5. It doesn't matter when something is learned. It is perfectly all
right for a person to learn all about dinosaurs when they are 40; they don't have to
learn it when they are 9. It is perfectly all right to learn to do long division at 16 -
they do not have to learn that at 9, either. It does not get more difficult to learn
most things later; it gets easier.
6. Don't worry about how fast or slow they are learning. Don't test
them to see if they are "up to speed." If you nurture them in a supportive
environment, your children will grow and learn at their own speed, and you can trust in
that process. They are like seeds planted in good earth, watered and fertilized. You
don't keep digging up the seeds to see if the roots are growing - that disrupts the
natural growing process. Trust your children in the same way you trust seeds to sprout
and seedlings to develop into strong and healthy plants.
7. Think about what is really important and keep that always in the
forefront of your interactions with your children. What values do you hope to pass
on to them? You can't pass on something you don't exemplify yourself. Treat them the way
you want them to treat others. Do you want respect? Be respectful. Do you want
responsibility from them? Be responsible. Think of how you look to them, from their
perspective. Do you order them around? Is that respectful? Do you say, "I'll be
just a minute" and then take 20 more minutes talking to a friend while the children
wait? Is that responsible? Focus more on your own behavior than on theirs. It'll pay off
8. Let kids learn. Don't protect them or control them so much that they
don't get needed experience. But, don't use the excuse of "natural
consequences" to teach them a lesson. Instead, exemplify kindness and
consideration. If you see a toy left lying in the driveway, don't leave it there to be
run over, pick it up and set it aside because that is the kind and considerate thing to
do and because kindness and consideration are values you want to pass on to your kids.
Natural consequences will happen; they are inevitable. But it isn't "natural"
anymore if you could have prevented it, but chose not to do so.
9. We can't always fix everything for our kids or save them from every
hurt. It can be a delicate balancing act - when should we intervene, when should we
stay out of the way? Empathy goes a long, long way and may often be all your child needs
or wants. Be available to offer more, but let your child be your guide. Maybe your child
wants guidance, ideas, support, or intervention. Maybe not. Sometimes the best thing you
can offer is distraction.
10. Be sensitive to your child's interest level. Don't push activities
that your child isn't interested in pursuing. Don't let your interests dictate
your child's opportunities. If your child wants a pet, be realistic and don't demand
promises that the child will take sole care for it. Plan to care for it yourself when
the interest wanes. Do it cheerfully. Model the joy of caring for animals. Model
kindness and helpfulness. Help a child by organizing their toys so they are easy to care
for. Plan to care for them yourself much of the time, but invite your child's help in
ways that are appealing. If you act like you hate organizing and cleaning, why
would your child want to do it? Always openly enjoy the results of caring for your
possessions - take note of the extra space to play in, the ease of finding things you
want, how nice it is to reach into a cupboard and find clean dishes. Enjoy housework
together and don't make it a battle.
11. Don't pass on your own fears and hates about learning anything. If
you hate or fear math, keep it to yourself. Act like it is the most fun thing in the
world. Cuddle up and do math in the same way you cuddle up and read together. Play
games, make it fun. If you can't keep your own negativity at bay, at least try to do no
harm by staying out of it.
12. Don't try to "make kids think." They will think; you
don't have to make them. Don't use every opportunity to force them to learn something.
They will learn something at every opportunity, you don't have to force it. Don't
answer a question by telling them to "look it up" or by asking them another
question. If you know the answer, give it. If you don't, then help them find it.
Speculating about an answer often leads to a good conversation. If your child stops
seeing you as helpful when they have questions, they'll stop coming to you with their
questions. Is that what you really want?
13. When you offer a child choices, be sure they are real choices. Offer them
choices as often as you can. Try to limit the "have to's" as much as you can.
Frequently ask yourself, "Is this really a "have to" situation or can we
find some choices here?"