How to be a Parent Hero: Contextual Learning

We each have our own perspective, experience, triumphs and challenges when it comes to being a parent. I am in my 24th year as a parent with two children whom I have guided as best I can, and still do.  My parenting experience has been with my partner and love, who happens to be my wife, Marie Sierra.

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We’re not perfect parents… no such thing. Being a parent is very similar to what I do as a teacher of learners of all ages, especially young ones, where the responsibility is so huge. What makes me the happiest as a parent today is that both our 19 and 23 year olds talk with us openly about everything, and I mean absolutely everything. This open communication has led to some tense moments, but in the end, it has resulted in the four of us having an authentic, meaningful and relevant relationship.

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So what does it mean to be a parent?  For me it has do with how I help my children think and perceive.  For me, it doesn’t have anything to do with telling them what to do.  I tried that as a young parent and the result was conflict, and depending on their personality, they might do whatever they want anyway.  Even if a child has a laid back personality and tends to follow directions, eventually, they will breakout and decide on their own actions.  Better to help them self-regulate and be outstanding critical and creative thinkers.

The image below says so much to me. What does it say to you? Thanks for taking the time to snap this photo Shai!

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Take a moment now and ask yourself the question,

“What does it mean to be a hero?”

Does a hero empower others?  Help others? Look for the good in others?  Is a role model for others?

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Hold on… that sounds a lot like a parent!  

And I believe a parent is a hero.  The only real question is

“What kind of hero/parent are you choosing to be?”

Here are some simple (not always easy) strategies which have helped Marie and me in our journey through parenthood, and which have also impacted us both as educators.

1. Ask your children questions as often as you can instead of making statements.  When you do, make sure to be patient enough to listen.

2. Read the book “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman and know your children’s love language preferences.  

This will improve how you connect with them.  Ask your child the question, “How do you know I love you?”  Their answer will give you a clue as to how you can improve with how you show your love for them.  Remember that knowing someone loves you is very different from feeling loved by them.

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3. Read to your child everyday starting when they are in the womb.

When you do, and the “interrupt” you, give them time to say whatever it is they are saying.  Listen carefully and find a way to connect with what they are saying, to the book or if that isn’t possible, connect their comments to their interests. Below is one of my favorite early reader books by author Lucy Cousins!

Bilingual books introduce young learners to not only a new language, but also develop centers of the brain that improve their ability to think critically, creatively!  They also introduce concepts like embracing multiple perspectives, seeing diversity as strength and looking for opportunity in adversity.  Below are the first three books from the new hit Children’s book series, Sam the Ant, co-created and co-written with my daughter Sam Sierra-Feldman

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It’s one large story with more books coming out, which put language and scientific discovery in the context as the ants travel the world!

4. Make puppets with your children from old socks and markers.

Let your child make their own puppet, without your help or perhaps with a little help if needed.  Use the puppet to model different kinds of behaviors.  Encourage your child to be the puppets teacher.  Use the puppets to breathe deeply (see #7). One of the puppet I have used is an elephant named Eddie. Create your own back story with your puppets, no matter what they’re made of and include your children in all of this!

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"Eddie the Elephant" is known for helping children and adults learn how to breathe!  You can accomplish that and much more with a handmade puppet from a sock.

5. Play Early Classical music for your children like Mozart, Bach, and Vivaldi.

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In 2004 I produced this great early classical compilation CD and it continues to be heavily requested.

6. Practice basic yoga with your children.  

There are plenty of free videos online.  Look for something that is at the beginner level and child-friendly.  This will set their body and mind up for success early on.

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7. Breathe deeply with your children when they wake up, before meals and before going to bed.

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Know that if you are a parent, you are a hero and if you see yourself as a hero, you’ll make one heck of a parent!