Educating Well: A Task as Beautiful as It Is Difficult

December 7, 2016

Educating well is a task as difficult as it is beautiful. What we do with our children determines the shape their future will take as well as that of their essential socio-emotional skills, which are strongly tied to their rational skills.

In this sense, the first thing we have to keep in mind is that it is impossible to separate reason from emotion or, as we tend to say, the mind from the heart. This dichotomy does not obey our reality, for we are a whole and as such, we establish our growth and our life.

This applies both to the children and teenagers that we want to educate and to us as educators (mothers, fathers, professionals, therapists, aunts, uncles, teachers, grandparents, etc.). In other words, if we want to create well being, first we must feel it ourselves.

To understand this, we must emphasize that we educate from our emotions. As such, if things are not going well for us, we will not educate correctly. For example, we will not achieve calm and motivation in our children if we have high levels of stress and frustration.

Girl with Elephant

10 basic principles for educating well

Education is mainly based on our example. To say it another way, without clay there are no bricks and without cement there is no construction. In this sense, education is teamwork with all of those who are around our children.

Based on the principles set forth by Laurence Steinberg, a selection of 10 basic elements that will help us educate well. Let us look at them in more detail:

1. What we do MATTERS

We have to think before acting; however, we will agree that we cannot always look for the best time to do it and only act at calm times when there is no emotional distress. Nevertheless, that does not stop us from wanting to do it the best we can. As such, we must keep in mind that:

  • Genes are not everything. Education and environment serve as a fundamental tool for our development.
  • Children learn through observation. We have to act as models.
  • We have to manage influences outside the family in an early and positive way.
  • Learning from mistakes is essential to good education.

Mom and Child on Beach

2. You can never show too much affection 

If a five-month-old baby cries, it may mean that he is hungry or he wants to be near his parents. Not withholding affection is essential to conveying love to our children. Excessive affection does not coddle them; giving it to them after negative episodes of bad behavior does.

However, it is good to reflect on this question. It is not right to reinforce laziness towards schoolwork but it is right to support the child when he understands the lesson taught by not doing homework or not studying. Moreover, it is important for us to emphasize that:

  • It is good to give physical affection, i.e. hugs, kisses, pats on the back, loving looks…
  • We must praise the achievements of our children in a proper way. We can read more about this and other helpful parenting tips here.
  • We must be willing to see and respond to the emotional needs of children.
  • We must provide a safe refuge in which the child can feel our support.

3. We must get involved in children’s lives

It is key for us to take an interest in their motivation, interests, and preferences, so it is important for us to get involved in school and to avoid playing a critical and defiant role in children’s lives.

4. We must adapt our education methods to the child

Every child has their rhythm, which is why it is of the utmost importance that we respect this. We often make an effort to adapt our children’s temperaments to our way of educating them and we lose sight of the only truth that should rule this process: EVERY CHILD IS UNIQUE. We have to be patient and respect their transition periods.

Girl with Eyes Closed and Butterflies

5. The importance of establishing norms and setting limits

No, not everything is okay. Children need norms and limits that help guide them and teach them what limitations there are and what prohibited actions exist. We have to be firm and do this with justice, always being balanced and coherent.

In the same way, it is essential for there to be supervision and for us to remain attentive to what our children so that we can reflect on this and gradually loosen the reins as our little ones mature.

6. It is key to promote their independence

Undertaking the task of discussing things positively with the child is very important. We cannot control every single detail of a child’s life, so we have to let them choose and learn that they have options to be autonomous. The motto is: let us protect when we must, but let us also allow when we can.

7. We must be consistent

Being consistent, maintaining certain routines, creating a common goal, not being inflexible, and helping them identify those norms that are not negotiable helps us maintain balance and promote the reasoning and acceptance of the norms on the children’s part.

Girl Sitting near Flowers

8. It is better to avoid severe punishment

Physical punishment is counterproductive and harmful. It implies treating the child badly and without respect, which does not at all promote the aforementioned balance. There is one question that tends to open adults’ minds: How are we going to teach our children not to hit others if we hit them when they do something wrong? Not even a slight whack is positive.

This is why we must learn to control our anger. Unrestrained reprimands are not effective, either. If the child does something else, we have to send them to their room, urge them to fix the damage caused, limit or reduce their privileges (toys, going out, television, etc.).

9. Explaining the rules and decisions that we make

Another fundamental aspect is explaining the rules and decisions that we make to our children and always doing it in a clear way. We have to be sure that our explanations our complete, which will help us guarantee that the child has understood and can apply them.

The well-known “because I said so” does not help children understand nor does it help us admit our mistakes and listen to the children’s point of view. So explaining, understanding, and feeling will help validate their feelings and opinions, which makes us give way to their budding autonomy and emotional independence.

10. Treating our children with respect

We have to treat them with respect so that they are capable of giving it themselves. Having two-sided conversations, listening to them, and giving them the option to show what they think and feel, letting them act and do what they can according to their age, etc. Children treat others the way we treat them and it will be our lessons that they spread.

Girl Meditating Rainbow