About a year ago, our youngest son Brendan started taking forever to eat his breakfast. It's been a pretty consistent breakfast for all his school years during the week: cereal, fruit, and juice or milk. One the weekends, we usually do pancakes, french toast or waffles. For some reason, Brendan really was not liking the cereal and it was causing a bit of "morning stress." You know, the kind of stress when you're trying to get your family out the door in the morning?
After lots of conversations with Brendan, he admitted he really did not like cereal. So in an effort to make mornings a little more smooth, we asked what he would like to eat. The answer was quick and simple: French Toast. I really wasn't sure if I could add this to the somewhat delicate balance of a morning routine we have set up. All any parent wants for their children in the morning on a school day is to get them out the door happy, fed, and looking relatively presentable.
So we decided to give the French Toast a try. On the first morning, I made enough batter for a couple of slices of toast. I made a slice, cut it up into bite-sized pieces, poured the syrup and sprinkled the powdered sugar. It worked! Brendan was so happy and from day one, there was less stress in our morning.
Slowly, I started having Brendan take more responsibility for the food. He took on the powdered sugar and then syrup. Finally, I told him one morning to start cutting his French Toast himself. He looked at me and said, "How?" I responded, "With your knife and fork!" He looked back at me and said, "But I don't know how. You've always done it for me."
In my focus to make sure our morning routine did not contain any additional stress, I took on doing too much and not empowering my son enough. Worse, I then expected him to then know how to do what I've been doing. I didn't scaffold for him at all and made my expectations for him unreasonable, essentially because he'd never done it before himself.
It made me think back to all the times as a teacher, and as a parent, that I've failed to provide scaffolding. It's so critical to risk taking in education and in life. Scaffolding gives you a place to go back to - someplace safe - if a mistake or a misstep is made. When we want our students (or our own children) to feel safe making mistakes, we have to support them getting there and have someplace for them to turn back to that is known.
So Brendan and I decided that I would start by cutting half of his slice into bite-sized pieces, and he would cut the second half into bite-sized pieces himself. The next step would be for me to cut the bread in half, and finally he would cut the entire slice himself. We figured out that part together - what felt like a big leap for him had to be honored, so that he felt empowered to take the next step.
Who cuts your French Toast? In our house, that's Brendan.