3 small – but vital – lessons to teach your kids (that'll make them better people)
Sometimes words are not enough.
When it comes to trying to teach our children something, be it to eat healthier or to give things their best shot (be it with homework or on the football field), leading by example can often be far more effective than just speaking the words to them.
Because the thing is, as parents, whether we remember at all times or not, the kids watch and imitate us all the time – which can be both good and also slightly terrifying, no?
When it comes to good things to teach our children, some of the most important ones are actually taught by less words and more action – like these:
1. Show respect
Sure, we can ask our kids to respect us and others. But how do you even get them to understand what it means – other than you feeding them polite words to use and reminding them about their tone of voice.
No, to really learn respect, you have to allow them to be at the receiving end of it. And yes, it can be hard to remember that toddlers and preschoolers (not to mention feisty school-aged kids and surly teens) are intelligent human beings. But they are. Intelligent, whole humans, completely deserving of your love, attention and respect.
Often, developmental drives push their behaviour in directions we dislike. If we can keep their wholeness at the forefront of our minds, we can likely respond better – and with more love and respect.
2. Be humble
Being able to admit defeat, or simply own up to being wrong at times – which we all are, every single one of us, is something we have to teach our children, and teach them how to do it well.
And like with most things, modelling this for your children to see from an early age, is where it is at. This is where your consistent modelling of admitting fault and apologising comes in.
Kids need to know us adults, especially us parents, are human and make mistakes, just like they do. What this means, of course, is that you need to admit it when you mess up. Because you will at times – we all do. Say you’re sorry. And mean it. Make amends if needed, and move on.
Trust me, they will eventually learn to do the same.
3. Model emotional competence
Children experience their emotions intensely – as all parents will know.
When it comes to adults, we are so inclined to “maintain” our emotions in front of children, but guys – come on – this is totally inauthentic.
I am a firm believer in that kids need to know that emotions are OK to have, feel and express. Fear, sadness, grief, anger, joy, delight – all emotions are part of being human. And we all feel them. To normalise having feelings, let your children know that feelings are messages from within. They let us know where we are internally (“How am I doing right now?”) and help us assess where we are externally (“Whoa, is this area safe?”).
As social creatures, we are wired to tune into the emotions of others. It's just who we are. And when we try to cover up how we feel, our children still know how we feel. Kids are smart that way. And our denial merely confuses them and sends a mixed message.