Why Parents Should Teach Their Kids

I sometimes wonder if I’ve taken the ability to teach my kids for granted since I was a teacher before. It’s probably true that all of us (teachers or not) feel like we are grasping at straws when we have no background, no plan and no big-picture, yet expected to teach a very young child.   But I encourage you to really consider your role as a parent-teacher because while we are all not teachers by profession, when thrown into the deep end of parenthood, we suddenly assume the role as Baby’s first teacher. Like it or not, someone’s learning, whether or not we are teaching.  Here are a couple of reasons why we should teach:  

1. Teach because it makes u study again.

What better way to model attitudes of lifelong-learning than to go back to ABCs and 123s? If you’re hearing loads about phonics but don’t know the letter sounds, Youtube’s your best friend. Is a square a rectangle? What are the properties of different triangles? Do u know all the names of the shapes? (Hexagon, septagon, octagon, nanogon, quatrefoil, ellipse, etc.)  Information like geographical landforms, calculus and chemistry will come back to haunt us.  Now that we are teaching our kids, we want to make sure it is the correct stuff because they take our words as absolute truths.

2. Teach because it teaches us empathy

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to teach someone something and he/she doesn’t get it, no matter how many times we repeat.  This is when we are faced with crossroads – to plough on, give up or to go back to the drawing board, find another way.  If we choose to find another way, we are putting ourselves in our kid’s shoes and we are trying to see from his point of view.  Hopefully, we can identify the mental block and decide if the subject is too advanced that his young mind is simply not ready to process such abstract information. How then, can we concretize the concept and introduce it to him such that it’s more tangible?

One common roadblock we encounter with teaching our kids math is this.  Our 1-2 year child can recite from 1-10 but they just can’t count discrete objects!  Ah, it’s then that we realize counting is not just reciting and memorizing (like a song) but it requires hand-eye coordination, a knowledge that this pencil is the same as that pencil though we can call this one and that two (but the pencils remain the same no matter what number we assign to them); they also need to learn how to stop reciting! Many just go on reciting 1, 2, 3, 45678910.  Or their little hands just cannot grasp so many pencils and they drop them halfway, essentially resetting their work to naught.  Will they learn to give up or to try again?  So many skills and attitudes to master in this “simple” counting exercise!  

Giving up (for now) is also a way to empathize with the child.  When we can let go of our expectation and realize that this activity is way too difficult for my child, we are respecting his unique path and timing of learning.  Keep the materials away, acknowledge his effort and introduce the activity a couple of months down the road.

3. Teach because you are imparting far more than knowledge

This is what I imagine happening when we teach.  We are saying, my child, you are there on the ground floor and I’m over here on the third floor.  I will now go down to where you are, build a ladder and many footholds so you can slowly and steadily climb up to where I am.  And then, together, we can construct many more ladders to climb to higher places.  When we teach, we are pouring whatever we know into their lives so that they can know what we know, they can be who we are, and they can even exceed what we have known and achieved.  When we teach our children, we impart knowledge, values, attitudes and skills.  In Mandarin, there’s this proverb that says, “一日为师,终生为父”。 This means if you are someone’s teacher for a day, you will be respected or regarded like his father his whole life.  It just struck me that the converse is true.  When we are parents, then one of our jobs is to teach.  Endeavour to teach something everyday!  Be it a value, an attitude, a skill like cooking, budgeting, organizing an event, tidying the house, or knowledge about the types of vehicles, the stars in the sky, why does the moon wax and wane…

4.    Teach because it builds the relationship

Teaching gives you the much needed one-on-one time with each child (especially for families with multiple children).  With undivided attention, you are able to zone in on his interests, his problem areas and tailor the best ways to teach him.   Because your child loves having your undivided attention, he/she is so open to learning whatever you want to teach him.  I experienced this first hand when my 3 year old Zach demanded, “I want to do learning!” in the evenings because he knows I, or his father, will sit with him, and teach him, talk to him, or just play with him.  I found that when we carve out time to do this consistently, he settled down more quickly to the activity and was more open to learning new things.

5. Teach because it makes your child feel good about himself/herself

When you teach your child, it means that you are spending time and effort to simplify the steps, detail the actions involved and then let them try and make mistakes and often, make a mess.  It makes your kids feel important and capable and trusted – that mummy or daddy thinks I’m big and good enough to learn how to wash the dishes or cut a banana. I definitely get this from my younger child because all this time, he sees us teaching his older sister, and finally, now, he gets to do it too.  He feels like a big boy and you can see the pride and seriousness as he undertakes his learning.  It’s beautiful to watch!  Even more so, when they get it and subsequently, you see them practising on their own volition with no pushing or nagging on your part.  When they succeed, you see them grow more confident about themselves, more sure and more keen to take on other tasks.  

Who else is more invested in your child’s outcome than you?  That automatically qualifies you to be his/her first and best teacher.  Teaching someone takes effort and hard work and it doesn’t come naturally but most things that are worthwhile aren’t easy anyway, right?  I’m definitely not against tuition or enrichment classes and school teachers certainly have an important role to play in educating our children but don’t dismiss yourselves as unqualified just because you are not a teacher.  Teach your child with patience, teach with passion, teach to the audience of one!  I wish us all many good times with our children!

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