Every child learns both directly and indirectly. Teaching Your Child deliberately is, therefore, just one way to shape your child’s behavior. Here are the two main strategies you can use with your children: modeling and instruction.
Your child is learning new information on what and how to do things when watching you. Modeling is highly effective because children naturally copy their parents. Plus, it is always easier and more effective to demonstrate than to describe — you can try to describe how to kick a ball, or simply kick one.
Modeling is, hence, the most effective way to influence your child. And you can model deliberately whenever you want your child to learn a specific skill or behavior. Here are a few things to consider on how to do that:
- Invite your child to watch while doing your chores, such as preparing breakfast or changing a light bulb. Whenever you can, try to involve your child to join and assist you
- When things get complicated, try to slow down to demonstrate specific skills step-by-step
- Ensure that you draw the attention of your child to the details of the process. You can amplify this by narrating your actions — “now daddy is turning the bulb to the right to fix it” (note that describing increases language apprehension and expand vocabulary)
- Allow your kid to perform the task under your supervision and, later on, without your supervision
Instruction is a common form of teaching but often ineffective. It usually works for a specific purpose, such as reminding children of things they already learned from modeling. For children, and in particular young children, modeling always trumps instructions.
The reason modeling is so powerful is that it teaches children what to do and who is doing it. When daddy walks the talk and does something, instead of just talking about it, it leaves a significantly more relevant impression in the child’s mind.
However, there are times we can’t model behavior, so we need to turn to instructions. Here are a few ideas on how and when to use them:
- When we want to show the child how not to behave, instructions are useful because we can not model undesirable behavior. For example, if we don’t want the children to throw things, we can’t act it out because the children will just imitate instead of listening
- Use instructions to get Your Child’s attention before modeling. For example, you can say, “Now, watch what I do!”
- Always maintain eye contact, and use hand gestures to emphasize your instructions
- Get down to the level of your child to get your child’s attention and have your discussion about the topic
- If you use instruction to manage undesired behavior, try to follow the same routine. For example, stoop down and tell your child to look into your eyes. Only when that happens should you tell your child that you disagree with certain behavior
For a complex task — for example, putting on clothes — you can make a poster for your kid to come back to anytime.
Making the methods work
Whichever strategy you choose, these tips can help you get the desired results:
- Make sure your child is ready: Before you teach Your Child something new, be sure that they have the mental and physical capacity to understand and carry out the process.
- Apply the skills during actual activities: Catching your child at the right moment to teach a new skill, such as while they are doing it, makes it easier to relate and understand. Forcing a child to learn never works in the long term. And make sure the child is in the mood to learn.
- Give them time to practice the skill at their own pace: There is no fast track to success, and every child has to find their own pace.
- Praise efforts: It doesn’t matter if the child does a task correctly or successfully; praising them for their attempts teaches them perseverance.
- Be specific: Tell them what exactly they got right and what they can improve next time.
- Avoid criticism: Don’t criticize children when they did something wrong. Instead, give constructive feedback with optimism and understanding. SMILE!
Whichever way you choose to educate your child, don’t be in a hurry to get results from your endeavor or pressure them to perform.
Some skills take years to master. Walking takes a year, running takes around two, and applying math concepts to the real world (like dividing a recipe into half portions) takes up to ten years.
Ketsupa Jirakarn (Mental health specialist) (31 March 2021)