teachable moments

3 Times You Teach Your Kids Without Realizing

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“Dad, guess what happened on the playground!” says my five-year-old son as he climbs into the van. “What happened?” I ask as I buckle him in. He looks at me, trying to recall the moment. “I got pushed,” he said, “for no reason!” Now sitting in the driver’s seat, I look in the rearview mirror and see his eyes staring back at mine. As I pull away from the school, he starts to talk. By the time we’re home, in those few short minutes, we’ve talked about what happened on the playground and how he can handle himself if a similar situation should happen again.

These teachable moments happen most days when I pick him up from school. What started as a seemingly mundane, afternoon errand has turned into something I look forward to with excitement each weekday. I get the special vantage point of seeing my son come alive after a long day. I get to teach him things in these small moments that I might not get to teach him otherwise. Could it be that you have teachable moments like this too? I think you do—if you’re looking for them. Here are 3 times you teach your kids without realizing.

1. Through Everyday Life

When picking up my son, I’m privy to the first information on his mind as he leaves school. Whatever happened during the school day, big or small, I hear about it. Most days, it’s intel about which classmate got in trouble or some homework that needs to be done later. In these quick moments, I get to teach him about everything from what to do when someone hurts his feelings to how to deal with his emotions when another kid pushes him. But, regardless of how buzzworthy the afterschool news is, my kids see I’m there. I’m modeling something to them every moment by what I say and do through everyday life.

Deuteronomy 6:6–7 says, “These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” I encourage you to see that the late-night school projects, volunteering to sell cookies, and running errands are opportunities. Be vigilant to point out the life lessons along the way.

2. During Crisis Points

When my oldest daughter was around seven, one of her great grandparents passed away. One night, she was upset about it. In trying to comfort her, I reviewed what I believe about what happens when people pass away. John 3:16 says, “…everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” I was able to comfort my daughter because I pointed out that Jesus said if you believe in him, you don’t die—you live forever.

Fast forward to when another great-grandparent passed away. My daughter, a couple of years older and without coaxing from me, stood up at the funeral, read John 3:16, and shared the encouragement that her great grandfather is not dead but alive in heaven. As she spoke, I knew she was echoing what I had comforted her with years before. If I hadn’t modeled what to think and do in her moment of crisis, I would have missed a teachable moment. Don’t miss out on encouraging your kids in these moments. Who knows? You may be teaching something your kid will use to encourage others.

3. When They Come to You

If you’ve been present for the daily moments and the crisis moments, congrats! You’re a pretty darn good dad. And guess what you’ll be given: a special gift from your engagement. Your kids will be more likely than ever to come to you with their questions. From all the stored-up time and talks, you’ll start to notice you no longer need to pry information from them. When they come to you, it’s because they trust you can point them in the right direction. After being around my kids through the mundane and the tough times, I’ve noticed they’re open to talking about anything. That’s not because I’m a guru. It’s because for years and through various life experiences, they’ve learned they can count on me to be there.

You need not have all the answers, but you can instill confidence in kids by how you answer their questions.

When your kids come to you, make sure you’re focused. Ask them insightful questions. Proverbs 20:5 says, “Counsel in a man’s heart is deep water, but a man of understanding draws it up.” Everything matters when your kid asks you a question. How you think and talk about people matters. Are you showing how you value people? Are you encouraging more questions? Are you showing your kids that you are a safe place to ask anything? You need not have all the answers, but you can instill confidence in your kids by how you answer their questions.

Sound off: Where are you teaching your kids without realizing it? 

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What’s something you’d like me to teach you more about?”