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Divide and Conquer

Parenting One step at a Time

We all try to be good parents/caregivers, and we work hard at it. Balancing when to take a hard line and when to give in is just one of the daily battles we face. Add to that decisions of when to encourage and when to scold. The list goes on.

We normally treat these issues on a reactive basis, addressing each in real-time as it occurs. Children seem unsure of themselves, so we encourage them and work on their confidence. We don't always get it right, but we try our best to provide a consistency that allows the child to build a set of values relating to different, and sometimes complex, situations.

Rarely do we plan a teaching experience in advance and then execute it. Perhaps we can address it proactively by using this approach.

At the ages of 5 years - 7 years, children shift from being dependent on grown-ups to developing their independence. During this age range, they develop the skills that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

Educational skills - math, early reading, sporting games, logic - come first to mind, but this is also the time for teaching the basics of social skills, such as confidence and kindness. Whereas math is taught in schools as a dedicated, step-by-step program, social skills development is often allowed to "just happen" and often is left in the hands of the parent or caregiver – or the schoolyard.

In school, going all the way through college and beyond, it has been clear that teaching should be focused on one subject at a time. Humans may think they can multi-program but concentration on one subject at a time has been proven to be more efficient and this method has been adopted by most learning institutions. Perhaps a class in math, followed by a class in spelling, followed by a class in painting. The order of subjects matters less than the belief that full attention to one at a time is more efficient for the student.

As well, the teaching of each subject is planned and has a set of goals. Good teachers don't wing it.

So, let's segue back to the social skills we want our children to learn.

When we developed the Five Enchanted Mermaids, we set as a basic part of their identities that each mermaid is from a different ethnicity, and they are friends and work together in the stories to put diversity on full display. The simple message was that race doesn't matter.

We also focused on the social skills which need to be developed at this age range and decided to assign one to each of the five and tackle them one at a time. Each mermaid has a superpower which they teach - independence, honesty, courage, confidence, and kindness. Each of the Meet the Mermaid books tackles one of these.

So, here's an idea. Rather than "wing it" and address each issue that arises reactively, why not take each of the social skills and devote more planned teaching of each at home.

For example, take "courage". Tell your little one that over the next week you are going to talk with them about courage and they should think through what that means. The Hi, I'm Emily book might give you some ideas. Read the book to them, asking questions as you go. Ask them to think of examples where they have been afraid and how they handled it. Ask which of their friends has courage. How do they display it? Have they encountered bullying? How did they react to it? Set some simple exercises - rate their peer group on their courage, let them tell you about how they reacted to fear and bullying.

There is no need to over plan it but the three simple aspects of this suggested approach are:

· List the social skills you want to impart

· Address each one, in turn, not mashed together

· Develop and implement a concentrated, specialized experience for each, say, lasting for one week each

Think about it and try it out. Please let me know if the divide and conquer approach works for you and your child. We’d love to hear from you!

The Five Enchanted Mermaids celebrate diversity in our world and the belief that each child deserves to have a mermaid that looks like them. Through their individual personalities and traits, they weave stories that help teach skills for children in this age group.

​The idea for the Five Enchanted Mermaids was born to provide a fun but educational backdrop for girls aged 3 to 7 years. The characters address emotional skills (making friends, resolving conflicts, coping with change, making their own choices and “being good people”) and educational skills (learning to read, the alphabet, counting, symmetrical shapes, time, value of monetary coins/notes) that are important at that age in the development of young girls.

​The stories use each of the diverse mermaids as a role model for behavior and values.

​LifeMadeSimple, LLC and acclaimed children’s book author, Lois Petren, are collaborating to provide a series of books, party accessories and other appropriate items as mermaid gifts for girls to support these goals.

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