Kids are cute. We all know this. I could show you about 900 different photos of my little Haley that I find ab-so-lutely adorable and perfect and amazing and… I could tack about a million other positive descriptions onto this sentence, but you get the picture. I love her. She’s my little mini me. My “clone,” as our family calls her.
Kids are also little sponges. They soak up and repeat nearly all that we do. Even when they don’t repeat us, they learn from us and I’m sure that we can all agree that that’s both an amazing and scary quality for them to possess. But they do, and as parents we need to take that fact seriously. We all want our children to grow up to be strong, decent individuals, and there are certain habits that we need to be mindful about passing down to them in order to help them become those individuals. Here are a few of them:
1. A loving temperament. If we’re quick to shoot someone the bird while driving down the road with our children in the backseat, then we can’t really be surprised when we later catch them doing the same. If we have a habit of creating ugly situations by being hateful toward others, our kids, who pay very close attention to our behaviors will likely mimic this one. Positive attitudes, treating other people with respect, explaining to our kids that differences in others are respectable qualities… these are the things that our children need to be exposed to. These are the things that they need to be picking up and paying forward.
2. A lack of gossip. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that gossip is the root of many arguments in this world and is likely not going to make the gossiper many friends. A secret or an embarrassing story passed along like a game of telephone will quickly turn into an outrageous rumor, and many times the person who started the train does not end it standing in a great light. We will save our kids a lot of heartache and tough lessons by explaining this to them while they’re young.
Start with a teach-by-example approach. Refrain from badmouthing other people in front of them. If they don’t see it represented in their everyday home life, it won’t come second nature to them later on. If you pick your child up from school or a play date and they immediately jump into a gossipy tale about one of their peers, explain to them that it’s not nice to talk about other people that way. We can’t always prevent it from happening, but we can certainly guide them to a new understanding when it comes to gossiping about others.
3. A polite disposition. “Yes, ma’am.” “No, ma’am.” “Yes, sir.” “No, sir.” “Please.” “Thank you.” “No thank you.” It is not hard to teach these simple phrases to our kids. Remind them to say these things before they go out in public or to someone’s house. Remind them to say these things to you. Sooner or later it will stick. Politeness is not going to hurt them. Try to remember that you’re raising these cute little children to become functioning adults who you will then be releasing into the world. Other people will then have to put up with them and their attitudes. Not just you. If they’re not polite or respectful toward others, they’re not going to make it very far as adults.
4. A work ethic. Coasting through life on good looks and a smile is not a good way to make it through life. Giving a child everything that they ask for all of the time without them having to earn it is not going to help them. Allowing our kids to make messes without ever teaching them to clean them up is also a bad idea. Again, our children will grow into adults one day. They need to learn that working has its own rewards to it.
Start when they’re young by having them pick up their toys at the end of play time or bring their plate into the kitchen when they’re finished with it. When they’re old enough, bring a chore chart into the mix with simple, every day jobs listed on it – brush your teeth, pick up your toys, make your bed, wipe up your messes, set the table, etc. Set a point system to it with each job equaling out to a certain amount. List an award that is worth any given amount of points (a trip to their favorite play center, a special toy. Whatever you’d like) and track their earnings until they get there. This will help them learn that, sure, life can’t all be fun and games, but when they set a goal and work toward it, they will see that their efforts pay off.
5. A thirst for learning. Read to your children from a young age. Teach them the alphabet. Count with them. Buy them letter magnets for the refrigerator and teach them to spell their name, their siblings names and anything else that you can think of. Buy them fun little workbooks or flashcards and create a game out of working on them together. It will pay off. I promise you. We all want our kids to be smart, but this isn’t just about being smart. This is about building a foundation for them upon learning that will help them later on. You want them to thirst for it. You want them to like it… because life is filled with moments where they’re going to have to learn things.
Are there other habits or values that you think should be added to this list or that you find more important? Do you have other ideas when it comes to instilling this habits in our kids? Leave it all in the comments! I’d love to read them.