Teaching Competence: Could it all start with socks?

July 14, 2015
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I’ve been thinking a lot about self-reliance and what that means when it comes to raising children. I don’t mean that I’m wondering if we as parents are competent. I think we know we are, despite the deep doubts we all sometimes have and the perceived frowns from our neighbors, friends, and family members about our personal parenting styles. Rather, I mean I’ve been thinking about how we raise our children to become competent members of society. How we start with little bundles who can’t do anything for themselves, and (hopefully) wind up with adults who have fulfilling lives of their own (lives that with any luck don’t involve living in our basements) and have an ingrained sense of self-reliance that will carry them through the inevitable tough times in their lives.

 

Becoming self-reliant is a long process, obviously, and perhaps it never ends. But it’s also one we embark on with joy and are rightly proud of when we see our children achieve some measure of success. That success is measured throughout a child’s life: bya toddler going to the potty on his own, by an elementary age student asking her teacher for help when she needs it, by a high school student figuring out what papers he needs to bring to the DMV in order to get his driver’s license. We could solve each of these problems for our kids…we could take the toddler to the potty every half hour, write that email to the elementary school student’s teacher on her behalf, gather everything the high school student needs for him before leaving for the DMV…but most parents know that there is a time to step back and let the child achieve that self-reliance on his or her own terms. There may be accidents (lots of them!), or tears, or repeat trips to the DMV before the task is completed, but without those bumps in the road, the child is never given the opportunity to be the boss of his or her own destiny. To build the skills that will keep him or her from eventually living in our basements.

 

The little poem “Sock It to You” that appeared in Ladybug a few months ago, is a great example of how you can encourage a tiny bit of self-reliance in your preschooler. It’s simple yet playful, and will help your child take control of this one small piece of their daily routine. It can also serve as a basis for helping them gain the confidence and competence to take over the other daily tasks that are important in helping your household run smoothly. Soon you might have a preschooler who can sort the laundry into piles, put away her own toys in the proper place, and sweep the floors. Later you may have an elementary school student who can change his own sheets, unload the dishwasher, and take a good phone message. Perhaps it all starts with putting on socks. Of gaining that feeling of competence and self-reliance. And remember, if the socks don’t match or the heel and toe are backwards, well that’s part of the learning process. You can take up those details another day, after you’ve finished celebrating this tiny but significant victory that can set the stage for even more tiny but significant victories that combine to lead up to the creation of a happy, self-reliant, and competent adult.

 

The little poem “Sock It to You” that appeared in Ladybug a few months ago, is a great example of how you can encourage a tiny bit of self-reliance in your preschooler. It’s simple yet playful, and will help your child take control of this one small piece of their daily routine.

 

Sock It to You [February 2015 issue of Ladybug]

By Ann Mulloy Ashmore
Art by Blanche Sims
 

Sock It to You [February 2015 issue of Ladybug]

By Ann Mulloy Ashmore

Art by Blanche Sims

 

You can put your socks on,

one, two, three.

First, line up the seams;

that’s the key.

 

Next, scrunch up the tube

to make a little cap

just for your toes;

see, it’s a snap!

 

Now snuggle in the heel,

cozy as can be.

 

Pull over your ankle—

sometimes to the knee!

 

 

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