Why Not? | Teaching Self-Government

Why Not?

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Broom, dustpan, and child's feet

I instructed my daughter to sweep the floor.  She said, “OK Mom, but I don’t know how.” 

This surprised me.  She had seen me sweep the floor so many times, that I forgot she might not even know how to accomplish the task.  

“First, you decide where you want to end your sweeping.  Next, you decide where the furthest point from your ending point is.  Holding the broom like this, you sweep in straight lines from the furthest point to where you want to end the job.”  I said. 

Then I watched my daughter pick up the broom with confidence and start sweeping the floor just perfect.  She was very proud of the new skill she had learned.  


"They Already Know How..."

There is something in us that wants us to believe that our children should already know how to do the things we want them to do at any given age.  Some people say to me, “Are you saying that I have to tell my child when he should say OK to me?”  or  “It seems like they should already know that when Mom says NO, that they should be fine with it.  It feels strange to tell them exactly how to answer me.”  

If your daughter asked you how to mop a kitchen floor, you would tell her step by step.  If your son has a habit of being mean to friends, you would pull him aside and tell him exactly how to behave around his friends, because you want him to improve socially, and have friends.  


Why Not Just Tell Them?

I don’t see any reason why we can’t tell our children how follow an instruction, or accept a NO answer/consequence/criticism, or disagree appropriately then.  In fact these skills could prove to be much more vital for the success of the child and family than knowing how to properly sweep or mop a floor. 

The best part about teaching our children these skills is when they have learned the skills, they use them with the same kind of confidence my daughter had after she learned to sweep the floor.  I want my children to enjoy problem solving and communicating with people. 

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