Is There A Better Way To Teach My Kids?

Recently I heard a speaker talk on the subject of how we teach our kids. He said that two ways that have been commonly used by parents over the years are verbal reasoning and commanding action. Most parents today seem to use the verbal reasoning approach. The idea is that a parent ‘explains’ to the child, using reason, why it is important to do or not do a certain thing. Indeed, there are some children who, at a young age, will be able to respond positively to this approach. It seems, however, that most do not. The breakdown comes from the fact that your reasoning is based on your years of experience, learned values and maturity that the child just has not learned yet. His reasoning starts with what he wants and he does not know how to line up with your learned reasons. The best example of this, and you can see it any day in the grocery store where the parent is trying to ‘reason’ with a 3 year old about why he cannot have a candy bar at 5:30 pm. She’s at the checkout trying to get home and make dinner for the family. Any appeal to reason is doomed to failure and maybe to a shouting match because all he WANTS is the candy bar. Commanding action comes from a system that requires obedience and that attribute is probably considered the most important lesson to be learned. Often it is stated, ‘just do it and I’ll explain why later. ‘ It is sometimes the case that parents who use this method fail to find the time to explain the ‘why’ and so the child never hears that part. That result may come from the fact that since the child ‘did it’ the subject is forgotten until the next time. Since he obeys and things get done, the assumption is made that he knows and understands why it is important. A side weakness in this situation is that principles are not explained and so the child does not learn a framework of reasoning that he could draw on in other situations. So, for you as a parent who really cares and wants to help your children learn, what is the best way to teach your kids? My brother-in-law pointed out that some families that are successful, use a three-step approach. When something is deemed an important lesson to learn, the parent would SHOW his child how to do it by doing it himself and explaining the reason to his child as he goes. Step two would consist of doing the action together and where possible, have the child explain the reasons and procedure back to him as they do it together. Finally, the third step is to have the child do it all, by himself and the parent would then monitor the results and encourage him on all the things that he did right. If need be he can point out ways that the action could be improved. Most of us learn more effectively by ‘doing’. Many children are the same way. It is no news that today we do not spend as much time with our children as we would like. In another time, when our society was primarily agrarian, children worked with their parents and learned by example how things were done. Today, most of us do not have that opportunity and so we have to ‘make’ time to teach our children effectively.

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