Once upon a time I thought my children would teach themselves what they needed to know. No, not the academics of reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, but as toddlers and preschoolers I thought basic life skills would naturally be acquired at the proper times without my specific instruction.
Just as my babies had learned to sit up, walk, or eat table food without any particular instruction from me, I also assumed that they would naturally learn to put on shoes and coats, do buttons, and use forks and knives.
Thinking back, I’m not sure why I had convinced myself that children would learn these things on their own. (And maybe they would… eventually?)
Perhaps the difference between these early life skills acquired as babies through natural persistence but no additional instruction* and the later life skills, is that the naturally acquired ones, are just that, more natural.
As my children are getting older the life skills I’m asking them to acquire are somewhat more of a social construct than something innate to human beings.
People didn’t invent walking, but we did invent buttons. And, it’s pretty clear if you’re hungry and there’s food in front of you, you should put the food in your mouth. But a fork and knife, well those are more of a (necessary) social construct.
What I’m realizing is if I want my children to succeed on these more “advanced” life skills, I need to actively instruct them. And that’s hard. I don’t know how I put on a coat or my shoes, I just do it. But it’s not that simple for a preschooler.
So here’s to teaching our toddlers and preschoolers. Instruction can be difficult and it takes time. But it’s empowering to our children when they can do something by themselves. And, it’s (usually) helpful to us.
I’ll leave you with this short clip of a toddler putting on her coat, hat and shoes. It’s inspiring to see what kids are capable of when they have been taught. And maybe it will inspire me to instruct my kids better.
*I in no means want to trivialize the children and parents who work extra hard and long for these basic skills. Or the children who may never acquire some of these skills. I applaud all of you and your perseverance and love for each other.