When kids are born, they come into this world with no information. None. That can seem like a blessing and a curse if you're a parent. It’s up to you, as a parent, to teach your children not only how to drink out of a regular cup, but also how to develop good morals, live a values-driven life, and become a valuable, contributing member of society.
With my own boys, I've learned that there are some simple ways to make this less intimidating (and just for the record, you'll probably never really feel like you've got it figured out and know exactly what you're doing. Parenting is trail and error, and as your kids grow and change and become more independent, the techniques you use to teach them those all important life lessons will change as well).
Here are a few tips to help you get more intentional about how and when you teach your kids these all important life lessons.
Lead By Example
There's a song in the Broadway musical "Into the Woods" that goes, "Careful the things you say, children will listen. Careful the things you do, children will see." No matter what you're doing, as a parent, you're being watched. The good news about this is that it makes you a better person. When you show up as someone your kids want to emulate, you make better choices yourself.
Whenever Possible, Eat Dinners Together as a Family
Get the family together for dinners at least three times a week. We know that once they get older, kids will stay at their friend’s houses longer and most likely have dinner there once in awhile, so when they’re in their teens, three times a week can be a challenge, but should be doable. Getting together for family dinners gives your kids a more stable and healthy life. And please, turn off the t.v. and talk to your kids during dinner. It's a good habit to start when they're young.
Remember to Say No
Kids need to learn to delay gratification. You can’t always get what you want in life and children have to learn that as well. Plus, kids will soon learn that if they don’t push back to much or at all, they’ll get what they want sooner than they think.
Take Care of Yourself
As a parent, it’s hard to remember to put yourself first. You get up, get the kids ready for school, go to work, come home to chores, fix dinner, and get the kids to bed. By then, if you're like most parents, you're exhausted and ready to fall into bed yourself. There’s not usually time to soak in the tub or read a good book or even time for the gym unless you make it. If you take some time to take care of yourself now, you’ll be happier and more fun to be around.
Let Them Fail
It sounds harsh, but kids [and adults] learn more from failing sometimes. It’s all about getting back in the saddle right? Once they fall, you’ll encourage them to try again and they’ll then understand that they can succeed, even if it takes them a few tries. It's one of the most difficult things we do as parents, as also one of the most important. Natural consequences, I've found, are the best for teaching my kids the tough lessons in life that make lasting impressions and form their character.
This is just a partial list, but hopefully it's gotten you thinking about how and what you're teaching your kids about being good people and making their own empowered choices.