Have you ever looked at your child or children in a moment of frustration and thought “they should know better!” It could be something like picking up something they tripped on so the next person doesn’t fall on their face or maybe it’s something as simple as closing the door behind them.
Regardless, as adults we tend to project our own thoughts and experiences on our children as we see them growing and maturing.
We think about how amazing they are maturing or how smart they are, but fail to understand that a child’s prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until into their twenties!
What we’re seeing in the glimpses of thoughtfulness is not a mastery of skills, but a development of them. To help teach our children discernment and common sense is guiding them on the path towards mastery instead of simply expecting them to “know better”.
Common sense is an important part of life that we all need to develop. It is the ability to make decisions and solve problems without relying on specific knowledge or experience. Teaching children how to develop common sense can help them become more independent and confident in their abilities.
How do you teach common sense?
There are several ways to help children develop good common sense, such as coaching them through problem solving skills, creating routines for them, teaching them about personal hygiene, and helping them build resilience. By doing these things, parents can give their children the tools they need to become successful adults with a strong sense of discernment when presented with a series of choices.
Work on taking time to demonstrate problem solving skills to develop common sense
Problem-solving skills are essential for children to develop but they’re usually not completely intuitive. As parents, it is important to take the time to guide them and walk them through solutions so that they can learn how to think critically and find creative solutions.
By being a good role model and demonstrating problem solving skills, we can help our children understand the importance of working hard to find solutions to what otherwise seems like a road block to their day.
Parenting with patience helps our children build confidence in their own problem-solving abilities. With this in mind, taking time to demonstrate problem solving skills and show our kids how it’s done is a better use of our time when they’re young than trying to fix bigger mistakes once they’re old enough to truly have known better. This includes developing their social skills and understanding empathy towards others as well.
Help your children recognize consequences in real time so they do know better
Consequence sounds like a big, bad word even as a parent. But it can be as simple as “if I do not pick up the lego, I might step on it and hurt my foot.” It is help a child develop prudent judgment and navigate poor decisions to do better in the future.
If we don’t help them how does a 12 year old know right from wrong?
Instead of chastising our children, it’s help to just talk out what consequences might arise from things you see as a parent. Children are more laser-focused on a task and might not see all of the moving pieces and how they work together. Simply talking it out as they go helps them create an internal monologue to think through both problems and consequences.
Establish healthy routines, habits, and hygiene
Kids typically think in an orderly fashion. It’s a guideline for giving them a blueprint of what to do next.
They can learn to get dressed by laying out clothes in order or by creating special clues to help them get shoes on the right feet or underwear on facing the correct direction. The things that we think are intuitive don’t necessarily comes as easily for children.
For me, this became a “duh” moment when one of my kids didn’t understand that while we change our clothing everyday that underwear counted as clothing. I had to explain the consequences of what could happen with prolonged use of the same underwear without washing as well as then breakdown the steps of getting dressed kind of the age-old exercise of having kids explain how to make a pb&j sandwich, detailing each step down to unscrewing the jar lids or getting out a knife. It was very eye-opening because my children legitimately didn’t know better on changing undies daily!
Forming these habits helps the brain make connections, solidifying how to do it without a second thought.
The more day-to-day opportunities we take to walk our kids through the steps of a task instead of just giving them the end result we want, the more confidence they will build in the process.
Breaking down the job/chore and helping dissect each part and why it’s important benefits everyone in the long wrong. As parents we’re less likely to get upset with the end result and as children they’re empowered with the right tools to accomplish tasks with confidence.
Focus on daily life skills to establish thoughtfulness in your children
One might argue if someone sense is actually a skill that’s a life skill. Regardless of if it is or isn’t, life skills will help teach it in the long-term. There are so many examples of life skills from the big things like learning to save money to just the small things like getting dressed or cleaning up your own messes.
One of the things we often take for granted as parents, even the ones who readily teach life skills, is that there is a logical order to how things should be done. However, we often do not articulate these to our children.
Examples of how to teach your child common sense in daily activities:
- Countertops get wiped before the floor gets swept
- Basic plates get cleaned before pots and pans or anything greasy
- If you’re going to use the same wash cloth on your whole body, your face is first and then things like your feet
From toddlers to teenagers, it is important to instill a sense of responsibility in them by teaching them how to sequence tasks and plan ahead, which in turn builds the common sense to know better in both moral and logical situations.
This will help their prefrontal cortex develop and give them the confidence they need to tackle the challenges of adulthood.
Daily life skills can also help the family unit come together as a cohesive unit, with each member taking on responsibilities that are appropriate for their age and stage of development. With daily practice, children can learn how to manage their emotions better and how to think through problems before acting impulsively. This will not only benefit your children but also help the entire family thrive.
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 5 children living on a farm in New England. She believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience and has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development. She is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!