A couple of years ago I went to a workshop and learned the term "Legitimate Peripheral Participation in Practices." In my mind it has become LPPP and I sometimes have to struggle to remember the actual words, but the powerful concept it describes is important. LPPP is shorthand for how children learn to do things. So, when your child learns to brush her teeth, it starts with the parent brushing the child's teeth and coaching the child: "Open your mouth wide so I can clean your teeth." Later, the child puts her hand on yours and "helps" move the toothbrush. Eventually the child brushes alone and you inspect. Still further down the road you let them squeeze out the toothpaste. By opening her mouth, she is LEGITIMATELY participating. That is, you can't brush her teeth if her mouth is closed. It is PERIPHERAL because you are starting with the simplest component of the task. It is PARTICIPATION because the child is actually involved and not just observing, and, of course, the PRACTICE is dental care. If you haven't yawned off yet, I'll move on to the reason I'm sharing this with you.
This week I have had a number of conversations about why kids can't or don't do things for themselves. The conversations have centered on kids aged 3-23. The list of things people are surprised that kids can't do is long: laundry, putting things away, making beds, tying shoes, telling time on a "regular" clock, writing a thank you note, cooking a meal, baking cookies, pumping gas, getting to school with everything they need, getting a job.
Helping your kids learn to DO things is an on-going process. The busy-ness of our 21st century lives has made it hard to take time to teach kids how to do things. Think about cooking dinner. If I make that Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and steam some green beans in the microwave we can have dinner on the table in 10 minutes. If I have "help" it will take at least twice as long. So I just do it so we can get to soccer practice or whatever the next thing is. The same thing goes for laundry, cleaning, mowing the grass or washing the car. Learning to do these tasks requires that you supervise while your child does it and give tips along the way. Maybe your kid will make enough money to not have to do these mundane household tasks, but what about filling out a college, loan or job application? What about going on interviews and getting along with other people?
Parents, I know that you are drowning in demands on your time. I don't want to sound critical but I do want to sound an alarm. Your job as a parent is to prepare your child to live on his or her own. You cannot care for your child forever so you have to prepare him for life without you. While learning to play soccer will teach him to be part of a team and to compete, help him burn calories and provide endless hours of entertainment for both of you, it is not a substitute for all the other skills he will need for life. What do you want your child to know when she leaves home? Is she practicing those skills now?
This entry serves as a lengthy introduction to talking about how we DO faith. Stay tuned - I'll address that next week.