Sunday, February 3, 2013

Training the Little Child

After a rather stormy couple of days, we're once more experiencing the pleasant aftermath of rain: everything shiny and squeaky clean, the birds going wild with joy, and us able to enjoy all the wonders of a sunshiny morning, with laundry on the line, chickens digging outside in the yard, and us off to a long nature walk in the company of our goats (at least one of whom is due to kid soon). Now that we're having our midday "quiet time", I'm able to sit down and read/comment on a chapter of Vocational Guidance for Girls I've been very much looking forward to - Training the Little Child.

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"The boy or girl who fills successfully a place in the home of his childhood will be in a fair way to undertake successfully the greater task of founding a home of his own." 

It is so very, very important for the child to be able to feel like a useful and productive member of the household. Sadly, in many instances life today is so rushed that all parents aim at is getting the child out of the way so that they can continue doing whatever it is that needs to be done. It is up to us, as parents, to create a place which a child can successfully fill, and more often than not it means that jobs are slowed down.

Today as we were hanging out the washing, Shira got a basket of socks and other little things, and a box of clothespins, and was left to herself to peg them up. She was ever so proud of herself when the job was complete, and she was appreciated and praised. True, it had taken her around 10 times longer than it would have taken me, and some items weren't pegged up nice and straight, but nevertheless she walked away with the feeling that she can accomplish a job of real value, however small. Sweeping the front porch, feeding the chickens, gathering eggs, kneading dough and mixing batter, folding small items of laundry, sorting silverware and of course picking up toys are other tasks well-suited for small children. 

I confess I'm not always patient, and sometimes children have a way of doing just the opposite of what needs to be done - on purpose. When dinner is late and a 3-year-old is scattering the toys (with shouts of glee) when she knows perfectly well they ought to go in the basket, and you are tired and hungry and have a pile of dishes in the sink, believe me, I can very well sympathize, as I've been there (and in many cases still am there). My only advice to you, and to myself, would be to take a deep breath and call for a time-out. But on a general level, children ought to be trained to contribute what they can in the home - even if it comes with an initial investment of time and effort on your part, more than it would have cost you time-wise, in the short term, to just do the chores on your own. The effort will be worth it. 

In the past, and I'm saying this without idealizing or waxing nostalgic, it was easier for children to participate in daily doings of the household. People grew and raised their own food, made their clothes, walked over to visit friends. Today, life may be materially easy, but it is more complicated. Now children spend their days in schools, cars, after-school activities, and in front of the screen.  All of these are artificial environments, producing nothing real to the immediate satisfaction that is so necessary in the little child. And I don't know about you, but here in Israel people are constantly clamoring to have government-funding for ever longer school days, to solve the problem of where to put the child in the afternoon.  

Today, our only way, it seems, is to consciously slow down (however our circumstances allow). Or like my dear friend Jewels put it, "live slowly and simply, so that you have time to love deeply and well." 

3 comments:

Melanie said...

I know that I moved out not knowing ANYTHING because my parents were always in such a rush (and because most of the house work was hired in).

I am making an effort to be different with my son. I can just feel his satisfaction when I make him put his toys away, or help me clean up the water he's spilled. He does it on purpose, because he's totally obsessed with water right now, but it makes him so happy to help wipe it up! I do need to finish the job because he misses half of it...

Still, he's only 16 months old. One day he'll be able to clean by himself because I took the time to teach him when he goes slowly. Keeping that in mind really does help when I'd rather push him aside and get it done quickly.

Rose said...

I'll bet Shira was proud of herself and s she should be. Soon she'll be able to hang all the smaller things for you and leading herself towards accomplishment.

Chrystal said...

Amen! Beautiful post! I'm the oldest of 7 and there was no way around learning to work young. Now I have two daughters and feel I have to really pay attention to take opportunities to allow them the chance to learn to help and work. It is definitely not they easy way, but it so worth it!

Thanks for your blog!