We all want our kids to grow up to be good people.
When I think of the sort of people I want my kids (son 11 and daughter 9) to be, I think of words like these:
Good… happy… kind… honest… trustworthy… fair… generous… hard-working… dedicated… genuine… thoughtful… responsible…
Everyone has their own vision of what they want their child to be as an adult. To get their child there isn’t hard: we just need to be consistent, solid people ourselves who model the behaviour we want our children to possess.
They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and it’s true. Parents who are responsible tend to raise responsible kids, and parents who steal raise up thieves.
We can say all the clever words in the world, but in the end our kids will practice what we practice. Our children will develop according to the behaviour we ourselves exhibit, not what we spout with empty words.
“Children may not obey, but children will listen, and see, and learn…”
Children may not obey, but children will watch and listen, paying attention to all you do. The following song is from the wonderful Stephen Sondheim musical, “Into The Woods”. Please listen.
When your child misbehaves, deal with it at immediately with appropriate consequences. Talk about how their behaviour affects others.
When a child has a tantrum, don’t let them get what they want because it’s easier than dealing with the ranting and yelling. And yes, teenagers have tantrums too! 😦
Be honest with your children, and create family rules that are fair for everyone.
Expect everyone to get decent sleep, to eat 3 meals a day of healthy food, to do work before play, to share the burden of household chores, to participate in family life instead of spending all time on devices or in front of screens.
Make sure the same rules apply to yourself too.
And apply society’s rules in your own home. This teaches kids that the rules apply to everyone, and that the law matters. Follow DVD and game age guidelines and recommendations, and don’t let your child watch or play dangerous, violent or adult-related content, no matter how “mature” you think they are.
Teach discipline with keeping rooms and common areas tidy, reducing clutter, cleaning regularly. Children need a clean, safe home, and want to be proud to invite friends over when a home feels like a home, not a dump. They feel shame when their home is a mess. Your child should never have to refuse friends a visit because the house is untidy.
Teach kids the value of money. Explain when items cost too much, and question the sense of receiving everything they want. Talk about respect for belongings, the value of work, and the importance of the environment.
Discuss the abuse of natural resources that is taking place due to consumerism. Teach your child to think through what all the stuff in our lives means for wild animals, river systems, wetlands and oceans.
So teach your child consequences. The law of cause and effect.
Talk about how it feels to be stolen from, and why stealing is wrong.
Talk about how it feels to be bullied, and why bullying is wrong.
Talk about safe homes and unsafe people, and how it feels to be safe, to keep others safe, and respect consent.
Talk about sex, and why sex is always, always between people who want to be there and choose to do whatever is happening.
None of this stuff is hard. Not one bit of it. But it’s all the work of parenthood that goes into raising a terrific kid, bit by bit, one drop at a time. Show them who you are, and by doing so you’ll show them who to be.