There is a lot that comes with being a parent, but a majority of parenting is learning as you go. As a parent, you know there is no handbook or rules for what to teach our children, and oftentimes, we wish there was.
When you think about what kind of person you want your child to be, what comes to mind? What lessons will you teach your child and how will you do that?
Unfortunately, we often hear “children are so entitled these days”, “when I was little we played outside, but they rely on those video games”, and we can’t forget that “children have become so soft.” When in reality, times have changed.
Children are extremely impressionable and eager to learn. It is our responsibility as parents to teach our children valuable lessons that will take them far into adulthood and help with their future successes.
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Teach your children the value in volunteering. There is something powerful about sharing your time. It’s one thing to give money or to donate goods, but it’s even better to donate your time. Time is precious and you cannot get that back.
While volunteering, children will learn the importance of community, and how this will benefit their community. Giving back is a great way to learn teamwork and how to effectively work with others well. This is demonstrating that all people matter and that we are all called to serve others.
My grandmother would take me to churches and soup kitchens when I was a child, and that is something I want my children to experience as well. I was young, maybe 6 or 7. There, I learned how to speak up and communicate with other adults, confidence (because I was often stepping out of my comfort zone), flexibility (because they would tell us where we needed to be and what needed to be done), and organization.
Did you know that volunteering is good for your health, both mental and physical? It’s true! Giving back allows you to focus on the importance of that moment you are in, decreasing stress levels and increasing your sense of purpose in life. Take a look at this infographic from UnitedHealth.
Our children are always watching and listening, so it’s important to be kind. We teach kindness by simply modeling it ourselves. I remind my children often that people will always remember how you make them feel, so make them feel good.
Becoming a mom has helped me to be more kind and accepting overall. Patience is learned, almost forced actually, and we become more self-aware. For instance, you are driving to the store, kids in tow, and another car cuts you off, forcing you to hit the breaks. You’re annoyed and probably want to say a few choice words, but you stop and remember that your kids will hear you and probably repeat it. Even in small moments like that, you are showing your children how to respond to a negative situation.
Children should always know how to respond with kindness, no matter what the situation. It’s also important to remind children that they are human and have big emotions; how we handle situations is what matters most.
We should also acknowledge our children for acts of kindness they are doing in and out of the community. This could be as simple as holding the door for someone, or letting an elder or a pregnant woman go ahead of them in line at the store. By praising them, we are acknowledging that we see and are proud of their decisions.
Friends will upset us at some point, feelings will be hurt and patience will be tested, but forgiveness and grace will shine a spotlight on the kind of person we truly are.
Again, this comes back to us as parents and how we handle ourselves with others. It’s healthy to have disagreements and to feel upset with others, but it’s even healthier to forgive and let go. And that is the true value in the lesson of forgiveness.
Keep in mind that children are still learning important aspects of communication and how to nurture relationships, so for young children, a simple smile or hug will do. You cannot force someone to move on from their hurt, but by teaching them to see the good in others, we are setting a foundation for lasting relationships and happiness.
When children misbehave or become disrespectful, it’s easy for adults / parents to become angry. It’s important for us to remain calm and find the reason behind the behavior and disrespect. All too often, it is simply children being children. Set clear expectations so they understand what is appropriate and what is not.
It is up to parents to speak to children with respect and model respect for children. Picture this: you are working at your desk and your child appears, “Mom, I need food. I’m really hungry.” Seems simple enough, right? But how we respond will make all the difference in how the situation ends.
Being interrupted, you are annoyed and immediately snap back, “Can’t you see that I am working? Don’t interrupt me!” You surely wouldn’t speak to a coworker in that way, so why should our children be treated differently? When you speak to your children with a rude and disrespectful tone, they will quickly pick up on it and this could easily damage their self-esteem and trust in you. If children witness adults speaking to others like this, they will accept this as normal behavior, when in fact, it is not.
Similarly, teach children to respect others’ preferences. Just as my 3 year old often enjoys wearing mismatched clothes and socks with her sandals, we need to respect her preference to do so. Of course this might seem miniscule compared to the real world and adulthood, but each little lesson we teach will eventually make a big impact on them in the long run. Confession: mismatched clothing and socks with sandals makes the OCD in me cry out in pain. But I know others find their sense of style at that age endearing. I haven’t reached that point yet.
When children learn to respect others’ wishes and qualities they have, they become more accepting and inclusive of others. Growing up in the real world, it won’t take children long to see the variety of people out there, and hopefully they can appreciate that.
Respect should not stop at others. Teach your children to respect themselves as well. We can achieve this by respecting our children’s personal space and emotional wellbeing. Show your children how much you love yourself by practicing self-care and using daily affirmations.
Take the 7 Day Self-Love Challenge with journal prompts.
Work ethic is so important for today’s youth. This will only set them up for success in the future. Children will also see this modeled by parents. And believe it or not, most children actually enjoy contributing to the home, as this can help them to feel valuable.
As parents, it is our responsibility to teach and model a strong and positive work ethic for our children. I have a 3 year old and a 6 year old who each have weekly chores. Simply establish, enforce and reward their efforts and the tasks they complete in order to maintain a consistent routine. Make sure the tasks you set for each child are age-appropriate so they are able to successfully complete them on their own.
Another way to teach a strong work ethic is to allow children to do some tasks on their own, independent of anyone else’s assistance. This will teach them how to problem solve; if one way of doing something does not work, they must find another way. When children gain independence, they also gain confidence. In the long run, children will be more inclined to try new things and to do so without giving up.
What are some lessons important to YOU that you hope to teach your children? I would love to hear them in the comments below.