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Teachable Moments - TENT Blog

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

The other day, I patiently stood in front of the soda pop fill station at a big warehouse grocer. There was a nice lady in her mid-30s ahead of me filling her pop.

To my right was a lovely older gentleman who had arrived before me. Suddenly, as the young lady in front of me moved from the pop stand, a 6-year-old little boy came swooping in and tucked himself up to the pop machine, ready to be next to fill his cup. I looked to my left, and the dad was patiently looking on.

Manners in Children

The older man and I looked at each other. “Excuse me, little sir,” I said. The young boy turned around. I continued, “This gentleman was in front of you waiting patiently. It would be nice to let him go next.”

The kid quickly got his soda, and the father scooted him away. The mature gentleman turned to me and smiled, saying, “That dad just missed out on a teachable moment.” I replied, “Things aren’t like they used to be.”

Teachable moments can be structured, such as in the classroom, or non-structured, such as everyday life lessons, which is the format I am referring to. These moments occur not during formal education but daily, at any time, in any situation.

Jacob Stewart in his Huffington Post article “Those Teachable Moments in a Standardized World” defines it best as “an opportunity to teach a valuable lesson to students outside the boundaries of lesson plans and education standards.”

Examples would be when you and your child run errands, socialize with the company, attend a movie screening, or at the park.

Teachable Moments can fall into several categories and are easily identifiable.

elder gentleman leaning over to shake young man's hand in nursing home

Social Mannerisms

These moments occur in social settings such as at a birthday party, a soccer game, a sleepover, or any other gathering. Often, manners are exhibited here, including being gracious, thanking the host, waiting patiently, showing kindness, and reflecting gratitude.

Emotional Regulation

You may find yourself at home and your child begging for dessert or at a sports team practice when your child is begging for dessert but has not eaten dinner. Or your child may experience losing his first game in a soccer match. You may see signs of frustration, anger, resentment, or disdain.

Personal Health

These moments arrive regularly during food choices at mealtime. Teaching your child to be active is very important nowadays. Scenarios may present themselves even when a child cuts his finger and needs to learn how to bandage it.


Even when watching TV or seeing a YouTube video together, the parent(s) have an opportunity to witness bullying, emotional attacks, swearing, or other parameters that do not meet your lifestyle. You can use it as an example and suggest a different solution that will be more constructive for the child.

“Mistakes are often teachable moments in disguise” - Ranal Currie

preschoolers balancing alphabet blocks outside

And remember: it is important to respond to teachable moments properly:

Be Positive and Upbeat

Use positive language such as “it would be great if” and “you know another way to respond could be”. Use an encouraging tone of voice.

Encourage Practicing the Behavior

You can encourage the child to mimic the behavior you have just taught him or her at every chance. Phrases such as ‘Please say…” and “Ask her/him if…” and even saying “Use your words” can go a long way.

Don’t Over Teach

Limit the lessons to five or seven a day. You’ll be surprised how frequently you start recognizing them. We don’t want to overwhelm the child or make them feel like they are always doing the wrong thing so choose wisely.

Encourage Personal Responsibility

If your child cuts in front of someone in line do not apologize on their behalf. Use it as a teachable moment for your child to take personal responsibility for their actions. Direct your child on the proper expression such as “Please say ‘I’m sorry” And make sure they follow through with actually saying it. They will see the appreciation in the other’s eyes.

Teachable moments are casual, effective tools to teach children about personal responsibility. And remember, there are no bad kids, just bad choices and kids have the power to make better choices at any time.

international girl


Stewart, Jacob. (2015). Those Teachable Moments in a Standardized World. Retrieved from

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