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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Recovering help addict

I’ve been busy moving the last couple of weeks but now its official: I live in BC in my own apartments with my belongings. However, this is what I wrote a couple of weeks ago before leaving for Winnipeg, to pick up my life to start a new one out here:

This week I run a very small conductive group for two children who are on holiday due to attending a private school in the Vancouver area. Small definitely in numbers of clients, available space and limited hours but I guess we achieved quite big learning milestones.

The important learning goals we achieved, was learning how to identify key steps that limit the children learning and how to overcome them.

Parental instincts and habits

It has been a learning process for all the three days (9 hours in total) we have been working together. I will talk about one in particular, a habit that I first observed during the assessment, the habit of being too helpful. There is nothing wrong with being helpful because most of the times this habit stems of the parents desire to help their children because they love them. At the same time the mom in questions wants her daughter to be more independent. Achieving this, requires her to channeling her love into teaching her daughter to be more independent, which means to help only when required and try to help less from day to day.

At day two of our little learning camp, after the program, the parents were taking and her daughter suddenly says: “table”. Without thinking the mom get up and starts getting her daughter a table, which she likes to play on. In the meantime I am asking the child what she means by saying table. The child is surprised by this and obviously thinks about it but cannot come to a response, so I keep prompting a little bit like: What do you want to do with a table?- no response- Do you want to sit on top of it? Do you want to play on it? Do you want to hide under it? The child thinks about it and says it wants to sit on top of it. We are just starting to explore this unusual choice when the mom returns with the table and puts it in front of the child.

I asked the mother how she knew what the child wanted as I only heard the word “table”. She looked at me for a while unsure of what I am trying to say. So, I keep explaining that yes it was obvious the child needed the table to play on, but that she didn’t express this. I kept explaining that if she wants her child to be able to verbally express herself better(which I know she does), she needs to give her time as well as the right guidance to do so. We explored, how she could have made this situation into a useful teaching situation. We also discussed that over-helping her child comes from a good place, a place of love and the intention of trying to make her child’s life as easy as possible. Over-helping however usually has the reverse affect and teaches more dependency and limits learning. She understood and was grateful for the suggestion.

Embrace the pause

The next day we were doing a sitting program and I ask the child to step her foot back. Her mother instinctively reached for her foot and I put instinctively my hand on the mother’s hand to stop her reaching. This gave her child the chance to step her foot back (which I knew she could) and it took her child less then five seconds to achieve this. The mother looked at me and said: “I know, I am a re-covering help addict”.

We had a good giggle about it but it was an important lesson learned. She is now more aware when she over-helps, which is the first step to “recovery”. We discussed how important it is that she needs to learn to pause before she helps her daughter, to see if she is able to do it independently or to see how her daughter approaches challenging situations. We discussed that we do want her child to try to do things more independently but that we do not want her child to fail as this comes with a lot of negative emotions like frustration, decreased self-esteem and lack of motivation to try. So, we decided she will help her finishing movements when she sees her child trying hard but not succeeding.

We only had 9 hours that week together and the next opportunity to work together won’t arise until January. That is why this was an important skill to learn, to pause and enable independence without assuming to know what he child needs. Moreover she now has the chance now to work on this without me (!) and to make this skill work in her daily family life.

A great recovery indeed

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