“A man who limits his interest limits his life.” – Vincent Price
We all want our children to do well in school and in life, but how do you ignite that spark that fuels a need for knowledge. How does your child develop an interest in the world around them?
Well, for starters, let’s look at your environment. After all, we shouldn’t put the responsibility for learning and growth upon the school system alone. Children’s exposure to teachers and schools is small compared to their exposure to parents and home life. So, let’s take stock of the most influential environment upon your child’s growth – you and your home.
Do you talk with your child or do you talk at your child? Talking with your child encourages conversation and participation while talking at your child is more about giving instruction: “Don’t do that”, “Sit and be quiet”, “Go outside and play”. Which type of parent are you? Is most of your communication one directional, or do you urge a more open form of communication? Do you talk with your child about the things you are interested in, such as books, movies, and gardening?
Do you have interests you can talk about with your children and your friends? Your growth and learning doesn’t stop when you become an adult. Your child is likely to become the adult you are because you are the major role model in their life. Your continued growth doesn’t have to be purely academic. Your interests, hobbies and activities continue to develop you as a person. As an adult, have you continued to grow or do you come home at night and sit in front of the computer surfing YouTube or watching television.
How many books do you have in your life? Look around your house and count the books on your bookcase. What? You don’t have a bookcase. Reading is still the best source of gaining knowledge. It is a sad fact that today many households don’t have a library. Their interests and knowledge are not on display. I enjoy visiting people and scanning the titles on their shelves as it immediately lets me see the interests of the people who live there and gives a basis for conversation. Many people will have a display case for their sports trophies and I consider bookcases as display cases for your knowledge. Now, before you go thinking I am some sort of nerd, as well has having several hundred books, our household also has a movie library with several hundred movies. Display your interests and talk about your interests.
Do things and show your child how you do things. Involve your child in your interests, within reason. If your hobby is your garden, then have them help with the weeding. If you love live theatre, then take them to some live shows to expose them to the experience. Just keep the experience relative to their developmental level. Let your children see you reading at night instead of squatting in front of the television. Being entertained by books offers a different intellectual experience to being entertained by X-Box. If you are an X-Box kind of dad, you may just have to try a little harder. Try playing board games that offer challenges and choices while playing to help with the thinking process. Become involved with your children in thinking games and not just reaction games.
You must become your child’s best teacher. From the day they are born your number one priority is to protect then and to prepare them. The adult they become is the result of your influence as much as that of the school system they fall into. Sometimes being a good parent requires learning new skills, but that is alright as learning new skills is part of life’s processes. No-one is born knowing how to parent. We learn some of it from our parents through their role modelling and we learn some from interacting with people as we grow up. Though, having said that nothing will prepare you for being a parent, you just learn as you go along. But you do have to learn.
Don’t overload your child. Now, you don’t have to expose your child to everything at one time. There is no need to fill every waking moment with experiences and knowledge. You should allow down time so they may process what has been experienced, what has been learnt and to rest and recover. Being a child takes a lot of energy and there is a need time to re-charge their batteries from time to time. Build quiet times into their day when it is alright to sit and do nothing. Remember, a tired child will struggle at school.
Be positive about their school experience. “It’s alright mate, you have to go and there is nothing we can do about it.” does not send a positive message about going to school. The school years are such a wonderful time of our lives and must be reinforced as such. Don’t bring the woes of being an adult, or the problems you are experiencing upon your child’s fun years. You can use their experience to bring some release from the pressures of your life. Encourage them to become involved with school activities and then be supportive and join in with them at these events. One of my most vivid memories is when my father and his friends turned out to watch me at my school rugby league game. I played many games but that one I remember. Don’t under estimate the importance of being part of their school experience.
“We will all be role models in our children’s lives. We don’t have that choice. The choice we do have is whether we are a positive role model or a negative role model. That is our choice.” – Peter Kenyon