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How to Teach Wisdom to Children

by Patti Richards

As a parent, one of your goals is to teach your child to be wise. But when your preschooler's favorite game is putting a trash can on his head, it's hard to imagine there's wisdom in there just waiting to get out. Wisdom is an idea rather than something concrete, so modeling wisdom though examples of good, better and best behavior is the best place to begin. Showing your child the difference between wise and inappropriate decisions -- and the consequences of each -- helps him get a sense of what wisdom looks like. Help your preschooler catch wisdom a little at a time through stories and other teachable moments.

Choose a book to share with your child that demonstrates making choices. Aesop’s "The Fox and the Grapes" fable is a good option. In the story, the fox is thirsty and wants to get a bunch of grapes that are hanging too far out of his reach. Talk to your child about something she has worked hard on, like picking up her toys, and how good she felt when she was done. Tell her that the two of you are going to read a story about someone else who worked hard but wasn't happy when he finished.

Look at the pictures that go with the story and let your child tell you what she thinks the story will be about based on what she sees. Say things like, "I think the fox looks hungry or thirsty, don't you? See how he is looking at the grapes? Do you think he will try and get them?"

Read the story out loud taking time to point out in the pictures what the story is talking about. At the end of the story ask your child, "Why do you think the fox was so angry? Why did he say the grapes were probably sour, anyway?"

Look back through the book again and let your child tell you the story this time in her own words. Point to the pictures as she is telling the story, and ask questions like, "Do you think the fox will get the grapes this time? Did the grapes change during the story, or did the fox just get frustrated?" Talk about a time during the day when your child got frustrated. "Remember today when you were having a hard time stacking your blocks? It made the blocks seem like they weren't good anymore, but you kept trying and started having fun again."

Read another fable like, "The Tortoise and the Hare." Make up another ending to the story together based on different choices the characters could have made. Ask your child, "What would have happened if the hare had not been so boastful and taken a nap in the middle of the race? What if the hare had helped the tortoise and they both finished together? Do you think they would have been friends?"

Talk to your child about wisdom in terms of the choices each character made in the two stories. Tell your child what wisdom means, and ask her which character was the wise one and what choice prove this.

Ask your child to think about a choice she made during the day. Point out times during the day that you noticed her making a good choice, like playing nicely with a friend or sharing toys with brothers or sisters. Compare her choices to the characters in the story and say, "When you shared your toys you were being wise like the tortoise."

Tip

  • Teaching wisdom is an ongoing process. Fables and other stories that teach lessons in wisdom make for great bedtime reading. Quiet bedtime conversations about the day help the concept of wisdom sink in.

About the Author

Patti Richards has been a writer since 1990. She writes children’s books and articles on parenting, women's health and education. Her credits include San Diego Family Magazine, Metro Parent Magazine, Boys' Quest Magazine and many others. Richards has a Bachelor of Science in English/secondary education from Welch College.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images