Caught Not Taught

21 03 2012

Young children imitate adults.  You’ve heard the expression that children learn what’s caught rather than what’s taught.  As a teacher and as a mother, I learned the power of modeling desired behavior.

As a teacher:

One September I injured my vocal chords yelling during a dirt car race.  It was my first experience. The cars didn’t have mufflers to add to the excitement and the noise.  So, my cousin gave me ear plugs.  But I felt the need to be social and talk (yell).

After the races were over my voice was useless.  I thought I had laryngitis.  After several weeks, I still didn’t have my voice back.  I went to the doctor who informed me that I had injured my vocal chords.  He told me I would have to stop using my voice in order to let it heal.  A teacher can’t teach very well without a voice.

So, I devised a plan.  I told my second graders that I’d need an official announcer each day to pronounce loudly important messages I’d whisper in his/her ear.  Each chosen student took their job seriously – standing straight and tall, declaring clearly and accurately each message I whispered.

Whenever I whispered to a student, that student whispered back to me.  It was adorable. An example of how children automatically imitate adults. My classroom took on a quieter, calm atmosphere. I almost didn’t want my voice to be healed.

As a mother:

When our sons were five and seven years old, I remember countless times telling them to clear the table when finished eating. “Don’t forget to take your dirty dishes to the sink…Come back here and put your plate and silverware in the sink…”

I was so tired of reminding them every day. Over and over again. Resentment grew. Annoyance simmered. Irritation boiled. It’s amazing how one seemingly minor request can lead to sheer frustration.

I became desperate!

Telling them wasn’t working. Reminders were ineffective (ignored?).

Time for another strategy.

Both our boys emulated their father. So, I privately asked my husband to pointedly take his dirty dishes to the sink the next night.

The following day after dinner, my husband said, “Well, I’m finished eating.”

Clang went his knife and fork on the plate.

“That was good. Thanks,”

Clatter went his cup and dirty dishes into the sink.

On cue each boy repeated his words… and his actions!

Caught, not taught!

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.”   Ephesians 5:1

What has your child learned from your example?

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