Sunday, April 11, 2010

Parent as Consultant

Today we will finish talking about a theme I have taken from Dr. Harry Ireton’s writings, “Parent Development, The Other Half of the Story.” The first stage was the stage of imaging and the second stage was the stage of nurturing. The third stage, with a toddler, was the stage of authority and in the fourth stage the parent became a teacher and interpreter. The last stage is called, “Parent As Consultant.”

Let’s first consider what the term consultant means and what a good consultant does. A consultant gets to know the client (your child) and then obtains information about the situation the client is in. A good consultant does not rush in with ideas to fix the problem the client has, but rather listens to the client speak about the problem. If you really are great at being a consultant to your child, you are also a really great listener.

Consultants are fired from their job when they do all the talking, when they jump in and fix problems their own way and before they have all the information, and when they do not let their clients use their own resources to remedy a troubling situation. I will use a story, the Forgotten Lunch Box. to illustrate.

Jimmy, a 2nd grader, carried his lunch to school each day. His mom packed it in a special lunch box he got when he started kindergarten. One day in early October, Jimmy forgot to put the lunch box in his backpack. He left the house for the bus stop but his mother noticed the lunchbox and ran out to give it to Jimmy. A week later, the same thing happened, but this time, Jimmy’s mom had to make a special trip to school to bring it to him before lunch time. Then, a week later, it happened again.

There are many strategies Jimmy’s mom could use. She could treat Jimmy as she did when he was an infant (The Nurturing Stage) and put the lunch box in the backpack herself and probably help Jimmy put the backpack on each day and bring it to school each time she forgot. She could treat Jimmy as a toddler (The Authoritative Stage); standing at the door, preventing Jimmy from leaving home empty handed. She could treat Jimmy as a preschooler (Teacher and Interpreter) and discuss with him what it might be like to go hungry at lunchtime or she could be a consultant and listen to why Jimmy thinks he has been forgetting his lunch box.

If mom listens carefully, she might learn that he’d rather eat the school lunch because all his friends eat at a separate table. She might learn that he really did not want to eat the school lunch but also did not want to eat at a different table. She might learn that he felt embarrassed by having a childish (in his mind) lunch box. After listening carefully, a good consultant would ask to hear what the client thought would work to fix the problem. The wonderful part of being a consultant to your child, is to see what strengths he has and to watch his skills grow. It is the icing on the cake of parent development.

Today, I’ll repeat the Toad’s Environmental Song as a reminder to bring the photo of your child picking up trash along your favorite stretch of road to the Ladysmith News. Sally will give your child a free musical toad and we all win because the next generation is learning to care for the environment. You have until Mother’s Day for this special ‘litter’ toad project.

Toad’s Environmental Song
(tune: If You’re Happy and You Know It)
If you see some paper trash
Pick it up! (Croak-croak)
If you see some plastic trash
Pick it up! (Croak-croak)
You will help the little toads
By putting garbage where it goes
Please help the little toads
Pick it up! (Croak-croak)

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