A child’s first classroom is the home—and the home is probably the most important “classroom” there is, at that— Not only in the intellectual sense, but in the emotional and moral and social sense as well. In fact, researchers believe that children can’t perform as well in school as they might, if parents don’t take an active role in their education. If parents don’t see education as important, they make things harder on their children.
Parents should definitely read to their children from a young age. Children, even before they really start talking, pick up a great deal from their parents. By the time they’re three or so, they’re usually very familiar with the language you use. If you expose them to books at a young age, they’ll have more interest in them later. Teach them to read picture books with you. Take them to the library. Immerse them in learning and even the very idea of learning.
You can also help your child develop social skills from a young age. Talk to them, even when they’re babies. Look for social opportunities—for children the age of your children that they can play with, perhaps. Don’t brush off your children when they want your attention—give them at least enough time to see what they need. Otherwise, they might feel a little uncomfortable about approaching people. In Mormon culture, these nurturing opportunities are very important.
Emotional skills are also important. Children may not really understand what they’re feeling, early on, and parents can help them understand why they feel what they feel and how to appropriately express it. Parents should be sympathetic when children are upset and be excited when they are excited. Children shouldn’t learn that having emotions is bad—rather, that you’re very concerned about how they feel. This will also teach them to be concerned about how other people feel.
Of course, moral values are essential. No one else can teach your children how they ought to live, not like you can.
Eventually, your children will be among people who might not share their values, or the values you tried to teach them, and if they know how and why to behave, they will be better able to be valiant in those values, despite their environment. These values don’t even need to be solely religious. Values can be very frankly practical. Children who don’t know the value of work may have a difficult time with jobs when they are older.
How do we teach practical values? We practice. Work can be a hard value to teach, for example, since it might not be something children just enjoy right off. But children do enjoy being included and feeling useful. If you’re doing a task your kids could possibly help with, let them help. Let them sweep the floor with you or help you make cookies. Give them chores to do, even when they’re young, and help them do them. But also be understanding when they don’t totally understand a task at first.
How do we teach religious values? By example and by open teaching. We should take our children to church with us, but that shouldn’t be the only time we talk about God. We should share our deep religious feelings with our children, read the scriptures with them, and be interested in what they think and feel about what they read. And we should act as examples to our children in obeying the commandments.
Read more about this topic here: Parents as the First and Foremost Teachers