We all know that kids like to repeat things often, but it’s good for us to repeat things to them as well. Here are some reasons why repetition is important to children.
If you are a mother, then by now you are very familiar with repeating. We repeat so many activities all day long every day. Day in and day out. In fact, some days it feels like our life is characterized by the things we constantly do on a daily basis. I may get bored of the mundane domestic cycles, but my kids actually thrive on it.
But aside from all the activities we repeat day in and day out, I believe it’s important that we verbally repeat many things those first weeks, months, and years of our kids’ lives. I believe repetition, like consistency, is key to our children grasping many of our values and truths. It’s also key in teaching children what we expect of them so they can make good choices.
Here are some ways to use repetition to benefit your child.
1. Repeat what’s happening next.
When they are older you will be able to say one direction, or even a word, and they’ll follow you. When children are young, I feel they benefit from frequent explanations and repetitions. For example, if the kids are playing outside and lunchtime is in twenty minutes, I will explain and repeat at least two or three times before asking them to come in. “Lunch is in 20 minutes” and again “In a few minutes you must come in for lunch.”
This repetition gives them a chance to get prepared for what’s next. This is particularly helpful if it is not going to be as pleasing as what they’re already doing. This garners cooperation, buy in, and security, particularly for the oldest child birth order.
2. Repeat to help clarify concepts.
I tend to expect a lot from my kids. It’s obvious to me they are bright and, mistakenly, I often think they read my mind. What I’ve learned to do – though it goes against my nature – is to repeat the reason why along with the instructions many many times. If they are doing something they know they shouldn’t, there will be a consequence, but in matters of instruction or cooperation, I’ll often repeat myself over and over again.
For example, when they tell me that something I’ve cooked is “yucky.” Lucky for me I’m not easily offended, but this is still rude. So every time this word (or a variation) is said when they’re served a plate full of vegetables or quinoa or something good, I’ll say something like, “It’s very rude to say that food is yucky or bad when someone has taken the time to cook it for you. Try it first, and then if it isn’t nice keep it to yourself or share it privately.” Because I give this same speech every time it’s applicable, it’s helping a young mind understand a broader concept.
3. Repeat to let them know you mean business.
Our children love to know we mean business. It brings safety and security. It may sound funny, but I totally believe it. If they know exactly where they stand then that is safe. It is the same principle used to explain why boundaries are so important. Boundaries provide a clear safe area that is not off-limits. Repeating our expectations and ideas to our children – in non-confrontational situations – help show them we mean what we say.
If we say one thing and do another we confuse them. If we tell them to do something and don’t expect them follow through, we lose authority. Imagine your boss said you’d be in serious trouble if your next report was late, and when it was he did nothing. You’d quickly stop taking him at his word. Then, when he finally did decide to reprimand or fire you, you’d feel cheated! Our children respond to us similarly.
4. Repeat to emphasize values.
Whether we are repeating instructions, our family values, or general rules of behavior, the more we repeat something the more we identify with it. Someone said we must do something 21 times to make a habit. If you are repeating the concept that we help one another, not hurt one another, think of the impact it will have after it’s been generally accepted. After hearing it a few times your children will accept that it’s how the house goes and, pretty soon, you’ll hear them telling that same phrase to each other. It’s important value phrases like these that your children will remember and tell their children who will tell their children. Who doesn’t love hearing what grandmother used to say?
5. Repeat to give instill confidence.
I believe that preparing our children for new and different social situations is a great tool. Some personalities and people find situations with many people daunting, even as adults. Imagine how it is for children. I mean honestly, they are surrounded by others twice their size all staring down at them. That is slightly intimidating even for a confident child. By explaining “we need to tell Miss Julie hello when we see her” or “be sure to thank Mr. Nelson for the present” and “when we sing in church I want you to stand by mommy” or “don’t forget to say you need to use the bathroom when you have to go potty” we are preparing them for likely situations. When kids know what’s next they are more confident. If you are going to a special event then use the days leading up to it to prepare them through explanation and repetition.
I often have unreasonably high expectations of what my children should do. Sometimes, without having warned them or explained a situation, they will do naturally what children do and I’ll get ticked off. I have to remind myself that I’m the adult and they are the children and it’s my job to show them the way.
Part of the way I do this is by frequently and repetitively preparing the for upcoming situations and for general rules that relate to our house ethos. I am pleasantly surprised to find that they almost always respond positively to me when I’ve prepared them in this way.
Repetition is a favor we can do for our children.
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