Self-Compassion for Parents: You Are The Best Lesson
| by Thuy Truong, M.A. Ed., TPT Teaching and Coaching, 10/27/2020|
Imagine this! I had a high school teacher who delivered her students into the world of books by having us journal on fresh, summer grass against a shimmering, sunset sky. This was her elegant introduction to the transcendentalism unit. The simplicity of the idea still makes me remember it until this day. Deep learning is beautiful yet simple. While parents are continuously navigating the homeschooling landscape and the daunting task of being diligent, at-home teachers, you are rightfully concerned with securing the best educational practices for your child, but true learning is about nurturing the learner’s thirst for curiosity and the playful process of intellectual inquiry. The most vital and memorable lesson you can teach your child right now is why learning is valuable and the beauty of thoughts. If you can model for your kids a few moments a day the agile mind of a lifelong learner, your child will learn to love learning for years to come. So have some self-compassion for yourself and your students, the eternal lesson that your child will remember forever is how to love learning and learning itself along with critical thinking skills will gradually unlock a host of other crucial skills needed for life and academic success. This is the best legacy you can leave to your children now and post-pandemic. You are the best lesson because the life skills that you instill in your child now will lead them to greater academic success later, for strong life skills often perpetuate and blossom into intellectual habits. You can start passing down your golden wisdom with a few flexible suggestions below:
The Lesson is in the Vulnerability
While many parents are understandably worried their students will be behind academically, they naturally want to be armed with the best teaching activities, workbooks, and other educational resources. However, I think the most valuable lessons you can teach children are about life and how to be realistically optimistic in the best of times and in the worst of times. The reason is simple, because this is a skill set that will stay with them for life and needed for life. While teaching methodologies and approaches are important, the learner’s persistent imagination towards life and learning remains an unparalleled catalyst for all academic success. The foundation of life skills also makes the acquisition of new academic knowledge become more seamless and continual for the students when they get to the upper grades. Instead of looking outside for lesson ideas, you should look within and share with your kids how you find strength to wake up every morning, juggle your multiple obligations, and how do you find grit to go on? Of course, you will need to orchestrate these educational fables in small doses and in the language of the innocence appropriate for your child, but this will make the lesson very real hence invaluable. You will lift the child’s spirit to foster emotional resilience because it allows the child to mature emotionally, which translates easily to where your child will have the thinking tools to transform negative into positive thoughts during hard times. This is also positively powerful problem solving tactics that promote internal well-being required for future academic excellence. Adults often underestimate children’s capacity to understand the complex side of life, but what could be more real than talking about the life we are living right now? What could be more real than witnessing your own parents’ vulnerabilities and human struggles, but not get bogged down by it, instead being inspired by it because they are so real, so relatable, so flawed, yet so perfect. The best lesson is vulnerability right now.
The most delicious moments in teaching are sometimes only a flicker of a minute where a student experiences a light-bulb instance or an epiphany about life. Search no more, parents already have an arsenal of life stories to reveal unforgettable lessons. You might think I don’t have any of these. Do remember: some of the best lessons come from daily life. Students won’t remember the worksheets or the fancy props, but they will remember what was the compelling message behind the teaching. A word of caution: I am not suggesting you should choreograph your child’s days entirely with life stories without homework and other educational enrichments. I am, however, deeply advocating for the practice of authentic, deep learning that should supplement and complement traditional educational practices such as structured homework time and disciplined breaks. The fact is parents have the convenient proximity in the current moment to teach from life and make an impactful presence on their kids in the most enduring ways while practicing self-compassion. Here are some practical ideas to start (or create your own):
-During family time, casually talk about a difficult time you were in and how you got yourself back up. No kid would ever forget this. Of course, you have to sift the details a bit to make it age appropriate and relatable, but the lesson is there. You can also discuss current events that are laced with the themes of incredible resilience, work ethics, perseverance, intellectual prowess etc.
-Have a friendly, playful discussion about how you handle responsibilities when it really counts and stress the why behind your actions. How did it affect the people around you? Ensure you know the lesson you want your kid to walk away from as you are narrating your personal story. Stories enliven children’s imagination and memory, which foster powerful critical thinking skills.
-Tell your child the story when you have to motivate yourself to get something really difficult done, but you did it anyway. This is a great introduction to grit for students of all ages.
Students do not need glittering lessons with bells and whistles; they need a great message. The message is what will carry them through difficult situations in life. If they are firm with their outlook on life, then they will have a deep well of resilience to take on academic endeavors that come their way. They also need something real, and they need to learn it from real human beings. That person is you.
Celebrate Authentic Joy and Learning
The most stunning legacy is showing your child your personal love for learning and celebrating the inner joy of looking things up, researching, rejoicing in the wonderment of new knowledge as well as its application like doing homework. This is a golden opportunity to teach your student that deep learning requires independent efforts. It is also important to model to your student how to find inner happiness during these extraordinary times. Take the time to demonstrate inner strength and the beauty of endurance. Activities might include:
-Viewing family albums
-Structured family reading time
-Looking things up together on enticing topics of choice
-Go for walks and just talk freely on a beautiful day
-Find a way to celebrate your inner child while being present with your child
The list goes on as every family is different, but I trust that you already have the precious memories to build these timeless lessons and enrich your relationship with your child.
I believe the lesson should be small, but the message should be big. When I coach and teach students, I always focus on the small things. That is, I invest in discovering the students and their pure uniqueness to personalize the learning journey. I do not concentrate solely on the mechanics of lessons alone; I always bear in mind the spirit of the student. The deeper rationale is, if you understand the student, then the best, tailored lessons will come. Let’s flip it around. You may have the most ornate lessons designed, but you do not understand the student. This will stunt the learning process from an emotional and educational perspective. The student-first teaching approach that I like to employ in the end provides a greater wealth of benefits for students. Despite well-intentioned, passionate parents who would like to concentrate on the outside of learning like worksheets and activities, I believe the inside of learning is the key that will unlock limitless possibilities for the child. The innate attitude students have towards learning carries a much deeper, long-lasting effect than the technicalities of how they learn. The learner’s attitude ultimately determines how deep they learn. The stronger the life outlook, the deeper the learning. A healthy habit of mind towards learning begins with a resilient implementation of core life skills. With the current state of things, the best teacher and role model to foster students’ attitude towards life and learning are parents. You are the nearest; you are the dearest. You are the best lesson.
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