HERE to read Part 1 or catch up on the rest of the Grace Parenting Series.)
Last time we talked about why and when we should teach our children.
Today we are going to talk about the practical side of teaching, essentially the what and how we should teach our children.
Parents need to be teaching their children in three areas:
It comes naturally for most parents to begin educating their children.
Cows say "moo". Cars go fast. Cake is for eating and dirt is not. Germs make us sick. Spiders bite. Vegetables are good for you.
You get the point. :)
Sometimes as children age, though, parents lose the ability to effectively educate them.
Perhaps it is because of the mindset that it is someone else's job to educate our children.
(Don't write me off now, because you think I'm just talking about homeschooling. 'Cause I'm not.)
I'm talking about accepting parental responsibility for our children's world view.
And this can be done no matter what "school choice" you choose for your family.
Do you know what your child knows?
Are you filling their world with fairy-tale fluff---monsters hide under beds, fairies take teeth, rabbits bring eggs, frogs turn into princes, magic happens at midnight, witches are friendly, princesses live happily-ever-after, and an old man in a red suit brings all the presents on December 24th---because it's easier than teaching them the truth?
Or are you passionately, on purpose, truthfully educating your children about the world around them and the GOD who made it?
Like any other parenting tool in our box, it takes time to educate our children.
We have to daily choose to teach them, letting it become an effortless part of life.
When you're at the park with your children, you can say, "Wow, you can really run fast! Do you know what the fastest land animal is? It's a cheetah! They can run up to 70 miles an hour, but then they get really tired and need a rest. Where do cheetahs live? That's right---Africa! Africa is a continent. It's one of 7 continents...." and on and on it goes.
When you're driving down the road, you can say, "What's the speed limit on this road? Why does Mommy have to go the speed limit? But what if there are no policemen around? Should Mommy still obey? Yes, Mommy should obey the laws because the laws are there to protect us. What about you---when Mommy can't see you, should you obey?"
When you're bathing your small child, you can say, "Your body is growing and changing every day. God made your body with private places that no one except parents and doctors may look at. If someone ever tries to see your private places, you tell Mommy right away! Say 'NO, that's private!" Continue this gentle, OPEN teaching as your child enters school-age and adolescence. YOU be the one to teach them about their bodies and the changes of puberty, the treasures of marriage, and the importance of staying pure. Don't leave these topics for other adults or peers to teach to your children---Be the teacher yourself!
(For many parents, these topics feel awkward to teach, and the temptation is strong to either avoid the topic or abdicate the teaching responsibility.I can't tell you how many women I've talked to whose parents never taught them anything personal or who are terrified to discuss anything intimate with their own children.)
Who is more invested in your children than YOU are?
Whose world-view do you want your children embracing?
Who do you want your teenagers talking to when they face the challenges of adolescence?
If YOU are not their primary teacher, their best friend, and their confidante when they are small, they will not rely on you to help them solve their problems when they are older.
We need to be daily, with purpose, teach our educational world-view to our children.
Parents need to be teaching their children about their emotions and how to handle them.
Some of you just tuned me right out, didn't you? :)
I understand. I used to think teaching children about emotions was "psycho-babble", too. (I think Daddies struggle with this even more than Mommas.)
The Lord slowly worked on my proud heart, teaching me that God created each of us with a full range of emotions....including children...and I was foolish to expect more "perfection" out of my children than I could achieve myself.
Every child (and adult!) feels happy, sad, angry, frustrated, disappointed, jealous, irritable, and just plain out-of-sorts at times.
It is the parents job to teach their children about their emotions and guide them in learning how to control them.
Okay, so how does this look in real day-to-day life?
With little ones (under 5 or so) it may look like scripting: "Gabbey, are you sad because you can't find your baby doll? Yes? Okay, let's find it together." (instead of, "Stop crying and go play!")
Don't just "react"---TEACH.
It might sound like, "Noah, when the babies climb on your bed, you get angry because you don't want them throwing your stuffed animals. Sometimes Mommy feels angry too! But WE cannot yell or hit people when we feel angry. Would you want a grown-up to hit you when you were bothering them? No. We need to use our nice words and get help when we feel angry. We must still be kind, even when we feel angry." (instead of, "You just hit your brother! You are IN TROUBLE now!"
Or, "Ethan, are you frustrated because that block tower keeps falling down? Mommy will show you a better way to build it." (Scripting his emotions and offering help instead of saying, "Stop whining right now!")
With older children (school-age and up), we do more in-depth teaching about feelings and emotions. We strive to get to the root of their behavior struggles by dealing with the emotions behind them.
I know. I know. You're saying, "Wait a minute! Children should obey just because. I don't care what their 'feelings' are."
Okay. SO, think back to the last time you snapped angrily at your spouse or a friend. Or the last time you overreacted in disciplining your child. Was there a deeper reason behind the sin? Were you "under a lot of stress right now" or dealing with lack of sleep, or angry about something else altogether that just came out on the wrong person at the wrong time? Was it related to your monthly hormonal shift? Or did your husband just lose his job and you have no idea how you're going to pay the bills?
Have you ever apologized to someone (sincerely) and still given them the reason behind your behavior? "Honey, I'm so sorry I reacted wrongly to you. I've had a headache all day, I missed lunch, and I just found out my parents are getting divorced."
You see, we don't PLAN wrong behavior. It comes from the wellspring of our heart. If our heart is struggling with something, it will often play out in wrong actions.
So often, frustrations are building in our child's mind and heart, feelings they are not fully equipped to handle with maturity, so they end up acting out before we see the problem is there. This is when a long Mommy/child or Daddy/child talk is good. Take the child aside privately, gently probe as to the "why" of the behavior, empathize with the child ("Sweetheart, Mommy has struggled with that sin, too!"), then begin the teaching process. Share Scriptural principles for overcoming that particular sin, give personal illustrations from your own life, and empower them with tools to "fight" the wrong behavior the next time. ("Next time you're feeling jealous of your sister, come talk to Mommy about it. I will help you." etc)
Consequences for wrong behavior are sometimes appropriate, and often a helpful part of the teaching and training of our children.
BUT if all we do is hand out consequences and fail to teach and equip our children to process and understand the emotions behind them, we are giving our children only ONE life skill: Don't get caught or you'll get in trouble.
True obedience flows from a right heart, and a right heart is a continual work-in-action.
For both children AND adults!
No child is going to reach perfection---they WILL continue to sin their entire life. They will get frustrated, angry, jealous, sad, happy, etc forever.
Our job is to teach our children what their emotions are, give them tools to properly handle them, and show them what to do when they miserably fail.
Tomorrow we'll look at the last--and most important!---aspect of teaching our children: We need to be teaching our children Scripturally.