They say the best way to learn a new language is through immersion. Diving headfirst into the culture, lifestyle and environment of the language you want to master. Training children is a lot like that. It's important, however, to not let the little one dive in alone.
Something I try to keep on the forefront of my mind at all times when teaching the newest family member is consideration for her side of the coin. How does what I am saying or doing sound or feel to her? I think it's very easy to get caught up in the crazy behavior and forget the little girl who doesn't know what it means to love or be loved. Believe me, I still sometimes get caught up in the behavior. But I'm trying to remember to see past it.
So how do we dive in with her? It's all about letting her know she is not expected to handle anything by herself. In the beginning everything gets to be a group effort. Everything? Yes, everything. Maybe she has never learned how to make her bed. Make it with her. Table manners nonexistent? Correct and model at every meal. Can't share? Play with her, showing her how to take turns and consider the other person. Cuts corners when brushing her teeth? Brush together at the same time, using a timer.
Sound time consuming? It is!
There's no better way to learn. Let's consider the example of brushing her teeth. Has anyone ever taken the time to explain how to brush? Maybe. Has anyone ever sat down and showed her? Not likely. And believe me, this doesn't mean once. This means every morning and every evening for months. It feels like a long process and a lot of time, but really, it's an investment. I have found that those things I taught well (by modeling) in the very beginning, seldom have to be addressed again. Let's just say, at the present time, I get to brush my teeth all by myself!
For those of us who teach, this process is similar to what we do at the beginning of the school year. We spend days, sometimes even weeks teaching our students how to function in our classrooms. We practice lining up for lunch, turning in homework, passing out supplies and heading a paper. We don't just explain what we want them to do. We show them and then we show them again and then we show them again! Only after consistently practicing a skill do we let them loose to try it on their own.
Charles Spurgeon once said, "Train up a child in the way he should go - but be sure to go that way yourself." That's modeling. It's showing rather than telling. It's helping rather than directing. It's the beginning. It's not the end. Don't rush this part. Try to enjoy it. Keep the new one close. Let them know you are there to help. Remember, every activity is a group activity at this stage. This stage won't last forever. A week from today the one in the picture above turns sixteen. I can't believe how quickly the time has gone. I had less time then most, but more time then others. I tried to use that time well. I invested in her and that investment is paying great dividends!