Thursday, April 17, 2008

Teaching Moments

My good friend Lula Mae over at A Force For Good invited me to collaborate with her on a monthly series on her blog called "Faithful Thoughts". Below is my post for this month--check her blog in the next few days for the other two contributions. Both ladies are amazing and full of great insight. You won't be disappointed!

This month I wanted to talk about teaching moments with our children. It has been said that children are like sponges and soak up everything around them, which is very apparent to me with my children.

In our family we have some formal opportunities to teach—family home evening, family scripture study, and family councils—but I find that the informal opportunities come up more often and are generally more effective. Children’s very nature of being inquisitive and eager to learn opens up so many opportunities to impress on their little minds the important things of life. My kids are still young (4 ½ and 6 ½) so their questions are still pretty simple, but we’ve tried to set a precedent of answering all of their questions simply and honestly, so that as they grow older they will always feel they can come to us and that we’ll be straight with them.

Some of the best times for teaching occur during our family meal time. There are studies that show that families who eat at least one meal a day together have children who are much less likely to engage in premarital sex, use drugs and alcohol, cheat, and a participate in a whole slew of other bad stuff. Right now, with young children it is pretty easy to make sure we eat together often. I know that as they grow older and their schedules get more demanding, it will be more difficult, but I am committed to keep family meal time a high priority. Just the other day, Olivia asked me at dinner how eggs become chicks. This turned into a good opportunity to open the door to talk about where babies come from—not a subject that I feel particularly comfortable talking about, but one I definitely want my kids to hear from ME, not kids on the playground and definitely not from the media.

Another great time for teaching occurs when we are traveling in the car—I admit freely that I use our DVD player in the van to entertain them more often than I should, but when we have it turned off, the kids really want to converse and ask questions. Conversation in the car can and should be times that we teach our children.

Another opportunity for teaching comes when we are watching TV with our children. I am not advocating in any way that we allow our children to watch the smut that fills the airways in the later evenings, or even most of the material that is on daytime TV (those news shows cover some pretty heavy topics!). However, the children’s shows that our kids watch bring up subjects like bullying, serving others, being kind, people with different challenges, and other issues that I want my kids to learn about. I love that on “Dragon Tales” a brother and sister have to learn to get along while they have adventures with dragons in a very imaginative land. I love that on “Higglytown Heroes” the kids learn about different professions and ways that people help each other out. I even love that my kids are picking up a bit of Spanish from Dora and Diego. Again, not advocating that we use TV as a babysitter (guilty as charged), but that we can use TV shows as conversation starters.

Of course all of these and others are great ways for us to vocalize teachings to our children, but I also believe that much of their learning comes from watching us and seeing how we live, speak, and act. Their little ears hear what comes out of our mouths when we talk with friends or family or even the guy on the freeway that cuts us off. They see how we react when a loved one is going through a hard time or when a neighbor is in need. They learn how to be polite by observing us being polite. They watch how we fulfill (or don’t) our community and church responsibilities. They see how we show love to those around us. They mimic me in action and word, which shows that they learn by watching me, for better or worse. This isn’t to say that I am always the greatest example for them, but I hope that by being aware that they are watching and learning and soaking it all in, I can be better.

**Can you think of other great teaching moments?


Cheri said...

I think the best teaching moment for me, lately, has been with Emma in observing other children and how they treat those around them. I've had many talks with her about what so-and-so did and why that was hurtful, or how so-and-so did something nice and that's a good example. She's often on the receiving end and has learned a lot about how people act (good OR bad) by talking to me about it.

I'm with you on family dinners. We only get to eat ALL together about twice a week (weekends) so I've tried to make it a priority that when the 3 of us eat, that we do it together (not me standing in the kitchen while they're up to the table) so we can talk and they can see that I find it important. Spencer finds it important too but his work schedule dictates a lot in his life so we make do how we can.

Lula Mae said...

I like it on both blogs ;)! Thanks for your words of wisdom.

Anonymous said...

One good teaching tool I use, is to ask my kids questions. It helps to get the wheels in the heads moving. Since they are teenagers, I feel like what I say sometimes goes in one ear and out the other, but if I ask them questions, they have to actually think about it.

I love you blog because you always have great thoughts and ideas. Thanks :o)

Janene said...

This is kindof a tangent, but I am about the boycott the Thomas movies, because I think the engines are so rude and play tricks on each other. They even start rumors about each other. What is up with that?

My difficulty now is how to sneak them into the donate box without Zach looking... :o\

I'm looking for a new cartoon for us to like, I've heard little Einsteins is really good. Thanks for the other recommendations.

Ashley & Matt Cole said...

I am not at the stage for this kind of teaching yet, but this was good for me to think about for the future days ahead. So much to teach little ones, seems very daunting.