Simone Tonkin, a mother, teacher and lecturer with over 20 years’ experience, has spent the best part of her career nurturing independence, cooperation, patience and self-control in young children. She’s also lectured student teachers on topics related to discipline, as well as how to teach families to thrive in today’s modern times.
We spoke to Simone and asked her to give us some insight into what teachers discuss at tea-time, and what they wish parents knew, and implemented, at home. “Although they’re not always easy, these life lessons are critical to help your children learn valuable lessons and morals like kindness, patience, self-discipline and self-confidence,” says Simone.
Whether you have a baby, toddler, or school-going child, it’s never too early, or too late to take these points on board and start applying them at home.
Teach your child to be a good first-time listener
“In busy households, it’s common for parents to give out one-way instructions without expecting too much of a reply. Parents often talk to their children while they’re watching TV or playing on the iPad, but in these instances, you aren’t modelling the best behaviour when it comes to actively listening and engaging with your children and other family members,” explains Simone.
“As a result, kids aren’t used to listening well, maintaining eye contact and engaging with their parents, and unfortunately we see this in school too,” she adds. Listening is a skill that needs to be practised over time. “We’ve found that the children who listen well do better at school – and in life in general.”
What to do:
Teach your children how to be good first-time listeners by showing them how its done. You can practise this by giving your child an instruction, such as “Please help mommy pack your Lego away in the box”, then watch to make sure your child is looking at you and has heard and understood your request. After your child has followed through with the instruction, make eye contact again and praise her when she follows through with what you’ve asked.
Don’t be afraid to say no and put boundaries in place
Today, we live in a world of instant gratification, but it’s important to teach your child that she can’t always have everything she wants the moment she askes for it. While this may be possible at home, it’s often not possible at school or later in life- in the workplace etc, says Simone.
What to do:
Delay gratification where possible – and say no where appropriate even if your little one throws a tantrum. Constant reinforcement of this message, “I’m sorry honey, but you can’t have a treat right now, or I can’t help you right this second,” will help her start to accept this and learn to wait her turn, especially in group settings or social circles.
By saying no, and delaying gratification, you’re teaching your child the valuable skill of patience and boundaries.
Also remember to praise her when she is patient. This will go a long way towards helping her at school.
Allow choices, but teach consequences
While it’s good to offer your children choices in life, it’s important to help them understand the consequences of their choices- even from a young age, says Simone. For instance, “You don’t have to eat this dinner I’ve made for you, but then you might be hungry because there’s no other option”. By explaining this way, your child will start to fully grasp the concept that every choice has a consequence, whether it’s good or bad.
Helping your children understand the consequences of their choices and actions will help them to foster independence and teach them how to make good decisions as they get older – and especially at school.
If you don’t let your little ones make their own choices, they won’t get a good grasp on consequences, and this can affect them all the way through school and into adulthood. “I’ve seen 12-year olds suffer from a lack of confidence because their parents didn’t allow them to make enough choices and take responsibility for their actions,” cautions Simone.
What to do:
Allow your children to make age-appropriate decisions, but be sure to explain the consequences to them too, says Simone. Constant communication is vital here- even if your little one is only two years old. Always explain what will happen if your child makes a certain choice.
If she makes the wrong choice and is angry, sad or disappointed, this is another opportunity for you to explain how certain choices lead to certain consequences.
Build your child’s confidence without inflating her ego
While it’s very important to affirm to your child that she’s worthy, valuable, special and has a specific purpose in life, this should be about building genuine confidence and self-esteem rather than inflating your child’s ego through constant flattery.
“This is what we try to do at school – because building a child’s confidence also helps them to accept failure, criticism or disappointment a little easier,” explains Simone. “I’ve had to council parents and children who believe that they should never lose or fail at something, and this is hard because it shakes them to the core.”
What to do:
Teach your child that while she should always try her best, it’s also okay to fail at times and it doesn’t take away who she is as a person. Unconditional love is the key in this situation- you want to show your child that you’re proud of her, no matter what, and that disappointment is a part of life.
For instance, if your older child doesn’t make the netball team, rather than throwing a fit with the school coach, let your child know that it’s okay to feel sad, but then encourage her to practice harder, eat healthy foods, get enough sleep and try again when the new season starts, says Simone. This is an important lesson because it teaches your child to keep trying and not give up, rather than feeding her fears and insecurities about failure. It will also help her to learn to trust herself and her abilities throughout life.
Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike.