Synergistic Parenting

Learning skills

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Here are examples of using the Synergistic Parenting approach to learn skills most children want to master. The same approach, developing trust and confidence, apply also to many other skills that children want to learn, and those that we parents want to share with our children.

You may need more time to prepare cookies with the "help" of a young child, but with several tries the time grows shorter and the cookies better. The child can grow closer to the parent as well as learn to cook.

The same is true of skills in a workshop or under the hood of a car. I think every girl and boy must learn some of what is under the hood and what to do with it, to knowledgeably evaluate what repair shops claim they do. Perhaps you can arrange a session with a trusted mechanic for neighborhood children to learn more.

Watching as a child learns to play a musical instrument is a delight if you are patient and relax. If you are tense and think your child must excel in music, get out of the way! If you relax, you can feel more joyous as the child increases the skills of the instrument and reading music. The instrument may be fiddle or violin, brass or drums, or singing.

Here are specific suggestions about two skills most children want to learn — swimming and biking.

Learning to swim
Both of our kids became afraid of water at an early age, and we think we know what experiences caused the fear. Since I love to swim, I was disappointed. Our son’s advance in Boy Scouting was hindered, because he would not swim. Fortunately, our daughter overcame her fear of water while she learned how to swim, and here is how.

In a parenting training group one of the women said she often taught swimming by developing trust. I arranged for her to work with our daughter, which she did for almost an hour each afternoon for one week. This friend began by going into the pool and inviting our daughter to join her. They walked and talked in shallow water while the woman built the child’s trust. After a while she demonstrated swimming strokes, encouraging our daughter to try them. As she copied and learned, she became more confident of her being able to be in control in the water. Throughout the week my friend gently encouraged our child, developed her trust in my friend and in the water. By the end of the week, due to the woman’s gentle coaxing and leading, our daughter easily swam the length of the pool. Her fear of water was gone, and she continues to swim and boat.

This approach to overcoming fear of water and learning to swim is an example of the patient trust-building of Synergistic Parenting by a person who genuinely likes the child. We parents must be very careful to avoid being tense, as if the child must learn. Instead be supportive, or have someone else teach your child.

Learning to ride a bike
When our daughter wanted to learn to ride a bike, I bought a child size bike about right for her height at a garage sale. This is the best bike for learning: one that already has been scarred and scratched, and that the child will outgrow.

The next Saturday, being off work, we found an area with minimum traffic – a cu-de-sac, where she climbed on the bike with no training wheels. I assured myself she knew how to brake and when to brake. I explained in simple words that as she moved faster the bike would stay upright. As she began pedaling, I walked beside her lightly holding the bike vertical. As she felt the bike steady, she pedaled faster, and I ran, but, feeling the bike's own force, was able to let go of the bike, as she went on. Nearing the street, she stopped. We repeated until she learned to start alone, then she learned turning and banking into the turn, as I ran alongside until her speed kept the bike vertical. Before we began we talked about possible traffic and precautions necessary around cars. Of course, she fell a few times, but she wore old jeans and a bright colored long sleeve shirt, so there was no permanent damage. The bright yellow or orange helped make her visible.

Bike helmet
How e
ssential that you and your child recognize that your child's brain is very sensitive to jolts, which can cause permanent damage. The correct helmet — design and size — is as essential as the bike itself, and you can lead your child to recognize the need to secure the helmet for every ride.

Within about an hour’s time our daughter learned basic bicycling and gained enough practice and confidence to continue on her own. At first we monitored her biking, my riding my bike with her, being sure she was being careful. The parent's attitude is critical; be supportive. Act like a colleague or friend.

These examples of learning to swim or ride a bike or bake or use tools are examples of Synergistic Parenting – working with a child one-with-one to learn skills within a framework of trust and care. This approach also develops the child's own inner skills and confidence. And learning skills may lead to conversation that ranges over the landscape of the life you want for your child.

Copyright © 2002 John F. Yeaman