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Since the time my daughter began taking bus to her pre-school, she must have been four and a half then, getting her ready for school became a tryst with time. It was like a cock fight... I would keep telling her at short intervals, 'quickly, get ready quick...' Sometimes even yelling at her. I was right there with her, getting her ready. But she was not there, mind or body or both, getting ready. She would continue at her pace... The only pace she ever knew. With breaks in between, for thinking, visiting her play-room, playing pranks etc.
I could not understand why she could not hurry, in-spite of me telling her to do so. One day she thought that she should at-least try, to do what I was asking her to do. So... in the middle of her bath, she dropped every-thing...The mug of water in her hand, the soap, the thoughts that had just surfaced in her mind and she so desperately wanted to share and she started to hop, shaking her hand haywire, moving her body briskly from side to side, making the sound huh... huh... huh..., she looked like a cute Snoopy. I stood there puzzled till she asked... is that fast enough Mamma? She was trying to hurry up!!! And that is when I learnt that a 4, 5, 6 or 7 year old, does not understand what 'fast' is...
They do want to do things fast, but how? And here are few things I did:
1. Make task based mental deadlines: teeth to be brushed by 6:15, she should have had her milk or water and be in the loo by 6:20... by 6:30 she should be bathing... by 6:45 she should be wearing her shoes... etc. etc... Keep tab of how each task progresses, no point telling the child explicitly about the time chart, she does not understand how the watch works... literally.
2. Explain in detail: Talk to the child and explain, what doing things fast means, it is not shaking oneself up like a cold coffee shaker and then going at your own pace. It is continuously doing what she is supposed to do, without getting distracted. And do explain what distraction is...
3. Be there to monitor: Spend a lot of time with the kid initially, to tell her exactly how a process is performed, brushing, bathing, wearing uniform, shoes etc. Do it for her where needed to show her how.
4. Free up one task at a time: Once you are sure the child can do things on her own, start letting her do one thing at a time by herself, start with brushing of teeth, and keep informing her if she is slowing down...
5. Praise and reward: Praise her, congratulate her and appropriately reward her for getting something right, even if it is just one small thing. Don't chide her for being slow.... at the most you have to drop her to school, or she will miss the school. That way, you will get more time, to reinforce the value of doing things in the right way.
Today as we walked to the gate of our apartment, to catch the school bus, my seven year old informed me to my amazement, “Mamma now I have understood the value of time." Just this Saturday, she had received this zany watch as a return gift at her friend’s birthday party, with rubber strap of a wearable devise, the dial camouflaged behind the strap. You have to press a soft button on the device, for the watch to light up and show the time for a few seconds. In short it is a novelty for old and young alike. She added, "I realised, when I observed this watch and I saw how fast time is running."
I felt so proud of her... "You have learnt a great lesson little one," I said to her. This is a lesson that takes a lifetime to learn, I thought, my heart brimming with joy and pride in equal measure, even a bit of math on how she had made my task of parenting a little easier today.