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The Importance of Parents As First Teachers

Written by Genie Price

From the moment your first child is born, you become a teacher. Although not a formally qualified one, whether you like it or not, you instantly become your child’s first and most influential coach.

From day one, your child will look to you for so much in life, and what you do matters more than what you say. They watch how you spend your money, how you treat others and more importantly – how you care for them. They will use your actions as a guide to make sense of the world around them and to develop skills to take them further in life as they grow.

Research indicates no amount of formal teaching can compare to the influences you have on your offspring, who you teach every day, – by word and by example. And, with the early years being the most significant stage in life, in order to develop your child’s sense of security, social awareness and confidence in learning, the time to do that, is now.

Here we talk about the importance of taking on the role of parents as first teachers and how you can give your child a head-start.

Being your child’s first teacher is easier than it sounds, and with it, comes huge benefits, such as: 

Helping to develop secure and trusting attachments: 

John Bawlby, a British psychologist and founder of the attachment theory, states that by nurturing the mother: child attachment – you give your baby an optimal foundation for life. A foundation which not only builds trust and a willingness to learn but also gives them a healthy sense of self-awareness and consideration for others.

This form of attachment helps to provide a secure base for your child to explore the outside world, and it also helps them predict that as a parent, you will be there to support them.

Throughout Bawlbys studies he identified many children who displayed secure attachments with their parents. He attributed this attachment to children being more readily able to adjust to life at school. The same study indicates that predictable and consistent routines, similar to those established at home, gives a child a sense of love, safety and assurance and encourages the ability to socialise and relate to others well.

On the other hand, an insecure attachment relationship is one that fails to meet the need for safety and understanding, leading to confusion about oneself and difficulties in learning and relating to others in later life.

Helps develop early social skills: 

Aside from forming a secure attachment with you; as parents, being your child’s first teacher helps develop social skills.

Children do learn by imitation and that can include learning from peers in social conditions, the same as in a “classroom.” But your home is as good as any formal schoolroom to deliver results.

Some parents believe that they contribute little more than genes towards personality and behaviours, however, recent studies confirm parenting in the home plays a vital role in foundation learning and social adjustment outside the home.

For example; warm, responsive parenting has been linked to children’s positive social behaviours. Your child will learn to understand his or her emotional and physical needs can be met through responsive parenting. However, controlling responses to situations, on the other hand, has been linked to negative social behaviours.

Your child will be its own unique person. To encourage social skills, a one-size-fits-all approach is not enough. Fine-tune your parenting by carefully observing your child’s personality, their strengths, and weaknesses. Then provide the level of behaviour control, discipline style, and degree of freedom that works best for them — all the while showing love and support.

Helps establish values and morals:

Mum and Dad, you are the key teacher of all moral values and attitudes that your babies and children will later display. It is you that your child will look up to in everything they do.

Respect, kindness, honesty, courage, perseverance, self-discipline, compassion and many more values can be foundered from home.

As parents, you should want to instil these kinds of values in your children and by doing so you protect them from potentially negative societal influences.  By nurturing respectful values and morals you will also lay the groundwork for your child to understand right from wrong and to contribute positively to society.

Helps develop early literacy and numeracy skills: 

The crucial skill of literacy is learned at a very young age. By three or four your child can understand and use language spoken around them without any formal teaching.

From the time of birth, talking to your child has a big impact, from the first babbles – talking and exchanging words is important to language development and you can take advantage of this learning-sensitive time by,

  • Reading aloud to your child – point to words and symbols throughout the book. Encourage your child’s interest and a positive experience.
  • Talk to them about everything and ask questions – from your surroundings your child will learn words associated with things that are familiar to them and their world. For example, name what you see in the house, as you ride in the car and as you shop in stores.

Research suggests that by encouraging the above, will critically enhance your child’s language abilities and ensure that they become good readers and confident communicators.

Helps develop emotional awareness:

Children will learn to understand and express their emotions through you, their parents.

As babies, through to infancy and beyond – your child will look to you for emotional support when they feel pained or stressed. After the infant stage, your child will begin to notice how you handle your own emotions, as you are considered their emotional role models.

For example: when certain emotions are appropriate, what to call their emotions – happy, sad and how to respond to the emotions of others. If you can start to teach these skills, you will encourage the growth of emotionally healthy and morally sensitive children.

Bawlbys research shows the positive outcomes that result from secure attachments having been formed and suggests that it leads to emotional stability, higher self-esteem, independence, empathy, compassion and resilience later in life.

What this means Mum and Dad, is that preparing your child for life-long learning starts the minute you bring that wee bundle home from hospital and that their education doesn’t begin when they go off to kindergarten or in a formal classroom. It begins in your home.

Regardless of whether you take on full responsibility for your child’s academic careers, you are still considered a teacher, a mentor and guide. The time you contribute to your child and their early education is valuable.

Every time you sing the ABC’S or help your child with her homework, or teach them how to ride a bike, to cook or do laundry – is educating them and the lessons learned at home, for good or bad, are the ones that stick. Make them matter. Your children will appreciate it someday.

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