Take the time to teach

Take the time to teach, so you can let them go! (without being “too worried”). We all hear about helicopter parents, controlling parents, authoritarian parents, permissive parents, etc… Today I will share what worked for me during many years working with children and still works when I interact with a child on a daily basis. TAKE THE TIME TO TEACH. We want our children to be independent. We want them to do all those things they are supposed to do - to survive, be part of the society and be happy mindful human beings.

We push children through life day by day expecting them to know and do everything right when we ask. We as parents just don’t get how much children have to learn. We say things like “Do I have to tell you one more time? I told you that already. Don’t you get it? Why do I have to repeat myself every day? Why are you doing that again? I told you no! Why didn’t you say thank you? Look people in their eyes when you talk to them. Don't hit. Don’t throw food on the floor when you are eating…” Are any of these sentences familiar to you?

In our own lives, if we want something to happen we have to work on it to make it happen right? So, if you want your child to learn something, you have to take the time to teach and practice so they can make it happen. YES teach. YES practice, over and over again. Over and over again, and that takes time and dedication. Like you practice to play an instrument, or like you practice to do a presentation for work. The more opportunities you have to practice, the better you will do. If we don’t take the time to teach they will probably learn anyway … life will teach them, but at what price? Or with how many tantrums? (to be more specific).

The idea behind this post is not the question of if children can or can’t learn or do what we ask. The idea is to make their lives and our lives easier and happier so we can enjoy our children more and create a connection that will last a lifetime.  

We parents are the most important guides, mentors and teachers for our children. If we take the time to teach our children well, they will learn well. Your children learn better from you than anybody else because they love you, they trust you and they have a connection with you.(read more about connection here)  So take the time to teach and practice.

Here is one concrete example, with an 18 month old child, so you will know what I am talking about: I am being very specific with the instructions so you have an idea why we should take the time to teach. I want you to understand the steps of teaching something basic so that your children can master any ability faster and with less frustration. Because believe me, they want to do it. It is natural for a human being to want to be independent. We just don’t know how when we are 18 months old and don’t have the ability physically or emotionally to be patient YET. I encourage you to read the whole process, I know it is very long and boring, but if you analize it you will realize how much effort and work children are actually doing and how her/his brain and body is working together to make connections and make it all happen.

18 month old child:

  • If you want an 18 month old child to be able to get dressed by her/himself take the time to go step by step:

  1. Take the pull-up diaper, ask your child to sit on the floor or a flat surface (it is easier for them to have more balance on a flat surface than a bed or squishy couch) Your child needs to sit with their legs straight out. Go to his/her level on the floor. Open the diaper and say: “Put you leg inside, now put your other leg inside.” Help as much as needed at the beginning. Say: “now stand up.”

  2. When your child stands up, Say: “squat, hold the diaper with two hands and pull up.” Repeat: “Pull up.” Put your hands on top of their hands and help pull up so they can repeat the action and connect your words with the actions.

  3. Remember to say the action and repeat it during all the process so she/he can understand exactly what you want them to do.

  4. Take the pants and lay them on the floor flat. Ask your child to sit down again, and help them to hold the pants from the waistband to put the first leg in, and then the second leg in.

  5. Ask them to stand up. Hold the pants from the waistband and pull them up, then ask your child to pull their pants up from the back side  (help if they need it).

  6. At this age they still need help until they master the ability, so help as much as they need the first times you do it, but also encourage them to do it by themselves. After the first lessons and when they give you the opportunity, start  with questions like: “Do you think you can do it by yourself? Can I start with you and you can finish it?” Or, “I bet you can not pull your pants up, no worries I can help you (if you want to play around a little and try to challenge them)” If they do what you ask, be very positive and encourage more action with comments like:  “Wow you have strong arms! You know how to do it by yourself now, how exciting! What? Wait, did you just do it?”

  7. Grab the t-shirt with your hands, open the hole where you put the head as big as you can (children have big heads) and put the t-shirt hole between the back and the top of their head. Start pulling down. Encourage their help, so they are conscious of what they are doing.

  8. After you get their head through the hole, help holding the t-shirt down and ask the child to put one hand inside the sleeve and then the other one.

  9. Ask the child to pull down the shirt.

  10. Now socks… Ask him/her to sit down in the floor again. Open the sock and put the first part on the finger toes. Ask your child to pull it towards him/her (socks take time to master, especially when they are tight).

Woah, that was exhausting, for me to write and for you to read and for a child to actually do! We don't realize how much work it takes to do an action until you actually have to walk through the process with somebody that doesn't know how to do it. It is like you never realized how important your pointer finger is until one day you cut yourself or burn your finger and you have to spend all day without using it until it heals.    

It is very exciting and gratifying when you teach, follow the process and then, see the results. Try it today with one thing. Just one, and do it for a week or two to see the results. Take the time to teach and go step by step. Break it down and explain the process to them. And of course, be consistent and you will be very proud of your hard work, more connected with your child and they will be very proud of themselves by being more independent. Win-win!

And after you take the time to teach,  you can freely (kind of) Let them go. Click  here to read more.

Related Blog posts:

Let them go.

How to teach to say thank you.

How to get out the door faster.

How to teach your child to share.

This video is an example of how to help a toddler get dressed.

And, this is a simple video of the order to do it.