Before having children, we all have lofty goals about what they will and will not do.
They wont have too much screen time.
They won’t eat processed foods or lots of sugar.
They won’t have tantrums in public.
They won’t sleep in our beds.
The list goes on and on.
For me, as a parent of three, most of that went out the window the minute the crazy, relentless reality of child wrangling kicked in.
My main goal now is simple: To raise good humans.
Or, to quote a friend during a texted conversation about our kids: #tryingnottoraiseareseholes
Raising good humans is harder than it sounds. Even if you fancy yourself a decent person and good role model to your kids, they have exposure to so many external influences beyond our control. Friends, family, classmates, TV, video games, the Internet and social media all provide examples of how, and how not, to act. It is our job as parents to teach them to distinguish right from wrong and to enable them to make good choices.
To be honest, it’s a responsibility that scares the heck out of me.
Beyond the basics of don’t lie, cheat or steal, here are some things we can do to ensure our kids are on the path to being good humans:
- Teach them kindness.
Model it and show them lots of examples of it. Encourage them to be kind to the people they love and to strangers alike. Also teach them to be kind to animals and have respect for property. Involve them in the community and show them the benefits of giving without receiving anything in return. Simple things like giving their old toys to charity, donating food to the local animal shelter or doing small random acts of kindness are great ways of modelling kindness to our kids. Don’t forget to teach them to be kind to themselves too – a lesson we could all do with!
- Teach them to acknowledge their feelings.
Processing feelings is a complicated thing and doesn’t come naturally to everyone. This is especially the case if you have grown up in an environment where feelings aren’t discussed. Teaching your kids to name their feelings, sit with them and process them is a powerful life skill. Let them know it’s ok to feel what they feel, and its ok to talk about it. Help them develop healthy ways to deal with feelings like anger so they do not bottle them up. It’s especially important they learn not to take their feelings out on other people. Facing your own demons and learning how to manage your own emotions may be a big part of helping your child develop these skills.
- Teach them to say sorry.
Those 5 letters can mean so much. Make sure you use it yourself to show them that no one is infallible and it’s ok to make mistakes. I often apologise to my children if I lose my cool when they are misbehaving. That doesn’t excuse their behaviour or negate their role in the situation. Saying sorry acknowledges the impact you have had on someone else’s feelings, regardless of who was right or wrong.
- Teach them about money.
Teach them it must be earned, that not everyone has it and to use it wisely. It’s also important to teach them that money and things are not the be all and end all. Since becoming a sole parent, belts have been tightened around here and the kids don’t always get what they want. To avoid resentment and to teach them appreciation for what they do get, I am open with them about our money situation and where the bulk of the money goes. Kids often don’t realise you need to pay for things like power, water and Wi-Fi! This also helps with another important life skill – gratitude.
- Teach them to stand on their own two feet.
I think this can be one of the toughest things for a parent to do. Our natural instinct is to shelter and protect our children. But often this doesn’t do them any favours. There comes a time when our kids must fight their own battles and learn to stand on their own two feet. Try to avoid getting involved in playground politics and friendship disputes unless there is inappropriate or dangerous behaviour. Guide your child and give them the tools to make the right choices, but don’t do it for them because you won’t always be there. The problem solving skills they will learn will be invaluable.
There are so many things we can do as parents to try to instil good values into our kids. Teach them humility, empathy, to be good global citizens, to respect other people’s choices… But by starting with these essential life skills, you are building a great foundation on which to raise good humans.