30 June 2009

Discovering Your Child's Design, Part 2

Today, I'd like to share a little more from the book I started writing about yesterday, Discovering Your Child's Design by Ralph Mattson and Thom Black. In this book, the authors encourage parents to not only teach and train their children according to biblical principals, but also to help their children mature into the persons God created and gifted them to be. As each child is an unique individual, parents must carefully observe and carefully listen to their children, all the while paying close attention to consistencies in their choices, preferred modes of operation, and likes and dislikes to determine what the authors call a "distinctive operating style." Parents should be asking questions such as:
  1. Is your child pushed or pulled into action?
  2. What specifically pushes or pulls your child?
  3. How much time does your child use?
  4. To what kind of environment is your child drawn?
  5. What does your child like to encounter? (i.e. problems to solve, risky situations, ignorance so s/he can supply information, disorder to organize, an opponent, a potential audience, supporters or allies...),
  6. What capabilities does your child consistently use?

Parents are given numerous ideas of other questions to ask as they seek to discover their children's distinctive operating styles. All behavior is organized into either one or some combination of the following activities:
  1. utilitarian (doing what you have to do),
  2. developmental (doing something to improve yourself or help yourself to grow),
  3. relational (doing for someone else) and
  4. expressive (doing what you want to do).

I think the one part of the book that I've most appreciated was reading through their treatment of utilitarian behavior.

"Many necessary activities adults take for granted are still major challenges for children. We all go through our day-to-day routines at home, school, or work. As we do, we like to do certain tasks and are indifferent to others. But we have learned that some things simply need to be done regardless of whether or not we enjoy them.

Young children, however, go through the routines of their day with a different attitude. They need to play and to eat. But more than that, they need to gain the sense of security that comes through their daily routine of playtimes and mealtimes. Adults have developed a sense of continuity and have no fears about their daily schedules. They can anticipate what is going to happen based on their sense of history. Young children aren't yet able to do so.

In addition to lacking the assurance of daily routine, very young children also lack the motor skills necessary to accomplish things which to adults are simple tasks. So now we have two factors to remember about utilitarian tasks for small children. Botoh factors will dominate their behavior, as you will learn quickly from observation.

And as the child grows older, a third factor will start to show up. A distinctive operating style will start to manifest itself as the child begins to not only accomplish tasks, but to accomplish them in a particular way. As the child grows, he or she will welcome some tasks and avoid others, if possible. This will continue to increase during the child's growth until a full operating style will be clearly in evidence.

If dishwashing is the required (utilitarian) activity, one child will stack all the dishes of the same size together, collect all the forks, spoons, and knives into separate piles, and wash each group before going to the next. In contrast, another child will fill the sink and submerge everything into the soapy suds before washing a thing. Knowing this, it isn't hard to guess which child can't stand having the black checkers mixed with the red checkers in the storage box or goes into a tirade every time he discovers streaks of jam in the peanut butter jar. Nor it is difficult to guess whose closet is in perpetual chaos.

The parent supervising the dishwashing also has a distinctive operating style. The natural tendancy is to approve of one or the other dishwashing methods accordingly. But the motto of the wise parent will be, 'When it comes to dishwashing, who cares how it's done as long as it's done.' A parent who is a hands-on manager or likes to do everything in an exact sequence of steps may have difficulty accepting this idea. But its acceptance will save a lot of misunderstanding.

Such a 'manager' parent may have been given, as a gift of God's grace, a son who is highly innovative or even creative. The parent, in an attempt to teach the boy responsibility, may assign him the chore of taking out the garbage each night. The son, because of his design, will probably carry the garbage one night, use a wheelbarrow another night, and ride it down to the curb on his skateboard the next night. The down-to-business parent may not appreciate such diversity, especially all the 'wasted' energy. But what difference does it make as long as the job is consistently being (well) done? The child's variety in technique should not prevent the parent from expressing appreciation for faithful performance.

Each person has different standards when it comes to neatness.... We all know families surrounded by permanent mess and other families where everything has its place. Each family should have the liberty to decide what degree of order makes sense for their situation. The decision usually comes from the operating style of the leading decider, and may or may not clash with the operating styles of others in the family.

An essential responsibility of leadership is to put aside one's personal operating style for the sake of the people being managed. This is true whether you are leading employees or children. When you find yourself in the position of leadership, you should objectively evaluate whether the necessary tasks have to be done in a certain way. And you need to know why or why not.

Sometimes a job has to be done a specific way, and the child needs to be so advised. All children need to encounter the realities of authority and obedience. They need to learn that aside from what they or even their parents want to do, certain tasks must be completed in a particular sequence. They must support and adjust to certain givens in life....(but) this procedure works best when the child also has plenty of opportunity to do other things his way (according to his natural design) with some degree of frequency."

From "The Stuff of Everyday Living," pp 127-132, Discovering Your Child's Design by Ralph Mattson and Thom Black.

1 comment:

  1. That sounds like a great book- thanks for sharing!!


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