As parents, we are our kids’ first (and most frequent) teachers. We help them learn so many things over time – from walking, saying their ABC’s, and drawing a picture to riding a bike, doing a somersault and putting away their toys to making friends, using good manners, and, someday, driving a car.
For some of these lessons, we merely guide and coach them along, while for others we actively instruct them, using steps, techniques and incentives.
Whether it’s facilitating such accomplishments as sitting up, talking, or going potty in the toilet, or concrete instruction, such as reading, writing their names, and throwing a ball, we are constantly teaching.
So, what makes a good “parent” teacher? What are some of the keys to effectively teaching our kids new things? There are many. And a lot of them start with the letter “P.”
Here are the P’s of effective parent teaching:
Prior to Teaching:
Planning – When you’re going to teach your child something new, have a plan. Know what you’re going to teach and how. Think about how your child learns best.
Purpose – Know what you want to accomplish during the teaching session, and have a goal. Why do you want to teach this? Has your child expressed an interest in learning it? Do you feel it is the right time to teach it? How will this teaching benefit your child?
Preparation – Be prepared for the lesson. Just like a classroom teacher prepares lesson plans, you can prepare yourself, your surroundings and any needed materials for the lessons you’ll be teaching before you start. Gather everything you need before you start, so you won’t have to stop mid-lesson to go find something.
Prioritizing – Figure out what tasks are most important and start there. Sure, there may be many things you want to teach. But start with the one you feel is most beneficial, or is the foundation to later skills.
Picture it your mind how you want the lesson to go (visualization). Then, get started.
Put the These P’s into Practice:
Patience – It’s important to remind yourself to be patient when teaching your child something new. Patience is a part of parenting. So take a deep breath and stay calm. Put yourself in your child’s shoes. It can be frustrating for him or her to keep trying and not get it. Learning something new takes time and practice.
Peacefulness – Keep the peace! Try to remain calm during the teaching process, even when your child is pushing your buttons. This will help your child to remain calm and to continue on with tasks. Also, a peaceful environment facilitates learning.
Positivity – Continue to encourage your child. Focus on what he or she is doing right. Point out the progress he or she makes.
Pace Yourself – Rome wasn’t built in a day. Do what you can. Build on successes.
Praise – It’s important to praise your child for a job well done and for trying and for improving, even if only slightly. This goes along with positivity. Praise is so reinforcing!
Picking Your Battles – Sometimes we want to push our kids. Or we may feel as if they are not trying or being attentive enough. It’s important to not fight them on every little thing. This goes back to prioritizing. Focus on the most important tasks, and let the others go – for now.
Persistence – Keep trying and keep working with your child. Again, teaching him or her a new skill can take a while. Encourage your child to practice and to not give up.
Playfulness – Make learning fun. It doesn’t have to be dry. Be creative. Come up with innovative ways to teach your child. Incorporate humor, art, toys, etc.
Psychology – Seek to understand your child, the way he or she thinks, learns, works best, and so on. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Use this insight to come up with the best ways to teach him or her.
Personalization – With some subjects/tasks, kids learn best when it’s meaningful to them. You can teach a variety of lessons by tailoring them to your child’s special interests.
Presence – Be in the moment with your child during teaching sessions. This works in two ways: physically and mentally. Physically be there when working with your child. During that time, block out all other distractions and give your child your full, undivided attention.
Presents, or Prizes – When appropriate, let your child work for and earn rewards. You might do this with a chart or by giving your child tokens for the completion of a designated amount of work. When your child has earned enough stickers on the chart, or tokens, allow him or her to purchase something.
Plus … More Possibilities:
Party – Celebrate a succession of learning successes with a special dinner at home or out at a restaurant, or by letting your child have a friend (or a few friends) over. Order pizza, watch a movie and have some popcorn.
Premack Principle – Based on a theory in psychology, encourage your child to work first, and then reward him or herself with something he or she enjoys.
Please, Pass on These P’s:
The following P’s are not helpful in teaching our kids new skills. So, please pass on these P’s: perfectionism, punishment, pickiness, pressure, and power struggles.