Parents as teachers – The journey from “What” to “How”.

Right from the day a child is born, it looks up to its parents for everything from basic support and sustenance of its fragile life to learning everything that is required to survive and grow in this world. The child continues this journey of observing and learning all the way into teenage, adulthood and beyond. The process of teaching and learning changes along the course of a child’s life.

For those of us in India, we just celebrated “Teacher’s Day” as a token of appreciation to celebrate the role of teachers, educators and anyone that has basically been a source of teaching and guiding oneself. It is true that we learn quite a bit from people around us – parents included. It is therefore very important for Parents to don the role of teachers throughout the life of their child.

As a parent, we need to be very aware that our child continues to learn from us throughout their lives. Sometimes this learning process is active through activities and conversations; and at other times, it is passive through observation. There are stages in the life of a child where they need to be given specific instructions Vs others where their imagination and decision-making abilities have to be kindled. Somewhere there is this notion that teaching is more about telling children “what to do” through definitive instructions and less about “how to approach” something through active listening and questioning; especially in their teenage years and into young adulthood.

In the current day and time, we live in a world full of uncertainties. The most critical life skill that is required is the ability to approach an unfamiliar situation with confidence. This ability must be nurtured right from childhood by parents through active dialogue that encourages the child to evaluate options that he/she might want to consider in a given situation, as opposed to providing affirmative responses.

Let’s face it – parents are not experts at every situation that a child faces. There is not a single individual that has experienced every situation in life and has a readymade solution to each. Parents are not very wise, not entirely aware of the child’s emotional state through various stages in life, have not experienced situations that are faced day-to-day by children these days and are in many ways fighting their own existential battles in an uncertain world. As adults, there are a few of us that find it harder to adapt to new ways of life and often times become a victim of unchangeable ideas, prejudices and stereotypes; while a few others are able to navigate life through a process of discovery and learning. Guess what? The difference lies in the way they were taught – “What to do” Vs “How to approach”.

Each individual’s journey is unique and so are their experiences. What is needed is a “Go figure it” attitude; something that can be encouraged by the child’s first teacher – Parents.

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