How to Be Really Good at Teaching the Hard Things

Last week’s post had such an overwhelming response that I'm making it a two-part series! This week I'll go more in-depth and share more details.

You learned about the importance of teaching your small being to struggle and work hard to figure things out, particularly when waiting for answers to questions. (If you haven't already, make sure to read the full article here.)

Here are five ways to help your small being through the process:

1. Expect the unexpected. Small beings are creative and will come up with some interesting answers. Most likely you'll get some answers that you didn't expect, even those that initially you thought were wrong, but actually are indicative of a different way of thinking. Give your small beings credit for all answers, not just those you think are “right.” Before you give a correction, really think about why and if their answer needs to be corrected.

For example, if you ask your small being what color the sky is, you expect the answer to be blue. However, more than once, I've been told black. The first time I went to correct this answer the small being said, “At night -- black.” I stood corrected. While technically the night sky might be a very dark blue, for a small being it looks black.

2. Does the answer need to be corrected? If they take the time to figure out the answer, celebrate that. Don’t get hung up on if the answer was right or wrong. Celebrate the fact that they answered. You can always teach the facts later, but this is a moment to celebrate trying.

If you ask your small being, “What is two plus two?” there is a right answer and a best way to provide it. They might say "six," especially if they're just learning addition. Do not give them a quick correction of, "No, it’s four!" especially if they took the time to think up the answer. Say something like, “Wow, you thought about that, how did you get six?” or “Great giving me an answer, let’s try it together.” Then put up two fingers on one hand and two fingers on the other and count. You gave credit for their effort and taught the right answer.

3. No shaming. If your small being took the time to answer their question to the best of their ability, then don't make them feel bad about it. Specifically, don’t correct them if you can avoid it. All too often I'll hear a big being ask a small being a question. The small being will take the time to think and then answer. The big being then says, “No, it's actually....” It breaks my heart every time. Why did you bother asking if you were just going to give them your answer? When this becomes a pattern, it's detrimental to your small being's drive to answer questions and will begin to affect their self esteem.

Have you ever asked your small being, “What would you like for a snack?” She says, “cookies” and you snap back, “You know better, no cookies for snack!” This is never the right way to respond. If you ask an open-ended question, you have to be ready for any answer. That does not mean you have to give cookies for a snack but you do need to find a kind way to answer. Maybe something like, “Good choice, we can have that for dessert tonight. Let’s find a healthy snack for now.” You have kept the likelihood that she will answer you in the future and maintained your authority as a big being to make the final decision.

4. Don’t ask trick questions. You know what I'm talking about, questions you know they will not understand or have the slightest chance to find an answer. We want to set our small beings up for success, especially if they're working hard. (Tweet) Teach them that hard work will pay off! Not that it always gets us the answer we want but it does provide rewards.

For example, do you ask your small being questions which you know they won't know the answer? Stop it! Or do you ask your small being why they're crying, when you already know it's because you said it wasn't time to watch TV. Instead of asking why, which is a question that rarely has a good answer, offer your understanding. Say something like, "I know you're upset. Right now we need to get your brother, so please put on your shoes." Your small being is allowed to be upset and express it. Your role is to keep things moving.

5. Leave your frustration and impatience out of it. That's your issue and don't make it your small being's problem.

Leave your frustration and impatience out of it. That's your problem to handle, not your small being's issue. Yes, you have a lot to do and waiting for your small being to answer or do something independently will take more time. You may struggle waiting for their answer and I know you can do it! Slow down and enjoy watching your small being learn.

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Be thoughtful in your language and engagement with your small being. Use questions that will bring out their thoughts, ideas and creativity. Use statements to teach them. Overall, use your interactions in a positive manner. Listen, learn and laugh together.

Insight into Action!

Which one of these strategies resonated with you? Which one have you tried before? What was your small being's response?

Feedback? Thoughts? Comments? Leave 'um below or email me at: info@BehaviorAndBeyond.net.


With a little help we can all grow. If a special person in your life can use this information, then please forward this blog.