How You Could be Coming in the Way of Your Child’s Thinking
I watched in rapt attention as the boy sorted and put away vegetables. He came to the final task of putting away curry leaves in a little steel container with holes.
He struggled to clean the curry leaves. I could see his brain ticking away, as he picked up a pair of scissors to cut the curry leaf stalks into small pieces. “Hmm…Innovative.” thought.
I didn’t know what was in store. As he looked at the steel container, he thought about how to put the curry leaves in. He painstakingly took each curry leaf and tried to push it through a hole in the container. “Oops when is he going to realize?” I wondered. I glanced over to the mother. She was calm as a cucumber. No expression on her face. She just waited.
Watch this video to see what happens next.
Finally , he said, “open.” He made the discovery, without being told or prompted. After putting the curry leaves in the container, he was about to put the open container into the refrigerator. His mother made a declarative statement, “I think, the curry leaves will fall out.” He thought and said, ‘close’. He made another discovery.
If we just let our children make discoveries, they will.
Image courtesy: Dr Steven Gutstein (RDI Connect)
As a parent (or teacher) you could be preventing your child from making his/her own discoveries.
That’s a difficult one to take, but I sailed in the same boat as you, a decade and half ago. My then RDI Consultant, Joyce Albu, called me a ‘thief’ of my son’t thinking. It hurt badly at that time. But there was immense wisdom in those words.
This is how you might be coming in the way of your child making discoveries.
1.Prompting your child to complete a task
In the above scenario if the mother had stopped the child from putting the curry leaves into the holes and instead said, ‘put them in the container’. That would be prompting (and would prevent the child from making his own discoveries).
Also, if she had said, ‘close the container’ without giving him a chance to reflect on what needed to be done, that would take away from his thinking too.
Instead of prompting, you can scaffold.
Dr Gutstein describes scaffold as the transfer of a mental process. In other words, it involves teaching your child to think through situations, the way you do.
As guides, we may get impatient with our children and help them with the answer right away.
Think of how we set up activities. We’re so focused on task completion, that we lay everything out for our children. We want the work done. We don’t pay attention to how our children will problem solve a tricky situation.
I use this phrase to help me when I’m struggling. “ I have time.”
It takes the burden off my back immediately.
I remind myself to use the 45 second rule. You might find it useful too.
3. Having a fixed idea of the ‘right way to do things’ in your mind
When left by himself/ herself, how many times has your child surprised you by doing something differently than expected?
It’s happened to me several times. I might go into the kitchen with a fixed way of cooking an ‘aloo sabzi’ (potato dish). My student may have a totally different way of doing it. I don’t stop them, as I’m always interested in their thought process.
And guess what? Their version turns out to be delicious!
This video of cooking mushrooms will inspire you.
There are multiple ways of doing the same thing. Let your child share his/her thought process with you. You may be surprised.
1. Am I prompting my child to complete a task? 2. Am I not giving enough time? 3. Do I have a ‘fixed idea’ of how my child should do things?
It’s time to create a change. Change your own mindset.
You’ll create a stress free environment for your child, where s/he will be able to think freely and not bound by ‘getting it right to please you.’ You’ll enhance your child’s problem solving ability in a dynamic world that is constantly changing.
Try it. And let me know how it went.
Kamini Lakhani is the founder and director of SAI Connections. She has been providing services in the field of autism for more than 25 years and is the authorized director of Professional Training for RDI in India and the Middle East. She is also the mother of a young adult with autism.