09 Jun Teach Your Child to Fish
If there is any advice that I give out to parents on a regular basis, it is to teach your child to fish. To clarify, I am not actually suggesting fishing with a rod in the ocean but to not be afraid to let their child try new things. When I was in college many moons ago, I had a t-shirt that promoted occupational therapy with the well-known Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” It was an inspirational message that helps me to understand my role as a therapist is not only to help my patients but to also give them the skills they need to succeed on their own.
As a continuous student of life, I adopt this philosophy every day as I encourage children to learn a new skill. Not just any skill, but skills that may cause them to cry or experience fear or frustration. And it’s not just my job but also my passion to push them to reach these milestones because it strengthens them. It not only makes their muscles and brains develop but their character as well. In my opinion, children learn as adults do, through their struggles. They persevere and flourish in the face of adversity. With each trial or attempt at a new skill, children also learn to problem solve, develop muscle memory, and increase strength and endurance.
Parents don’t want their children not to have mastered a skill because they haven’t had the opportunity to learn it. But, sometimes they find it difficult to let their child grow into their big boy/big girl pants without holding their tiny, cute hands all the time. Sometimes parents can be overprotective but not allowing children to use tools considered unsafe well past the age when it is considered appropriate like cutting with scissors or a knife. In addition, parents are also often pressed for time and don’t want to see their child struggle. Overall, the feeling that it is “easier to do it” for the child can be common.
Tips for Teaching New Skills
It can be challenging to raise an independent child, so here are my quick tips for any age to teach your child to fish by following these simple steps.
- Let your child try first. Give them a chance to analyze the situation, get their hands sweaty, and really give it their all.
- Then if they need you, step in and give them your advice using only words.
- Next try to give a demonstration and consider breaking down a task in steps.
- Lastly, provide physical assistance by giving help in small portions as needed.
Teaching children new skills can be difficult. If they give you a hard time with their puppy dog eyes, try to encourage them with a song or a reward. Just be strong and don’t just give in to their cuteness (or not-so-cute behavior). You can even borrow my little rhyme to help: Sometimes I fall, and sometimes I fly. But I cannot fail as long as I try. Remember, you can teach your child to fish and be resourceful for a lifetime. Have a playful day!
Amy Baez, MOT, OTR/L
Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist and Founder of Playapy. She is the award-winning author of the PALS Handwriting Program: Treasure C.H.E.S.T. and Heads, Tummies, & Tails. For more information, visit www.playapy.com or email [email protected]