I’ve been going to a neighborhood spin class for more than 13 years now.  In class today, my instructor yelled, “ISOLATE!”

What did she mean by that?

Did she want me to go back home and sit alone in my room?  No, of course not (although that would have been nice!).

She wanted us to stop swinging our hips on the bike and to really concentrate on our quad muscles, targeting our work.

By isolating certain muscle groups (like working on biceps one day, and triceps on another day), you can build up that muscle.

This is a good, positive meaning of isolate…and it has a connection to parenting.

We know about bad isolation – the teen who is locked away in the bedroom for hours.  The child who refuses to play with others.  The tween who is glued to video games.

But there is a good type of isolation – when you “isolate” a certain skill you want to possess and work on it.  In the same way you can isolate a muscle group and strengthen it, you can isolate something you want your children to focus on.

If your son or daughter is hearing…

  • Clean your bedroom! 
  • Look at me while I’m talking to you!
  • Stop having such a bad attitude.
  • Close your mouth when you chew. 
  • When are you going to learn how to do your laundry?
  • Sit up straight.
  • You need to get ready faster; we are always late. 
  • Let’s review your times tables.
  • You need to learn to talk to adults with respect! 

It can be overwhelming to hear so many areas to work on.  Just imagine if your spouse or parent gave you a long list like this to work on each week.  Our endless stream of words may end up sounding like the teacher’s “wah-wah-wah” voice in Charlie Brown.

Why not isolate and just pick one or two things your child can work on this week?

In their book Gist: The Essence of Raising Life-Ready Kids, authors Michael Anderson and Timothy Johanson write about the magic of focusing on two things:

We believe in a concept that forces parents to identify the two things their child or teen most needs to learn next.  Every kid always has two things they most need to learn next…Pause for a moment and think of each of your kids.  Without too much deliberation, think of a couple of things that are uniquely germane to each child’s next season of growth.

I’ve found this idea of isolating two things needing development very helpful and effective.  For example, for my son entering high school, we are focusing on budgeting money and managing a calendar.  For my 8-year-old, we are working on walking the dog without being asking and controlling her temper with her siblings.

What can you isolate and focus on with your children?  This also helps us immensely as parents because instead of working on 10 things with our kids, we just choose two things to focus on for a few weeks until that new habit is established.  Then you turn towards the next two things.

Don’t be overwhelmed by all the things your child needs to learn…it’s time to isolate.  You will be pleasantly surprised by the power of focus.  As your child masters whatever new skill you are trying to teach, he or she will gain confidence.  You will probably see that other things will even start falling into place!


Arlene Pellicane

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