If we wanted to raft the Grand Canyon, how would we prepare for the trip?
Depending on our experience level, we might arrange for a guide to navigate us down the river. We’d want to learn about the nature and force of the river. We would want to be familiar with dangerous parts of the river. We might practice some drills in case of mishaps, such as what to do if the raft flips. We would want to be as prepared as possible.
In the course of our lives, we will experience a variety of challenges, some as fast and treacherous as rapids, waterfalls, whirlpools, or hydraulics; or as monotonous and slow as pools and eddies.
Isn’t life like that? We want it to be challenging enough to be exhilarating, to feel like an adventure. When events happen abruptly, things can become dangerous or overwhelming; too slow and we are bored out of our minds.
What are some of the hazards we’ll meet in our children’s development?
There are two basics kinds of obstacles.
One type is external to us. External obstacles act like the water, rock and boulders in a river.
Internal factors, such as personality, knowledge, experience, attitude, character, etc. make up our other obstructions.
How do we recognize that a child is facing a challenge?
When a child is not developing concentration or independence, we should begin looking for a source, either outside the child’s control, or as part of the child’s internal make-up. Lack of independence and concentration can take on a variety of forms, much like water in a river. For the child with high energy and strong personality, obstacles may precipitate turbulent and explosive behavior. For the quiet child, the obstacle may thwart the child’s progress, as if he or she were caught in a backwater eddy.
Looking at external sources of obstacles, we need to ask the following:
- Does the child’s environment offer an opportunity to work in peace and dignity to develop him or herself?
- Does the environment offer a wide social experience?
- Does the environment offer protection from physical and psychological harm?
- Does the environment offer adequate challenges for personal growth?
When considering internal factors, ask these questions:
- Is your child an optimist or a pessimist? An introvert or an extrovert? Research shows that parental guidance can help a pessimistic or quiet child develop a cheerful or more outgoing life.
- What developmental stage is your child?
- About every three years in the growth of a child, there are profound changes in how and what the child learns. Be aware of these stages.
- Is the child having a physical response to the environment?
Is the lack of concentration or independence due to allergies, illness, learning or perceptual differences, hearing, vision, diet, sleep, changes in routine, visitors in the house, family member out of town, death in the family, birth of a sibling, arguments in the family, television viewing, or video/computer games?
Observe the child at work and play. Is the child’s observable behavior inhibiting independence or concentration? If yes, examine the external and internal factors of the situation. Decide a plan of action. We can stop the behavior by removing the obstacle, or by taking the child away from the obstacle.
- Johnny was failing math, until he started using graph paper to keep the numbers in line.
- Kayla missed weeks of school due to being allergic to the classroom rabbit.
- Kevin had given up trying to read because his best friend called him stupid.
- Mary’s grades dropped in a nine-week period while she complained she couldn’t see the chalkboard.
- Steven started a fight every night at bedtime with his father when his dad had been out of town the previous week.
- Deena threw tantrums about toilet training because she was afraid of falling into the toilet.
Obstacles are common, varied, and frequent.
With planning we can avoid many obstacles, and there will be situations we cannot anticipate. Understanding the nature of obstacles, and the nature of the child, may help us “row, row, row our boat, gently down the stream.”