The joy of watching a child teach her mother

Children are Great Teachers – Do we give them the opportunity to share?

The joy of watching a child teach her mother

There are many teaching strategies that are used by teachers all over the world, but how often do we see a child teaching their parent, and how often do we see teaching strategies that come from love and equality?

Recently I had the privilege of witnessing a seven–year–old child teach her mother an approach to drawing that she had just learnt, in the most clear and amazing way. She introduced her mother to the activity, explaining it step by step, allowing her mother to be with her through the process and freely follow her considerate and cordial instructions.

I was introduced to this family when asked by a businessman if I would do a visual course for his wife and two of his daughters, aged seven and nine. He had taken part in a course I presented and appreciated my teaching strategies. He wanted his family to experience the same enjoyment. I willingly accepted this new and exciting request.

So I brought a lot of paper, pens, pastel cream and wax blocks to his office. I set up the pin-walls and flip-charts and awaited the ‘participants’. I was a bit nervous because it was the first time I had taught this technique to children – I was used to teaching adults who work as presenters, facilitators, trainers and coaches. This would be a new experience for me.

The father arrived with his daughters and informed me that the mother would be a little late, so I started the lesson with just the two girls. I began by asking them what they felt drawing was about for them. The elder sister said, "I can’t draw", which is what I hear so many adults say.

Following my normal teaching practice, I proceeded with a few steps:

I warmed up my participants by inviting them to draw a triangle, a square and a circle, surrounded by a frame with a bit of colour and a grey shadow. Immediately they had created a piece of art.

I said: “If you can draw this, you are able to draw everything.”

The mother arrived an hour after we had started, by which time we had run through three further exercises. She immediately loved the pictures that her daughters had drawn.

When participants come in late while I am teaching I always take special care to welcome and include them into the group, explain what we have done so far, and share the techniques and steps of the process.

As the trainer I started to involve the mother, but then I chose to do something completely different; I decided to ask the children to ‘teach’ their mother.

The younger girl stood up and sat beside her mother. She showed her the drawings and invited her to copy them. She taught her mother the different pictures step by step and introduced her to the whole drawing process. The mother joyfully followed her daughter’s sensitive and warm-hearted instructions and I witnessed one of the most successful and beautiful teaching strategies through this seven-year-old girl.

What I witnessed was a loving child sharing in complete openness, joy and equality.

I felt that this was a unique situation and a wonderful new experience for both of them. In the mother I could feel the loving pride she felt towards her daughter, and in the daughter there was a pure joy as she shared her amazing, new-found ability with her mother.

It was a special moment of equality and partnership that deepened the strong and loving connection between the mother and daughter.

What I observed was the absence of any comparison.

The child didn’t look at her own drawings, she simply shared her new ability, experience and the technique she had learned. There was no evidence of the ‘mother-child’ relationship that you might expect – there was no disparity between them. The child presented the technique to her mother with the natural authority of an equal – the natural impulse of sharing in equality.

Could it be that we just need to open up to each other and look at what we can teach and learn from one another?

  • What would happen in our schools and our homes if we allowed this to be?
  • Could we ask our children or pupils more often to support us, to show us something they know or can do, to teach us how they look at life?
  • Could we foster this natural impulse of sharing?

Last week I taught a group of adults at university and we talked about the stress lots of us feel when teaching our elderly parents how to use computers.

  • Why is it so stressful?
  • Have we lost the openness, the love, the joy and sense of equality we had as young children?
  • How could we re-kindle a love of teaching and learning?

What if we need to rethink the concepts we may have about ‘hierarchical structures’ and bring equality to child-parent or teacher-pupil relationships?

Could it be that we ‘think’ we have to slip into an artificial role when teaching another, rather than feeling the natural impulse to share?

What would education look and feel like if we used teaching strategies similar to the way the little girl taught her mother: teaching from the natural impulse of sharing, with love, what we know and who we are – equally?

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  • By Miike Keppler, Business Trainer and Coach; CEO of the Akademie für Coaching, Gesundheit und Führung GmbH

    After working as professional musician, recording artist and engineer for 25 years I am delivering my abilities and competences since 1999 in business and life coaching, leadership training and professional education.