Sunday, October 26, 2008

Let's Teach It! 3 (revised)

Many believe that rewards and corrections work best together. A correction is a teaching/training tool. It can be abusive but it shouldn't be. Some kids need more, some need very little. An effective, deliberate correction is much kinder than allowing a child to learn the hard way. (Touching a hot stove, running out into the street) and we all know kids who seem to have to learn the hard way.

My understanding is that teaching is telling, showing. Training requires the behavior. Training requires doing it over and over until you don't even have to think about it. You just do it. This means creating opportunities and looking for places to practice.

Reinforcing and correcting. How do we correct when a child blows us off? Do we say, "That's ok. It doesn't matter." Can we say that and still expect those qualities to grow? All those qualities matter if our faith is to be effective. It's not enough to just know.

You pay attention. You start small. You reward and reinforce appropriately. You correct appropriately. An interesting book is Karen Pryor's "Don't Shoot the Dog." It's not a long book, it's not a hard read. It's not just about dogs. It is about reinforcing and shaping behavior but people who are good with children, people, animals often do these things without even thinking about it.

How do we grow self-control and the other fruits of the Spirit in a culture that's constantly and deliberately sabatoging our efforts? Limiting exposure is one way but giving kids opportunity to make choices, rewarding and correcting them (or showing them where the reward and the correction is) will grow stronger choosing muscles, confidence, self-esteem, and wisdom than constant restraint and isolation. Finding ways to reward choices that differ from the rewards and choices that consumerism condones also helps grow those muscles. Being part of a family or community making those same choices also helps.

Life rewards aren't consistent and they're temporary so ultimately those choices have to come from the inside out. That's where training comes in. Living and choosing with a sense of what pleases God is the long-term goal. People-pleasing won't make it- Mom and Dad won't always be there. Your favorite teacher won't always be there. A peer group that shares your values won't always be there. God will.

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