I've been working on strengthening the cognitive function of Expressive Verbal Tools in our family lately.
One way I have been doing this is by playing a game with my kids where I will do something with them but pretend I am an alien visiting earth and they have to instruct me in the human ways of doing certain tasks, games and chores. This requires them to use their verbal skills to tell me how do a task.
We're having a lot of fun learning together.
Here's the second half of doing the chores in our bathroom, where my eldest daughter instructs me in the ways of cleaning a toilet.
We go through the initial start up of finding a cloth and a spray to use for our job. Once supplies are handy, I ask, "What do I do?"
"Well, you spray the bottle."
I spray her.
"Mom! Why did you do that?"
"You told me to spray."
She gives me a little scowl. "Not funny, Mom."
"Ok. I apologize. I need specific instruction though. What do you want me to spray and clean?"
"The outside of the toilet."
"Where do I start?"
"There." She points at the toilet.
I explain that I don't understand hand gestures and that I need a full verbal explanation of what she means.
"This thing, right here." She points to the toilet lid, a bit exasperated.
"Does that part have a name?"
"I don't know what it's name is!" Her voice is annoyed and she's started to lose sight of the fun that can be had in this game.
"Oh. It's called the lid."
"Well, clean the lid then."
I stop with spray bottle in hand. "Are we going to ask nicely?"
She's tempted to roll her eyes. I can tell. "Pleassssssse."
I accomplish the job with panache and ask her what's next.
"You have to wash that part there."
We go through the task working on labelling 'this part'. It's called the 'tank'.
"Why do I need to do this?" I ask. I am searching for HER meaning behind this project.
"Because you told me to do it this way."
"Any other reason why it's good to do."
She shrugs. "Helps it get clean, I guess."
I finish my job and she asks me to do the top of the tank. It's a slow process as she is frustrated by explaining each part of the job. She directs me to wipe down the base of the toilet and I ask her what I should clean.
"Well, I usually just do this side, because I find it hard to do the other side."
(this is a bit of a revelation to me as I had be assuming that she was doing this part of the job. I am a bit shocked to find out that it is much dustier than it should be.)
"How come you haven't done the other side of the base?" I ask.
"Well, it's hard to get to it because that side is close to the bathtub, so I just don't do it."
"Hmmmm..." I say.
I do nothing at the moment, but later recognize that this fits into a pattern of avoiding Challenge.
Later on we'll talk about why it's important to finish a task all the way to the end. For now, I notice that her enthusiasm has waned significantly and she is no longer having fun with our task.
"Ok, captain, what do I do next?"
"Mom, how long are we doing this for?"
And with that, she's done. Bored and disengaged.
But I started this task and by gosh, we're going to finish it!
Ignoring her disconnection, I ask how to clean the remaining parts of the toilet. It goes about as well as a headache.
When the job is done. We're both relieved and leave each other and the bathroom to find something better to do.
I start to the task of vigorously washing down my kitchen table. It's been done already but cleaning makes my mind work best. I'm annoyed at myself and my failed attempt at Cognitive growth.
In the midst of scrubbing I realize several things:
1. I didn't explain the whole "Alien cleans the Bathroom" very well. With my five year old, I was very careful to explain what I was doing and why. With my eight year old, I gave her a bare bones description assuming that she had paid attention when I worked with her younger sister.
2. I sprayed her at the start to be funny, but since she didn't get the concept of why I was doing that, she just got annoyed and disengaged from the whole process.
3. I recognize that she had a hard time telling me what to do because certain terms (like tank and lid) weren't defined to her. Yet, I'm not sure if this is an accurate representation of her knowledge because she was disengaged and annoyed through the whole process. So I decide on another solution:
We'll try it again!
Only first we'll start with a task that she likes, and then we'll move back to this one.
Because it's important to do things in the "easy-hard" step-dance way. I'll do something that is easy for her (something that she loves) and then I will ask her to do something hard (something that is a challenge and she isn't especially affectionate towards).
I'll keep you posted and let you know how that goes!
Mediating CF receptive verbal tools, expressive verbal tools