Years ago I was participating in a sewing activity at my church. Many women had gathered at the church with their sewing machines.
At this activity, there was a four-year-old girl that kept touching the knobs on the sewing machines. Her mother tried to keep her in control and punished her by putting her into time-out when she touched the machines. She didn’t stop trying to touch the machines —even though this girl was punished each time .
There was a time when many of the women were away from their machines. I was still sitting at mine, though. The little girl approached the machine next to me. Right before she touched the tension knob on the machine, I said, “Melanie, did you know that if you choose to touch that machine, then your mom will become upset at you, the ladies will think that you’re a naughty little girl, and you’ll be put back into time-out again? If you choose not to touch the machine, then I will give you a high five and say, ‘Yay Melanie! You chose to be in control of yourself!’ I know you’re strong enough to be in control of yourself!”
After I said this, she walked away from the machine. I then said, “Yay Melanie! You’re so amazing! You chose not to touch the machine!” Then I gave her a high five, just like I said I would. At this point the other women were watching what happened. One of the women came up to me and said, “How did you do that?” I smiled and said, “Pre-teaching.”
Melanie didn’t touch the machines again for the rest of the day.
I wasn’t the first person to tell Melanie not to touch the machines. But, I was the first person to tell her that something positive would happen if she chose not to touch them. Children often know something negative could happen if they choose the wrong, but people don’t often tell children what good will happen when they choose right. Showing them the good that they can choose and the positive results it brings helps them see that there really is another option. It’s like doing a mini-SODAS. It’s pre-teaching, and it works.
Pre-teaching is very useful when teaching children that are not your own.