Blog by Sarah Hummel
My baby starts Kindergarten this fall! She asks me every night, “Am I going to school in the morning?” She’s obviously way more excited for this than I am! As a mom, the most important thing in the world to me is that she is ready for this big step in her life! I’m thrilled that she’s growing up and enthusiastic about trying new things. I’m doing what I can to prepare her to not only learn academically, but to make wise choices when she’s out of sight from me and her dad. I’m realizing, for the first time she’s going to have regular influencers in her world besides me! So what can we do to prepare our little guys for the school days ahead? Here are some of my thoughts:
Get them in a learning mindset
Letters and numbers are important to know. They also need to know their phone number and address. But, even more important is fostering an inquisitive attitude. Read together often, and make it fun! Make up new plots to the story, don’t read the words, just guess what the pictures mean, or say the words in funny voices. At this age, you want them to look forward to getting out books and you want to foster a love of reading. When you are out and about, read words you see out loud, praise them when they ask questions, maybe even look up the answers together. At age 5 they are learning there is a “why” behind the “what” – encourage them to always be looking for that. When you’re always questioning, you’re always learning!
Teach them how to lead themselves
Regularly find opportunities to turn an everyday experience into a lesson on self-leadership. For example, “That was a great job making your own decision on what color to paint your picture, even though Jenna wanted you to pick blue – blue is nice but it’s your picture and you choose the color you want”. In this example, I’m reinforcing my child’s decision when she might feel unsure if she did the right thing, especially if “Jenna” isn’t happy with the decision. As best as I can relay it, I want my kids to know that they are responsible for their own actions and peer pressure should not determine what they choose to do.
Teach them kindness
Kids can be so mean to each other! They are naturally self-centered and naturally insecure when they feel left out. I have been drilling kindness into my kids since they first started to talk (and fight with each other!). A great way to set your child up for success is to help them understand the value of treating everyone the same and treating everyone with kindness. We practice scenarios at home like, “what if someone says they aren’t your friend anymore?”, “what if someone says that you shouldn’t be someone else’s friend?”, or “what if you see someone sitting all by themselves?”. One way I have reinforced this concept with my kids is giving “Kindness Stars”. I have their names in my notes on my phone. Every time I see one of them randomly show some type of kindness, I make a big deal out of it and tell them they earned a kindness star! 10 stars and they get a prize. Any kid is capable of bullying, I want to be sure I do what I can to make sure it stops with me.
Teach them that God is always with them
It’s so important that our kids learn as early as possible that they can have their own relationship with God. I model this as often as possible. When I’m having a bad day, I tell my kids… “Mommy is having a bad attitude – let’s pray about it!” or “Mommy is feeling a little nervous about something – ‘Dear Jesus, please give me peace right now”’. I teach them to know that they can do the same thing when they are away from me. I say to my kids, “when mommy and daddy aren’t with you, God is always with you – He will help you make a good decision and He will give you peace”. I pray that when my kids are having a bad day at school, their first instinct will be to talk to God about it.
It’s always a process isn’t it? But what an incredible opportunity we have to shape the next generation! Think about the qualities, values, and convictions you want your kids to have and be creative in exampling them or rewarding them. I pray for my kids and their teachers regularly, and look forward to all the big plans my God has ahead for them!