Brother Matthew O. Richardson
"Teaching after the Manner of the Spirit"
This week's conference talk was on teaching. Both Wayne and I thought Brother Richardson's talk was one of the better ones of this past conference; it was definitely the best "Sunday School presidency" talk we've ever heard. Maybe it had something to do with the hiking story! Teaching is important, and teaching "after the manner of the Spirit" is imperative. It was great being reminded of that, and we also appreciated the concrete counsel and examples.
I'm glad I could review it again this week because yesterday we received an email from our son with the following question: We want to teach [our 8 month old daughter] three concepts starting now: obedience, patience, and kindness. Any tips for getting through to a young, yet very smart and perceptive little person?
1) Teach by example. If you want your child to be obedient, kind and patient, as parents you must be obedient, kind and patient.
2) Just love her. At that age she just needs lots and lots of love. The Golden Rule works. When you feel loved, you're happy. And when you're happy you want to choose the right. And when you're choosing the right, your parents like you better and you get more love. Isn't it a wonderful circle?
3) Be consistent and follow through. If you say "come here" and she doesn't, go get her. If you say "don't throw food on the floor" and she does, take the food away. If you say, "it's time to stop playing at the beach and get in the car" and she screams, get in the car anyway. This is really difficult sometimes, and causes tears and headaches for parent and child, but it's worth it in the long term.
4) Don't yell. "A soft answer turneth away wrath." It works.
5) Use distraction. Toddlers have a pretty short attention span. If you see her heading towards mischief, immediately offer another alternative. Chances are she'll forget what she originally wanted.
Those are what I came up with, and then I turned to the internet to see what others might suggest. I couldn't find anything specifically geared to infants and toddlers, but there's lots of advice and counsel on teaching children. Here are some links to articles (at the bottom of the post), but they basically say the same thing - teach by example, love unconditionally, follow through with consequences, pray and let the Spirit guide you. (That would be #6.)
We reviewed these for family night, agreed that they're good suggestions, and even came up with a few more:
7) Sing songs and tell stories. The first two songs that came to mind were "I'm Trying to be Like Jesus" and "I want to be Kind to Everyone." When you understand doctrine and principles, or "why" you should do something, it is so much easier to actually choose the right. Scripture stories and Primary songs are filled with gorgeous gospel truth, and they're the perfect medium for teaching that truth to young children. (In my opinion, this is the one best way to "get through" to little kids.)
8) Create opportunities to practice, ones that are geared to her level of understanding.
9) Help her understand choices and consequences - by giving praise or expressing disapproval immediately - so she can learn to connect the two.
One of the statements that stuck out to me came from the last article on the list: "One important principle we learned with these and many other issues was to make sure we addressed them with our children before they had really become an issue or a problem in their lives." As parents we need to be pro-active (#10) in our teaching. Michelle wondered why you even needed to worry about teaching a baby to be kind and patient. We tried to teach her that we were thrilled her brother was concerned about it. It shows that he and his wife are terrific parents. Because they're making a plan now, we're confident that their little girl will grow up to be obedient, kind, and patient.
Feel free to add to this list. We're always open to suggestions of things that really work!
Quotes from April 2011 general conference to help mothers - compiled and posted on the Relief Society website - I didn't even know this existed - the very last section is "teaching children"