I have my finger in many technology-laden pots. But technology is NOT my jam. This site where you’re reading this, the Facebook page where you likely found it, the podcast you may have listened to, the resources you may have used — these all require SOME degree of technical acumen. And it is honestly the hardest part of the work I do.
(Please give me a room full of preschoolers who’ve been fed too much candy rather than one line of code I have to untangle.)
So it isn’t uncommon for me to shoot a message to my go-to tech support ninja that sounds something like this: “I have another line of code that I need to put in this place to do this thing. It sounds pretty similar to last time, but I can’t quite recall all the steps you showed me. I *think* I might know where it goes, but I’m afraid I’ll break everything and the internet will explode. Can you help?”
And unfailingly, my tech guy, Brandon, helps me out. He doesn’t scold me for forgetting — again. He slowly talks me through this foreign language of the internet and even often encourages me for any little bit of growth I show (even though it likely requires super-powered magnification lenses to see that incremental growth).
I know that Brandon is proficient and can help me out, and that he won’t belittle me for forgetting half of what he told me the last time I called.
I’m not saying all this in an attempt to get Brandon some new clients, but to draw a parallel between the challenges in our own adult lives and the challenges we see in our kids.
Maybe technology isn’t your challenge. Maybe it’s navigating traffic, or taxes, or car mechanics, or cooking. Whatever it is, you are probably well aware of your deficit. And, hopefully, you’re also well aware of a safe person you can go to for some help. A person who can answer your same question two or three or seventeen more times until you fully wrap your head around it.
Isn’t it great to have those people?
Our kids struggle with a lot of things too. Social skills. Impulse control. Decision making. Emotional regulation.
And likely, they make the same mistakes more than once.
They jump on the couch. Again.
They fight with their siblings. Again.
They have a meltdown. Again.
Rather than taking those mistakes personally, rather than viewing them as intentional acts of defiance against us, can we see it as an attempt to master something challenging?
Just like Brandon patiently walks me through how to drop code into the right field AGAIN because html code feels like the devil’s language to me sometimes, our kids need an expert to patiently walk them through the challenging parts of every single day.
They may not politely ask like you or I might, but their behavior is always communication, and often it’s communicating, “This is hard for me. Please help.”
Think of how many times you teach a child to tie his shoes or say the ABCs or ride a bike. We never expect to simply tell them once and have them master it for forever and all time. We consistently repeat and gently support them until that hard thing starts to be a little bit easier.
And then we beam with just as much pride as they do when they eventually master that task.
Learning social skills or impulse control or emotional regulation is not much different. It takes support. It takes practice. And it takes time.
So the next time your buttons are pushed by a child you love and teach, who you know you’ve told “a million times”, picture me on the phone with Brandon, just looking for some help navigating the mysteries of the interwebs. Or think of a task that is hard for you and a person who is always willing to help.
Be the safe and encouraging helper.
Because on the millionth and first try, they just might get it.