years ago I quit my job, moved to a new house in a new state,
and set about being a stay-at-home-dad. As one of several children
and an uncle many times over, I was confident that I had the
skills to make it happen. In hindsight, my family experience
was helpful but so was my experience as a trainer. I've just
finished finding my daughter a pre-school, and now I'm preparing
to go back to work. In the process, I've discovered or rediscovered
a few things about learning that I'd like to share.
a process, not an event
transfer is an event. Learning is the integration and application
of that knowledge. Take learning to ride a tricycle, for example.
We were all thrilled when Grandma and Grandpa gave my daughter
a tricycle. Having seen other children ride, she jumped on with
no hesitation. I explained the different parts, encouraged her
to pedal, and let her go. She pushed herself along. I coached
her on pedaling and steering, pointed out how older children
were riding, put her feet on the pedals while I pushed so she
could feel it. She still pushed herself along, bruising her
shins in the process. Then one day, she asked to go for a walk.
She changed her mind and asked to ride her “bike” instead. I
put the trike on the sidewalk. She got on, and off she went.
Five blocks later she was still pedaling and steering like she'd
been at it for weeks.
is a powerful tool
me a story, Daddy.” How many times do I hear this every day?
Too many. About six months ago, we started making up stories
while riding in the car or before bed or whenever the mood strikes.
Early on, I improvised with reworked fairy tales, e.g., my daughter
and Cinderella go to the prince's ball together. But now she
demands specific plot lines and adds characters to suit her
needs. I've found that she uses the stories to create multiple
scenarios to learn how to deal with situations.
example, recently she loaned one of her favorite dolls to her
cousin for the night. This was great sharing at 3 p.m., but
by 5 p.m. when she was almost home she missed her doll something
fierce. So she asked for stories, one after another. “Tell me
about Baby Doll staying with me.” “Tell me about me going with
Baby Doll to my cousin's house.” “Tell me about Baby Doll coming
home early.” Clearly she was searching for a way to make this
okay. Thankfully, one of the stories worked. She soon settled
down and started planning the welcome home party.
learner is in control
got spoiled in the first year. As my daughter's primary caregiver,
I controlled a lot of her world. I knew what was new to her
and could predict her response to many things. I controlled
her learning to the degree that I limited what she was exposed
to. But alas, that power quickly disappears. Nothing demonstrates
the independence of the learner quite as much as potty training,
though learning to ride a tricycle works here, too.
all my parenting coaches warned me. My own experience as a trainer
told me: The learner has to want to learn. But they didn't tell
me who needed the patience more: my daughter or me? I've had
to learn to give up control, and she's had to learn to take
it. I'll spare you the potty details. But I will say that the
more I reinforce that she's in control, the better she does.
children, emotions come first and are thus the greatest barriers
and enablers of learning. There is just no way that I can explain
anything to a screaming, frustrated child—try as I might. And
thus, through trial and error, I learned the real power of a
“time-out.” It gives both of us time to decompress, gain control,
and get perspective. We've both learned to take them and give
them. “Daddy, do you need some quiet time?” is a question that
is gaining currency.
is powerful learning
didn't get playgroups at the beginning. Neither did most of
the other stay-at-home dads I've met. But nonetheless we went,
my daughter and I. If you listened to the adult conversation,
the purpose of the event was to give the adults a few moments
of sanity, adult companionship, and a taste of what the English
language can sound like. But if you watched the children, it
was amazing to see how much was being learned. Not only were
the children learning how to play with different toys by watching
each other, they were learning by observing and listening to
the adults. A parent might scold a child for pushing a friend,
for example. Soon, you'd see the reprimanded child and others
imitate the scolding to keep others in check.
in discussing how our daughter was imitating us, my wife and
I discovered how much of her company's corporate culture was
based on role modeling. No one was teaching courses on how to
behave at the company, but it seemed that in every department
the same behaviors took place. We talked about it for a while
and determined that everyone was emulating the CEO. That raised
the question: Can you give a CEO a time out?
Morris is a writer looking to rejoin the workforce in Western
Connecticut. If you know a place where his talents could be
put to use, let him know. Telecommuting and contract writing
assignments are welcome. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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