Last year, one of my daughters, who was finishing up an Honours Degree in Religion and applying to Teacher’s College, asked me what I thought were the attributes of an effective teacher for her application. When I considered effective teachers, I immediately thought about effective mothers.
One of the best ways to learn how to mother and teach is to remember both the good and poor examples from our own days as children. I remember cringing in fear in the presence of one angry, yelling mum who always seemed at her wits end with the antics of neighbourhood “brats.” However, the mum who actually liked her children’s playmates and listened to them was the mum who did not have problems with the neighbourhood kids. Mothers must remember what it is like to be small. A mother is most effective when she lives as a child of God herself, because kids learn not by angry, condescending lectures, but by watching mums live and work, love, forgive and ask for forgiveness. Do you want teachable kids? You yourself must be humble and teachable.
The most important trait for an effective mother is patience, because children can be exasperating, annoying and irritating. Countless experiences with my children reinforced this basic fact: the best way to handle poor behaviour is by modeling good, patient behaviour myself because actions and emotions do speak even louder than the correct words. When I remained calm and patient, the kids settled right down.
Equally crucial is the quality of compassion. Kids intuitively know if an adult likes them, understands them and empathizes with them. Once again, if an adult is cold and cannot relate to a child emotionally, a child will act up in their presence. In my experience, mothers who were the most compassionate, who could truly empathize, were the most respected. Kids want to please adults who they like and respect. It is the compassionate parent who can maintain good behaviour because they treat their children with mutual respect and compassion.
A good mother must be innovative and adaptable because kids need variety. Children do not learn well when they are bored and one style of mothering does not fit every child.
Most importantly, an effective mother is passionate about teaching and loving her kids. It is passion, an inner drive, that is not dependant on seeing results right away. It is passion from the Holy Spirit that prevents discouragement or burnout because it is an inner fire that motivates and energizes mums. We must learn to connect spirit to spirit, heart to heart with little people in and through God if we want to teach and form them into children of God.
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