Whether we intend to teach our children or not, our kids are picking up on what we do and say. This is both excellent news, and also slightly terrifying.
Before Mack (almost 2 weeks) was born, I wrote a post on breastfeeding, knowing that I needed to address it with Keener (4) and Grace (2.5). Keener is very into body parts and from all of my reading and parent coaching work, it is typically better to address topics – even uncomfortable ones – rather than avoid them.
As an aside — I haven’t quite found the words to explain just HOW that baby got out of my tummy when Keener has asked. For now, I respond with, “Doctors and God. God places a baby in a mommy’s tummy and doctors and God help bring the baby into the world. They keep the baby and mommy safe and healthy.” While we want to be honest with our kids, we also want to deliver age appropriate information.
One of the best responses that I need to use more is, “What do you think?” By turning their question back on our kids, we can obtain more information and can get a better sense of what children are really looking to understand.
Now, unintended teaching. The perfect example was highlighted for me this week and is summed up in this picture of Grace. Since Mack was born not even two weeks ago, I have been modeling a lot of one thing… therefore it really isn’t surprising that one of Grace’s new favorite activities is breastfeeding her babies (yes, those are my old Ty Beanie Babies). Keener even said the other day, “Boys don’t have babies but IF God decides to put a baby in my tummy, I’m definitely breastfeeding it!”
How kids learn
Janet Lansbury, author and child development expert talked with another favorite, Tina Payne Bryson, on one of Lansburys podcast episodes. They noted two ways in which kids learn:
- Practice doing things themselves
- Watching other people
This makes sense and reminds me of my childhood. Whether it was piano, basketball, or multiplication, much of what I learned was through practice. And the more I practiced, the more I improved.
Kids also learn from watching other people. In the classroom, we call it modeling. We model for our students what we are teaching; “Watch me as I write an introduction for my story” OR “Watch as I line up for lunch and tell me what you notice.” We ask our students to watch us, often followed by “doing it together” which is then followed by ‘”doing it yourself.” This is known as the “release of responsibility” and works for academic, social, and emotional skills as well as learning new routines and procedures.
Grace is watching me and learning. She is also practicing so that she can be like me and feed her babies – to help them grow strong and healthy like Mack.
This is both an enormous challenge but also a complete gift for parents. Or at least a good reminder that our kids are picking up what we are putting down. Literally and figuratively – which is also why they always want to drink/backwash from my water bottle instead of their own 🙂
In closing, this is not to say we need to always model perfect behavior. First of all, perfect is not attainable. We are not perfect people and neither are our kids. But it also means when we make a mistake and accidentally model something we didn’t intend for our kids to learn, we can also model what it looks like to fix a mistake. Which is arguably an even more important life skill.