It is a very large job we take on as parents, is it not? Even if we leave all of the book-learning to school, (which of course we won’t), we still have a lot of other matters of importance on which we can focus our teaching efforts. Kids have a lot to learn. So do we, even though we are adults; perhaps though, through life, and years, and experiences, we have a few insights to offer. Maybe.
What can we teach our kids?
Compassion – We teach our kids to be the example kid in class. We teach them to the one that their classmates go home and tell their parents about at the dinner table because they admire them so. We want them to be the kid that other kids want to be, and not because they are the smartest or the coolest, the fastest or the funniest. Those other kids want to be like ours because ours are the kindest and because they reach out and they include.
Bravery – We teach our kids that sometimes we have to do things that are scary and big. Sometimes we have to do things we are afraid to do. Even big people suffer from fear. We teach them that by doing these scary things, we grow a little bit, and learn a lot. The world is full of scary things; still, we don’t cower. We teach our children how to take a deep breath, and to find our way. The second time won’t be as scary.
Social skills and Manners – Children are little monkeys, mimicking what they see their favorite big people doing. They see the food choices we make. They hear the words we use. They see the actions we take. Both good and bad behaviors and interactions; they see – and absorb – it all. We teach our kids to be the force that embraces rather than rejects. By encouraging our kids to use those big hearts of theirs, and including, we are teaching our kids the beauty of friendship. One can never have too many friends. Lessons can come from more than just books and the classroom. Lessons can be learned anywhere, and you never know from whom you will gain knowledge. Teachers? Absolutely an invaluable resource. Friends? Yes, them too. Those they have not yet had the privilege of meeting? One can never know, so it is best to reach out and include.
Acceptance – We teach our kids that we love them. No.Matter.What. No school or athletic accomplishments can change that; being ‘best’ does not add to that. They do not have to earn our love or pride and they cannot lose it. There will be scores of contests at school and in life; we don’t care if they win a single one of them. We don’t care about straight A’s, if the other kids think they are cute/handsome/beautiful or if they are picked first or last for soccer during class break. We don’t care about being the teacher’s favorite or if they are the pill in the back row. (Well, okay, maybe just a little bit.) There’s no need to have the most art pieces, or to have the best handwriting. We teach our kids that they are loved. Period. Children who are confident in the affection of their parents are happier, more settled, more even-tempered, and more confident.
Values, Preferences and Tolerances – What and who are important to you will likely in turn be important to your kids. Our goal as parents is to make a positive mark on our children’s behaviors, sure, but also on their hearts. We teach our kids to be 100% themselves, to be proud of who that person is, and to help others be all that they can be as well. There is much less to be angry about when we realize what we believe in and stand for does not necessarily resonate for everyone else. And that is 100% okay.
Words and actions matter – We teach our children that they are responsible for their actions. Their actions matter. What one does, every day, has an impact on another person. It is important to be the one taking deliberate action. You are the one acting. Every person is impacting others. Every person is also the one choosing whether to have a positive or a negative impact. We teach our children to choose wisely; it is important. Small words, but generous actions. And they make a big difference. It's powerful to see when kids see how big of an impact their caring words can have on others. Words are tools one can use to create warmth, harmony and inclusivity. Words are also tools one can use to harm and impair. It is important to consider wisely the impact one has.
Grit – We teach our children when we fall or fail, we don’t give up. When we don’t hit our mark, we don’t throw our hands up. When we step back, it isn’t to turn around and leave, but to take a better look, and see how we can try again and maybe do better.
Gratitude – We teach our children that with gratitude comes awareness of what and who are around us; with gratitude we are more well-balanced and self-aware of our abilities; with gratitude we are more open and joyful. We teach our kids that a grateful person is a more settled, content and happy person.
Home – We teach our kids how we define ‘home’ and why that is important. Beyond values, we all define ‘home’ in a manner that is unique to us. In our home, we embrace where we come from, where we’ve been, and where we’d like to go. We bring Grandma and Grandpa with us, even if they physically reside on a different continent. We Skype, Facetime and Message to keep extended family as present as possible. We bring foods and sounds from home, we wrap these pieces around our little corner of the world, and turn it into a pocket all our own. Pictures, sounds, smells, tastes – all glued together in a puzzle that perfectly depicts ‘home’. The amazing thing is, no matter how many times we move, no matter how far we travel, we can create this home.
Are we the greatest of educators? Maybe, for certain things. What I know for sure is that the lessons we teach our children are life-long and far-reaching. And maybe, just maybe, they serve us as well as they do our kids.