It would be so much easier if our children came with handbooks. I can remember writing a “how to take care of Fletcher” guide for my mom the first time he stayed with her for more than a couple of minutes. Unfortunately, they don’t come with any instructions specifically for them, but we can generalize some things that need to be taught to them at a young age.
- Gratitude/Compassion Ann Voskamp wrote a great book called One Thousand Gifts. It’s in realizing how blessed we are that we can have compassion for others. Teaching our children to be less self-centered is a difficult task, but with modeling it can be done. Daily expressing gratitude for what we do have instead of complaining about what we don’t is a great way to start. As they get older doing service projects as a family is another way to teach your children that we as Americans are so blessed and that others are not as lucky. Start with small projects such as Operation Shoebox and let your children choose some gifts to mail to children less fortunate. TPK supports a little girl at St. Nicholas Children’s Home in Kenya. Have your child do extra chores for money to donate to Supa’s care.
- Resilience One of my neighbor’s children was applying to college a couple of years ago. He was supposed to write an essay on one time that he failed and what lessons he learned from it. His parents were chagrined to realize that they had never let him fail. We need to let our children make their mistakes and learn how to come back from them. We need to teach our children to take responsibility for their actions. We need to not stress perfection, but effort.
- Healthy Living Eating healthy, brushing your teeth, exercising. Good habits start young. With our ever-increasing dependence on technology, getting outside to play and exercise is declining. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates limited their children’s access to technology according to an August 3, 2018 Popular Science Article. Put your own screen down; get up and get moving with your children. Eat more veggies and less sugary snacks.
- Faith “It will make life worth living. Period. A faith-based life will help your children make sense of the world around them. Model faith for your kids. Pray. Attend worship services. Practice good deeds of kindness. Let them see you live your faith.” (Imom)
- Learning Read to your children, read read read. I could write a whole article on this topic. As adults we need to continue learning and show that learning is fun. Learn how to fix your car, speak a new language, cook…I took pottery lessons a couple of years ago. It gave me such an insight into what my children were going through on a daily basis. I was an awful potter; I wanted to quit, but my children were watching. I had to persevere and learned enough to make everyone’s Christmas present that year. It was a great lesson for both my children and me.
Most of these items require one main thing from parents – to model the behavior that you want your children to have. It is sometimes painful or inconvenient, but in the end, so very worth it.