Chapter 16: How Do You Teach Children “Invisible” (Internal) Skills?
Here’s where we are in the Universal Blueprint® Problem-Solving System / PASRR Formula:
Prevent Problems from starting or worsening … with the
Prevention Toolbox: Independence Toolset
There are only two tools from the Independence toolset that you’ll learn in the “30 Days to Parenting Success” mini-course. This tool, “Openly Model Behavior,” is one of the most powerful, effective, yet unknown tools to most parents, so it needs some explanation.
In the previous lesson, you learned how to teach your child skills, tasks and behaviors. For example, if you want to teach your child a behavior, such as treating others with respect, you would show the child, through your own behavior and coaching, how to treat others with respect. This is called “modeling behavior” or “being a good Role Model.”
What about skills and behaviors that are invisible, unobservable or internal processes, like being patient, not procrastinating or managing their anger? How can you teach children these skills and behaviors? If you are simply a role model, it looks to the child like you are doing nothing — you are calm, doing what you are supposed to do, and not getting angry! In reality, you are talking yourself through a challenging situation, using internal skills.
“Openly modeling behavior” makes these internal processes observable, by saying aloud to yourself the steps you are taking in your mind — knowing a “sponge” is soaking up what you are saying. Here’s an example:
You are driving along with your child in the car. When another driver cuts you off in traffic, you are tempted to flip a finger or blurt out a cuss word, but your child can see and hear you.
So you decide to control your anger and say nothing. You take a deep breath and say a few words in your head to calm yourself down.
What did the child observe? Nothing! Except maybe that you took a deep breath. What actually happened was a very quick, but internal process of experiencing a rush of frustration and aggravation, talking yourself through your feelings, and deciding not to say or do anything obvious about it.
This inside process is precisely what you want to say aloud, not to your children, but to yourself in front of them, for their benefit. You might say out loud, “Wow! I can’t believe that guy just cut in front of me! That was dangerous! I feel like honking my horn or calling him a name, but that won’t help me or him. I just need to take a deep breath and calm down. Maybe he’s in a rush to get somewhere and isn’t thinking about what he’s doing. Good thing I was paying attention!”
By revealing your internal thoughts, your children have a model to follow the next time they need to talk themselves through a frustrating situation.
You have learned just two tools from the Independence Toolset. Learn and use all 23 and you will:
- Have children who clean their rooms without always being asked.
- Have children who talk respectfully to their elders.
- Have children with good manners.
- Have children with life skills like anger management, not procrastinating, good time management and being organized.
- Have children who do things for themselves and do them competently! Parenting becomes easy and you can stop or avoid being a maid/butler or short-order cook.
- Have children who make responsible decisions and are willing to be held accountable. When they make poor choices, they accept responsibility for their mistakes, learn from them and correct them.
- Have children who think before they speak or give opinions and express themselves appropriately.
- Have children who figure out their own answers, instead of constantly asking “why?” or relying on others to tell them what to do.
- Have children who know how to use outside resources to find answers and help.
- Have children who are not overly concerned with privacy and hiding their lives from their parents.
- Have children who do some chores simply because they are part of the family and don’t expect monetary payment for each thing they do to help around the house.
- Have children who are courageous enough to take reasonable risks so they can expand their abilities and experiences.
- Have children who are trustworthy and responsible.
- Have teens who “individuate” in positive ways, so they don’t need to rebel.
- Enjoy being a parent during the teen years!
- Have an easier time letting go and trusting your children — especially your teens.
- Identify one internal skill you want your child to learn — one that isn’t easily observable. The next time you use that skill when your child is close by, talk aloud to yourself about what you are doing.
- To practice developing this skill, answer the following question by saying out loud everything you think as you figure out the answer. Question: How many windows are in your house?
- Feel free to share how it’s going for you to practice the skill of thinking “out loud” to Openly Model Behavior in the comment section.
This lesson wraps up the seven lessons on using the first step of the PASRR formula: “Prevent problems from starting or worsening.” The next lesson will tell you how to respond to “Child problems” and take the next step: “Acknowledge the child’s feelings.”
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