I’m sure you are all wondering how I’m going to wrap up my three-part series on key concepts to teach our children. Maybe you’ve thought about where I could go next after tackling delayed gratification and self-discipline. Possibly you’ve actually read the previous two entries and know what I’m going to write about. At the very least, I hope I’ve sparked your curiosity.
Curiosity is an invaluable skill, and in my opinion one that is quickly overlooked. When our children are babies we grow fascinated in how quickly they learn to meet milestones – crawling, walking, talking, possibly using utensils. And then we hit that glorious phase when you hear “but…why?”
At first we love it, being these experts on everything telling our children all about the world, but then we grow tired of it. Especially when they ask us things like “why do I have to eat peas when at Tommy’s house he doesn’t?” or “Where do babies come from?” (an all-time favorite I bet).
At all ages it is important that when your children ask questions you give them age-appropriate answers. If you ignore them or constantly get angry at them for asking they will stop that behavior. Sure, children are not the best at determining when a good time is to ask a question, and if that happens, simply say “I can’t answer that right now. Please ask me later”. You can also offer to write it down. If you can’t answer them right away make a note of it and remember to bring it up later.
If your child asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, simply say so. In saying “I don’t know” you are not presenting yourself as unintelligent, rather you are showing your children that when they aren’t sure of something to go and find the correct answer. The key to being smart isn’t knowing everything, rather it is knowing how to find information and apply it. The real key is curiosity. By demonstrating problem-solving skills you will be a model for your own children on how to be curious.
Although it is tempting to give a quick answer that you know is wrong, the last thing you want is your child taking false information and then passing it all around to others only to find out that they are wrong. No, babies don’t come from storks. No, chocolate milk doesn’t come from brown cows. Giving your children false information defeats the purpose of being curious. You want them to learn how to find good information, right? Then start with good information! Plus another key to think about – when your kids ask a question (especially if they are really young) you are probably going to over-think the answer. Most kids see babies and parents and will want to know how that happened, but they aren’t thinking about how it really happened. That means usually simple answers work just fine. After they have been answered most kids will go back to what they were doing before.
Here are some key strategies to help encourage curiosity for various ages:
Encourage independent play. Even with small babies section them off in a safe area (with baby gates or a play pen) and let them explore. Watch how they play as well and look for signs of frustration. At times you’ll want to leave them to a task and let them push through being confused. Only step in when you notice they are getting very upset and frustrated or they have been pushed too far.
Go outside! At any age this is a great strategy, but don’t let age hold you back. Even young babies can benefit from a scenery change. Being an active family (going to the library or pool together) helps build that idea of trying new things.
Read together (or when the kids are old enough have them read to you)! Librarians and teachers everywhere will love you to pieces, and it teaches children a variety of skills. Likewise, listen to music together.
When you notice your children getting frustrated or upset, encourage them. Tell them to “Keep trying”. Help them learn to know how to work through frustration, or leave it and take a break. If you notice excessive frustrations or your child having considerable difficulty in some areas – talk to their teacher. Rule out learning disabilities or delays so that you can help your child learn in the least frustrating way possible.
Help your children problem-solve. If they are stuck don’t give them the answers right away, rather help them see if there are other options to help gather information. Also know where your children are getting their information.
So there it is – three simple parenting strategies to enrich your children. Delayed gratification, self-discipline and curiosity are part of many great parenting techniques, and I hope that you have found some simple, effective ways to encourage these skills in your children.