How to Make the Most of Teachable Moments

Parents seem to talk a lot about teachable moments—using situations that come our way to talk about life lessons with our kids. But how does it actually work? Not long ago we received a great example from a dad named Scott.

He was out on a daddy-daughter date with his nine-year-old daughter. He let her plan the whole evening, and she chose dinner and shopping at the nearby mall. Scott was up for whatever she wanted to do, so off they went.

At the restaurant there was about a 20-minute wait, so they got a couple sodas and waited in the lounge area. There were TVs there playing the news, and this was during one of the recent abuse situations that dominated the headlines for a while.

BLD040980Scott and his daughter were talking about different things, and then right in the middle she said, “They’ve been talking about that for a really long time.” They couldn’t even hear the TV, but it told Scott clearly that his daughter had noticed the news and heard some things.

Now Scott had actually been thinking about that news story, and wondering what he might say—and how much to say—to his daughter about it. Would there be an opportunity? And would he have the courage to follow through? How do you start that conversation?

That evening in the restaurant, he saw his open door. They talked through the situation and he did his best to answer all her questions like, “Why would anyone do that?” “How do they get away with it?” and “Why doesn’t the kid tell someone?”

Most of all, Scott wanted to make sure she knew she could and should talk to her dad about anything, no matter what. Scott says he’ll never forget what his daughter said then: “I know, Dad, because you love me and you believe me!” As Scott wrote to us, he’ll hear those words in his head for a long time.

Even tragic events can be turned into something good when they become teachable moments for our children. We fathers have the ability to do that! It’s part of our role. There are so many issues that enter their world, and important matters to discuss. Just in the past few weeks, there have been several difficult topics in the news that our children are probably wondering about, and they need our guidance along the way.

Try starting like Scott did. First, be intentional about spending regular one-on-one time with your kids. In a single day, your kids could experience dozens of teachable moments—seeing grasshoppers and rainbows, hearing sirens and curse words, walking by a homeless man or driving by a mansion. If you’re there for some of them, you can offer your perspective. Plus, it’s a great way to build your relationship.

Then, expect those teachable moments to come along. Odd and unexpected things will happen when you’re together, or maybe your daughter will ask you a question that has been on her mind.

Be ready for those opportunities, dad. You don’t have to have all the answers, but by being honest and encouraging, good things will happen with your child. And they could lead to further discussions down the road.

What are your best tips for teachable moments? Please leave a comment either below or at our Facebook page.
Action Points

  • When sharing truth with your child, keep it short and simple so he doesn’t tune you out. Trust that he’ll remember the point for the future, and that you’ll probably have other opportunities to repeat it.
  • When your child has just made a mistake, save the lesson for later. All kids are different, but there’s a good chance she needs more encouragement than preaching.

NCF is a nonprofit organization seeking to improve the lives of children and establish a positive fathering and family legacy that will impact future generations by inspiring and equipping fathers and father figures to be actively engaged in the life of every child. You can also sign up for NCF’s Today’s Father Weekly email here.

Watch the replay of the Fathering Breakthrough Event

Join Dr. Ken Canfield and a handful of friends and partners as we give an update about our efforts to inspire and equip fathers all over the world.

There may be no more important work than turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and that’s what this is all about. We’re seeking to repair, rebuild and restore effective fathering for the benefit of children and families everywhere.