As a teacher, I have been thinking a lot lately about what I taught my own children. Did I ever intentionally teach them something? Or did they learn from my actions which could have been good or bad? Did I assume they would just know something without ever giving them the information to learn? There are times I wish I could go back and do a better job at raising my children. They are wonderful, but I can’t take a lot of the credit for that.
When our children where from 3-5, I did a preschool program with them called Joy School. Joy School is a program started by Richard and Linda Eyre that gives you the information to teach lessons on the joy of service, the joy of creativity, the joy of spontaneous delight, the joy of trust, etc. There are a few things that I know I intentionally taught my children due to Joy School or because they were important enough in my mind to cover like my lesson on respecting personal property. (Ask me about that sometime. It was effective!)
There are also many things I did not teach well. Take the handling of money for example. It was common in our family to use phrases like ‘money burns a whole in your pocket’ or ‘we can’t afford that.’ Unfortunately we said those instead of teaching our children to make a plan of how to earn and save money so they could obtain something. Another example of this would be gathering the family to make plans for a vacation and then shooting down the ideas because they cost too much. This teaches children a negative attitude toward money. I know for us as parents, we sometimes would have disagreements about money or have problems with the checkbook that were minor but appeared to be major to the listening child.
We may want our children to be reverent in church and expect it from them, but have we taught them what that looks like? Are we playing on our iPhone but expecting them to be quiet? I had a friend that taught her children by having reverent time at home. They would sit on a chair to see how long they could be quiet. The young ones started out with 10 seconds but got excited to try and go longer and do as well as their older siblings. When they went to church they knew what it felt like to sit reverently. If you give a child a car, to keep them 'quiet' at church, they will want to make varooom sounds, they are kids!
Are we teaching values like kindness and sharing? Or do we wait until a fight breaks out? Are we teaching them how gossip hurts and lying just makes issues worse? Or do we wait until something happens then say ‘you are in trouble now for lying!’ Being a parent is hard work and not everything works with every child. Consistency is important.
It is also really important to look for teaching moments throughout the day, but it is also just as important to intentionally teach your children the things you feel will give them a great foundation. Don’t leave that to society, church, or schools or they may not turn out the way you planned. This applies to chores too. My mother would ask us to dust. I did what I thought was dusting and she would scold me and then do it herself. She was a great mom but never showed me how to dust. She never showed me how to cook either! I was one of those kids that needed to be shown more than once, but she assumed I knew from watching her.
Pick 10 concepts this year that you feel you want your children to really understand. Then take one a month and work on it with them. Find examples to point out, stories to read, and talk about the subject over dinner. Ask for examples your children saw during their day. Reinforce their behavior when they work on the concept.
Intentionally teach; don’t just expect children to know something.