Tips from Teachers: How to Improve Your Parenting Skills
Mommies and Daddies
Many people enter parenthood with little formal childcare training and come through with flying colors! There is no doubt that you are the expert when it comes to your child. You can interpret, understand, and anticipate your child’s needs like no other. But you can further enhance your child’s experience and learning with a little added insight from a trained teacher! Here are five tried-and-true teaching principles that all teachers strive to establish in their classrooms, and each idea can easily be implemented in your own home.
Get with the Routine
Children find safety in structure. Teachers work very hard to establish routines in their classrooms with the goal of fostering independence, developing efficiency, and minimizing confusion. Liz Lisciandra, a third grade teacher at the John Elliot School in Needham, Massachusetts, believes strongly in establishing routines. “In order for children to feel comfortable in their environment, they need the predictability and structure that routines offer them,” she says. “Knowing what to expect makes students feel more comfortable, less anxious, and able to focus on the task at hand.”
Teachers know that when children can be independent and know what is expected of them, they feel pride and valued as a member of the classroom community. Establishing predictable routines at home can accomplish the same goal by allowing you to give your child more responsibility, which in turn will build self-confidence and independence. Not to mention, it will make your life easier!
Consider setting up structured routines for when your child gets ready for school, comes home from school, or gets ready for bed. Routines should be simple with only a few steps to follow. Make it official! Buy some dry-erase boards to post in your home. Together with your child, write out the steps for the routine you wish to establish. Go through the routine with your child several times. This will allow you the opportunity to see the pitfalls in your routine plan that may need to be changed. In time, your child will be able to go through the routine on her own, feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Show and Tell Works Best
Children are concrete, experiential learners. They learn more from what they see and experience than from what we tell them. You are the ultimate role model, and your child watches and learns from you daily. Slowing down to demonstrate a skill in a specific and methodical way can make a world of difference in how your child learns. For example, telling your child to put his toys away repeatedly can be an exercise in frustration. Taking the time to specifically model how one puts toys away in a step-by-step fashion shows your child what you expect and how the final result should look.
Don’t expect that your child will complete new tasks correctly right away. Learning a skill or concept takes time and practice. Each time your child practices these tasks, reinforce what he or she has learned by offering praise for remembering some of the steps. If your child forgets a step or two, take the time to review your previous demonstration and hope for the best next time around.
Break It Down
Large multi-step tasks or projects can be daunting for anyone, particularly a child. Nicole Stadler, a fifth grade teacher at the Town School in New York City states, “When children are faced with a large project with many different parts, they can often shut down because they don’t know how to approach it. The best thing you can do is teach them how to look at the big picture, break it down, and start with one small step. Then they don’t feel so overwhelmed.”
Set your child up for success by breaking large tasks down into easy, more manageable ones. Together, brainstorm a good approach to completing projects—whether it be tying shoes, potty training, homework, or an at-home project. Collaboratively come up with a checklist and a timeline so that the project can be completed thoroughly and on schedule. While your child may really rely on you to help break down the task, be sure you approach the project by getting her input and ideas from the start. Begin by asking questions such as, “What materials do we need to complete the project? What is the first thing we should do? How long should this step take?” and so on. Determine which steps your child can do on her own and on which steps she may need some help from you.
Not only does this model an organized and focused approach, it shows your child how important it is to work collaboratively to achieve a desired end. Eventually, through modeling and practice, your child will have an excellent example of how best to meet the challenge of a large project.
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