you’re reminded that your child isn’t doing something you wish he or she would. (“Yikes! Why am I the only one who can understand what my child is saying?”)
However, if they’re conscious ‘resolutions’ you might want to rethink your intention.
Have you ever made a resolution for your spouse?
A woman who resolves that her husband will ‘help out more around the house’ may be confronted with the surprising reality that her husband thinks he’s already doing enough around the house, and that his resolution for her is to get the house ‘more organized’ (whatever that is). People usually don’t like it when someone else makes a resolution on their behalf.
Your resolution for your child’s developmental skills might be met with a similar lack of enthusiasm. A resolution or goal always has a better chance of success if the idea to accomplish it was that person’s idea. This applies equally to adults and children.
Now, it’s possible that your child might reach that developmental milestone by the end of the school year.
- They may experience a natural ‘spurt’ in development
- They may be lacking a skill that usually isn’t acquired by their age, and will eventually gain it within the average age range
- Their school curriculum may target the skill they lack within the course of the school day, so that they get many chances to practice it in a natural way
- They may notice that they can’t do something most of their peers can, and become suddenly interested in acquiring that skill
However, not all children are interested in working on a skill they lack, and sometimes children really are delayed in certain developmental skills.
If you can’t make a resolution for someone else, how can you help your child gain skills they need?
- Make sure your child is actually delayed in a skill – check here for developmental charts that will guide you in what skills to expect from your child by age
- Talk to their pediatrician if you have concerns about your child’s developmental skills and ask whether they should be evaluated – an evaluation could give you good information on how your child learns
- Ask their teacher what skills your child is working on and how to work on them at home in a fun way
If your child really does need to work on a skill there are ways to teach that will be fun for both of you. Having fun is so much better than “working on a skill.” And when you’re having fun there’s no need to set a time limit (the skill must be mastered by June 1st, for example).
Have fun when you teach
When you’re ‘working’ on a skill with your child or trying to teach, it could feel ‘heavy’ for both you and your little one. ‘Working’ implies that it’s difficult, that doing it is not something you’d ever choose to do, unless you were being paid. Moms sometimes promise their child, ‘if you do this, then you can have __________.’ This can seem like a reward, but it’s often a bribe. Lots of children react poorly to a bribe, digging in their heels and refusing to do anything at all, particularly if the skill is very difficult for them to do.
In contrast, it’s much easier to do something fun that coincidentally gives your child a chance to practice a skill they lack. Then you can do a short session of the practice almost painlessly during the normal course of your day.
- If your young child speaks very fast and leaves out sounds or parts of words (making their speech very difficult to understand), sing some nursery rhymes with them. The sing-song rhythm of nursery rhymes is perfect for slowing down speech and alerting your child to all the sounds in words. Clap as you sing, to reinforce the rhythm. At first you’ll be doing all the singing, but over time your child will join you, especially if you leave off the last word in a line as they’re learning the rhyme.
Peas porridge (hot),
peas porridge (cold),
peas porridge in the pot, 9 days (old)
Some like it (hot)
Some like it (cold)
Some like it in the pot, 9 days (old)
- If your child needs to learn how to put his shoes on by himself, make a game of it. At random times during the day (a couple of times a day at most) call out,”oh no, the Shoe Police are coming – get your shoes on!” Then the both of you run to find your shoes, sit, and together put your shoes on. Your child can ‘help’ you when you’re ‘having trouble,’ and you can help your child. Try to do as little as possible, allowing him or her to struggle a little as they push their foot in, for example, while you encourage them. When you both have your shoes on, you can ‘high five’ or yell ‘hooray’ and/or engage in some tickling. Make sure there’s a good payoff! ALSO make sure the shoes they’re putting on are not the most difficult pair they own!
- Start with easy skills so your child can experience success fairly quickly. If your child needs to ‘work on’ multiple skills, target only one or 2 (at most) at a time. Think how you might feel if you were trying to: start an exercise program, change your diet, declutter your house and follow a new budget all at the same time. Overwhelmed? You don’t want your child to feel like that.
Children really do learn through play, so whenever possible make learning fun. Your child will be more likely to want to play again, giving them lots of opportunities to practice the skill they’re learning. At the same time you’ll be making your relationship with them even stronger and more positive.
This can work even with older children. When my daughter was in middle school I had to drive her 40 minutes away to a therapist who was helping her learn new skills over the course of 6 weeks. She hated going, hated the exercises, and insisted that she was getting no benefit from the sessions. To make it more bearable for herself, she listened to her favorite music on her iPod on the way there. After the sessions, we always went somewhere she enjoyed. Sometimes we went to a restaurant for lunch, another time we went to the pet store and got a hermit crab for her (she loved/loves animals). Another time we watched one of her favorite horror movies when we got home. By the end of the 6 weeks her skills had improved, but even better, we still had a good relationship and had made some fun memories.
So can you teach your child skills they lack?
Yes, as long as you remember:
- to make sure they’re appropriate for their age and developmental level
- to get input for how to teach the skill, if you can
- to make sure you’re both having fun
What skills are you helping your child learn?
What resolutions have you made for yourself?
No matter if it’s for you or your child, HAVE FUN!