Educating children during their childhood is always complex ; there are many things to take into account, and it is obvious that babies do not come with an instruction manual.

In fact, there are several patterns of behaviour and thinking of children that are particular to this age group. Therefore, unless we make an effort to understand them, their upbringing becomes very complicated.

7 tips for educating children from the family context

As a parent and as a clinical psychologist with more than 25 years of experience, I have seen that in many families the same mistakes tend to be repeated over and over again with regard to the education of young children in the family setting .

In fact, this led me to write the book Guía para papás y madres en apuros , in which I explain in a simple way several tips and recommendations regarding the upbringing and education of the little ones in the house, as well as several guidelines for taking care of yourself as a parent and not suffering too much psychological wear (or simply fatigue).

In the following lines you will find a summary of several of the main ideas contained in the book and which I believe are very useful for educating children beyond school , in the family environment.

1. Children are not miniature adults

One of the basic principles of child psychology is that children are not half-baked adults. On the contrary, they have their own way of interpreting reality and of relating to their environment ; a psychological system present in childhood that, although it has its defects, does not need to be “filled in” with information constantly in order to mature earlier.

That is why pressuring children to learn as quickly as possible does not make sense. Many of the things that we try to teach them by force will not be understood in the way that we want them to understand them, and that will probably only make them feel rejected by a large part of the educational initiatives that they will encounter in the coming years.

Moreover, children’s learning often takes place in situations that, from our adult perspective, we might perceive as “wasting time”: play, dialogue with friends , etc. If they are curious and given to exploration from their first months of life, it is for a reason.

2. Punishment does not equal physical suffering

Unfortunately, there is still a tendency to associate punishment with physical aggression, the habit of causing pain to the child who has misbehaved. This means that, for some families, the “common sense” idea that inappropriate acts should be punished becomes the normalisation of violence towards children, something that is totally harmful and not only generates suffering, but also can make the education that these children receive much worse .

But this belief also has another effect; it leads some families to assume that, for example, denying a child the possibility of going out to play for several hours is more or less like hitting him. The trivialisation of physical violence thus acts in several directions : on the one hand it normalises it, and on the other it stigmatises the legitimate use of non-physical methods of punishment that can be effective in certain contexts.

3. Growing up is not inherently painful

It is true that during childhood both boys and girls burn out stages of their development quickly, from one year to the next, and that this can present them with many challenges and put them under some pressure at certain stages of life (especially as they progress towards puberty).

However, there is no stage of life that is intrinsically painful, or that is “too hard” and requires them to heal in suffering. If a child shows clear signs of having a hard time , it does not mean that he is learning to face challenges or to take care of himself in the face of life’s demands. He or she may be experiencing childhood depression or any other psychological disorder from which childhood is not exempt, and it is important to see a professional.

4. The educational power of friends must be valued

As parents, we have a lot of information and experience about how the world works, and it is clear that this is very useful to our children.

However, as regards non-formal education (i.e. education that takes place spontaneously outside the classroom), much of the content that our children will learn and the roles that they will try to imitate are not in us, but in the children of their age. Especially when they grow up and go through puberty, young people of their age or slightly older become their reference , what our children most notice.

We must take this into account in order to assume our humble role in his education, on the one hand, and not to blame us unjustifiably if for some reason he learns problematic behaviour patterns with which he has only come into contact outside the home.

5. Preaching by example

As we have seen so far, spontaneous learning that takes place in free time is a very relevant part of children’s education during childhood. Therefore, as parents we must set an example of the values we learn to transmit to them . For them, anything that seems to be limited only to the world of theory is not very interesting.

6. Pataletas are a challenge, but they must be met with stoicism

Temper tantrums and tantrums are never pleasant, and if they are repeated a lot, they can become very overwhelming and have a significant impact on our stress levels. However, this discomfort should not justify us behaving in a similar way, using those moments to vent and yell at our son or daughter. One bad action does not cancel another bad action , and beyond a purely moral analysis, it is also not something that will make his or her behaviour better.

7. Clear guidelines must be given

One of the aspects that best defines the success of child education during upbringing is the ability to remain consistent with the standards of behavior we propose. Therefore, we must pay attention when thinking about the consequences of these rules once they have been explained to the children of the house. Will we be able to implement them? Will we be able to comply with them ourselves?

Anything that makes us change the rules as we go along, improvising depending on what happens, takes away from the habit of respecting certain rules. There is always room for readjustments and corrections in time, but they should be the exception, not the rule.

Are you interested in knowing more?

If you are interested in learning more about raising and educating children from within the family, you can consult my book Guide for parents in difficulty , or contact me to attend psychological assistance sessions in person or online.

Bibliographic references:

  • Butterworth, G.; Harris, M. (1994). Principles of Developmental Psychology. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Cromdal, J. (2009). Childhood and social interaction in everyday life: Introduction to the special issue. Journal of Pragmatics. 41 (8): 1473 – 1476.
  • Figuereido, S.M., de Abreu, L.C., Rolim, M.L. y Celestino, F.T. (2013). Childhood depression: a systematic review. Enfermedad neuropsiquiátrica y tratamiento, 9, 1417 – 1425.