You are your child's first and most important teacher. Modeling is important, even critical. But direct teaching is also needed in many areas of life with children. Here are six suggestions for improving your teaching.
1. Look at your teaching style. Do you assume all you need to do is explain verbally? Do you get frustrated if the person you teach doesn’t “get it” right away? If so, recognize this as a point of need for yourself and learn to develop your teaching skills. Maybe the problem is that you learn so quickly you think everyone should learn at your pace. Consider your need to grow in patience. A spouse or trusted colleague can give you an honest appraisal of your teaching ability and patience level.
2. Study the way your child learns best. Recognize that everyone learns at a different pace, and each child possesses a unique learning style. Your child might be an auditory learner, retaining information better if spoken. She might be a visual learner, remembering better those things she can see. Nearly all of us benefit by having material presented in a variety of ways—via touch, hearing, vision, and through experience. Help your children understand the strengths and weaknesses in their learning styles.
3. Observe an expert teacher of your child's age group. Study how that teacher gets information across to children. Ask teachers for tips in working with children the ages of your son(s) or daughter(s). Notice how they gain and hold the attention of the group. Notice what questions they ask and listen for the quality of the responses.
4. Have a family meeting to discuss the rules for your household. Think through the rules that you simply can’t negotiate, but invite input from your children on the rules they might want to add. Help your children understand the values behind your house rules. Make sure you include rules that address proper attitudes. By inviting discussion, you are not abdicating your authority. You have final say in the rules and the consequences.
5. Consider the child's motivation when your child misbehaves or doesn't follow your instructions. You may get more cooperation by gently going over the rules again than by resorting to the same consequence each time.
6. Learn to ask open-ended questions. Instead of asking if your child had a good day at school—which often nets a one-syllable reply—try asking about the craziest thing a teacher or student did today. Ask about their friends’ activities, clothes, or opinions. By asking about their friends (instead of them), you are more likely to get your children to talk and give you a picture into their world. Be sure not to judge their responses or pester them to respond in these relationship-building types of discussions.
You are constantly teaching your children, though you may not realize it. Maximize this part of parenting and you'll need to correct them less. That's a pretty good reason to teach well.