So what does it take to prepare your children for learning?
A few days ago, I mentioned that kids need to have four basic foundations covered in order to be prepared to learn. As a review, these are:
- Order in the home
- Respect for others
- The ability to pay attention
- Parental example
So what does this look like? Here are some ideas to get you started:
Order in the Home
There are many ways to begin creating order in your home, but I think it’s easiest to start with time management. When our time is under control, toys will get picked up, the house will be cleaner, and things will generally run smoother.
- Begin by making a simple “routine” on paper.
- Don’t change everything at once. Rather, jot down what IS working in your day. You’ll probably notice that you already have most of the day on a routine. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
- Now ask, “What is NOT working in our day?” Maybe you have trouble getting the little ones down for a regular nap, or maybe you just never get the laundry done each week. Make a list of all the problem areas.
- Ask, “Why isn’t it working?” Maybe you’re trying to do too much in one block of time. Maybe the house is too noisy. Maybe you need to get up just 15 minutes earlier in the morning.
- Which changes would help the most right now? Start there. Make only one change at a time, rather than getting overwhelmed by trying to change everything today.
Respect for Others
Teaching respect is easiest when we start from the beginning. It’s much more difficult to re-train an older child. But don’t worry! You can do it!
- Teach your child to look at you in the eyes before you speak. Say, “Look in my eyes,” and only when he does should you give your instruction. When re-training a child, give lots of praise for even this small accomplishment!
- Next, have him repeat back what you asked him to do. Say, “What did Mommy say?” (He might answer, “Go sit on the chair.”) If he repeats it back, you know he was listening to you. (“Good answer, Honey!” would be a wonderful, enthusiastic response from you.)
- If your child then obeys, happily and completely, be sure to reward him with hugs and praise! You are proud of him!
- If he does not obey, don’t argue, nag, discuss, threaten, get on your soapbox, etc., etc., etc., etc…. Calmly give him a quick, meaningful consequence, then dry his tears and start over with Step One (“look in my eyes”) again. In a few days (if you’re consistent, right?), he’ll quickly learn to respect you when you speak.
As your child learns to respect you, he also needs to learn to increase his attention span. You’ll work on this area gradually, during his entire growing-up years.
- Reading aloud to your children is an excellent way to increase their attention span. (It’s also good for snuggling, memory making, vocabulary enrichment, traveling worldwide without leaving home, and so many other things!)
- Start with short books and gradually increase your daily reading times until you’re reading chapter books. Very young children especially love books that rhyme and repeat.
- If you have been using TV as a babysitting crutch, please pay attention to the tip I just gave you. Start with short books. (You as mother might need to have your attention span lengthened as well.) Make this fun, not drudgery.
- You can also increase playtime concentration skills by teaching your child to play alone, without having to be entertained. Again, start with small play times, not long. Start by setting a timer for just a couple minutes, then gradually lengthen it, day by day, month by month, year by year.
- Finally, increase the amount of coloring and cutting you do. Learning to hold a crayon, color in the lines, and manipulate scissors — these are fabulously easy ways to teach your child self control and small muscle motor skills. Start with simple pictures, so your child will succeed, lavishing the praise on him.
- Did you catch a theme here? It’s gradual — start small — give praise for the little things.
You’ve already guessed it — successful parenting is more about “mommy training” than it is about “child training.” We as moms need to change in so many areas, and parenting just brings all those areas to the surface.
- So what do YOU need to learn? Have you made a list? Good intentions are worthless if you don’t make a plan.
- Start by making a small “educational list” for yourself. If your list is huge, then circle the top 3 things. Now, which ONE thing can you start learning more about this week? How will you do that? Visit the library? Search online? Ask someone to mentor you?
- As you’re learning, make your progress obvious to your family in a concrete way. I think that discussions are a great way to do this. When can you discuss what you’re learning with your family? In the car? At meals? At bedtime? (You might say, “I read ___ in a book today, and it was so good. Did you know that ___? Do you know what ___ means?”) Your enthusiasm will be contagious.
You’re making such progress! Next time, we’ll talk about how to go beyond quick parenting tips into a long-term plan for educational success. Let’s make this stick!