the power of pre-teaching

I know I should write about Valentine's Day but my guy is out of town so it doesn't feel like it really is Valentine's day around here. Oh sure, there were decorations and valentines made and cupcakes, but in the truest sense of the day- it is to come. 

So, I thought I would write about something else.

Today we pulled up to the library and I started to do a quick review about how to act in the library. There were a few moans and groans from the backseat because they have heard this talk. A lot. Then Drew chimed in, "We know, Mom. Just act like we are at a monastery." The others agreed.

You see on Monday we were at a monastery. Garrett went for two days to take a personal retreat and, being a one car family right now, we drove him. It is about a 90 minute drive and the kids did great. As we neared the drop point and were trying to strategize, it seemed inevitable that the kids would need to briefly go in. I needed to feed Tessa, have everyone go to the bathroom, and accomplish a few other things that would be difficult to do on the way home by myself. 

Let the pre-teaching begin. 

If you had been sitting blind-folded in the lobby, I don't think you would have known that our little herd (ages 7,4,2, and 6 months) entered and were there for 20 minutes. Garrett gave the kids a quick tour while I took care of Tessa. The kids whispered excitedly and pointed adamantly to the things that they wanted to show each other. I was so proud of them for their respect and self-control.

I was thinking about the whole situation on the way home (after I got lost, almost stuck in the snow, and back on track thanks to the navigation on my phone). There is so much to be said for pre-teaching. Pre-teaching is simply teaching before the information is needed. Often we have our kids in a situation and then realize that a) they were not adequately prepared for this and b) it may be too late to salvage it. 

But it is important to clarify your expectations for them in the situations that are coming. Not only does it prepare them to respond well but it makes it possible to enforce the expectations because they knew them. 

Here are a few situations that I try to pre-teach:

  • Library- be quiet, stay together, not grab books, not turn off the lights (Thank you, Isaac).
  • Out to dinner- clarify if they will be allowed to play on our cell phones (after the meal, until the food comes, while we wait for our friends, not at all, etc.), conversation ideas (if with people we don't know as well), menu issues ("Please do not try to order a margarita again" and "You will be eating _______") or things unique to that setting (people will be dancing, you can throw peanuts on the floor, there will be someone in a giant mouse costume, we will eat before we play, etc.)
  • Visiting great grandma's nursing home- please give her a hug, talk slowly, answer her questions, make eye contact, etc.
  • Play date- what is one way you could be a good friend, importance of including everyone, how to be a good guest (pick up toys, have a cheerful heart)
  • Store- we are not buying toys, specify everyone's location (Ella is in front of cart, boys walk on sides, etc.), stay together, don't eat food out of the cart, etc.
Those are the main ones I can think of. As the kids get older, I think it is helpful to not only talk about the expected behaviors but explain to them why we act that way. It's good for them to know that it isn't just because mommy wants it that way- there is a bigger picture. Some of those have to do with safety, respecting others, efficiency, and honoring God. Drew is definitely able to wrap his mind around those things more and more. 

Reading back, I think this is the most boring post I have ever written. I apologize for that.  But I do hope that maybe it is useful to you at some level. It's funny how many expectations that we have, in general, that we don't really state. With parenting that can turn you into a crazy person. So learning to be clear about what you expect of your kids will help you and them. 

Reading back again, I wanted to clarify that my kids aren't angels. They did a great job at the monastery yesterday, and a not-so-great job at the library today. So you win some, you lose some. But when you do lose, it's good to note what went wrong and how you could pre-teach that differently next time. 

I guess that's it for now. Please come back even though this post bored your socks off. I'll be here. 



Tawnya said...

Oooh..no Beck..this a good one! And maybe just because we're there too, and are always (tryin!) to give expectations and "pre-teaching" as you put it. Good job mama on the monastery outing...wow....that is a test in self-control for 4 kiddos if there ever was one:)

Christy said...

No, not boring! SO important and yet so easily overlooked! Have you read Loving the Little Years? She addresses this in her book...and even suggests 'practice' outings (like we all have time for that!) :) But really...what a great way to train our kids, when there isn't another underlying agenda that needs to be accomplished? Totally agree with you on the unspoken expectations, too. My poor kids...I do that to them all too often!!

Teresa said...

My socks are still on, and I will be back.

Derrick, Shelbie, kai, Addalyn and Eli said...

I must just comment that I laughed aloud through this whole post....much merit in pre-teaching, agreed, but I just had such hilarious visions of my lil nieces and nephews..... Been in the car for a few of those lessons and seen the faces in a few of the wins and loses!!! :) hmmmm... monestary teaching that's a new one though!!