Everyone wants to have perfect kids, or, everyone wants to teach their kids lessons that help them to turn out right. While the worried or concerned parent might wish to consult expert advice, it might be advised that making a strict list of things to teach your kids could lead you to raise your kids in too rigid a manner; something which could stunt the relationship with your children which must be nurtured on a day to day basis rather than enforced with an iron fist. Keeping this in mind, here are 3 lessons to teach, or perhaps examples to set, for your children based around loose guidelines that won’t force you to be too inflexible in their administration.
Before we go on, it is worth mentioning that these “lessons” are meant to be conveyed to the child automatically, not administered in some sort of forced pedagogic context like a school. For example; the parent must practice what they preach. As parents, we cannot teach our children to be honest through some sort of technical exercise or story containing a moral, only to afterwards or in the meantime behave in a dishonest way in everyday life. In other words, the only lessons that the child is really going to pick up is one that’s manifest in day-to-day life; a kind of lesson that no pedagogic technique can overcome. Kids, especially (or perhaps only) when they are very young, idolize their parents and desire to emulate them. Therefore, there is no better way for parents to teach the “lesson” of honesty to their children than to simply be honest with them and in front of them.
1.) Avoid inflexible behavior.
By dealing with your children (as well as with other people in the presence of your children) in a rigid and inflexible way, you are going to teach the impressionable child that this is the way to interact with other people, namely, by enforcing measures to get what you want instead of speaking openly and honestly to others and nurturing real relationships. For example: most parents are concerned, if not a little obsessed, with their children’s future success. This would be fine in itself, except that parents when doing this tend to have a very narrow-minded view of what success is. If the parent is too insistent that their child become successful in a traditional sense (involving getting into a good school in order to get a respectable career) then they are not only run the risk of alienating their children from their legitimate interests and motivations, but from failing to nurture a healthy relationship with their children by listening to who they are, and to what they really want to do.
2.) Talk to them; figure out who they are.
In line with the point given above, do not assume that your child is simply a being-towards nominal success. This kind of narrow-minded, as well as inconsiderate, treatment of your children is going to rub off on them, begetting a vicious circle of awkward families raising up the next generation for the sake of participation in the mob. Instead, talk to you kids (right away); listen to them, joke with them, spend time with them doing the things they like to do, and show them the things you like to do. By getting to know your children in this way, and having a meaningful relationship with them, you can nurture this attitude in your children towards other people; teaching them the “lesson” that this is the right way to interact with other people, namely, by talking to them and getting to know them rather than simply manipulating them to do what you want them to – this is a lesson that, sadly, few people, adult or children, have learned.
3.) Live well, take care of yourself, be kind to others.
This sounds like vary vague, and perhaps very cliche advice – but ask yourself if you think most parents do this, or even if your own parents did this with you. I cannot stress enough, that the only lesson that your kids are really going to learn will come through your own behavior. If you want your children to have good, healthy, happy lives, then you can only teach them to do so by having that kind of life yourself. In that case, try to have a good life; don’t get bogged down in extraneous ideas about nominal success or reputation, about pleasing others who live according to a mob mentality. Take care of yourself; eat well, exercise regularly, and keep your mind in shape by reading, thinking, and talking about more than the weather. Be kind to others; this is probably something that parents are most concerned about, namely, having children that are polite, well-mannered, and considerate of others. Once again, the best way for you to teach them to do this is to treat them that way themselves, on top of treating others this way when your kids are present (not that you should reserve kindness to others for when your kids are around, obviously you should do it all the time).
These lessons are not meant to be administered according to some sort of technique; you should not have to say to yourself “I will avoid inflexible behavior and will talk to my kids and will be kind specifically for the sake of teaching my children”. The point of these lessons is, that you should simply be a good person yourself, embodying all of the virtues you would like to see for your children (or for any person), and your little idolizing munchkins should pick it up from you automatically. On the other hand, while you should of course simply be the person you want to all on your own, it doesn’t hurt to have some little ones around to watch you, to help you check your behavior if you find yourself slipping back into inflexible rigidity, manipulation towards narrow-minded ends, or inconsiderate behavior towards others.