Do your friends always seem to somehow teach their kid a life lesson about something like “finding margin in life” while they were both changing the oil in the family minivan and some oil overflows? I often miss those teachable moments with my son, and I admittedly cannot change the oil in my SUV.
Those teachable moments seem to escape me when I am:
In fact, most teaching suffers under the above conditions. It suffers because we miss opportunities. It suffers because our kids learn from our distraction, disconnection, exhaustion, and exasperation — they learn from us and become like us.
I became a full-time single father when my son was six. Sons naturally learn from their fathers at all ages, but at six, he was particularly interested in what I had to say and how I acted. I know he closely observed me and wanted to help in the kitchen, exercise with kettlebells, and go trail riding. He seemed to want to learn things I did around the house and for recreation much more than he wanted to learn spelling or math at school.
As he aged, his interest in what I did and how I did it increased. As did his observation about how I spoke, what words I used, how I let life affect my mood, and how I spoke about the divorce and his mom.
Our kids pay very close attention all all we say and do. So, if the grind of work, laundry, cooking, cleaning, dating, homework, finances, and dealing with our exes leads us to become easily distracted and disconnected from our kids or exhausted and exasperated by our kids, we need to stop and assess the situation and make some changes.
Each one of us faces different daily challenges, but we all teach our kids about life in the midst of them. How can we avoid missing those teachable moments or modeling less-than-desirable traits? These practices have helped me:
Take care of yourself. Eat well, get some exercise, play, and get plenty of sleep. This will do wonders for your mental state and your ability to stay focused and positive. One of my favorite lifestyle books is “The Primal Blueprint” by Mark Sisson. I’ve been reading his blog, Mark’s Daily Apple, for a number of years and find his approach to diet and fitness to be spot on. I highly recommend it…and your kids will love his emphasis on play. Some of the best teachable moments come when we play games and get away from electronics (which we are just as or more addicted to as our kids). Plus, teaching our kids to care for themselves and their health will pay dividends well into the future.
Read. I received a degree in English literature in college and used to read voraciously. Now, when I get into bed and open a book, I barely make it past a few pages before falling asleep. I set a goal to read more consistently in 2015 for several reasons. First, I enjoy reading all sorts of books. I have not read enough fiction and miss a good story. Second, reading keeps the mind sharp and makes us better teachers. Most leaders in business, politics and culture read consistently. Even picking a few blogs on topics of interest to read every day will sharpen the mind and broaden the materials you can draw from to teach your kids. Plus, they’ll see you read and may even mimic you.
Include your kids. The more you invite your kids into your chores and routine, the more opportunity you will have to speak into their lives and teach them both the practical and the conceptual. Sometimes we get things done more quickly when the kids have their noses pressed up against the iPad…and that is OK sometimes. But how much more opportunity would you have to connect with your kids and teach life lessons when they join you in the garage, the kitchen, or the yard?
What is the best “teachable moment” you have had with your kids?