Before having children, I never gave much thought about the incredible amount of responsibility. After having my daughter and realized the immense potential she had, I understood a little more about my job as a parent. The little girl I held in my arms could grow up to be ANYTHING. That is huge!
I constantly want to be bonding, and teaching, and savoring our moments together. I am always painfully aware of how fleeting life on earth can be and that whatever is not done or enjoyed immediately may never be finished or enjoyed.
I now have two earth-side children, and one on the way, and I want them to learn everything, experience every wonderful thing, love the life God has given them, and be wonderful testaments to Biblical parenting and products of a tightly knit godly family.
My two born children are very similar, but in many ways training them has been night and day. My daughter loved to learn and could never get enough. She would never (turned three on Tues and still has not) cease from expanding her vocabulary. By 11 months of age, she spoke 50 words. Words she could use without prompting and would try and try and try until she pronounced something correctly. She memorized her first Bible reference and verse at 22 months, and knew her whole capital alphabet by 18 months.
My son, on the other hand, almost seems to have an aversion to learning. Most would say it is because he is a boy, but I will not issue a statement that may limit my son, or dictate the way he, or I, think about him :) I had to teach him to sit through a story without ripping pages, when I first tried to stack blocks with him at 11 months he would throw them or push the tower over while crawling away. Alphabet flash cards? Before i could arrange the deck in my hand he was sliding off my lap!
So, despite the VERY different children God has blessed me with, (neither one better than the other!) I have decided to form a list of pointers on how to daily teach young children that would help every child, regardless of their learning styles and/or desires. These suggestions characterize the way our home is run and I believe it has helped both our child who was willing and eager to communicate, and our child who needed convincing to speak at all.
1. If you touch it, name it. If you wipe a nose, or lotion a belly, or dress an arm, just name it. Every single time. Once they are grasping the names, start asking for them to give you that foot and help them if they do not get it, “Oh, here it is!”
2. Hold a continuous conversation. I understand some people talk more than others, but try to always let your child, however young, know what is going on (as it is appropriate). Although they may not get a say in what goes on in the day, it is polite to let them know what to expect. Kids pick up relationship cues and vocab in ways I will never understand.
3. Let them help! It is not convenient to let your 14 month old hold the dustpan, but it sure makes work more enjoyable and the DESERVED self-esteem they get does so much good for their attitude in life. When children are a blessing, they feel delighted in, and the reward seen in that child’s character is worth a million easier chores! At cleanup time if the child has to stand at the toy box and get handed the item to be put in (and possibly even help dropping it ;) help them deserve praise, for even a child understand can decipher between empty and deserved recognition.
4. Practice everything! If a child wants down off the bed at 7 months old (that was my son, always climbing!) then don’t just put them down. Maneuver him down and guide him while he does it himself. Yes, you are the one doing it, and no, this is not easier, but, regardless of what the task at hand is, the more you have them practice it, the faster they will pick it up (and when it comes to climbing down, it is much safer for them to learn to do it safely :). This could apply to flipping the lid to their sippy cup, zipping a coat, putting on a hat, etc. You have a perfectly capable child, keep them trying for the things they desire. Character building is a day in and day out process.
5. Repeat yourself. Use simple phrases the same way every time. There are a million ways to say, “do not touch that,” and “do not eat that,” but pick one very simple phrase and use the same one every time. This eliminates frustration when a child needs to understand what you expect, and helps him anticipate what comes next. “Naptime,” “Time to eat,” “Bath time.” Very simple keywords to help your child learn vocab, expectations, and anticipate transitions.
6. Use every opportunity. Sitting at the table waiting for dinner, show your 10 month old the letters you see. Count sugar packets. Enjoy color and sound. If you are in a Cracker Barrel, show them the deer mount. Kids LOVE to explore what is at hand, and they pick up and everything you say, so say a LOT.
7. Spend little time sitting your child teaching them. Yes, you read that right, no, that was not a typo. You are the parent and you know everything as far as your little one is concerned, but let them feel in control of what they learn. Try not to use the condescending I-am-trying-ever-so-sweetly-to-teach-you tone. Kids turn a deaf ear to that. Teaching a young child should involve a no pressure life-is-awesome atmosphere.