Every day we are influenced by the way others treat us, the environments we live in, and the choices we make. We are learning from our situations and growing from our interactions. Whether we recognize it or not we all have the ability to be either play a positive or negative role in those interactions. We are all teachers, and if we are intentional our influence can make teaching moments more powerful on how others learn and grow.
A powerful teacher does not tell their students what to do, rather they help them understand their reasoning, teach reciprocal respect, and recognize the worth of each individual, all of which allows the choice for wisdom to flourish.
1. Reasoning the Why
Several weeks ago I was impressed with an interaction between my grandson and daughter-in-law. We were sitting down to dinner when my grandson started putting his feet on the table, his plate to be specific. He is 23-months-old and was determined to put his feet up. She took his feet off his plate and asked him to not put his feet on the table.
Immediately he pushed his feet back up on the table and this is what caught my attention. My daughter-in-law very firmly explained, “This is where your food will go, we are all eating our food from the table, if your feet are on the table it makes everything dirty. Do you see the dirt on your feet? Do we want that dirt to go in our mouths? It could make us sick.” Then without another prompting, my grandson moved his feet off the table and didn’t try to put them up again.
I know it seems uncommon to be able to reason with a 2-year-old, but when the reasoning teaches and explains the “why” the outcome can be different. How often do we make demands for correction instead of explaining the logic behind it? Yes, he is almost two-years-old, but he listened, understood, and learned. Reasoning the “why” will make your teaching moments more powerful.
2. Reciprocal Respect
Several days after observing this interaction with my grandson, my husband and I watched a video that built upon the first lesson.
A grandmother was taking her granddaughter for the day to help her daughter who had recently delivered a baby. The struggle to keep her granddaughter in her car seat was real. She tried everything from bribery to forceful coercion. She struggled to get her granddaughter to stay in her car seat to be safe for the drive home. Over and over she would buckle her in to find her out of her car seat before she got back into the car. In frustration, this grandmother pled a silent prayer to know how to teach her granddaughter to stay in her car seat.
The words that came to her mind were — “teach her” — to which she took the time to explain the “why?” behind her request to stay buckled in her car seat. If the why behind any request is love the reciprocal respect will come naturally.
For example, understanding that God gives me commandments because he loves me makes it easier to obey them because I love him. If we prayerfully consider how to help our others understand that our requests and rules are not because we want to be mean, but because we love them and want to protect them they will be more likely to listen and obey. Mutual respect allows us to be more effective in our teaching and leading of others.
3. Recognizing Worth
The last lesson I learned was just a few days later. I was listening to President Henry B. Eyring tell a story from many years ago when he was a young father. His then 7-year-old son was jumping on his bed with such fervor that President Eyring felt the bed might break.
In his flash of frustration, he took his son by his shoulders and lifted him to eye level. The words immediately came to his mind “You are holding a great person.” The realization took him by surprise and he gently lowered his son back to the floor, apologizing for his actions.
Everyone has within them a divine nature, we are of infinite worth to God. When we feel the frustration creep in while teaching our little ones, remembering to recognize their greatness helps to put their actions into perspective.
As parents, our responsibility to teach and raise this generation is a great one. As members of the human family, we have an important role in the way we interact with others. Our teaching moments are more powerful when we earnestly practice these three tips.
Taking the time to teach the “Why” rather than making demands helps bring a greater understanding. Learning reciprocal respect does not make us appear weak, but wise in recognizing the role respect plays in our relationships. And finally, seeing others as God see’s them is sometimes the hardest but most important step in teaching. We can all sense the way others feel about us and we are more likely to listen and respond when we know they truly care.