Tuesday, January 5, 2010

day five: AIM for more explanations

Twenty years ago Ray and I went to a parenting seminar in which the instructor (Greg Harris) taught that we should never simply answer our children’s questions with a quick, one-sentence answer. Rather, he said that when we answer our children’s questions, we should teach using parenthetical phrases. In other words, give the one sentence answer, but then “teach” more about that topic using parenthetical phrases—or more explanation with your answer.

We have a simple mnemonic to help you remember this: Answer It More--AIM. Whatever question your child asks you, do not just answer the question with a one word or one sentence answer—instead Answer It More. Answer the question with more information than you normally would: AIM!

AIM works in every area of life. A question just begs for more answer, more explanation, more detail—and it works to build your child’s background of knowledge—which carries over to life in general. Suddenly, your child knows more about that topic. When he reads, listens, watches, he brings more information and background of experience to those encounters…all because you AIMed.

Not only does AIM help your child once he is a student, but it also helps him from toddlerhood all the way up through adult. Here are some simple examples:

1. Recently, I overheard a preschooler ask her mom what the smoke detector on the wall of the bathroom is. The mom replied, “It’s a smoke detector—if it senses smoke, it sounds an alarm.” Nothing wrong with that answer. However, AIM (answering the question more) gives you the opportunity to bring even more info (and relate it to other scenarios). How about this: “It’s a smoke detector. If there is a fire, smoke goes into it, then an alarm beeps to tell you to get out of the building. Do you know the white square things above the bedroom doors? We have smoke detectors too. They’re just white, not red.” A simple question was posed—now Answer It More!

2. As we were in the kitchen a lot preparing for Christmas, we reviewed and re-reviewed the cups, quart, tablespoon, etc. scenarios. A question about “How many cups of chocolate chips are in the bag?” becomes a further lesson easily. (I know, I could have just told them that it says on the front of the bag how many cups it contains, but that wouldn’t give me a chance to use AIM on them!) Rather than answering the question with the cup measurement, I can direct my budding chef to the nutrition information and walk him through the “servings per container,” “serving size” information and figure it out together. AIM allowed me to teach math, cooking, thinking skills, logic, problem solving, comprehension, chart reading, and more! (And the beauty of it is that the kids have that information/skill to take with them for the next time. And, yes, they will need help doing it several times before it is second nature to them, but that just gives me more opportunities to teach!)

3. Behaviorally, AIM is outstanding. When our kids run in church, and we tell them not to, we can answer “Because I told you not to” or “Church isn’t for running.” Or we can AIM—answer the why question more. We can give character-building lessons with purpose. We can teach them about thinking of others before themselves; we can help them learn to be alert to other people’s needs and special circumstances; we can give them “learning hooks” on which to hang future character lessons on.

And, of course, AIM also works for all school areas. We need to slow down our hurried lives and capture those teachable moments—for babies all the way through our young adults. Let’s AIM for even more learning and positive parenting in 2010!

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