I smiled to myself when I heard President O’Bama encourage the country to use a recent incident as a “teachable moment”. That’s because ask anyone who has talked to me about their child’s misbehavior and they will tell you it is a phrase I use repeatedly.
The reason why I promote a “teachable moment” to parents is because a child’s misbehavior most often stems from a lack of experience, immaturity, an unmet need or an unreached standard that a child is still attempting to master. As parents we spend priority time, money and patience on teaching our children how to read, to swim, to play piano, sports and other skills but when it comes to behavior, we often forego the teaching part and rely on punishment to change the situation.
I encourage parents to EXPECT misbehavior in their young children just as you’d expect falls from a beginning bike rider or skater or difficulty in spelling a word or learning math facts from a young student. When we put behavior in the same realm and think of it along a continuum, we can take misbehavior less personally and respond to the situation with more insight and helpfulness.
This “teachable moment” strategy doesn’t mean you don’t step in and stop misbehavior when it is happening – but there is definitely a different mindset that comes into play when we acknowledge the fact that children are a “work in progress”. Stopping misbehavior is necessary and prudent. Going further, however, and problem solving with children, listening to both sides in an altercation, letting them come up with solutions are giant steps toward building a child’s social competence and understanding and your own trust and confidence in their developing moral judgment.