One of the main roles a father has is to be a teacher of his children. A previous blog began some thoughts on this. Here are some more ways fathers can teach their children.
Words that help to correct behaviour
Chandra is excited about her new kitten. She wants to play with it all the time. But she is too rough. She mauls the kitten almost like it was a stuffed toy. “Careful, Chandra,” says Dad. “Your kitten is just a baby. If you want to hold him, you need to be gentle.”
Using the words “careful” and “gentle” helps Chandra connect the ideas of gentleness and care with a real experience where they are necessary — handling a helpless baby animal. Setting a limit — that she has to be gentle or Dad won’t let her hold the kitten — helps her see that her behaviour is what determines whether or not she’ll be able to handle her pet.
Learning to make decisions about behaviour
When children are very small we spend a lot of time watching over them, telling and showing them what to do and making decisions for them. If they are to develop character they must learn how to act on their own with less and eventually no help from adults. Here are some ways we can help them gain experience.
Offering small age-appropriate choices is one way to help young children learn to make decisions and about the impacts of those decisions.
Liam and his father are shopping. Liam wants a cookie from the bakery. “You can have one more cookie today,” says Dad.
“You can either have one now or have one after dinner. Which would you like?”
Doing things for themselves
“Dad, can you get me an apple?” says Kari. “I think you can handle that yourself,” says Hiro. “The apples are in a bowl on the kitchen table.”
“I don’t know what to wear to school,” says Jake.
Dad could tell Jake what to wear, but at age seven, he is ready to learn how to make decisions like what to wear on a
cold day. “Check the weather forecast in the newspaper,” Dad suggests.
Jake checks. “The newspaper says it’s going to be minus three today,” Jake says.
“Do you think your baseball cap will be warm enough?” Dad asks.
“No, I need my winter hat,” says Jake.
It’s OK to do things for our kids sometimes. But they also need to learn how to look after themselves, take on responsibilities and deal with challenges. If we always tell them what to do and do everything for them, they won’t learn to act and think for themselves. Letting children take on small responsibilities like getting their own snacks and deciding what to wear are good places to start. However, first they may need to spend time doing the task along with you – “Would you get a cup for me to pour your juice into?” – before they can do it on their own.
The boundaries between your child’s responsibility for herself and your responsibility as a father will keep shifting as they grow. The idea is to let your children do as much for themselves as they can handle. Keep an eye on them to make sure they’re doing OK and be ready to provide guidance, support and direction when needed. Give positive feedback when they have made good decisions and help them learn from their mistakes. But try to remember that one day our kids will have to behave and get through their lives without us there to tell them what to do. They need lots of experience.
Don’t overdo it with the teaching
• We don’t have to turn every single situation into a lesson. Besides, if we overuse any kind of parenting technique,
children start to tune us out.
• Keep it simple with small children. Preschoolers need short, uncomplicated instructions and explanations that they can understand easily.
• Don’t expect too much too soon. Children sometimes amaze us with the patience, determination, good judgement, self-discipline or honesty they show. Other times they will disappoint us. Making mistakes is part of the learning process. True character takes a long time to develop. Children need to feel loved and accepted even when we’re not happy with their behaviour.