Teach My Children What? And When?

Effective parents use verbal instructions as one method of teaching their children. To effectively teach our children, we have to answer two questions. First, what do we teach our children? Second, when do we teach our children? First things first–what do we teach our children? Here are 6 “what’s” that family shepherds teach their children.
     ·         Verbally explain the rules to your children. Even more, verbally explain the reasons behind the rules. To be most effective, keep the explanations brief, clear, and concise. Make sure the explanation is geared to your children’s developmental level. How you explain the rules to a 4-year-old will sound very different than how you explain the rules to your 16-year-old.

·         Tell your children the positive alternatives to any negative behavior you correct. Let them know what you want them to do as well as you do not want them to do. Do not lecture. Simple tell them the expected behavior.

·         Compliment good behavior when you see it. Affirm their positive character. In other words, “catch them being good.” Never underestimate the power of simply noticing and acknowledging what your child does right and well. Doing so teaches a powerful message–positive character and good behavior gets noticed and results in reward.

·         Encourage your children’s effort. A fulfilling life does not come through achievement and performance. A fulfilling life results from the investment of effort. Make sure your children know that you notice and appreciate their effort to do the right thing, to work toward goals, and to participate in managing the family home. Teach them that effort is much more significant than the perfect final product.

·         Tell your children about their family heritage. Giving children information about their ancestors can offer patterns to follow and patterns to avoid. A family heritage builds their family identity. It offers stories of inspiration and motivation. My children love to hear stories about my own mistakes as a child…and it helps them learn how to avoid those same mistakes. Sharing your family heritage is a great way to teach your children your family values.

·         Teach your children daily life skills like how to build friendships, how to treat a date, and how to problem-solve. These teaching moments will come up naturally when various “issues arise.” You and your child will encounters many opportunities to talk about topics like dealing with a difficult teacher, how to say “no,” how to manage time, or how to make up with a friend after a disagreement.
As you can imagine, teaching our children takes time…which leads to the second question: when can you teach your children? The short answer is “any chance you get.” The longer answer is that some moments present better teachable moments than others. You find those teachable moments by spending time with your children. In fact, some of the best opportunities to teach our children arise at the most unexpected moments. For instance:
     ·         Teach your children when you sit in the house. Talk about various ideas and lessons at the dinner table. Keep it light and enjoyable and you will make quite an impact. TV and movies also offer an excellent time to talk with your child about family values, the consequences of actions, or decision making as well as a host of other important topics. Do not lecture. Just enjoy a simple conversation. Share ideas. Let them disagree with you. Even when they disagree, they will begin to think about what you have said.

·         Teach your children “on the go.” Most parents drive their children all over town. You will find that driving in the car offers an excellent time to talk. Your children are “captive” as you drive. They do not have to make eye contact, adding a level of comfort. There is usually some background music from the radio, helping everyone relax. Sit back, drive, and wait…or ask a simple, benign question. Your child will soon begin to talk. Enjoy that time…listen, problem-solve, share, and teach.

·         Teach your children while relaxing in your home. One of the best times for teaching occurs at bedtime. Something about the night-time seems to open children up. They begin to talk about their day, their worries, and their joys. Let them stay up a few extra minutes when they start talking. Let them share their day with you. Listen for what excites them and brings them joy. Rejoice with them. Hear what concerns them and reassure them of your presence and help. Problem-solve, share, and teach.

·         Teach your children when you get up. Teach them how to start the day off on a positive note—to eat a good breakfast, to practice gratitude, and to anticipate the good that might come during the day. Encourage them to recall family values and traditions of kindness. Share ideas, schedules, and thoughts. Problem-solve any potential difficulties of the day. Listen. Teach.
We teach children so many important lessons throughout the day. Some lessons are very serious. Some have a great impact on their lives. Other lessons simply add to the joys and fun of life. Either way, your presence is crucial. Be present. Be attentive and available. Listen, share, and teach.

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