Our light switch was broken. I could have repaired it myself, but why not let my kids learn?
Elijah likes electronics and plays with his snap circuits kit a lot, so he became my main helper. This was a chance to “play” with real circuits. Gideon and Isaiah also helped by holding flashlights for us.
On an earlier project we had talked about circuit breakers, so I started by telling Elijah to turn off the circuit for our light switch. He went to the basement and tried a few breakers that turned off random things in the house, but eventually got the right one.
I tried to do as little as possible. He took the cover off and removed the switch from the wall. I did demonstrate how to move one wire from the old switch to the new one. Then he took care of the rest of the wires.
I had to help a little when he was pushing the new switch into the wall (mainly because he was afraid to push too hard and the wires were stiff). Then he put the plate on, reset the circuit breaker, and tested out the lights.
Why don’t we let kids help us more often?
One reason is because the job takes longer when you have a helper. I am sure that I could have completed the project in one fifth of the time if I had done it myself.
Sometimes we don’t want kids to help because we are afraid that they will not do the job correctly. There is the old saying, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” This may have a certain level of truth to it, but I think we need to have a new saying, “If you want someone to learn to do something, let them do it.”
Why should we let our kids help more often?
The best way a kid, or anyone, can learn is to let them try.
It is a great way to spend time together.
The child feel a great sense of accomplishment when they fix something.
How do I make it work?
Talk about safety first. Think about the dangers of your project and discuss them with your child before you start.
Set aside plenty of time. If you have to leave the house in 20 minutes, the light switch can stay broken for one more day.
Pick a project where you can fix things if it goes badly. I knew that if Elijah wired the switch incorrectly, I would be able to fix it. If he broke the new switch, it would not cost much to replace it. If you pick a project like this, it will lower your stress level and the project will go well.
Do as little as possible. The more the child does, the more they will learn. Their sense of accomplishment is directly proportional to the amount of work you allow them to complete.
Encourage your child. Tell them they are doing a great job, because they are doing great. Just trying to complete a new task is great. Help them with knowledge and technique. I did not just stand silently as Elijah worked. I told him what to do next, pointed out better technique (like how to hold a screwdriver), and made a joke out of anything that did not go right.
Next time you have a home repair, I hope you will be encouraged to get your kids involved and learning.
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