Teaching Children to be Diligent
Many parents when their child starts kindergarten, they do not pay much attention to the advise them not to take too much care of the baby, but to teach him independence and diligence. Parents wants best for their children and want to protect their children from every harm. But taking too much care will make them careaholic and will always need you or someone’s help for most activities.
For example, if you are able to teach your child independence and diligence by the age of 7 or 8, then your child will have no problem to complete the homework that is required at school. All you have to do is explain him that he has to do his homework, clean his room and eat before you coming home from work. So how to teach diligence to your child?
Be Diligent Yourself
I can give you all sorts of practical suggestions and things that we’ve done to teach and encourage diligence in our children, but it probably won’t be anything new. If we fail to be diligent in our own tasks, if we fail to be diligent to require and expect diligence in our children all the practical suggestions and tips anyone can offer won’t amount to anything more than words on a screen.
So if you want your children to be diligent, be diligent yourself first.
- Be diligent in your own tasks and responsibilities.
- Be diligent to build relationship and to seek your child’s heart.
- Be diligent in your words. If you say it, do it.
- Be diligent to train your children.
- Be diligent to expect diligence.
Perhaps this deserves more time, but just allow me to say that a child as young as one is perfectly capable of obeying simple commands (come here, don’t touch, no noise, sit on your bottom), a child of 2-3 is capable of completing simple tasks (pick up the toys, empty the silverware), a child of 5-9 is capable of completing complex tasks (clean the kitchen or complete this list of school assignments) and a child of 10-12 is capable of completing many adult sized tasks (paint the bathroom, mow the yard, get dinner on the table) all ‘quickly, cheerfully and completely’.
Lead by Example
I can tell you what I know, but I’ll be talking to myself as well as you. I need to take my own advice! We have our moments of brilliance – some members of our house more than other – and some last for days or weeks, but we have not diligently applied the principles necessary to produce diligence. We are sporadically diligent, an oxymoron if there ever was one.
I started the violin in 5th grade, just before my 10th birthday. I chose it because I was new at school and my new best friend was in violin class. It was my last year in government school.
See? Again I wander. My mind is elsewhere, just like those of my children. Diligence requires the ability to focus on the task at hand. Other subjects may be worthy of interest but we have to stay on target.
My husband and I have a little mantra that we have our children repeat from a very young age when they are learning to follow the simplest instructions and perform the easiest chores: “What does diligent mean?” They are to reply, “It means quickly, without stopping.” So the children know what diligence is, but the question is how we can we teach them to be diligent.
My interest quickly waned when my friend moved out of state, but my parents made me keep playing and required me to practice daily. Over the next two years, I learned to love the violin and was immensely grateful that they hadn’t allowed me to quit.
Give them the tools: Teach them how to be diligent
When it comes to schoolwork, one way we help our children learn diligence by removing some distractions but not all. Too many distractions certainly slow them down and frustrate them. But in a house with people – a family home – they must learn to work through a certain level of noise, activity, etc. Otherwise they are vulnerable to every distraction that comes their way.
This can be frustrating at first, but it pays off. A child doing algebra while a 4yo tornado whirls about in the next room is a beautiful sight. This skill will serve her well no matter where she finds herself in The Real World.
We began homeschooling in my second year of violin, but that didn’t stop my advancement in violin. There were 5 children in the house, 4 of them 6yo and under, but I found a quiet spot to make my noise. I continued to practice daily, fitting it into the new daily schedule. Unlike the first year, I required few reminders. When it came to violin, I was good, and I wanted to get better.
Another way we help them develop diligence is by giving them practice, i.e. work. Childhood should not be all play, and we should not feel guilty each time we require them to work. The old adage says “Lazy hands are the devil’s plaything.” All of us need work, and children are no exception. Read the book of Proverbs if you doubt it.
When I left government school, my teacher allowed me to pay for private lessons by cleaning house for him and his wife 2 hours in exchange for each hour-long private lesson. He even provided transportation both ways. It wasn’t until much later that I realized what a huge favor he was doing for me. Not only was he teaching me to play better; he was teaching me to love work. I considered it a privilege to work in exchange for more work.
Motivate them to be diligent
Just being capable of diligence is not enough. We need motivation to use that ability, and for children the motivation must usually be external. Motivation can be negative (the proverbial stick) and positive (the carrot). In our house, the stick often means loss of privileges or extra work. The carrot may be verbal praise, an ice cream date, or anything in between.
After more than a year of hard work and good progress, my struggling parents scraped together the money to buy me my own violin in place of the loaner from the government school. My teacher sold them a beautiful old instrument from his father’s collection for the princely sum of $150. It was the best Christmas I had ever known.
As they grow and mature, they should become more self-governing and motivate themselves.
In the beginning, my motivation to practice was my dad’s command. I knew better than to defy him. Later, my own desire to succeed took over. I found myself in tears if I couldn’t play a new piece to my teacher’s satisfaction – not because the kind old man was a harsh teacher but because I was frustrated with myself. I knew I could do better. I knew I must work harder.
Don’t do your child’s homework
When parents sit side by side, it may seem to the child that they themselves will do the homework for him, and he does not have to dive into the essence of the problem. Therefore, when preparing homework with a child, it is very important not to solve for him, but to teach him to think and find a solution to the problem by himself.
Remember the popular wisdom: “If you want to feed a person once, give him a fish. If you want to feed him for life, teach him to fish.” Every day, the child should experience the joy of being able to do something for himself. Instead of prompting, ask more questions that make him think.
Your child has a favorite place to study or is more focused in the evening than after school? Great! Feel free to leave it up to your child to decide which way to achieve his or her own learning goals. This provides additional motivation and boosts self-confidence.
We must remember the goal and keep it before our children’s eyes as well.