In my education as a teacher I learned a lot of things that I expected would benefit me in my journey as a parent. Yet, the majority of what I have carried over into motherhood draws mostly from my experience in the classroom with the children and less from the books and theories I studied. All of the research I did on the development and behavior of a toddler did not adequately prepare me for being a stay at home mama to a sassy and strong willed 18-month old. Fortunately, there are things I learned about children in general from my time teaching and those things carry over into parenting seamlessly, no matter what age the child is. These three things I have learned to do in my day to day are small enough to easily implement and impactful enough to yield results.
Turn Every-day Tasks into Teachable Moments
Your child doesn’t have to do all of their learning through flashcards and workbooks. I think that this can be such an encouraging and freeing thing for most parents to realize. You don’t have to be good at “teaching” to teach your child. In fact, whether you realize it or not, you are already teaching them. We all have a basic daily routine, and within that routine we have the opportunity to include our children. I know that this can be hard to do at first, simply because it may take a few extra minutes to do the very things we sometimes wish to just check off our to-do lists as quickly as possible. As much as you can, invite your child into the things you do on a daily basis. Maybe brush your teeth together in the mornings, allow them to help you unload the dishwasher, or let them be a part of dinner prep. Allowing them to participate in what you do helps to model and teach them how to be a kind, caring, and hardworking adult. Within these moments you share together, you create opportunities for conversations and in those conversations you have the chance for teachable moments. For instance, the conversations you have with your child while making chocolate chip cookies can be a chance to practice basic math skills while you’re measuring the ingredients or even talk about why you might be choosing to use certain ingredients over others in order to make a healthier choice for your bodies. You’ll be surprised how easy this will become for you, and how much you’ll notice your child enjoying these moments you have with them.
Create Meaningful Experiences
One of the biggest things I saw as a teacher was that students didn’t remember what I was teaching if I was simply standing in front of the classroom talking at them. It was when I created a meaningful experience that they really retained the lesson. As parents we may not be teaching algebra or the alphabet, or maybe you are, but we are teaching and shaping our children to be the best person that they can be. I know that there are certain things I want my children to grow up knowing to be true, like the importance of kindness toward others or taking care of our community. These concepts merely spoken to a child might be met with a confused look or an eye roll, depending on their age, but if you start to show them those things modeled it will create memories for them that they won’t easily forget. As they grow and go out into the world, they will find themselves naturally holding the door open for the next person because that’s simply what they always saw Mom or Dad do. During the holiday season, maybe you find a way to give back to those in your community, donating toys or delivering cookies. Allowing your child to be a participant in the concept you are teaching them will create a lasting memory for them.
Every Child Is Different
This is probably the most important thing I learned with my experience in the classroom, no two children are the same. For this reason, they absolutely cannot be treated as though they are. Now, this doesn’t mean that your children can’t be expected to follow the same set of household rules. It just means that maybe it will take different guidance and teaching in order for each of them to learn how to follow those rules. They will need to be spoken to differently, shown things differently, comforted differently, and loved differently. While my daughter is a child who needs guidance, she is still a person who innately feels and thinks a unique way. I want to cultivate those things within her in a way that allows her to grow to be the best version her, not what I think might be the best version of a daughter, or sister, or friend. As a parent, we know our children best, and sometimes that makes it difficult not to compare. When we see the good and the difficult, it can be tempting to expect, or wish, that one child would perform the way that our other child does. We cannot compare our children to ourselves, to each other, or to other children that we witness. This can be especially tempting in today’s culture where we are constantly seeing glimpses into other families lives via social media. It’s important to remember that there is so much more to their lives and children than what we see in those little squares or read about in those 140 characters. When we compare, we are focusing on the negative rather that the abundance of positive qualities our child has to offer. At the very core, our children are they are who they are, and we should never try to change that. Instead, we get to celebrate them for the ways they are unique and special.