Parenting Part 2 of 5

toddler climbing a wooden ladder

Birth to 7 years; Childhood:

The first 7-10 years is where the child gets the core sense of themselves, the world and future. Essentially they are learning the operating and processing system. Or laying down the fundamental pathways of their experience. That is, how they view themselves and their world and future. How do they get this view of themselves? From you, how you treat them, from your relationship and interactions with them. It is important to examine and ask yourself how do you view, communicate and interact with your child? And what are your goals for them? It not necessarily only the accomplishments that you want for them; but their character and qualities of being. These are things like being happy, confident, responsible, able to choose their own path, etc.

Prince or Princess:

A child treated as a prince or princess will view themselves as important and everybody else is in second place. They see the world is at their disposal and for their entertainment and at their beck and call. Their sense of future will be NOW. The prince or princess has the potential to be rather difficult if things are not going their way. And, they may not develop the capacity or internal resources like self-sufficiency, resiliency and true self-confidence/self-competence to make opportunities and take responsibility for their life.

Piece of Dirt:

A child treated like a piece of dirt or is unwanted or merely a piece of property or perhaps an inconvenience; what do you think will happen? Many will see themselves as rather insignificant, with limited value and without an intrinsic sense of self-worth or self-respect. The world is an oppressive place. The future will seem dismal and perhaps hopeless. This child will have a depressive outlook and interpret life as a struggle. For others, if they have the fortune to change their mindset, life may become a “hero’s journey;” striving to become more than what they were told they were.

Raised in Chaos:

If the family environment is chaotic, unpredictable or there is no consistency, the child may become rather anxious and fearful. Or become a risk taker, willing to gamble on opportunities because what else do they have to loose? Or maybe they become rather manipulative; attempting to control their environment. They might become skillful in observing, reading and interpreting the environment and as a result can become quite skillful in navigation and negotiation and may become opportunistic. predator. First making sure their wants and needs are primary. But underlying these different personalities is a sense of self that is unsure of their self-worth and self-respect.

Being Part of a Team:

The child raised in a family who views itself as a team in which the child is a vibrant part. The child will view himself or herself as a team member. In which they are important, that they have certain duties or responsibilities. They feel that there is a purpose, meaning and a responsibility to contribute to their existence. The world will be a place where there is give-and-take. The skills of negotiation and navigation are required and thus need to be developed. They view the future is hopeful. They understand they have a meaningful contribution and that their participation is required if they are to enjoy their desired future. This child will develop a sense of self-worth, confidence and competence. For example, at 3 years old, their job maybe to feed the cat everyday and putting away their toys. At 7 they have a weekly chore list and fixing dinner 1 time a week. And at 12 mowing the yard and cleaning the kitchen as part of their chores. And for teens… we will talk later.

Learning Style

How does a child learn or what is the child’s learning style? The three principle learning styles are: by doing, or observing or following the rules. One of my kids was a doer, schooled by natural consequences and hard knocks. The youngest was an observer. Geez, my older siblings were dumb. I can see that it did not work for them and I don’t want to have that experience. She was always a little reserved. But would observe for a while and then if it looked fun and safe enough, she would jump in. Otherwise, she would walk away and find something else to do. The eldest was the rule follower. He would read the rules or instructions and made sure he understood the rules and how things are supposed to work. Then he would set about on ticking things off on the list. He was structured and rigid in that there was a correct way. Occasionally, when he knew he did something wrong, he even grounded himself.

When it is about safety, there are times to say a hard NO! But when saying no, it’s best to also a note a reason or explanation that they are able to understand. However, there are also times when experience or the school of natural consequences is the better teacher. Children react to, learn from and are a product of their environment. Children watch our (the parent’s) reactions. We are their role models. Children are naturally inquisitive and want to learn. It is important to be mindful of what we are actually teaching them by our own behaviors.

Discipline and Timeouts:

Discipline is really about education. Time-outs are about moving a child to a calm place, having them realize their offending action. It is to give them time to consider other alternatives and use more appropriate behavior. When giving the child a time-out, tell them (in a calm matter-of-fact manner) the offending behavior (education or awareness), while in a time-out (1 minute for each year of their age). At the end of the time-out, have them tell you why they were in the time-out (to ensure they are aware of the offence). Then ask them what they could do differently/better next time (sometimes you need to suggest 1 or 2 more appropriate behaviors). Then, tell them, “I know you will do better next time” (you are setting the expectation and the belief that they are capable…that you believe in them). Lastly, tell them you love them. Thus, a time out becomes an educational opportunity for them to realize their behavior, other options or alternatives to their behavior and that you setting and expecting confidence (belief) in their ability to do better next time.

A couple examples of learning: I distinctly remember as a toddler, putting a paper clip in an electrical outlet; I never did it again…excellent teaching from the school of natural consequences. My youngest, when she was a toddler loved to climb things. She would climb anything and then yell at me to get her down. I eventually figured out a better response. “If you climb it, get yourself down.”  I would be close by but instead of lifting her down, I would instruct her how and where to place her hands and feet so she could get herself down. She quickly figured out how high she wanted to climb. However, she developed the confidence, competence and skills required to climb up and down. If my response was fear and anxiety about her falling and as a result grab her and safely put her on the ground; what would she learn? Realize that children learn from their parent’s reactions…what to fear, what to feel or how to cope with a situation. A parent’s reaction sets a precedent of how to react in a similar situation. Toddlers, children and teens learn primarily from their parents, who are their primary role model. Both we and children are products of our environment. As an inexperienced counselor, I was afraid of dealing with children, teens and their parents. One of my mentors noted, “it is simple, children are products of their environment. If you want to understand a child’s behavior, look at their environment. Particularly at what the parents are doing or not doing that supports the child’s behavior.”  Winner, winner, chicken dinner…duh. This is an important thing to remember and note in many situations in life. Wondering what’s going on and why; look at the environment.

With toddlers it is about identification and the question is “what”…cat, dog, bird, car, truck, etc. Then at two and three years old the question becomes “why?”  Which is about how do things work? Stop, go, where, sleeping etc…and of course the use of the word “NO!” Later the toddler becomes insistent about wanting to do it themselves. Often what we hear is “No, I want to do it.”  They have developed an elemental sense of themselves, their ability/agency and thus want do it themselves. Later, as preschoolers, there is a developing sense of mastery and accomplishment. It is the “show and tell” stage. They look for reinforcement, reassurances and praise. The child, in kindergarten and first grade, continues mastery, accomplishment and then begins social/peer interactions of being 6 and 7 years old.

Team Pizza:

Let’s say the situation is, it’s your three or five-year-old’s turn to decide what is on the menu for Wednesday’s dinner. And the established family structure and expectation is that they will help prepare dinner. So, using the gardening metaphor. “Okay son, what do you want to do for Wednesday’s dinner?” Pepperoni PIZZA!… (love). That sounds great! Ok first, we need to make a list and go to the grocery store so you can pick out the items (spring, planning and prep). Then on Wednesday afternoon you and your son review the recipe, make the dough and let it rise. Then get all the items ready. Put the pizza together and pop it in the oven. Meanwhile, getting the table and other things ready for dinner (summer). During dinner it’s about fun, talking and sharing a wonderful pizza (fall). After dinner and during the cleanup, you note; “that was a great pizza you made. Did you like how it turned out? Would you do something different next time?” “Next time, we need another pound of pepperoni” (winter/evaluation). This is just an example of incorporating the gardening metaphor into daily life. As your child becomes older, this structure and their sense of agency will have become second nature and developed into a natural fluency of just knowing how to get things done for themselves.

Understand that family life during the first seven years of a child’s life has a lifelong impact on the quality of their well-being. A large part of the first seven years depends on the quality and content of the relationship with the parent and the family environment. The parent’s intention and mindful interactions are primary factors. Kids are observant. Children learn from what we expose them to. Which are their parents and their family environment. Thus, it is important to be mindful of your behavior, feelings and manner of your interactions and relationship with your children. Are we angry and intolerant, frustrated, anxious and fearful? Or are we calm, instructive, encouraging and loving? What are you really teaching your child? Sometimes we will be upset, irritated, angry with our child. It happens and it will be ok. However, after you have some time and space to calm down and gather your wits and apologize. Tell them what you expect, how you felt, that you are sorry for yelling at them and that you love them. Own your feelings and behaviors. Apologizing notes it was not right and that you will do better next time. Again, you are the adult and their role model. You are showing them it is proper to acknowledge your mistakes or poor behavior. That it is normal to make mistakes, and it is not the end of the world. That you also try to learn from your mistakes and then move on.

A personal caveat: Growing up, I rarely saw my parents argue with each other. Then in significant relationships with girlfriends and later my wife, when an argument happened, I was at a loss for what was happening, what to do and thinking this was “the end.” And my response was to avoid, shut down or run away. Which, to my surprise only made things worse. Sure, our kids would see us get into it, arguments and such. But they also saw us apologize, make-up and forgive each other. Sometimes life is messy, dirty, ugly. Life is life. It is also beautiful, wonder filled and magical. Rolling around in the dirt can be some of fun, but do it less than masybe 33% of the time.

Recently I’ve discovered there is some very interesting research and thoughts about this first 7-year period. If interested, I encourage you to do some reading. Basically, it is looking at the predominate theta brain wave patterns during the first 7-year period. Theta brain waves are associated with imaginal/fantastical/creative play. Perhaps it overlays or enwraps the basic operating system into the future story of the child. Using the computer metaphor, the early imaginal childhood experiences are laying down the basic operating system (i.e., the subconscious constructs of the view of self, world and future) that remains relatively intact for the rest of their lives and correlates with the basic story of their life. Is their story of being a victim? Life is a struggle, and the future is bleak; I’m a princess or a team player, etc.?

In my life, career and experience of raising my kids, it is not a simplistic either/or. It is a combination of acorn potential, of childhood environment, parental influence and the laying down of the basic operating system that sets up a life full of opportunities for learning and being. Parents, the first 7-10 years of your child’s life is the great opportunity to influence their life. What will you teach them?

You need to encourage their development of love, i.e., their interest, curiosity and agency (more in just a bit). Observe what, when and how. Make a positive comments when they are being gracious and loving. Complement the things that you want to encourage. Their love will often show up as an interest, curiosity, focus, attention and time spent. This will clue you into their passion. Once you have an idea, you can further develop this passion by asking them questions. Questions and statements like, “wow that is really cool, or I didn’t know that…” or I wonder why, how, when; ask them about it. Have them be creative and make up an imaginative story. Basically, they are interested in something and thus you are also showing them you are also interested, but you are leaving it open so that they can further wonder. Do thinks such as an adventure to a museum, soccer game or library so that they can find out more. Encourage them to be curious and investigate further on their own. In short, acknowledge and reward the things you want them to do. The things they do you that you don’t want them to do, downplay it, divert their focus or view it as a learning opportunity to do differently. And this is by asking them questions. Ultimately, this will help them develop the capacity for self-discipline and self-determination. There are very few times when it’s the end of the world. There is always tomorrow. And tomorrow is a new day and a new opportunity. Take a deep breath, do what you can do today. Tomorrow will be different.

Pattern Recognition:

Underlying the big concepts of love, change and growth is pattern recognition. Pattern recognition is learning to see repeated patterns by investigation and being curious. The foundation is “what is it, how does it work and why.” The three questions are pattern recognition. And the “what, how and why” enables us to do analysis, synthesis, integration and innovation. The total education experience (kindergarten through a Ph.D.) is about gaining knowledge and doing analysis, synthesis, integration and innovation. Simply, these are the foundational skills of a reasonable education. If a person learns these skills, they can do anything. The really great thing is that toddlers already do this but at a very elementary level. Watch them play. They are working their puzzles. Their puzzle may be to put blocks in holes, playing with their stuffed animals and then later working out these skills with their peers in a sports game and even later with figuring out relationships with potential lifelong mates, etc.

The other piece is execution; which are the how and why in action. Is your child doing or carrying out a plan or a course of action? Your mindful guidance will expose opportunities for them to experience and develop their skills of execution. These experiences of execution become their agency. They will develop a view of themselves as being confident, competent and knowing what it takes to get something done for themselves. They will learn that mistakes, challenges and deficits are opportunities to furthering their learning. Parents, this is called responsibility and ownership of their sovereignty. As toddlers they state “I do.” In elementary school it will be “show and tell” and in middle school, it is developing fluency, whether in sports, music, arts, social relationships, math, languages and other admirable achievements. Make no mistake, execution is the culmination-in-action of their knowledge, analysis, synthesis, integration and innovation. It is not the end, but another step in their journey. A well-traveled journey is a well-lived life; the stumbles, the falls and all. Many of the greatest challenges on their path, will be their greatest opportunities and the sweetest accomplishments.

Three Skills to Focus Upon and Why: The following three core skills or qualities are lifelong. A child, youth and adult that have these qualities will live life better and as a result have a better life. The simple reason is because they will be/are actively engaging life.


As a kid I was and still am a fairly poor reader. Actually, it was not until graduate school I had to figure out how to read reasonably well; and that was only because I recognized it was a huge deficit. And had to figure something out. Very early in fatherhood, knew I did not want my kids to be handicapped and struggle like I had.

The first thing is to read to them. Do this as much as possible. Kids that can read are going to be more successful. Kids that love or have a passion for reading literally have the world’s knowledge at their fingertips. If they are curious about something, they will have the skills to discover something new for themselves. A kid that can read can get into college. But if a kid has a passion of reading, will be more likely to graduate from college. The ability to read creates the opportunity for self-education and therefore self-determination, sovereignty and freedom.

Start reading to your kids as soon as you can. It is not too early nor too late to read to them. Preferably when they are infants; certainly, by age one. Reading to them creates an intimate space for connection. The warmth of sitting in your lap or next to you in a big comfy chair is what they experience. They will hear and copy your linguistic sounds, which form a foundation for learning the alphabet. They connect the alphabet to sounds and then to words. Toddlers can learn the alphabet and attach sounds to the letters. And by age 3-4 they will be reading. When and how to do this? For example, when pushing them around in the grocery cart, e.g., “hey can you find the letter C for cookies; me love cookies… let’s go find some COOKIES (cookie monster voice).” Or while driving around, “what sound does cows make… MOO… M for moo… lets sing a moo song for the cows that you are driving past. Toddlers are sponges, their brain/neuro development connections are soaking up information and context. Make it fun/playful to help input the information via several neuro pathways at the same time (e.g., seeing, hearing, singing and moving/kinetically). You are helping to create a better, more connected contextualized brain in your kid. So, try to incorporate visual, sound, context and motivation. Be creative, have fun and make a game of reading signs, etc. By the time they are in kindergarten, they will know their alphabet, be able to read and have a reasonable handle on writing. I was a poor reader and disliked sitting around reading. But this motivated me to ensure that my kids did not have this challenge of being a poor reader. I started reading to them as infants. When my son was in second grade, he was all about dinosaurs and wanted to see the movie Jurassic Park. We made the deal, read the novel (the actual novel not the kids’ short version) and then we will go see the movie. Boom done in 4 weeks. I was dumbfounded, thrilled and proud. Did he understand all the words and concepts? No. But he could read and understand enough to fire up his imagination and seek more knowledge. Later in high school he worked in the local public library and would bring home whatever books he found interesting and could easily read 1-2+ thousand pages a night. Frequently, my kids would unplug from their electronic devices, TV, video games, etc. and spend hours reading. Often noting the book was much better than the movie. Imagination is creative versus watching a movie is more passive. While gaming is more about memory, strategy and execution/reaction within the context of the game.

Tip: After your toddlers brush their teeth, in pajamas and in bed; spend 20-30 minutes reading to them. Make this a daily evening routine until at least 4-5+ years old and where they routinely want to read on their own. Also, regularly go to the library to check out books. Let them choose books they find interesting. It doesn’t matter as much what your children read. It matters that they read! And if they are reading something they are curious about; that is inspirational action or behavior.


The second skill is curiosity. You want to encourage them to be curious. Most infant, toddlers and kids are naturally very curious. They are sponges for information, i.e., the what, how and why of things. Then their imaginations fire-up. They ask “what” and point. At age 2, they want to do it themselves. You don’t need to encourage their curiosity, but be mindful not to discourage their curiosity and to guide their curiosity towards more knowledge, analysis, synthesis, integration and innovation of the things that are interesting. By asking your children questions about, “what, when, where, why and how” primes their critical thinking skills they will use the rest of the life.

For example, at 6-8 months, a toddler will point to a small animal and say “cat” and your response would be “yes, cat… meow.” They will do this many times to learn and become confident in identifying the world. You consistently note “yes it is a cat, it meows “meow” and is soft… has sharp claws, etc.” The next day they see a small dog and point and say “cat” and you note “dog… woof.” You get the idea. Basically, they are doing pattern recognition and identification; 4 legs, 2 ears and a tail… animal, meow is a cat, woof is a dog. Trees verses flower and car verses trucks, etc. It is all very natural observation, identification and classification of the “what.”

At around 2-year old, they have a handle on identification of things and they have discovered their agency and can-do things. In fact they want to do things. Popularly know as the terrible 2’s. They often say “no” or “I do.” This is about them wanting to figure out how it works. They need the experience to work the puzzle. It’s learning how things operate or work. Your toddler wants and needs to figure it out for themselves. Thus the “no… I do” statements are perhaps their frustration. Parents, see this as an opportunity or experience for them to figure out the puzzle. Thus you guide, show and be supportive of their discovery of how to do it. Let them discover it and own it; but encourage, support and praise when they make the discovery. “You can’t ride the bike for them, but you help them to learn to ride the bike.”

But you are not done. Your 3-year old child will ask “why.” The challenge of why. The why is really about an emerging conceptual capacity of wondering (curiosity revisited) not only how things work but why things work or not? This is about figuring out basic rules or principles. The why is about them wanting to discover how they can interact, influence and work with things in their environment. The “why” is about how things work. It is basically a re-working of pattern recognition, but with the addition of rules and principles of function. They want to know the patterns of how things work and the why; so that they have greater agency in their environment. Besides it is fun to learn new things, like poop. “The Poop Book!” or “Everyone Poops” are children’s books that are really speaking to the child’s level of wondering about basic rules, principles and function.

As a parent, you will want to be aware of their developing passions. And of opportunities for your child to pursue, exercise and become competent in and of their own agency toward following their passions/joys/love, i.e., curiosity. Your job is to recognize these opportunities. Appreciate curiosity as opportunities for learning to become competent and confident in both themselves, their self-determined passions and navigating their world. In the next few stages of development, you will be leveraging these passions. They are the “inspiration” for them to learn how to make things happen for themselves. Which is simply them learning to take ownership of their lives.

The first 7 years of a child’s life are about learning. They learn everything. It is not a consciousness type of academic learning, but is sponge-like and using hands-on experience. They are soaking it in and learning about things via imagination and play. You will see them role play their favorite characters, animals and even you. This first 7 years they are laying down the software. The rules of operations of how they will process their experiences of life. This is where they get the core sense of themselves (the self), the world and the future. This is the laying down of their basic operating system (computer/software metaphor) that will influence their experience of themselves and their world and their future for the rest of their life. So be mindful!

Agency: The Why, How and What For:

At 2 years, the “terrible twos” they want to do it themselves and you hear “No, I do.” What is happening is the start of “agency,” i.e., they want to do things for themselves. Recognize this agency is normal. It is your job to see and provide opportunities for safe discovery of how to accomplish and do things for themselves. For example, a toddler that loves to climb. You find that they have watched, discovered and figured out they can climb on to the kitchen counter and from there on to the top of the refrigerator because that is where you keep the good cookies. The toddler has is motivation (who doesn’t LOVE a good cookie) with a goal (cookie) and with self-determined agency, “I will get the cookie.” This is “I can do it myself” and incorporates a fairly complex problem-solving ability. They have pulled out the kitchen drawers, climbed up the drawers on to the counter, stood on the bread box and pulled themselves on to the top of the refrigerator and are now eating their beloved cookie. These wee ones can be scary smart. However, they lack the capacity to know and expect the potential risks of falling and breaking themselves and/or the kitchen drawer. Of course, you are standing there in awe and dumbfounded by their accomplishment. You are also terrified of what if they fell, catch their finger in the drawer, etc.? The initial instinct is to yell “no.” But a better response is, “wow great job, how did you get that cookie?” And they will tell or show you how it’s done… lol. By them telling and showing you how they did it, is helping them to understand the process and cement their confidence. And it also becomes a teaching/learning opportunity to figure out other things they might want to know about (like falling, pinching their fingers, etc.) Is it time to get busy child proofing the entire house?

A funny side story. This was the tale of my 18-month-old daughter, the youngest. When we were at graduate school, living in family housing; she was the climber. I ran out and bought a dozen drawers and door locks for the kitchen and bathroom. Spent a couple of hours installing these locks. All the while with the daughter, my supervisor, helping me. The job finished, success! So, my little supervisor; “I know how this works“ and opens all the drawers and doors that I had just put these “child proof locks” on … ugg. She then helped me put on 2/double locks on a few select doors/drawers; she could not manage unlatching 2 locks at the same time.

So, having a climber, I would take her to the playground to climb on the equipment. She would get uncomfortably up high and become afraid and scream to lift her down; only to do it again. Then back to her climbing up. Great, they are practicing their confidence and competence. Again, would yell, “help get me down.” This is providing you an opportunity. You can let them climb and again you lift them back down; what is this teaching them? That mom or dad will rescue them. So the next time, you say to them before lifting them down, “I will lift you down, but if you climb up again, you will need to learn how to get yourself back down.” In a few minutes, they are back climbing up. In their mind, you have rescued them before and thus again the demand, “help, lift me back down” (they are afraid of falling). And you are concerned about their safety. But you say, “remember I said you have to get yourself back down.” To which their response was, “I can’t, (I don’t know how)” and they are afraid. Now you are using or leveraging their fear and uncomfortableness as a motivator and recognize that this presents a learning opportunity.

You have them take a couple of breaths. Then to look at the situation they have gotten themselves in. And guide them down. You tell them where to place their body, feet and hands; guiding each step on the path down to get back on the ground safely. Of course, guidance and coaching will happen many times for many things. The result is that they gain skills to get themselves back on the ground safely. However, they also gained some autonomy or sovereignty to decide how far up they want to climb (agency). And they will develop both confidence and competence.

Dear parent, despite this young age, you are teaching them about the basic elements of motivation, inspiration, skills, problem solving (analysis, synthesis, integration, innovation and execution). This seeming elementary example is the development of agency. This sense of agency will blossom into self-confidence, self-respect and competence that they will have for the rest of their life. Yes, accidents happen, and these accidents will also be opportunities for your child to learn. By the grace of God, most of us survive into adulthood… Whew!

Discipline revisited as a Part of Agency:

Discipline is about limits, expectations and agency. There are two sources of discipline, external and internal. Usually, external discipline is the introduction of bumping up against a limit and internal discipline is the goal of them having the capacity to self-limit/regulate/educate themselves. The internal and external discipline are first experience, then become lessons, rules or principles of operation. Essentially its a feedback loop. How far can they press the limits? Learning what are the expectations, consequences and what becomes perceived reality. Agency is essentially, what are they going to do about it? If your child has learned the limits. They can expect the consequences of bumping up against or crossing those limits. Thus, they then can exercise their agency or they understand the rules of the game. Basically, they have taken information from an external experience,. Or they have recognized their limits and have a self-determining choice to learn (or not) and have the ability for internal self-discipline, self-regulation or self re-direction. Therefore, it becomes their decision, agency and their responsibility, i.e., their self-referenced sense of their reality.

A parent is about providing appropriate and positive learning opportunities. It challenges kids to figure out the puzzle or work around. How they might apply a principle or rule which leads to experience and wisdom. If the results/consequences are consistent, then there is a clear boundary of the limits. Or they realize there is a rule or casual/predictive relationship. Or they figure out the puzzle and discover there is a work-around solution. However, if the consequences are inconsistent, then the boundaries/rules are unknown/unpredictable, and it becomes more of a risk/reward/gamble and an unsure reality. Parents, you need to decide what is the bottom line or the limit and be consistent. You want to be mindful of presenting, allowing or recognizing opportunities for your child to expand their agency. They will learn that with more agency (self-determined freedom) there is also more responsibility in their claiming of their reality. This is simply growing or expanding their capacity.

It’s not about parental authority, but about exposing them to and framing challenges and failures as leaning opportunities. Thus, this is the reason to ask them the question; “well what did you learn?” By asking this question, you are helping them to recognize, articulate and cement/anchor/learn the lesson. The process is about the gradual exposure to appropriate and challenging learning opportunities. In return, they will gain more competence, confidence; and sense of responsibility and ownership of getting things done.

Discipline is about learning, not punishment. Though it can be painful and stressful. Discipline is learning to learn and therefore ultimately to self-regulate. Can pain and stress are great signals and motivators. First, “pain” is ideally a signal to get a person’s attention. The attention to ask the questions of “what, where, when, why and how.” And from this questioning is the secondary underlying motivator which is the experience of learning (so that it doesn’t happen again). If the child sees a path towards a remedy or avoiding the problem/painful experience in the future; this is learning. The perspective of “learning opportunities,” parents need to be mindful of “what are you really teaching or what is the lesson of the situation and for whom (them or the both of you)?” Thus, the point is to provide opportunities for experiences of success and a sense of learning that they have survived. Learning to live another day, is resilience and re-enforces and sets the precedence for hope. The specific technique, is to ask your child, “what did you learn and what might you do differently next time?” 

Failure can be a learning opportunity. Failure is an opportunity for analysis, synthesis, integration and innovation. Despite the experience of failure, asking the questions of “what can be salvaged and what can be learned” encourages resilience and hope.

Pro Tip: Practice and have ready the following statements. “Yes you did it. I knew you could. You’re a smart kid. I’m sure you will figure it out. ” And if they need or request feedback, do the “sandwich” technique. Basically, first, give them a positive, then the meaty corrective feedback, followed by another positive…aka “the shit sandwich.” Because the tuff meaty stuff is in the middle. And it tastes better because it is sandwiched between the 2 yummy pieces of bread. Or you could do it burrito style … lol.

Learning Style and Capacity
(repost from part 1)

Be mindful of their capacity and their style of learning. Potential is what a child might be able to do. But without capacity it remains untapped. Capacity is built and expanded by exposure, repetition and challenge. It like building up muscles. Once a child has the muscles they have ability. Meanwhile, they also develop their learning style. Basically, there are Doers, Observers and Rule Followers. But these learning styles are also based on capacity. For instance, a toddler is more about direct experiences (doers) and they do a lot. We often observe that children model or copy what they see. Observers tend to be a bit reserved and mildly anxious. They will be on the edge watching and seeing if they can do it. And if all seems good, then they will jump in. And as they do more, they will progress in their ability. Where as rule followers is a higher ordered cognitive task that requires a level of vocabulary, of understanding how things work/function and why it is done (rules). They will ask questions, listen, timidly be involved yet initially want reassurance and be told that they are doing it right or reference some authority (the rules). And once they understand the rules, will expect themselves and others to know and abide by the rules. All of this is simply the progression of “see one, do one, teach one and be one.” Of course, we all have a some of each. As your child grows, look for what is your child’s predominate mode. Remember, parents, you are their first and primary role model.

The Goal of the First 7 Years:

The first 7 years is where the lion’s share of your efforts and effect will be. And if you are attentive, it will be more efficient and instructional for their lives. In part, it is because if you recognize and are mindful of the “first experiences,” you can use these first experiences to “imprint” or encode their “operation system” of their developing reality. In psychology, a newly hatched duckling will “imprint” their mother. The first thing they see is their mother and the duckling will follow the mother around. However, if the duckling sees the farmer first, the duckling will think the farmer is their mother and will follow the farmer around the farm. First experience/imprinting is useful in child raising. This is the basic process. Remember, young toddlers and kids don’t know any better and thus learn their responses from you. For example, we can see pain as a learned response. Your child falls and skins their knee. What is your reaction? If you run over, full of anxiety and fondle and fuss over their skinned knee; “it must hurt,” kiss their knee and make a big deal over cleaning it up and bandaging it… while saying “that is a big ouch;” what are they learning? Versus another response, you calmly walk over, bend over and look at the knee and tell them to just lie there and take a few deep breaths (to get their breathing to calm and lessen the pain)… ”yea it looks like you need a band-aid… just lie there and take a few more deep breaths and when you’re ready, we’ll get you up and walk into the house and find a band-aid.” This is an example of a different response that does not encode the pain drama scenario but another interpretation that accidents happen and it might be a learning opportunity. And we can easily take care of this. One of my dear-old-dad infamous sayings to my kids; “ehh it’s far from your heart ya ain’t going to die today.”

Using a computer metaphor, you are encoding their basic operating system. Your daily influence will significantly decrease by their teens, and you will need to switch tactics to get them to take responsibility to further develop/code their own operating system. There is some recent research noting the correlation of brain waves of infants, toddlers and small children. Basically, these wee ones spend more time in the slower brain waves where it is thought imaginal processing occurs. If you will, it is about role playing, fantasy, making up stories, etc. which can be thought of as setting down foundational neuro pathways, i.e., basic operating systems. 

Parenting Part 1 covered a lot of ground. From discussing your role and influence, to recognizing the secret opportunities, a brief introduction of navigating the three significant forces of love, change and grow. Becoming familiar with the metaphor of gardening, learning style and a brief introduction to the developmental aspect of child raising. Here in Part 2, is a brief introduction of what to to be aware of and what focus upon. during the first 7 years of your child’s life. Which is basically encouraging your child’s skills to read, be curious and develop their sense of agency all within the family environment.

Rest assured that the first 7 years of a child’s life is when they develop a basic orientation to life. They basically figure out who they are, what the world is and that the future will be. Arron T Beck’s work who notes this as the basic view of the “self, world and the future.”

With all integrity and sincerity, children cost time and money. And you are going to pay. The questions are when, for what and how much (time, effort and/or money)? Like many things in life, it’s easier and less expensive to start early. Thus setting-up or preventing things right when they show up. If ignored, those things can end up having expensive interventions such as therapy, drug abuse and criminal issues. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The best is to have a recipe, map or strategy to guide you and support them. They will grow into confident, competent youth and subsequently young adults.

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Published by Love Change Grow LLC

Counselor and crisis consultant of 25 years. Providing education about how to navigate change.

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