Two of my children’s favorite phrases are “Mommy, can you help me?” and “I can’t do this!” Of course we all know that what they are really asking is “Will you do this?” or “Will you give me the answer?” Though sometimes it is easier or more convenient to just do it ourselves, especially when pressed for time, it is not always the most beneficial for them. From reading and writing, to tying their shoes and making their beds, children learn through repetition. Rather than expecting perfection, or doing everything ourselves, we should encourage them to try, try, try again.
Be Their Personal Cheerleader
One of the most important gifts you could give a child is encouragement. Encouragement helps to build self-esteem and self-confidence. A person with high self-esteem and self-confidence is much more likely to approach a task with a “can do”, positive attitude rather than a negative, self-defeated one. Think of the student who is having trouble with math. They are having a hard time understanding the formula the teacher just introduced, and their grades are reflecting that lack of comprehension. As a parent, you could either come down on them for not making good grades, or you could encourage them to keep trying. Work with your child to help them understand how to work out the problems. If they need help beyond your abilities then look into tutoring options. Keep encouraging them through positive feedback and a “you can do this” attitude with every step and problem they are able to figure out independently. Remember, the little victories are just as important as the big ones.
Show and Tell
When teaching your child to do something new, start by showing them what you want done and how to do it. The first couple of times, show them as you explain each step. Then let them try to do it on their own as you closely supervise. Tell them the steps as they go, only helping if they can’t remember or have trouble doing a step. This method works well for things such as learning to tie shoelaces or folding towels. Keep repeating this show-and-tell process until they feel comfortable enough to do it independently.
Do Not Expect Perfection
Children who are just learning to do something will never do it as well as someone who has been doing it for a long time. Therefore, do not expect perfection. For example, when a child is learning to make their bed, expect that the blankets might be rumpled or the sheets might not be pulled up all the way. Whatever the end result, be sure to praise their efforts. Do not undo what they’ve done. Rather, tell them what they could have done differently. Then either help them to redo any necessary parts, or just leave their masterpiece as is. Expecting perfection when someone is just learning to do something will cause their self-confidence to dwindle. Use the imperfection of their work to encourage them to keep trying until they get it right.
Patience is a Virtue
Everyone is different. We learn in different ways and at different paces. What may be crystal clear to one person might seem totally confusing to another. This is why whenever you are teaching someone a new task, it is always best to have a lot of patience. There may be times when the pupil doesn’t grasp or understand the instructions right away. They may need to do it several times before it starts to make sense. For example, when learning to read a child might mispronounce certain letter combinations over and over and over. There could be a miscommunication, previously incorrect directions, or perhaps your explanation is not clear to them (such as when a child is first learning to write their letters). If, after several attempts, it seems like they are just not getting it, ask them to explain the steps to you. This will help you to identify where the confusion or problem is. If you find yourself running low on patience, take a break. Stop the lesson, walk away, or do something else. Then come back to it when you’ve both had a chance to refresh your mind.
Repetition and making mistakes is part of the learning process. Encourage your child to look at mistakes as learning opportunities. Show and tell them what the proper steps are. Don’t expect perfection, but practice patience. Following these steps will make the moment when it finally all comes together that much sweeter.