You Can’t Teach It If You Don’t Know It!

If you were asked to deliver a lecture about marine biology in thirty minutes, would you be able to give a terrific speech?

Probably not. And neither would I.

How about if the subject was antique marble collecting? Or ancient Chinese weaving techniques?

The point is:

We cannot teach that which we do not know.

It seems so obvious, yet we may often overlook this concept while raising our children.

Do any of the following sound familiar?

“Do your schoolwork before you play!” or, “Clean up your room!” or, “You forgot your homework again?!? You’re lucky your head is attached or you’d forget that!”

Let’s look a bit more closely at this specific characteristic of responsibility, and see if we can instill it in our children more effectively.

Just as we cannot teach your child about a foreign subject that we know nothing about, similarly, it is impossible to teach our children to be responsible without modeling that very trait.

Ask yourself about your habits: Do you accomplish the necessary domestic duties prior to relaxing, or do you find yourself on the couch at a time when you ought to be heating up dinner? Do you regularly pay your bills in a timely manner, or do you procrastinate and get whacked with late fees? Do you wake in the morning with time to spare, in order to facilitate a calm morning, or do you hit ‘snooze’ until the last possible moment and then rush around like crazy?

Many habits can be changed with just 5-7 days of consecutive willpower; and after that initial week the new routine won’t even seem hard anymore!

As a result of our ability to overcome a specific lack of efficiency, we will be in a stronger position to help our children grow in their level of responsibility.

Can you find an area where personal change will undoubtedly aid your child’s development? Post your thoughts below!

Let’s keep remembering: We can only teach that which we know!

Check out the Power of Positive Parenting by Dr. Glenn I Latham

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  1. This is so true, Ellen, excellent food for thought!

    Denise, mom of 5

  2. Have you been peeking in my windows? LOL I really needed to hear this, today especially. Thank you SO much.

  3. excellent

  4. The biggest obstacle for me is getting my 12 yr old to take responsibility for his actions. So I am trying to follow the philosophy “lead by example”. It’s a battle every day, he feels if he admits his mistake he will look bad or he’ll get into trouble. What ends up happening is that he blames everyone else and therefore an argument will start because he just doesn’t want to take any responsibility. I want him to see that owning up builds character and shows character, one that will definitely aid in his development.

  5. also, thanks for your words…they definitely help!

  6. This is really good advice and one we tend to overlook. The ‘lead by example’ technique is very powerful and for me – a christian -one I really need to invest in. Thanks for the reminder

  7. You’ve been reading my mail too. I have come across this great website that really helps in getting the domestic part under control. I have learned a lot of things about my house and about myself from this. I urge everyone that is having a hard time keeping your house under control to visit her website. I am a work in progress for sure. Thanks for the great article.

  8. This reminds me of the catastrophic saying “Do as I say, not as I do”. Of course, it has never worked in parenting. Wouldn’t it make things so much easier?!!!

    Keep us honest Ellen!

    PS to Shawna: Love I think they have saved my life several times over.

  9. Ellen, you are totally right! I’ve noticed that my 2.5-year-old son imitates pretty much everything he sees done by my husband or me. I taught JD how to make his bed but the habit wasn’t established until he saw me make the bed every morning (I used to have it done when he woke up).

    *waves to Biish and Shawna* Yay FlyBabies! “Progress NOT Perfection 2007”

  10. Does “why cant we drink diet pepsi too?” fit here?! It might take more than 6-7 days to change my behavior 😉

  11. Yesterday morning at 2am we had immediate mandatory evacuation as a fire had burned up to 4 miles from our neighborhood (Camp Pendleton, CA). We had to get dressed and pack in about 15 minutes. My 8 year old was upset because his game boy was not in it’s proper pack with it’s games. There was no time to search. Later in the day he was still upset about the gameboy. Finally he came over to me and said ‘I guess I know why now you’ve had me practicing putting things away all the time.” Good news though, we were able to return home late last night. He found his gameboy under the blanket on his bed… tough way to learn a lesson.

  12. Ouch – I better mark the calendar to get those books back to the library on time. For some reason this really hit home today. Thanks

  13. As a homeschooling mom, I agree that you can’t teach what you don’t know but, you can sure find the answers out together and that’s what its all about. Its not knowing the answers but, where to find them that counts. It is what creates life learners.

    As for the rest of the article, do as I say, not as I do…doesn’t work. So, good point.

  14. I agree with Shawna, I’ve been a member for 5 years and it has made all the difference to my family, and to get me to model the appropriate behaviors for my girls. It takes time for them to pick it up, but it is well worth it when they can find their things, not procrastinate AND when they finally realize that getting most things done only takes 10-15 minutes! Thanks for the food for thought.

  15. A place for everything and everything in its place is hard when you come home, get supper, go to soccer, come home, bathe and time for bed. Most of the time, we catch up on the weekend. My daughter was just saying to me on the way to school this morning about the fires in CA. She asked me what I would take if we ever had to evacuate and I said: Her, the dog and her father there wouldn’t be time for anything else. I will have her read Tamara’s entry.

  16. Susie Hagemeister says:

    “Be who we want our children to be.” is my motto. Also, I recommend checking out the website. Very good information. Lots of articles that can be printed.

  17. I agree wholeheartedly. I tend to be a procrastinator, my daughter has followed suit. i hope to change my bad habit to help her to plan ahead as well. My son is an inspiration to all of us, he tends to be the one to have a project completed in advance with plenty of time to spare. He will be our role model.

  18. To Lori:

    I like the idea of your son being a role model, but you’ll need to be careful not to compare your two children. In other words, don’t have your daughter measure up her actions against your son’s.

  19. It seems I read and read and read these parent books and the one thing I lack is comprehension and memory power so what I read is great but lasts about a week and dies off and I am back to my same strongholds…UGH!!
    Any advise on this?
    I have a hard time with boundaries. I am having a hard time setting these limits due to guilt. My mom was a single mother and didn’t have hardly any focussed all about me time and I feel I have passed that guilt onto myself and I have a hard time not playing with my kids lots and allowing them to be alone. HELP…does anyone know how I can accomplish this without this inherited guilt?

  20. Is this why my teenage kids don’t ever go to bed at a “normal” time and have trouble getting up in the morning. I guess they are aware that their mother is a night owl also and sleep deprived. How can I teach them if they would just get in bed about 30 or 45 minutes earlier each night they would be able to get up easier in the morning?

  21. Wow! This has hit home! As a mother, I TRY to do everything on time and keep track of things. But some of the things that I “nag” my two children about are probably the same type of things that I am bad about getting done as well. Never really thought about it until I read this article. Time to REALLY change some of my ways…lead by example! Thanks!

  22. I’m computer stupid. What do you mean by website?
    I am responding to the emails I get through raising small souls about do as I say, not as I do. It’s not even 12 hours since that thought flew through my head. My son get so disgusted with me. He doesn’t realize how much he is becoming just like me. I want to help him avoid this, not that I’m a bad person, but a person without self-discipline and it affects my whole family. Would a 16 year old understand that?

  23. I recently went to a motivational seminar with my employer and coworkers and this was 90% of the topic that they covered. It’s amazing how this seems to work! They say that if you can do something consistently for 30 days it becomes a habit and after 60 days it becomes second nature. The seminar I went to was based on sales but I’ve started to use little bits and pieces in my “home” life also and have seen gradual results. Although the waking up early is by far the hardest part other things like bedtime routine has really helped the kids! Next I’m going to start working on getting to bed an hour earlier so I can manage that extra hour in the morning! It’ll be nice to be able to get the breakfast dishes done BEFORE going to work/school and maybe eventually a load of laundry…who knows? I’ve always wondered how some working moms manage to have a spotless house and still get to bed before 2:00am:0)

  24. OUCH! That hit me right at home. I am always complaining about my kids messy rooms and well mine is……..lets say not so neat.
    Once again that you for wonderful words of wisdom.

  25. Ellen, I’m really impressed with your article! You must be the best mother! Organized, efficient and self disciplined! Well I knew you were when you were going off to exercise for an hour! Maybe that’s what gives you your extra energy! We’ll have to try and follow your advice. Thanks for that dose of inspiration!