Children are always learning. They learn by imitating, by experimenting and by following their natural urges to explore the world and the people around them. They also learn from us. Parents are children’s first and most important teachers.
Kids learn about character partly from real life experience. A girl who works hard on her skating and makes the hockey team as a result, learns that perseverance and hard work often lead to success. A boy who holds the door for a mother with a stroller and is thanked, feels proud and also learns that people appreciate courtesy. That makes him more likely to be courteous in the future.
But children don’t always make a clear connection between their actions and the consequences of those actions. In fact, kids often think their success is due to luck and that failure is bad luck or someone else’s fault. We can help them make the real connection by taking advantage of teachable moments: situations when a child’s action provides us with a chance to teach them little lessons about the relationship between behaviour and results.
“Dad, I don’t have any clean socks.”
“Where’s that pile of laundry I gave you to put away yesterday?” Sasha asks.
“I don’t know,” Mika replies.
Sasha walks into his nine-year-old daughter’s room. It’s messy. “Whoa, this room needs cleaning up. I see toys, books and dirty laundry all over the place,” says Sasha. “Put your toys and books away and put your dirty clothes in the laundry hamper. Then see what you can find.”
Ten minutes later, Mika comes out of her room wearing clean socks, “Ah,” says Sasha. “I see you found the pile of clean laundry. This is why it’s good to keep your room neat and clean.” He taps a finger on Mika’s head playfully. She rolls her eyes, “I know. It’s easier to find your socks.”
Sasha could have yelled at Mika, made her feel ashamed about the messiness of her room, or found the socks himself. But instead he used the situation as a teachable moment. He showed Mika how she could solve her own problem and helped her see the connection between keeping her room clean and being able to find things.
Be watching for more thoughts about how we can be a good teacher of our children.