Sunday, April 4, 2010

Parent as Teacher

The parent with a 3 to 4 year old preschooler has grown through three stages of parent development. The first stage was the stage of imaging what they will be like with the responsibility of children. The second stage was the stage of nurturing-- the stage of total responsibility and vigilance. The third stage, with a toddler, was the stage of authority--setting limits and enforcing rules.

The parent of a 3-4 year old now becomes a teacher and interpreter. You are your child’s first and most important teacher. You are the interpreter, the moral guide, the coach, and the preschool teacher. The preschooler lives in a big, wide, wonderful world where there is much to explore, understand, and misunderstand. You will continue limit setting and enforcing of rules but with the added challenge of explaining reasons behind the rules. If you have been reasonably consistent in enforcing rules in the toddler years, your preschool will obey the rules in this next stage, but will want to know why.

We know the preschooler is thinking a lot by what they say and the questions they ask. The preschooler is asking, "Why? When? How?" Preschoolers also give us reasons for things, "Because." The challenge in parenting in this stage is to be able to give information and good reasons that your preschooler can understand. You will be thinking all of the time just to keep up with your preschooler’s thinking while you are preparing your preschooler for school.

I have a favorite family story that illustrates the importance of giving good reasons to preschoolers that they can understand. It is about my cousin who did not live on a farm and our grandfather who could not give a good reason to this bright little preschooler. It goes something like this:

On a springtime visit to her grandparents, Karen went out to watch our grandfather milk the cows. She stood behind the cows, watching intently as he milked each one and plying him with questions. At one point, our grandfather said, "Karen, move away! MOVE AWAY!" He probably gestured for her to move over and repeated his words for he knew from the lifting of the cow’s tail, that a pungent spring deluge was about to occur and Karen was positioned to receive the over spray.

But Karen didn’t move. Instead, in the typical preschooler fashion, she asked, "Why?"
My grandfather, evidently not skilled in his ability to give information and good reasons, could only reply, "BECAUSE!" (This is the short form of ‘because I said so’ which is no real reason for a preschooler. It is simply an authoritative statement, more appropriately thought than said aloud in the toddler years.)

Too late for reasons or authority, the cow let go of a flood of newly digested, fresh green grass from the fields. My grandfather picked up Karen by the least affected part to be cleaned up by her grandmother and mother. Karen admonished our grandfather, "Grandpa, you should plug up that hole."

Well, no parent or grandparent is perfect. I wonder if he learned from the experience?

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