Perhaps the most influential tool we have in our ‘teacher kit’ is our own example. Our children take far more from how they see us living, than from anything we tell them.
How we interact, approach tasks, and manage our emotions all provide ‘lessons’ for our children. They notice these things, whether we wish them or not, and build them into their own default settings.
Lead by example
When we chose heart centred teaching, we accept that the child is a complete person, and someone to work with, not show power over.
Contrary to popular belief about the adult-child relationship, we cannot actually control the child's behaviour. But we absolutely can control our own. In fact, we must if we want our relationships with children to be authentic, connected and enjoyable.
We need to lead by example. If we hope to develop kindness in children, we must take every opportunity to be kind.
Telling children to be patient has little to no effect, but if patience is something we practice in our daily lives, they too will learn, in time, to wait gracefully.
If we enforce manners, there is no guarantee the child has embedded this as a habit, to use in the absence of a nagging adult. If, instead, we focus on our own politeness, our young children are likely to also adopt this habit as part of their being.
So much of our behaviour is absorbed by our children without any direct ‘teaching’, but we can also use stories and conversations to illustrate our human qualities. We can share a goal we're working hard on as an example of perseverance, or explain how we helped a friend because caring is important to us.
Be a real model - not a super model
Being real is at the heart of being a great model. Our children don’t just want the shining examples, adults pretending to be paragons of virtue.
We need to also model how we deal with our mistakes and shortfalls - the ‘person’ us matters to them as much as the ‘teacher’ us.
How we get up after we stumble, or make amends after using thoughtless words provide them rich material for their own struggles.
If we practice the values, and model kindness, compassion and hope, and if we accept who we are, it will be more likely our children will love and accept who they are.