There are things that, as a parent, we teach our children.
It can be the basics, such as the preparation we go through before the start of their education. It’s predominantly parents who teach children how to tell the time, the beginning development of writing, and the basics of understanding how the world works. We encourage and nurture their learning, wanting to find ways to inspire their minds with the enjoyment of new information.
There is another aspect of parenting that is less structured and obvious – the way we handle ourselves. Children learn by seeing and doing; their parents are the beginning of their own social skills. They see our attitudes to work, to cleanliness, to other people and even household management – and they take them as a blueprint to form their own. Parenting is an ever-changing game as your children age and learn more. You can help yourself along with advice from the likes of www.taeq.us/, the usual book suspects if you’re old-school and even from your own parents as to their experiences. But there will always be a huge chunk of what you impart to your kids that you can’t get much advice on because it’s just the way you are.
It’s, therefore, worth thinking about the non-educational information we give to our children. The education that comes from their observations of us that we offer to them through going through our normal lives. Realizing that we are being observed continuously can be tricky – we all have moments when we fly off the handle and lose our temper! It’s human! – But it does mean we can use this to our advantage. We can redefine what it means to be a parent – not just the raising of a child, but in instilling them with values and kindness, for which the whole world would be better.
P for… Practical
There is a vein of thinking that suggests that millennials – the name for the current generation – are going to be a pampered lot. They won’t have any clue about how the world works; some even dismiss them as “snowflakes” who can’t handle reality.
As with most things, this is a massive overstatement. It’s all about the individual; the next generation is not going to be unable to live in society!
Nevertheless, there is a good reason to instill practical abilities in your kids. From knowing how to change a plug to why you should dry clothes outside in summer – it’s all useful. This might mean that you have to learn to do these things too, but that’s okay! It’s a learning process for everyone, and you’ll be better off – as will your children.
A for… Authority
You may expect that with a word like “authority,” we’ll continue along the lines of how it’s important to accept authority. Some even suggest accepting authority is a sign of maturity – but they’re wrong.
Independent thinking is a prized asset that you can give to your children. While they should always resist the urge to be rude, it’s healthy to question. In fact, it could be argued that not doing so is a bad sign – like lemmings off a cliff, to use an old – though incorrect, according to www.snopes.com/disney/films/lemmings.asp – expression. Teaching children that they should think for themselves and look for the logic behind instructions is a wonderful gift to give them.
It might mean you get a few snarky “but why should I clean my room?” questions – but remember, it’s positive that they ask. Their eyes are open and their minds clear, rather than just going through life by rote. Always be willing to explain an instruction you give to them.
R for… Responsive
You would be surprised by the number of people who don’t respond to things in an efficient manner.
Some of this comes from introversion. If you’re introverted, even responding to emails from people that you like and care about can be a task you have to grit your teeth to make yourself do.
Promptness, however, is a great tool to teach your children. One of the most natural ways that this is instilled is with thank you cards. While they may no longer be en vogue, there’s no doubt that receiving a personalized “thank you” through the mail after sending a gift is just plain nice.
So after every birthday and Christmas, ask your children to sit down and write notes – and make sure it’s done quickly. Explain how letting too much time pass can make the person feel that responding to them is not a priority and this can be upsetting. Passing this tenet on will help when it comes to responding to job opportunities, contact with friends and just a general sense of being polite.
E for… Excitement
The sense of wonder of childhood is one of the most delightful things most of us experience. When we grow up, cynicism takes its place, and we begin to become jaded. There are ways we can fight this by following the likes of www.psychologytoday.com/blog/compassion-matters/201212/is-cynicism-ruining-your-life guides and, in exchange, return some of our own excitement.
Encouraging your children to anticipate things, to find excitement in the mundane, is a healthy and loving aspect of bringing to their childhood. You can make even a dull grocery store trip more exciting by allowing them to race carts if the parking lot is empty – that kind of childish thinking will enrich both them and you.
N for… Nice
It sounds so simple it almost doesn’t need to be said; of course, you’re going to want your children to be nice! And you try to be nice too – jeez, is this really a point that needs making?
Yes. The thing is, most people think they’re nice – but most people also know someone who is not nice. That means there are people on this planet who think they’ve got their kind, nice; side nailed when… they really don’t.
It’s simple things like smiling at strangers, being polite, always trying to be considerate of the feelings of others. You could encourage your children to get involved in charity fundraising, so they experience another side of the world and gain their own appreciation for their place in it. I found this definitive guide to running a fundraising raffle, which looks super-useful for budding fundraisers. Bookmarking what seems to be an obvious thought has its benefits.
T for… Trust
While you should always teach your children to have a healthy distrust of strangers and people they meet online, there is another element of trust to consider. The trust we have in ourselves is essential to a healthy life. Self-doubt is the ruiner of happiness.
Live this yourself by trusting your instincts with child-rearing and the decisions you make around the home. Let them see that you are confident in your knowledge, even for basic things like how to fold origami or what food they should be eating for the maximum nutrients. You can learn these things of course, but then you have to trust in how you apply them.
Much of this means loosening the reins and letting your kids make their own choices from time-to-time. This might be something like letting them eat half an hour before dinner; letting them experience how it ruins their meal rather than just telling them it will. From this small seed, they will learn to listen to their body more – and, importantly, to trust you as their caregiver.
One of the biggest points that require trust is when they come to a decision about what they want to do regarding career. Of course, you’re going to want to help them to follow their dreams – so they should trust themselves enough to set on a course for something they truly want.
(Letter images courtesy of ractapopulous)