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As parents, we usually try to impart our knowledge onto our children, trying to provide them with the life lessons we learned the hard way. Expecting them to take in this wisdom with such a fascination. Unlike when we were kids ourselves and we would reject our own parents’ advice. Obviously, this is relevant to our children’s age and phase of development, however the truth is that many children may reject our teachings simply because we are the one’s delivering the lesson. This is only natural and to be expected, it also serves a function- by rejecting our parents’ ideas and trying to make our own way in life, we are trying to ascertain ourselves as separate individuals with our own merits. We expand our horizons and test out new opportunities. I don’t want to sound negative, or to downplay the importance of parents trying to teach children. Rather, I strongly believe that parents should teach their children and provide opportunities for learning.

 My emphasis is on how it is done rather than on what is being taught. I believe that ideally the focus would be on parents encouraging their children to explore, to reason things out, to test new things, to discuss and evaluate past actions and to formulate new ideas. Parents should teach their children in a way that empowers them and challenges them, rather than coddle them and try to impose on them.

Thus, how should one teach a child?

  • Be aware of your child’s age and stage of development. It helps to know how much your child is able to think abstractly or to take on another person’s perspective. You can read around on the internet about this, take some time to explore your child’s level of language development or which mathematical concepts can be tackled for example.
  • Keep your expectations realistic. This is tied to the first point with being aware of your child’s capabilities and what is within his / her reach. By keeping it real, you do not place too much pressure on yourself and on your child. By expecting too much, we tend to focus on the end result rather than on the process. And the process of learning is what is important. Once you master skills in learning one thing, you can then apply this learning to other areas and achieving more. An example of this would be, creative writing. I want my son to be able to create a descriptive piece. I can achieve this by taking the time to go around places and asking questions about the surroundings to develop observational skills, I can rephrase something that he is telling me in a more descriptive way. I can discuss and research various topics, encouraging him to ask questions and to explain things to me which interest him. These are all useful tools that he would need in order to write a creative piece. However, I do it in a roundabout way by focusing on things that he likes, developing the skills that he needs and providing him with the opportunity to join all these experiences together.
  • Keep it interesting. By making something fun and related to what interests your child, you can teach them many different skills by engaging them. Once a child is engaged and curious, you can teach them a variety of skills.
  • See what is relevant. What is relevant to you and your child? This, similar to the point above, is useful because if children can connect the skill with its application, they will be more interested and rewarded by experiencing the results.
  • Communicate with your child. The ideal is to have a good communication with your child and making it possible for them to give you feedback. When you pay attention to what they have to say, you show that they are important and that their views and opinions are also important. You may not agree, but you still respect each other.  

Abigail Church is a Humanistic Integrative Counsellor who works with adults and children through counselling with Willingness. She can be contacted on abigail@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.