Monday, December 23, 2013

We Must Help Our Children To Connect The Dots

What does properly corrugating cereal and cracker boxes for recycling; ensuring that no clothing is obstructing the clothes drawer from coming together grounded and flush; wiping all residual water from the bathroom sink; hanging the dish washing rags open for them to air dry; speaking to people upon entering a room; and making sure the bathroom tissue dispenser is never empty have to do with anything? EVERYTHING.  By now I am sure you are asking, what is The Critical Thinker talking about in this post? I'm glad I have piqued your curiosity. Do you remember the picture worksheets or coloring book pages that many of us completed as a child called Connect The Dots? In many cases it was given to us by a teacher or a parent to keep us busy. According to Wikipedia 

Connect the dots, also known as dot to dot or join the dots is a form of puzzle containing a sequence of numbered dots.[1] When a line is drawn connecting the dots the outline of an object is revealed. The puzzles frequently contain simple line art to enhance the image created or to assist in rendering a complex section of the image. Connect the dots puzzles are generally created for children. The use of numbers can be replaced with letters or other symbols.
In adult discourse the phrase "connect the dots" can be used as a metaphor to illustrate an ability (or inability) to associate one idea with another, to find the "big picture", or salient feature, in a mass of data. Reuven Feuerstein features the connection of dots as the first tool in his cognitive development program.
All of the tasks listed in my opening question and so many others connect to the discipline that our children will need to succeed in their present and adult lives. The correct discipline and habits developed by learning how to do something first correct and then well are habits and skills that will transfer later in life to school and career work habits. A child who learns how to discipline him/herself  at an early age to strive for excellence in even the most mundane tasks is setting him/herself up to be school and career ready. Let's take a look at some possible connections and I am sure you will come up with some of your own.

  • Corrugating cereal and cracker boxes for recycling connects to packing and maximizing space 
  • Ensuring that no clothing is obstructing the clothes drawer from coming together grounded and flush connects to the attention to detail needed for the writing and submission of reports written and numeric
  • Wiping all residual water from the bathroom sink connects to knowing that no one is going to clean up after you and that you need to do that for yourself and how about those proofreading skills?
  • Hanging the dish washing rags open for them to air dry connects to using common sense and making sure the job you are assigned to is completed with no loose ends remaining
  • Speaking to people upon entering a room connects to just plain old common courtesy 
  • Making sure the bathroom tissue dispenser is never empty connects to thinking ahead and thinking about those who may come after you.
When I was a child in school, one of the categories on my report card was "Self Control"  The category has since been changed to "Work Habits" and "Social Responsibility."  Self Control is the one grade my parents would not accept anything lower than a "B" (preferably an "A") because in their minds, that was the one grade that I was totally able to control. They helped me to connect the dots at an early age and as a result of that I am able to successfully take care of myself and contribute to society. 

As parents, it is not our job to be our children's friend.  It is our job to help them connect the dots in order for them to function successfully in life. They will not like being told what to do over and over again, but keep enforcing and demanding discipline. One day they will be glad that you did (and so will you). When they are adults who begin to see and experience the "big picture," they will appreciate having had to break down the cereal boxes; make sure no clothes were hanging out of their drawers; wipe the sick; not leave the dishrag wet and balled up on the kitchen table; say "Good Morning;" and change the bathroom tissue dispenser when the spindle is empty etc., for they will have indeed connected the dots. Something to critically think about. I invite you to listen to me live on Saturday mornings beginning at 6 a.m. ET on and follow on Twitter @thinkcritical01. 

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