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  • Lee Clark, LMFT

How to Teach Your Child Practically Anything

Sometimes children misbehave because they’re simply unaware of other, more effective choices

for solving problems or behaving acceptably. Often, parents assume that telling children how to handle a challenging situation is equivalent to teaching the skill. For many children... it’s not.

"Providing information is an important first step in the teaching process, but information alone is not enough to help many children master new or unfamiliar skills. They need to be shown what to do, and often they need practice and additional instruction before they can fully master the skills we’re trying to teach."

An essential part of teaching skills to children is to make each skill understandable. This involves breaking the skill down into teachable pieces, then teaching it piece by piece. This can require some forethought, planning, and practice in learning the process of effective teaching. Some skills will be easier for you to teach than others because of your own skills and abilities. Be patient with yourself as you learn how to teach.

To help children learn how to problem solve, begin by exploring with your child, in a question format, other acceptable choices available for solving a specific problem. Help children understand potential outcomes and consequences of the choices that are identified, and encourage them to try a solution that will be both effective and acceptable as an appropriate option.

Sometimes children need to see hear, feel, and experience the skills we want them to learn

before they can master it: Role modeling appropriate behavior is a simple but powerful teaching

technique that is particularly well-suited to younger children. The method is concrete, easy to use, and has varied applications. It can be used to teach problem solving skills when no misbehavior is involved, or for teaching acceptable behavior when it is involved.

Learning new skills requires practice. Asking children to “try it again” is a simple, concrete, and highly effective teaching method that provides children with the practice they need to master the skills we’re trying to teach. The procedure is easy to carry out. Your child is simply given another opportunity to demonstrate that he or she can make a better choice and cooperate.

Children are naturally motivated to learn new skills when they have their successes acknowledged

by the people in their lives that matter most to them.

"One of the most powerful ways to motivate children to learn new skills is also one of the most simple: Catch them being good and acknowledge it."

Words like “I’m proud of you!” go a long way towards motivating children to grow and learn.

For more information, read the whole book: Setting Limits with your Strong-willed Child by Mackenzie, R.J. (2013) by Harmony Books, New York.




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or call our intake line: 608-709-6972

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[This article does not create a client-counselor relationship. This article is general counseling information and is not to be considered legal or medical advice. Please consult with your mental health professional before you rely on this information.]

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