In the world of education, teachers often use a method referred to as, “I do, we do, you do,” to teach kids new concepts. It’s pretty simple to understand and super effective to use.
First, I DO the new concept. I show you what it looks/sounds like to accomplish it.
Then, WE DO the new concept together. You try accomplishing it for the first time, and I’m there to guide you.
Lastly, YOU DO the new concept. You fly solo and accomplish the task on your own using what you’ve learned.
I do, we do, you do. It works with math equations, sentence structures, shooting baskets, sounding out words, and singing songs. Every teacher in the world has used it at some point or another, whether they’ve called it that or not.
This concept doesn’t just work at school, though. It’s also effective at home, at work, or on the sports field.
And my favorite part? It’s one of the most effective ways to teach kids new behavioral, social, and emotional skills.
Need to teach your kid how to order for themselves at a restaurant? Don’t just throw them to the wolves. Show them how to do it the first time–what to say, how to problem solve, and how to ask questions. Then do it with them (guide them on what to say) before asking them to do it alone.
I do, we do, you do.
Want your kids to stop yelling every time they’re upset? Provide them with an example of the exact words they could say in place of yelling. Show them what their voice tone should sound like and how their face should look. Instead of using a stressed voice to tell your child, “PLEASE stop yelling when you’re mad!” try using a neutral voice tone to say something like, “If you didn’t like when your sister did that, try saying, ‘Please don’t take my toys.'”
Kids are constantly being told what they shouldn’t do, but adults often forget to give them options of what they could do instead.
Give them clear expectations about the behavior you’d like to see from them–this is the “I do” phase because you’re showing them what to do–and then sit with them as they try saying the words themselves. This is the “we do” part. They’re saying the words, but you’re right there to provide feedback if they can’t remember what to say or still use a grumpy voice.
Then, the next time the same situation comes up and your child starts yelling again, you can remind them of the words you practiced before. “Remember to say, ‘Please don’t take my toys.'”
After a while, the “we do” phase will taper off, and they’ll naturally start to use those words on their own. They’ll feel more comfortable using phrases like, “Please don’t take my toys,” because they’ve said it so many times with you. They’ll feel behavioral muscle memory. At this point, they’re in the “you do” phase of learning the new concept.
Remember to praise them every time they use the new skill you’re teaching them, even if you still had to help them with it. Encourage them to keep trying it so they don’t give up before it starts to feel natural.
Using the I do-we do-you do method can be useful in teaching almost any behavioral skill, such as introducing yourself, asking for help, accepting feedback, expressing your opinion, etc.
As the adult, just try thinking through what EXACTLY you’d like for your child to do, and then model it for them. Stop engaging in the habit of telling your kids “Don’t do that,” all the time, and start saying, “Try this instead!” Guiding your kids toward healthier ways of communicating requires you to be willing to model those patterns of communication first.
You do it.
Then they do it with you.
Then they do it on their own.
Go for it, parents! (Or coaches or teachers or whoever else!)