As my baby becomes a full blown toddler I have taken on a new job and that is teacher! Each day I get with my toddler is a new adventure full of discovery and amazingness. What I’ve come to realize is that this new job is one that every parent must take on. Not every one is cut out for teaching, so I’ll tell you what I’ve learned in hopes that it makes the transition easier for you.
While working on my Masters of Education I had a wonderful professor who taught me about patience. Each class period we would have to present the beginning of a lesson and all our classmates were told to act like students and ask questions and be honest about whether the lesson interested them or not. It was so much fun and so eye opening. What I learned from this exercise is patience is key. Many of you might be familiar with the frustration that goes along with teaching something. I think that frustration comes from an imbalance of understanding. What I mean is that one person has a greater understanding and one person does not and that imbalance creates frustration for both. I believe it is the teacher’s responsibility to strike the balance and remove the frustration.
Teaching in a classroom and teaching your child are very different in that one offers more control. In a classroom there is a specific unit and lesson and so everyone in on the same page about what is being taught. With a child, it’s random and all over the place. You have to search for learning moments and think on your feet and FAST!
When ever we go shopping for groceries I will see other kids and parents at the store and of course I notice other parenting methods. I want to emphasize right now that there are many different ways to parent a child and none of them are “wrong”. It all depends on your desired outcome, your goals, your child. I’m only referencing these other parents because their style is different from mine and a pretty good comparison. It might be working for them, but I know it wouldn’t work for us. So anyway, at the grocery store I will see kids touching the vegetables or different items and the parents yell and tell them to stop. My son almost ALWAYS reaches for a fruit or vegetable so I take that moment to teach. I grab his hand and squeeze and bring it to our noses and smell and describe to him how to pick the right one. He probably half understands what we’re doing, but he sees the action and so he repeats it and one day soon he will understand the concept and then he will know how to pick fruits and vegetables. Some day I imagine his spouse will thank me for this wonderful lesson. Other times he asks me for a cup and so I give it to him. He promptly takes it over to the fridge and reaches up to fill it from the water dispenser. He’s not quite tall enough to hold it properly so the water will come spraying down onto his tiny face and he squeals with laughter and looks at me with a huge smile on his face. At this moment I’m not so concerned with the water all over the kitchen tiles that I now have to clean up. What I see is that he understands that the fridge is where drinking water comes from and the cup is what you put it in. He already has the basic building blocks there and now I need to help him fine tune his motor skills. He’s a child, I certainly can’t expect him to do this perfectly. So I grab his hands and help him with the motion so that he is able to do it on his own somewhat.
What’s most important here is that you bring yourself to the child’s level of understanding. If my son takes his bowl of grapes and turns it upside down sending grapes rolling in every direction. I can’t get mad at him for it. He has just learned about gravity! How can I be upset at him for something that scientists do for a living? It is an experiment. Life is an experiment. It’s all trial and error and that’s how we learn. I’m not perfect, I used to get frustrated until I realized the value of these moments.
What I’m trying to say is, sometimes it creates more work for you, but the lesson that your child is learning is worth that extra bit of work. Children learn through discovery. If I was to grab the glass out of his hand or take the bowl of grapes out of his hand before he tips it all the way, what will he learn? He may even feel like he did something wrong. But did he? No, of course not.
So be patient and find the learning moment. You really have to think fast because these moments go by so fast and sometimes our natural instinct takes over and we miss the moment entirely because we were too caught up on trying to avoid extra work.
I let my son make the mess and then I show him the way it should be done and then he copies. He sees the consequence and then he learns. He also sees me cleaning up and learns to do that as well. He actually cleans up on his own now. He seems to have realized that things have their place and trash belongs in the garbage.
Another moment we had was with a pot on the stove. We were cooking dinner and he insisted I hold him so he could watch. He likes to stir the food and “help” make the food. Sometimes he puts ingredients in the pot for me. He’s a wonderful helper. Now the biggest danger here is the heat. I don’t want him to burn himself and perhaps the natural instinct here is to aggressively pull his hand away when he tries to touch the hot part of the pot. I didn’t do this though. He was ever so slowly trying to touch the side of the pot. (We’ve held his hand near heat before to show him that something is hot and not to touch). His curiosity ALWAYS gets the better of him so I thought ok let’s see what happens if I just let him. He very gently touches the side with his finger and then immediately pulls away and looks at me with a surprised face and says the Gujrati word for hot. YES! He understands this is hot. He doesn’t touch and reach for it anymore. He points instead and says ‘hot’ in our language. To which I reply, ‘yes, that’s right, it’s hot’. Lesson learned.
I’m not saying put your child in harms way. By no means let him run in front of a bus so that he knows to look both ways. But sometimes just letting them make the mess, or get a little close to danger teaches them first hand.
This doesn’t work for every child, and it takes A LOT of supervision. I am always focused on what my son is doing and it’s all about him. If he is in real danger I don’t allow it, it’s the little dangers that won’t really harm him that I allow with EXTREME supervision. If I have to do something while I’m with him like laundry or dishes then I involve him. I never take myself away from him to do something. Unless of course he’s watching Bubble Guppies and learning from Mr. Grouper.
Having kids is work, no doubt. That is to be expected. The challenge lies in meshing that work with our busy schedules. I know sometimes you just need to get things done or get out the door, but it only takes a minute or two to set the example. Don’t under estimate the effect of brushing off these learning moments because you’re busy. Put it in perspective. Obviously when you’re leaving for work in the morning is not the time to hand your child a bowl of grapes to experiment with. You do have some control. But do take the time to teach.
Having kids is a learning process. For both child and parent. No one is perfect at it and there is no right or wrong way. Don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you’re doing things wrong. People always have a bag full of unsolicited advice. Listen patiently and nod and smile. Sometimes there’s pearls of wisdom and sometimes it’s just irritating because they don’t know you or your child.
There’s nothing like the feeling of your child acquiring a new skill. And it’s even better when you had something to do with it. My little angel is rapidly growing independent and it’s scary and exciting at the same time. We want to make sure he’s a good man to his friends and family, a wonderful husband, and a loving father. He’s got the perfect example in his daddy. 🙂 Yea, yea I know, my perfect husband 🙂 But HE IS!
I hope this helped or at least gave you a different perspective. A little patience goes a long way. Good luck!