Active Participation Required


Active Participation Required

This week I would like to share some things I have been thinking about in relation to active participation in the apprentice role. I have recognized in some clients recently that they have a tendency to allow themselves to be guided through activities without resistance, but they aren’t really actively participating by taking their own actions. Take, for example, a child I saw recently who “helps” with many things around the house. When they clear the table he allows mom to guide him with picking up the plates from the table and carrying them to the sink. As long as mom provides physical scaffolding the child appears to be taking his role and engaging with her and the task. However, when that physically scaffolding is lessened or removed, it is clear that the child was never actively taking on that role because now he does not continue with picking up and moving the plates. He may begin to move around the room drop to the floor, or do something else. The sense of actively moving his body to participate in the role of moving dishes was never achieved – he was simply allowing his mother to move his body so it looked like he was taking his role.

Upon further inspection, when I did this activity with him, I could tell right away that while he was allowing me to place his hands on the dishes and walk with him over to the sink, he was not exerting any physical effort to grip the plate or carry it – I could feel that his arms were floppy and he was merely giving the appearance of carrying the dish. I realized that we needed to focus on getting this child to take intentional action with his body rather than simply allow himself to be moved through the paces of activities. We started walking together while holding hands and allowed him to feel the results of his actions when he would become unintentional about what he was doing. For example, when he would lean way back while walking we would continue to hold his hand but allow him to gently fall back onto the floor instead of us putting forth the effort to pull him back into an upright position. The look on his face the first couple of times we did this was amazing – it was like he couldn’t believe that the result of his action led to him being on the ground. He clearly expected his body to be pulled back up by one of us. Over the course of one 15 minute session of walking together and allowing him to feel the results of his actions he was already more “sturdy” with his posture and did less flopping to the ground when we would stop walking. His attention to his actions was better and it was not so much work to keep him with us.

This experience again spotlighted for me the importance of children attending to and taking responsibility for their physical actions, and understanding the results of those actions, as a foundation for active role participation and apprenticeship. The parents were doing so much scaffolding for this child that he couldn’t get the feel for what would happen as a result of his actions. When we simplified what we were doing and pulled back on the degree of physical scaffolding we began to see big changes. Think about the amount of physical scaffolding you are providing your child – can s/he take an active role fairly quickly or are you doing most of the physical work? Is your child able to make intentional physical movements to accomplish things or does s/he tend to be more random with actions and wait for you to work things out? If this is an issue for you and your child, try starting out very simply and slowly and allow your child to feel the results of his/her actions; then build from there. Active engagement and participation is a critical foundation for apprenticeship!

Until next week,

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