Parents: Allow left-handedness if that’s the way God wired your child
God created each little one, and created them for a specific role in life. Thus, He “wired” their brains in a way that would best enable them to realize their specific purpose in life.
Some are wired to be right-handed and some are wired to be left-handed. As our little one begins to grow, we can see which hand seems to be dominant – which one they use most frequently when reaching out for items, when holding the spoon to feed them, etc. If this happens to be the child’s left hand, we need to allow them the freedom and permission to use that hand; that’s the way God wired their brain.
I have seen students who had rather odd learning challenges because their dominant hand was switched by a well-meaning relative “in order to make them fit in better” in a prominently right-handed world. This is a noble reason, but it causes confusion in the child’s brain and, thus, to the child himself. We must allow children to work in the manner God designed for them.
Example: One student I taught had to, from time to time, turn his paper upside down and write backwards in order for it to come out frontwards for me when I held the paper to read and correct it. The brain was terribly confused by being wired left-handed but expected to function right-handed. Kind of like a can opener that’s expected to open a jar – we laugh at the ridiculousness of that yet expect a child to work in a fashion for which they weren’t created. Sad.
When we finally realized what the issue was with this child, had a conference with him and his mother, and he was given permission to write left-handed, his problems disappeared. It was surprising and amazing how quickly and easily he recovered from his previous problems when he began to write left-handed. He was finally at ease with how God made him and could comfortably and ably do the schoolwork we asked of him. Let’s allow our children to be what God created them to be.
Take instruction from other authority figures
“You’re not the boss of me!” There’s nothing like a classroom teacher being set in her place like this by a four year old. The teacher that hears this, or a similar statement, knows they have ahead of them a hard row to hoe.
A teacher’s main task is supposed to be to teach scholastics, but if the student hasn’t developed a mindset of listening to authority figures the teacher must dedicate an exorbitant amount of time and energy getting the child to simply listen respectfully to the teacher and cooperate with her. This necessary misplacement of the teacher’s time and effort detracts from the scholastic learning of the child as they aren’t ready (willing) to learn. The student must be willing to be taught or no real learning can take place no matter how wonderful, caring, willing, or competent the teacher might be.
So, how can a parent teach respect for other authority figures? First of all, the parent needs to be certain they are the authority figure in the home – the child must not be ruling the parents; this would be backwards from what God ordained. After all, it’s the child who needs to be taught; they should be taking instruction from the parent not telling the parent what to do.
There’s a mindset prominent these days that it’s the parents’ job to make the child happy at all times, but that is NOT the job God gave parents – society (which is in serious turmoil) councils that way. That mindset makes for selfish, self-centered, insensitive, and unsatisfied children, youth, and adults. So, we should not make it our goal to make our child happy every minute of every day. There will be times when our child won’t like the instruction or correction we give them – that’s unfortunate, but ok. If we have lovingly told them what they needed to hear for their growth at that point in time we should not back paddle at all. We are to teach the child – even when they don’t care for the learning.
When visiting in someone’s home and they tell our little one not to touch a particular item we can respond with, “Mrs. ___ said not to touch.” A simple statement like this tells the child that we respect our host and we expect our little one to show respect also.
Telling the babysitter – in the child’s hearing – what the rules of the home are communicates to the child that the babysitter is to be listened to and obeyed just as Mom and Dad are.
In children’s class at church we can support the department teacher and her rules and procedures, teaching our little one to do the same. These supportive statements and behaviors convey to our child that they should listen to and cooperate with the one in charge at that specific time and location. These experiences can go a long way in preparing our child to value and cooperate with the authority figures they find at school.
Share time, attention, and items with others
Sharing does not come naturally to children. This is because, simply to preserve their lives, they must start out thinking of themselves first. They need to be fed. They need their diaper changed. They have gas on the tummy. They simply need some lap time with Mom or Dad. When these needs pop up the baby must cry in order to get their needs met. They are the center of their little world.
Then, the terrible twos hit. By this time the child is able to voice their needs so we don’t tend to respond to every whimper from them. This repositioning of the child from their little world to the real world where others have needs and wants that might have to come first at times can be very unsettling to the child. Thus, they throw tantrums and fits; we hear screaming and yelling. As one toddler told his mother when she said he couldn’t have his way, “Mother, I’m not happy with you right now.”
We, as parents, must keep in mind that God set us in charge of the family. He told us to “train up the child in the way he should go.” The word “train”, in this verse, is an action verb; it doesn’t allow for passive parenting but for very intentional training of the child. To intentionally train up a child parents must:
- Have a mental picture of the character we hope the child will develop.
- Go to God’s word for character and training guidelines.
- Consider the temperament of the child so we can better train them in ways that are meaningful for the individual.
- Plan a course of action that will be most productive in getting the child from where they are to where we hope to grow them.
- Work the plan! This is a full-time job, but the payoff can be quite literally out-of-this-world as we see our little ones become responsible, respectable, productive young people and adults with a desire to follow their Lord and Savior and choose to live with Him forever.
Children who have had this intentional, careful training tend to be more self-confident, comfortable with themselves and others, and ready to succeed in school.
Parents: Understand how the brain functions
God created our brains for optimal functioning in a perfect world; they were never meant to have to deal with negatives. Sin brought in negatives that young children can’t naturally respond to correctly; they must be taught how to deal with negatives, as in negative statements.
Brain research has revealed that in order to be able to comply with a command the brain must first create a picture of the expected action. (Arlene Taylor https://arlenetaylor.org/articles-monographs/taylor-articles/communication/36-stop-at-the-curb) “Don’t touch that” is a negative statement. The brain actually creates a picture of touching the item, then it notices the “don’t” part and tries to reverse the picture. By the time the brain of a young child has gone through those mental gymnastics the child can already be doing what they were told not to do.
At that point, we yell at them, “Why do you always do exactly what I tell you NOT to do?” The child responds with, “I don’t know” because they really don’t know; they don’t understand how the brain functions any more than most adults do. The child may even be thinking they were obeying and don’t understand why they’re in trouble again. We might think of this child as defiant and uncooperative when that’s not the case at all – the brain simply hasn’t learned to process, or process quickly enough, the negative word, “don’t”.
Sometimes when a “don’t” command is given we see the child begin to disobey then catch themselves and pull back from what they were about to do – actually obeying the command. What just happened? The child has learned, over time, what “don’t” means; their brain has learned to process the negative word rather quickly and the child follows the instruction given them.
I firmly believe that most children are not defiant or uncooperative; they want to obey their elders but sometimes can’t do so because the brain hasn’t yet progressed to the point of correctly processing negative statements.
So, what can parents do to help the little ones be more obedient and cooperative? Tell the child what we want them to do rather than what we don’t want them to do. For example:
- “Don’t leave your clothes on the floor.” ---- “Put your clothes where they belong.”
- “Don’t hit your sister.” --- “Be kind to your sister, touch her gently.”
- “Don’t touch Daddy’s guitar.” --- “Keep your hands off Daddy’s guitar.”
In time, the child’s brain will come to automatically process the negative statement. But, in the meantime, we, as parents, need to change the way we word command statements so that the brains of our little ones can quickly and accurately process the information given them. This can better enable us to teach our little ones and to keep them safe. You may wish to read the article at the above Arlene Taylor site – very helpful information.
Written by Mary Ann Walden
Former Education Department Chair of Private College
Droolees LLC Education Blog Contributor
Meet Mary Ann Walden - Mary Ann Walden taught in small Christian schools for 27 years in various combinations of Pre-K - Grade10. Eleven of those years were in one-room situations (Grades 1-8). For the next six years, as ED Dept. Chair of Ouachita Hills College, she trained future Christian teachers. Mrs. Walden and her husband have since retired to the beautiful Virginia mountains where she spends her time writing books for teachers and children. You can find her published works at www.Walden-Wonders.com