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We are all teachers

Young Boy Being Tutored by His TeacherI have had some excellent teachers in my life and some that were downright lousy. In school they played an important role in helping me understand difficult subjects so I could learn.

What makes a good teacher?

For me, a good teacher is someone who is interested in helping you learn. They define their topics and goals and the steps needed to accomplish them and offer encouragement and motivation to achieve.

As parents, we are also teachers.

Learning is a lifelong process. As a parent, we are teaching our children about how to be responsible adults as they go through childhood.

In my blog, Navigation, I wrote about the importance of rewarding children for the tiny steps they make toward a predetermined goal. Some children will need many tiny steps that are rewarded as they move toward the ultimate goal.

Good teachers are good communicators

Communication  breaks down when we assume others know exactly what we mean and are surprised when people have misunderstood our intentions.

A lot of our communication with other adults is based on the belief that they  automatically understand what I am talking about.

With children, it is even more important that requests are clear. Too often we make generalized statements and assume our kids will know what we expect from them.

“I want you to be good tonight at Aunt Martha’s”    or

“Behave yourself”

What does “being good” and “behaving” mean? While kids may understand the generalities connected to these statements, they may not know the specifics implied.

Give Clear, Concise Instructions

Tell kids exactly what you expect; what they can and cannot do.

“When you are at Aunt Martha’s there will be no running around in the house.”

“When I ask you to do something, I want you to stop what you are doing, listen and do it.”

There will be moments in dangerous situations when you need to give a command and take immediate action. That is especially critical when children are too little to comprehend danger. Even when kids get older, there will be times when we have to give immediate commands and follow through with action.

What are you teaching 

We learn manners and respect for others from our parents. When social rules and etiquette are taught at home, our children need only a gentle reminder to apply them when outside the home.

If your child is allowed to constantly talk with his mouth full of food at the dinner table, or runs around the house with wild abandon with no thought for breaking things, or constantly interrupts when someone is speaking, he will do the same when you are at a restaurant or visiting a friend.

Look at your child when talking to them  

When we are busy, we often reply or give directives without looking up from our work. It is important to have our child’s attention. That means eye contact. Stop working, turn around and look at your child and be sure he is looking at you. Be specific about what you want and when you want it done. The same is true when you are answering their questions.

“Susan, I want you to stop bouncing that ball in the house and I want you to stop now. You may go outside and play with it. Do you understand?”

This is a clear demand. Because you  have her attention, she can easily follow through. You have told her exactly what you want her to do, when, and have asked for her confirmation.

If instructions are to be carried out at a later time period, ask her to repeat what you have instructed so you know she has understood.

Susan, when you have finished your homework, I want you to set the table for dinner before you go out to play. Be sure you are home by 4:30. Will you repeat these instructions to me so I know you understand?”

Whenever possible, give only one instruction at a time, and keep it brief and easy to understand. Avoid stating instructions as questions or suggestions

Don’t say: “Don’t you think you should be getting ready for bed now?

Instead say: “Bob, it’s time to brush your teeth and put on your PJ’s. It’s bedtime.”

While some reminders may be necessary, avoid repeating instructions more than one or two times before following through with an appropriate consequence.

Be Positive

While instructions are given with authority, they can be stated with a positive tone of voice. Avoid telling your child what you don’t want him to do, but rather what you do want him to do. Children hear lots of don’ts but are not always told what they are supposed to do.

Remember to thank your children for following instructions and doing what you ask them to do. Positive statements of affirmation are powerful motivators.

You may expect a child to obey, but it is still difficult and it helps to be commended for doing a good job. Your children need to know you appreciate their obedience.

While most of this is common knowledge, it is amazing how often we forget to apply these rules. These communication rules are important with dialogues with both children and adults.

Marlene Anderson

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