I have a confession to make. When I had my first child I thought she was the cutest, smartest child ever! So when she went to kindergarten I had all the confidence in the world that everything would be just fine. After all, she was 5 by the cutoff date for kindergarten. Her preschool teacher said she was ready because she could “draw the man”. Not quite that simple. There was this little problem of her chronological age and developmental age not quite being in sync.
Her chronological age (the measure of time from birth to the present) said she was ready. Her developmental age ( a measure of maturity) said “just barely”. So in a classroom where she was newly five and others were almost six, any immaturity that she had stood out. Did it bother her that she wasn’t as mature as some of the other children in her class? No, she was happily enjoying her adventure in kindergarten.
Even though she didn’t catch on to concepts and skills as fast as her classmates intelligence wasn’t the reason (dubbed the math nerd in high school). She just hadn’t reached the point in her development to do some of the things her older classmates were mastering. It’s sort of like the planets needed to be finally aligned and then it would happen. I still remember the day she and her little brother were leaning on the sill of an opened window looking at a book and it clicked. The it, in this particular incident, was the concept that letters make sounds and sounds go together to make words. She came to me and ask if the word she was pointing to was “hot” and when I said yes, she beamed! The code had been broken.
What I learned from this and other experiences with my children was that it doesn’t matter how much you try to get your child to learn something, if they haven’t matured to the level of the activity they won’t be able to master it.
When I teach something in school I expect at least a few children in my class not to master it. They just aren’t ready. It doesn’t make sense to them. So during the school year I reintroduce concepts so that if it is the right time for them, they will have their “now I get it” moment.
Parents need to do this also. I once had a little boy in my kindergarten class who was very young. His father was trying to help him count pennies and nickels. He’d show him, the little boy would do it with dad’s guidance and then the dad would want him to do it on his own and he couldn’t. The dad got so frustrated that he slammed down his fist onto the kitchen table and the glass top shattered. The table could have been saved if dad would have just stepped back and said, “Ok, we’ll try this again in a few days (or weeks)”. Shoe tying falls into the same category as well as a lot of other skills.
Don’t push, let your child grow and by all means, don’t break the table!