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Debunking the Age Myth – She is 10 Years Old, She Should Know How to Clean Her Room!
Myth: Parents usually cite a child’s age as evidence that they should have a certain skill. They might say, “She’s 15, she should be able to clean her room without being reminded,” or “He’s 5, he should be able to dress himself.”
Fact: A child generally only does what he is interested in doing. Everything else you have to teach him/her how to do and it doesn’t matter how old he/she is.
As an adult, did you know how to use Power Point, Microsoft Word, Spreadsheets or just use a computer when you decided or were told at work that you had to start using a particular computer program? I’m guessing you either took a course or spent time reading “Computers for Dummies” – no reference to your intelligence intended.
Do you know how to: Fix a leaking toilet? Play the guitar? Change the transmission in your car? Redo the electrical wiring in your home? Calculate adjustable rate mortgages? Why not? Are you not over 25 years old? Don’t you already know these things? Well, of course, you don’t know how to do any of these things unless someone taught you or you studied and practiced until you learned. No one learns tasks or skills by osmosis – especially children.
Children learn how to do different tasks by watching you, but how often do you ask your child to focus on watching you do a particular task? Generally you do it in one room and they play in another. The only learning that happens in this scenario is that learning, whatever it is, is the work you do.
To teach kids a skill – any skill – you need to make it interesting and fun to keep them engaged. Second, you have to do the task with them many, many times, allowing them to help progressively more each time. After a while they will be able to handle the whole task on their own, but only if you are there with them, watching, training and cheering them on. When the lesson is well learned, your child will ask if he can do it on his own. You still need to be around to intervene if they are in trouble. If your child needs you, your immediate response is essential. When left unattended for too long, they forget what they are supposed to do or lose interest and start doing something else. Once you know your child can stay focused on a task long enough to complete it, you can ask them to complete the task without your intervention, which has a positive consequence for completion. When they reliably complete a task and receive a reward, you can slowly withdraw the reward, making the payout less frequent, or exchange tangible items for more abstract privileges or praise.
You have to go through all of these steps before you can really expect your child to know how to do this task without your help. Then when they do well, you can hold them accountable because you know you did your job and taught them.
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