Animal trainers have goals for every training session. They repeat skills already mastered by the animal and introduce new skills. They break complex skills down into smaller steps. They "Set The Animal Up for Success."
With my children, who are very young, I generally had no goals at all with them. I tended to "wing" it and simply made up goals or lessons for them along the way. If a learning opportunity presented itself, than I took it.
After reading this book, I started to think of spending my time with my children with a goal in mind. My one on one time with my children would become "training sessions." Because my children are so little (1 and 3), the goals for each "training session" are small. With my 1 year old we spent 15 minutes working on her sit-to-stand skill and her standing without holding on to anything skill. She has not mastered it yet, but we are working on it.
My 3 year old loves to paint. Most of the time I simply let her paint whatever she wants while I prepare dinner or clean the kitchen. But a few days ago I sat down with her and showed her how to trace numbers with her paints. For various reasons, she does not have the small motor skills and hand strength right now to draw with a pencil. But, I still want her to learn how to form the numbers and letters. After a few tries, she was able to trace the numbers and letters I wrote with paint. As an adult, I know she won't use paint to trace letters, but at this point I was simply pleased that she was learning the shapes of letters and numbers.
I am hoping that if I treat my time with my children as "training sessions" a few times a day - only ten or fifteen minutes at a time - I will be able to teach them more. I will be able to see their progress. They will build skills in a systematic way which raises their self esteem and confidence.
This post was inspired by the book "What Shamu Taught me about Life, Love and Marriage" by Amy Sutherland.