As BCBP women, we are mothers, parents and/or teachers of children at one time or another in our lives. This question often arises when women meet together: How do I keep my children (and their playmates) occupied and interested in worthwhile activities without finding myself running around in circles and losing my patience? Here are ten key tips to guide you in successful interaction with children.
1. Give the children some freedom of choice, allow them to express themselves (within limits, of course). This will help them develop the ability to make good choices and thoughtful decisions.
2. Treat the child as an individual; give him/her opportunity to be creative.
3. Provide opportunities and experiences for the child to learn to think for himself and for him/her to expand his/her horizons.
4. Have a positive approach (even when admonishing or correcting), using patience and kind firmness.
5. Make suggestions more frequently than you issue commands. Try to give the child reasons he/she can understand for doing something.
6. Be consistent in your discipline.
7. Teach the child to finish something he/she begins. Follow through when you have asked for a response or made a commitment.
8. Remember that the child likes and needs to help do things, to have responsibility. Start with simple tasks and gradually work up to the more difficult responsibilities. Let the child know what you expect of him/her.
9. Be alert to changing conditions and new needs.
10. Listen when the children talk to you. Listen not only with your ears and your mind, listen with your heart. Observe their body language, too. Listen with the intent to understand what they are trying to say from their point of view, rather than listening while at the same time thinking of your response. Focus, focus, focus in love.
Children learn when they have love and respect for the parent/teacher/leader. And that respect needs to be earned. Remember that if you respect the children, they will respect you.
Children learn when it is enjoyable to do so. So do adults, for that matter! Whether it is the learning of information, learning of skills, learning how to interact with others, or just learning how to be oneself in a group, the setting, atmosphere and ambience count a lot. It is good to make sure some activities are non-competitive so that the children “win” by working together and sharing with one another.
Above all, remember that the foundation for all these activities is LOVE. God’s love for children, your love for them, your love for God … this LOVE must anchor all activities, experiences, and encounters with children of all ages, even those in their 2nd or 3rd childhoods!