sunset

Parents will find many “teachable moments” if they listen to their children and look for growth opportunities.

Dennis

DENNIS

Babies arrive so helpless. Our love, care and responses to them help them grow.

We encourage crawling. But the babies just seem to start crawling, rolling and pulling themselves up. Then they begin to walk.

We encourage but they seem to do it. They learn just from being in the environment and how we interact with them.

Then there is potty training. It is a skill, but most children do not go to kindergarten in diapers. It happens. They learn.

Over time, however, there are skills we must teach them with more interaction and intention. I forgot this. I have been talking to my teens about things that I have forgotten.

The conversations are slightly comical and insightful. For example, my daughter brought to my attention when she was learning to read, I did not teach her that words had multiple meanings. When we would get on our street to go home, she would consistently focus on the street sign, “dead end.” She was petrified. She visualized all sorts of things that filled her 6-year-old mind.

If she brought it up, I do not remember. But I can’t recall teaching my children that words mean different things depending on the context.

One thing that I did not teach my older children, mostly because I didn’t know about it, was self-regulation skills. All my children experienced large emotions that overwhelmed their bodies. Many times, I am sure I said, “You’re fine.”

This is the mortal sin of parenting. It lacks empathy and understanding.

I now validate and respond accordingly (most days). They even go to “in through the nose and out through the mouth. Mom, let’s do this together.”

I have taught the younger ones so well. This is, hopefully, a lifelong skill they can use to navigate life’s curve balls.

The other day, my two teens were experiencing the busy-ness of their life post pandemic. (Hear me jump and cheer, aren’t we post-pandemic yet?)

They have long days: school, practice and driver’s ed. My daughter especially was struggling with the stress of getting it all done. I asked her if she knew how to prioritize. She said she did not know what that meant.

A life skill I had missed presented itself. I had no idea she did not know how to do something that came so easy to me. I took time to walk her through how to do that. She seemed much more focused and relaxed after I took that time.

It really is part of parenting to teach skills beyond providing a rich language and home environment. It is beyond numbers, letters and shapes. It is important to take opportunities to be intentional. Skills build on each other and they take responsiveness and intentionality.

If they don’t know how, they need a teacher. Truly, teaching a child a skill is not just an investment in their heart. The dividends it will give you are immeasurable and the impact on their lives priceless.

Catherine Dennis is an early childhood specialist and adjunct faculty in the ECE Department at Walla Walla Community College. Her work is her passion and so is being a mom of seven. Catherine can be reached at wolpert7@gmail.com