“What are the most important things I can teach my child?” It’s a big question that we all ask ourselves as parents. Being a parent comes with extraordinary responsibility – it is our job to nurture, support, and teach our children. As if that pressure weren’t enough, we are somehow supposed to balance that with the paranoia bred out of the unconditional love we feel for this person we created. Author Elizabeth Stone put it best: “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
When our “walking hearts” are babies, we are bedraggled and exhausted, doing our best to keep them from eating the dog’s food or smearing finger paint all over the walls. In those moments, it’s hard to think about the values you’re instilling in your child each day, but you are doing so! You are shaping and molding that little person into the big person they will become! Here are some of the most important things you can teach your child.
What Are the Most Important Things I Can Teach My Child?
Teach them to fish.
My husband takes this both figuratively and literally (Spiderman fishing rod, anyone?). I’m an enabler by nature, and thankfully he is not. I have learned from him as I’ve watched how phenomenal he is at including our children in household chores, preparing meals, shopping, etc. When kids are young, they so badly want to be included; even though you may need to re-wash the dishes once the kids are in bed, letting them feel the sense of responsibility and self-worth is crucial to creating capable teenagers and adults.
Teach them to respect diversity.
We are surrounded by people who are dissimilar from us – whether it’s appearance, religion, language, or ability. And every last one of us has beautiful, unique gifts to share with our community and the world. Our children come into the world with a curiosity about differences, and you can shape that curiosity to remain positive. For example, in my son’s preschool class are several differently-abled peers, and we discuss how he can be a good friend to all of his classmates.
Teach them to have a positive self-image.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but this one starts with us. If you say unkind things about yourself, your kids will notice and eventually begin to do the same thing. I’m definitely guilty of this one. Hearing my kids mimic some of my negative self-talk breaks my heart, and I have been working hard at changing the way I speak and act around them. Also, make sure to give your kids lots of encouragement and praise, even for small successes, and make time for them! Your undivided time and attention reinforces their importance and establishes their self-worth.
Teach them how to lose and persevere.
In a world of participation trophies, this is hard! Learning how to lose gracefully is critical to teaching coping mechanisms for the inevitable disappointments your kids will experience throughout their lives. This also goes back to self-worth. If your son tried his best and lost the baseball game anyway, it doesn’t mean he is terrible at baseball and should quit. There are so many valuable lessons in losing!
Teach them to be curious and think critically.
Answer those 700 questions your 3-year-old asks each day. It may get overwhelming, but their natural curiosity shows an active and engaged mind. Foster that curiosity by having a discussion about what they ask; turn it around and ask them what they think. You’ll be amazed at what insightful things will come out of their mouths!
Teach them to love.
We all know the importance of snuggling, hugging, and kissing our kids. But is that really teaching them to love? Love is a feeling, but it’s also an action. If you have a partner, show your kids how you love that person – as small as fixing their morning coffee or as large as disagreeing with respect. Teach your kids to love the earth by discussing recycling or visiting a nature preserve. Show your kids that loving your neighbors means donating toys they no longer use or serving at a food pantry. Learning the action of love at a young age will create a lifelong desire to help others.
A colleague of mine says our kids come through us, not from us. Our job is to shape the person they start out with into the person they will become. There’s no better job if you ask me.
Is there anything you think should be added to the list? What valuable lessons do you focus on teaching your kids, and how do you teach them?