3 vital lessons to teach your children (that will 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. We can prompt them to use polite words and a kind tone of voice. But, how do they really learn respect? By being on the receiving end of it. 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
We want our kids to know how and when to admit they are wrong. When they are young and in the ego development phase of their lives, they will not be inclined to do so. This is where your consistent modelling of admitting fault and apologising comes in. Our children need to know we are human and make mistakes, just like they do. Since we have the more fully developed brains in the relationship, the onus is on us to go first. Admit it when you mess up. Say you’re sorry. Mean it. Make amends if needed, and move on. They will eventually learn to do the same.
3. Model emotional competence
Children experience their emotions intensely – just as we once did before we learned that expressing strong feelings was looked down upon. We’re inclined to “maintain” our emotions in front of children, but this is totally inauthentic. 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. 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. When we try to cover up how we feel, our children still know how we feel. Our denial merely confuses them and sends a mixed message.