There is no end to the opportunities and ways in which we can positively influence our children. Those opportunities are at the heart of teachable moments.
“Daddy, why do turtles have shells?” Answering such questions softly, directly, and with emotional intensity creates a teachable moment. “Well, sweetheart, that’s a good question. The turtle’s body is under that thick shell. It would be sad for turtles body’s to be exposed to the dangers of their world. Now, you don’t have a turtle’s shell (and then I playfully poke my daughter’s tummy), but how your mama and I loving and protecting you and keeping you safe is kinda like having your own turtle shell.”
When you notice your child having an emotional fever, however, start with active listening to help get the fever down before launching into a teachable moment.
“This stinks!! (my son slams his math book down and throws his pencil at the wall) I’m never going to get these stupid math problems.” Now, you have a choice. You can correct the behavior and miss connecting with your son and not have a teachable moment. “You stop that right now, young man. Get back to work. Math will be important to you one day.”
OR, you active listen to help lower his emotional fever and reframe the event to help him get perspective.
“Wow, that math’s kicking your butt!”
“I hate it! I’ll never get it.”
“It’s frustrating for it to not come to you easily, like playing baseball does, huh. But tell me something. Why are you so good at baseball?”
“I’m a natural.” My son smiles broadly.
“I see. Hmmm. Got all that talent without a lick of practice, huh?”
“Well, no. I’m in the batting cage every day. I eat well. I get my sleep. I chill out. I listen to my coach.”
“Hmmm. So, if I’m hearing you correctly, there’s a lot of hard work and effort to becoming a natural athlete. Hmmm.”
“Okay, Dad, I see what you are doing here.”
“Oh? What’s that?”
“Well, my math teacher’s my coach, and this stupid homework is my practice. And if I don’t keep at it, math will kick my butt.”
“Wow! I don’t think I could have said it better myself. I’ve got some suggestions about that stupid math. Do you want to hear them?
Teachable moments come in all shapes and sizes. They happen playfully, out of fun times. They also happen seriously, out of emotional storms. The key is to be ready for the opportunity and to make the most of it. Teachable moments create fun, responsibility, creativity, problem-solving, emotional intimacy, and positive childhood memories. Teachable moments are your gift to your children.