Sometimes, I think the lessons I teach my children are really for myself. I don’t know why I am always surprised at having to teach my children these lessons – even though I barely learned them through my own life experiences. Of course I would have to teach them to my children. How else would they learn them? I suppose I could be a dick and make them figure it out on their own – but that’s not always guaranteed. Shoot, even explicitly pointing out the obvious is not guaranteed to stick. Might as well increase my chances by being clear and direct.
Here then, are a few of the “lessons” I’ve been teaching my children (especially Cookie Monster since a lot of these lessons come up while we are homeschooling). I only wish I were half as good as following my own lessons as I am at “teaching” them.
1) By the time you’re done arguing or making excuses, you would have likely finished what you were supposed to be doing anyway. So, let’s save everyone the trouble and crazy-making and just do what you need to do already.
The other day, Cookie Monster was being a bit rebellious while homeschooling (a very rare occurrence). He kept refusing to listen and do what I asked of him. Instead of just playing a song on the piano again (10 seconds), or re-reading a sentence (2 seconds), he would argue and cry and get upset (5-10 minutes) and still be forced to play or read.
Sometimes, it wasn’t really that important and I would let it go. But other times, I would insist he do something (because practicing is important – I’ll get to this one in a second). I would remind him that the longer he took to do things and complain, the less time he would have to play Halo or watch iPad. (Hey, we’re pretty busy some days so there is limited time to rot his brain.)
Of course, that reasoning didn’t work until I told him it takes 10 seconds to play his song and then he’d be done. But instead, it’s taken him 10 minutes just because he won’t stop crying about it. He stopped in his tracks and asked me how long the song would take to play again. I repeated that it would take him less than 10 seconds and wouldn’t you know it? He played it and that was that. He could co off and do something else now.
Hopefully, that lesson sticks. (Although I doubt it. It certainly hasn’t stuck to me!)
2) It’s okay not to know how to do something. After all, if you knew how to do something already, we wouldn’t be taking a class for it!
Cookie Monster has the tendency not to try things if he doesn’t think he will be good at. It took him at least a month’s worth of private kungfu lessons before he and Gamera were willing to try the group class. Now, he loves kungfu and even got his white belt recently.
We always try to remind him that when he first started playing Halo, he couldn’t even shoot and maneuver the game at the same time. Hapa Papa had to hold and maneuver the controller while Cookie Monster hit the “shoot” buttons. Now, he’s better than Hapa Papa, knows all these neat tricks, can out shoot and react faster than Hapa Papa, talk a ton of smack, and knows everything there is to know about Halo.
3) Practicing isn’t fun but it is the only way to get better.
I try to tell Cookie Monster and Gamera all the time that I used to be really good at piano and Chinese but because I never practiced, I forgot a lot of my Chinese and wasted a lot of my piano potential. (The perils of being a great sight reader but incredibly lazy person.)
When the kids get older, I will likely start quoting my mother who always emphasized practicing correctly because practice makes permanent. It does you no good to practice doing something incorrectly.
Side note: I’m noticing that most of these lessons for Cookie Monster come up when we are practicing piano. Who knew?
4) Use it or lose it.
As another corollary to #3, if you don’t use something, you will forget it. That’s why we practice Chinese and piano over and over again.
I tell my kids that I used to be much better at Chinese and piano but since I didn’t use it, I forgot a lot of it. I also give examples of language all the time using either Hapa Papa or people we know. I try to hammer this lesson as much as possible (particularly in the area of losing language skills) because I want to brainwash my children early. (They need to FEAR losing Chinese, dammit!)
5) Even if you didn’t make the mess, you can still help clean up.
After all, this is my entire life: cleaning up messes I didn’t make. Yes, I want them to not be enablers but within reason, we’re a family unit (and in life, they will be in multiple team situations) and they will not always be left to their own responsibilities. Sometimes, you have to clean up shit that ain’t yours.
6) You don’t have to like it but you still have to do it.
Again, I’m just preparing my kids for real life. I mean, this is pretty much my entire life. (This sounds unnecessarily bleak, but you know it’s true. I can’t imagine liking doing laundry or cleaning the house. But I do like the results. Clean clothes and a clean house are good things!)
It’s a hard lesson (and seems unfair) but hey, that’s being a grown up. And isn’t that who I’m ultimately raising? Future grown ups?
7) Read the instructions. Follow them.
I cannot tell you how many times I have told Cookie Monster to stop and listen to me read the instructions first before he starts working on a page. I don’t know if it’s just because he can’t read yet or because he is almost six but it drives me insane.
There’s something to be said for trying something your own way, but it works better after you’ve mastered some basics first. Plus, life is full of tests where you fail because he answered the wrong question or didn’t read the instructions right. No need to fail due to carelessness.
8) Slow down.
This goes hand in hand with #7. Often, Cookie Monster gets stuff he knows incorrect because he went too fast and either wasn’t reading carefully or completely made something up.
I know he zooms ahead because he is impatient and smart and thinks he knows everything. And sometimes he is right. But more often than not, he is wrong.
Usually, I give him a not so gentle reminder (because I am fully exasperated by this time), and when he finally does slow down, he fares much better.
Honestly, I thought I had a few more than eight but I’m okay with it. I’m sure I’ll remember more right after this post hits all my friends. But then again, even if I only remember these eight lessons (and only taught my children these eight), that wouldn’t be a bad thing, right? They are all worth knowing and knowing well.
What lessons are you teaching your kids that you find are timely reminders for yourself as well? Let me know in the comments.