“Dad, can I ask you a question?”
In our house, we are in a season of parenting in which we hear this question frequently. On a recent, two-day camping trip with the girls, I counted a minimum of twelve times that they asked me that question. All children are naturally inquisitive. They are observing, processing, and coming to conclusions. One of our many jobs as parents is to be teachers that provide them with the answers that help them grow and mature appropriately.
Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” According to this verse, there is a 24-hour nature to our teaching responsibility. It doesn’t just happen during a block class or a designated time. The instruction of our children is to happen as we live alongside them day in and day out.
Because of this 24-hour responsibility, it is imperative that we consider two items. First, we must take responsibility for creating a teaching atmosphere in our family that is conducive to this 24-hour teaching. Second, we must also learn to recognize the multitude of teachable moments that surface throughout the day and seize them.
Creating a Teaching Atmosphere
In order to create a teaching atmosphere, consider implementing the following two things:
Create seasons of life and times in a day that are free from excessive busyness and noise. Fewer and fewer homes are experiencing seasons of rest and quiet. Extracurricular activities are consuming the schedule. The noise of television, video games, and music blasts through homes, creating a difficult atmosphere to just talk and listen. Most of us are schedulers. We operate with a calendar close by and schedule our lives events. Would you consider beginning to schedule times of quiet and rest? Every classroom teacher knows the value of well-rested children who have learned to sit still and listen quietly.
Strive for good parent/child interaction. It is easy in the busyness of life to just allow the television to do our babysitting for us. When life is busy, we want to send kids to their room or to the yard to get out of our hair so we can accomplish our tasks. If we make a regular habit of these things, we can subtly train our children to stay away from us; they will see themselves as a distraction. But in reality, we ought to want them to be around (especially as they get into their teen years).
Recognizing Teachable Moments
The following are some “walkest-by-the-way” teachable moments to use:
The follow-up conversation after our children observe bad examples. Have you ever watched a child have a tantrum in the store? Have your kids ever seen someone lose their cool in the check-out line? Those bad examples can often be a great opportunity to follow up with a simple conversation that helps our children know what was done wrong and what should have been done.
The follow-up conversation after our children observe good examples. Acts of kindness, gratitude, good behavior, and sweet responses of others can be great opportunities to teach our children. Commend those acts, and explain why they were good!
Preparation for life events. A friend of mine taught Beneth and me a simple principle in parenting: practice in private what you expect in public. Anytime you are about to participate in a public event (church service, dinner at someone’s home, a visit to grandma’s, etc.), take some time ahead of the event to teach and practice behaviors that are expected in those times.
First-hand exposure to people who have had interesting life experiences. I enjoy having people in our home, and I love watching our girls sit and listen to the stories of missionaries who visit us. I like watching their eyes as they hear adults tell of their life experiences. Our girls have heard stories and learned truths from people sitting at our dinner table that they will never forget.
Answer their regular questions with patience, love, and truth. Inquisitive children want answers, and if they don’t get them from us, they will look somewhere else for them. Teachable moments occur every time our children ask questions. Many teachers in the world give wrong answers. But it is imperative that we follow the Deuteronomy 6:7 exhortation and grasp the task of being parents that teach as we “walk by the way.”
May the Lord give us the strength, energy, and wisdom to be great teachers to our children this week.