Each time I work with a child, one question guides most of my decisions:
What is this child ready to do right now, in this moment?
I ask this question continuously, because what the child is ready to do changes from moment to moment. Each action the child takes, each action the parents take, and each action I take affects what the child is ready to do in the next moment.
If I am doing my job well, each of these actions takes the child one step closer to a goal we’ve set for therapy.
Of course, progress isn’t as linear as that statement makes it seem.
Let’s take a simple goal, like learning to walk. When children learn to walk without intervention, it seems like they just take a step one day, a few steps the next day, and soon they are walking everywhere.
Yet the actual steps of learning to walk include: practice standing without support, practice getting up and down from the floor, rest, practice shifting your weight onto one foot, people cheering you on, more rest, realizing you can fall and not get hurt, and so on.
Each piece of this learning process requires recognition, repetition, and rest before it becomes part of the child’s skill set. Then, they are walking everywhere.
Parents often hear, “They’ll walk (or talk, or eat) when they’re ready.” While this is true, and comforting, don’t let it blind you to the steps that lead up to that eventual milestone. What is your child ready to do right now?
The most successful parents I’ve known are able to hold in mind two truths that would seem to contradict one another:
Your child is a wonderful, miraculous being exactly the way he or she is right now, and
It is always possible to grow from here, therefore something you are doing right now can be improved upon.
This growth mindset is especially helpful when the “when they’re ready” logic no longer applies. No one says “He’ll stop hitting you when he’s ready.” So what now?
In OT school, I learned many theories and methods to work through a problem. Yet after a few years of practice, I realized that these theories only apply as far as they can help me answer one question: “What is this child ready to do right now?”
To learn anything new, the child needs to recognize what’s happening (and what is expected), repeat the right response, and rest between attempts. As you step into your growth mindset, you’ll find that your child is always ready to do one of these three things. With practice, you can find the balance between recognition, repetition, and rest that is right for your child.
Do you have questions about what your child is ready to do? I’m trying out a new platform for interactive conversations with parents, and I hope you can join me! To get news on the next broadcast, subscribe here or join me on Facebook - talk to you soon!
Laura Hackle, OTR/L