One of our most important jobs as parents is to teach our children the skills they need to become happy, productive adults. There are so many things they need to learn: how to cook, clean, understand finances, get along with others and live with integrity. Our children need us to be very good teachers.
John C. Maxwell has said, “People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Never is this more true than with our children. If we want our children to learn these important skills, we need to teach with love and kindness.
Set the example
. Children learn best by our example. The old saying, “Do as I say, not as I do” rarely works with our kids. No matter how many times you tell your son to use his inside voice, he will continue to yell as long as you do. Would you like your son to stop hitting his little brother? Consider transitioning to consequence-based discipline. Whenever you would like to change your child's behavior, remember to model the proper behavior first.
Work side by side
. Remember that learning a new skill can be overwhelming for kids, especially young children. When you work beside your child, you model the right way to do the task. You are available to correct any mistakes and to offer encouragement as she makes progress and praise when she succeeds. Plus, children love to spend time with mom or dad. By working with your daughter, she will be more motivated to learn.
In our family, we have a weekly Home Blessing, an idea that I learned from FlyLady.net. We turn on some upbeat music, set a timer and then clean each room in the house for fifteen minutes. When I work with the children, I am able to point out areas that they would otherwise overlook. There is less quarreling, and they seem to get the work done faster. Not surprisingly, when I don't help them, the job takes a lot longer and isn't done as well.
Focus on the positive
. Your children want to please you. They love to hear words of encouragement. They like to see you smile, and they want to know that they make you proud. Too much criticism discourages your child and makes him want to give up. Focus on the positive and praise him for his progress as well as his achievements. If motivation is a problem, use rewards judiciously.
. Help your child recognize that making mistakes is a part of the learning process. Point out how to recognize the lesson from her experience, and encourage her to try again. Remember to separate the behavior from the child. Never call her names like “stupid,” “lazy,” or, “stubborn.” Always be patient. If you begin to feel frustrated while teaching a new task, step away. Come back to it when you are feeling fresh.
Allow your child to experience natural consequences
. It is normal to want to shield our children from life's unpleasantness. However, experiencing the natural consequences of their behavior can be a powerful learning experience. Is your son so competitive that he plays too rough? Then let him see that his friends might not want to play with him. Has he been caught in a lie at school? Don't step in and make excuses for him.
. You can make learning a new skill enjoyable. Turn the task into a game. Put some music on and take periodic dance breaks. Make it a race to see who can finish the task first. Have a competition and give out awards for the job done best, fastest or most creatively. Sing songs while you work.
I enjoy teaching my children how to cook. I let them choose the recipe. We gather the ingredients, and I demonstrate different techniques they might need to know. The fun part comes when we get to taste our creations.
We are our children's first and greatest teacher. We can make learning meaningful and fun when we teach with love and kindness.