“One father is more than a hundred Schoolmasters”

One of my children, after their first day back at school, exclaimed “my teacher rocks!” I was so happy to hear of his appraisal of his teacher and hope this opinion endures for the rest of the year. For me, I have always viewed one of my roles as father to my children to be a teacher. Sometimes when a teaching moment arrives I will actually ask them “is it ok that I be your teacher for a moment”, before I share with them a lesson that I feel is important. It was George Herbert who famously said “One father is more than a hundred Schoolmasters”[1].  However to be an effective teacher to our children there are three key things to remember.

First, remember there is a difference between a teacher and a lecturer. Our children will often tell us through the rolling over their eyes or blank stares into the distance, that we are in lecturer mode. We are ignorantly assuming that if we talk at our children we will somehow artificially inseminate our pearls of wisdom into their empty receptive brains! No one likes to be talked at, especially children. Being a good teacher to our children requires us to be good listeners first, and then to ask really good curious questions that help them to think through situations and to form their own conclusions, followed by some kind of confirming piece of wisdom from us as their dad.

Second, create great teaching opportunities. Sometimes we need to be thinking ahead, finding the right time or opportunity where they might be more receptive to listen to some thoughts that we would like to share. No one likes to be ambushed into a discussion about something they are not prepared for. Make a time with your children to have a chat, or create a moment where there is an opportunity to talk. This might be a regular family chat over Sunday breakfast, or a specific time alone with one of them while driving in the car. Or the moment is just appears, and you ask “can I be your teacher for a moment?”

Third, remember one of the best ways we can be a teacher is through our example. Dr Albert Badura famously demonstrated that as human beings were are able to learn through observation of others’ experiences, which became part of what he termed social learning theory. As fathers, we can teach our children many of life’s lessons by role modelling for them certain principles. This doesn’t always have to be lessons based on our strengths, but also on times when some of our weaknesses are on display, such as demonstrating how to fix mistakes we have made. So dad’s, I hope we can all “rock” in our roles as teachers to our children.

[1] George Herbert, Outlandish Proverbs, 1640