Four year old Max isn’t very good at picking up his toys. His mom is working on this, but he’s slow and resistant and it really takes 10 times as long when she involves him than when she just does it herself. But his mom knows that it is worth it, in the long run, to teach him the big lesson, so she perseveres.
Tonight, when he was picking up toys as part of his bedtime routine, she noticed that he was walking back and forth from his bedroom to the laundry closet with One Sock Per Trip. One sock. Per trip. (He’s so four!) She thought about correcting his method, intending to ask him to carry the remaining things together, but remembered “One at a time.”
So, instead of interacting with him in a redirective way, she praised him, noticing how he was cleaning up his room independently and steadily. She smiled at him and thanked him for his work. He smiled back and continued cleaning.
In a few weeks, or months, picking up his toys at bedtime will be a more regular occurance for Max, and it won’t require as much supervision and adult involvement. That will be the right time to raise the bar by asking him to reach that goal in an improved way. But for now, his mom is supporting his positive behaviors best by focusing on One Primary Goal, and being more tolerant of imperfect ways of getting there. That’s what is meant by “One at a Time:” reminding us, the parents, to focus on one goal at a time, and to recognize the progress towards that single goal even when it is delivered imperfectly.