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Entries in Learning (1)

Sunday
Feb022014

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child

How do you learn?

Malcolm Knowles, a pioneer in the study of adult learning, observed adults learn best when:

  • They understand why something is important to know or do.
  • They have the freedom to learn in their own way.
  • Learning is experiential.
  • The time is right for them to learn.
  • The process is positive and encouraging.

Personally, I need to try something then I ‘have’ it.  For example, I’m sure I fell off my bike a few times before I mastered riding my bike.  Training wheels helped for a while before my dad took them off and I was on two wheels and not four. Even today, I take to a bike without a second thought.

My son recently learned how to feed his baby.  He and his wife had been to class.  They’d had the training. And then their beautiful daughter was born.  Instant trial by fire.

Within 24 hours of Lea’s birth he was forced to perform.  He held my granddaughter like she going to break easilly like a brittle piece of china.  He gingerly held the bottle to baby’s mouth.  And….we had no feeding.  She wouldn’t participate, and he was befuddled.

The maternity nurse observed this with an encouraging patience.  She described what he should do, and still Lea wasn’t going to participate.

The nurse then took Lea and with a practiced hand placed the baby on her lap, supporting the child’s head.  She held the bottle of mother’s milk and demonstrated how the bottle’s nipple needs to hit the roof of the baby’s mouth.  Instant feeding. Instant success. 

A couple nights later the proud new parents were home and their baby was still training them.  Leland held the baby confidently, and grabbed the bottle.  “You have to rub the top of her mouth with the nipple, Dad,” my son observed.

Lesson learned.

While grandfatherly pride was kicking in, I was struck by how many people participate in raising a child.  Doctors, nurses, and teachers care and nurture children, and offer observations and advice for parents.  Although the origins of “it takes a village” are murky (African proverb, Hillary Clinton or ??) many people can help with advice.  Family members and friends offer further lessons they’ve learned and share.  Access to YouTube and other resources can inundate parents with (often conflicting) options. Parents need to reach out to others for help/suggestions on different topics, and recognize they will need to try different things until they find that magic combination for their child.  Every child is different.

And once you learn, it is stuck in your muscle memory.  My son was amazed when he handed me his child for the first time.  He seemed surprised I knew how to hold and support her.  “Well, son, it’s a little like riding a bike…..”