Raising Delightful ChildrenBy Christine Amour Levar
We parents wear numerous hats as we bring up our children, from friend and caretaker to chef, chauffeur, nurse, protector, disciplinarian, and sometimes even cheerleader. Nevertheless, among these roles, the most important and most fulfilling in my view, is that of being their teacher.
As we raise our children, we try our best to pass on life lessons, both practical and philosophical, and with my own four children for instance, I dispense plenty of advice on a daily basis, anything from “Homework always comes first.” to “If you can’t say anything nice, then it’s best to say nothing at all.” Of course, I’m never sure how much of it really sinks in.
In the end, as parents we all want what’s best for our children, regardless of our own hopes and dreams for their future; and if I can just succeed in bringing up my children as happy, healthy, well-adjusted, and kind-hearted individuals with a purpose in this world, then I will be able to feel like I’ve done my job as a mother.
My Mum used to say that even new-borns have brains wired like a computer, recording our words and actions in the depths of their subconscious. For that reason, naturally with our children, we should practice what we preach. As parents, we are their role models and they watch our every move. Thus with all this in mind, here are my top ten lessons to teach children before they reach the age of ten.
1. KINDNESS AND EMPATHY – If you get this part right, then the rest will simply fall into place. Teach them to be kind, generous, and thoughtful human beings who will place value and importance on being honest and caring individuals with compassion for others. What truly matters is every act of kindness, courage, or sacrifice that enriches, empowers, or encourages others to emulate their example.
2. RESPECT AND OBEDIENCE – Educate them to follow and respect the rules of the house, the community, and the country they live in. Explain to them that being disobedient has repercussions (i.e. punishments, in the form of confiscation of their favourite toys, or elimination of certain basic privileges, such as TV or outings). Respect needs to be awarded to parents, teachers, caregivers, other siblings, friends, and family. It is paramount to teach them to appreciate people of all races and cultures and to show deference to national customs that are different from theirs. In essence, teach them to treat others the way they want to be treated themselves.
3. MANNERS – Coach them to have manners and to say, “Thank you” and “Please” whenever the occasion calls for it. They need to learn to show appreciation where it is deserved. Being polite also means looking people in the eye when they are being spoken to, as well as shaking hands and introducing themselves politely while answering questions graciously. Children should learn to take their dishes into the kitchen and to thank the person who cooked a meal for them (even if they “secretly” didn’t enjoy it). Little things like these go a long way to polish them up and keep them at their best.
4. CHARACTER – One dictionary defines character as “the complex mental and ethical traits marking a person.” Our character is who and what we really are. As Abraham Lincoln once declared, “Reputation is the shadow. Character is the tree.” Our character is not just what we try to display for others to see, it is who we are even when no one is watching. Good character is doing the right thing for no other reason than because it is the right thing to do, even if it’s hard.
Teach this to children early, along with good sportsmanship, self-respect, honesty, the courage to tell the truth or to apologize when they are in the wrong or have hurt someone’s feelings, because it’s much more difficult to instil in them once they get older.
5. CURIOSITY – Curiosity is an important trait of a genius. You cannot find an intellectual giant who is not a curious person: Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, to name a few. Curiosity is important because it keeps your mind alert and active. The mind is like a muscle—it becomes stronger through regular exercise. Teach your children to keep an open mind and to ask questions relentlessly. As I often tell my children, “Only boring people get bored.” It’s too easy to find a place boring; it’s much more challenging to find a reason why it can be interesting. Encourage the children to think out of the box. Help make learning fun for them, by using original teaching methods, whether with homework, sports, music or languages. Reward them with praise when they are curious and want to know more about the world. It will give them confidence in their own intelligence and in their potential to learn and understand new concepts. A friend once told me she would encourage her children to ask three interesting questions at mealtimes, so as to teach them to engage in conversation and to be curious about other people and life in general.
6. THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION – Children should learn and realize the importance of education at an early age. As a parent, your best teaching tool is your own attitude. Having a positive attitude about learning new things, instils similar beliefs in your children. Show them that education is the ticket to fulfilling their dreams and having a productive life. If they see you reading books and newspapers, they will wonder why this activity holds such interest. Read to them often to help them develop their language skills. Impress on children the importance of school. This means getting them to school on time and modelling the importance of punctuality. Take an interest in all their homework and make sure the required assignments are completed on time. Take your children to educational exhibits and museums, or to the science centre and the zoo instead of to the malls. Explain to them that continuing their education will allow them to understand more about the world around them. This strategy will certainly make them more motivated to keep learning in the future.
7. THE VALUE OF MONEY – Teaching children the value of money at a young age is essential to their future financial stability. Instead of simply buying things for them or giving them a set allowance each week, give them opportunities to earn more money or save up to get what they really want, especially if their allowance cannot afford it. This is a positive way of instilling a number of valuable lessons, which will certainly serve them well as they come of age, and acquire responsible and productive financial habits. Open a savings account for your children, to allow them to begin learning the value of earning interest on savings. Let your children compare prices with you and shop for bargains, look for sale items, or consider cheaper, more cost-effective alternatives. This will give them hands-on experience in understanding how those small individual savings add up to significant savings by the end of each shopping trip.
8. AUTONOMY – Giving children the opportunity to make some choices throughout the day is beneficial, even crucial to their development. When we offer children choices, we are allowing them to practice critical thinking and other skills required by independence and responsibility, while guarding their health and safety by controlling the options. All human beings need to feel as if they have some control over their lives. We cannot expect our children to be totally independent, of course, since they are small and incapable of many things adults can do, but we must keep in mind that children who do not develop autonomy are liable to remain dependent as adults or to be easily influenced by peers. Learning to be autonomous and self-reliant takes time and practice. Being in control feels good—simply watch the face of a toddler who has just learned to walk. Self-esteem grows when we successfully do things for ourselves. A child who has a solid sense of self-worth can make a poor decision, evaluate it calmly, rethink the situation, and make a different choice. So teach your children gradual autonomy and give them opportunities to make their own choices, whether with activities outside of school or by allowing them to manage their schedule around certain chores or homework. The wise parent understands that children make choices all day long. They choose to obey, ignore, or defy rules and directions and determine for themselves whether to speak kindly or angrily to others. Our task is to provide children with appropriate options and help them make and accept their choices. In this way, we are developing confident, independent children who feel they have some control over their lives.
9. LOVE OF NATURE – In an age crammed with TV, computers, and electronic gadgets, children are often isolated from the simple pleasures of exploring the wonders of nature. As it is, academics along with extra-curricular activities often leave children with little time to play outdoors. Yet being out in nature makes them more aware and engages their sense of perception and curiosity. Outdoor activity offers children fresh air and plenty of exercise. Both are important to help children keep physically and mentally fit. Unfortunately, ecological degradation is a reality today, thus nurturing a bond between children and nature is vital to ensure that the coming generation grows up to value it more. Explain to children how small things such as recycling, using water sparingly, and keeping lights switched off when not needed can contribute towards conserving nature. The goal is to bring them up as responsible citizens who will become passionate custodians of our home planet, the Earth.
10. FAITH AND POSITIVITY – Last, but probably most important in my view is teaching children to have faith and to be positive individuals. The dictionary defines faith as “A belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.” Being able to have faith in one’s own self, in humanity, or in God or a higher being is important, especially in trying times. Having faith is universal in spirit, and as invisible and intangible as it may seem, it gives us added strength and comfort when life inevitably presents tough challenges.
As children grow, many things cross their path and change them for better or for worse. Their parents’ words and actions are the most basic of these influences, and all these experiences create the thought processes that follow them as they go from childhood to adulthood.
Instilling faith and positivity early, gives them confidence in their own ability and in the future. By discussing their choices, both right and wrong, and encouraging them to take the initiative and to act upon positive thoughts, you can help children believe in themselves and motivate them to try their very best. Teach them to have faith in others, not just in themselves. The lack of faith in people creates bitter attitudes and lets the blame game begin. As parents, we have control over our children’s development and while they are young making sense of their world, we have the opportunity to point light in darkness, peace in chaos, and love in war. Teach them to have faith in the good, though the bad may sometimes seem to prevail. With faith, one has hope, trust, love, and the certainty that all things are indeed possible. Coaching them through their formative years to be positive individuals will enable your children to develop their own faith and to be a shining example of a life well led.
*** This article was first published in Sense & Style Magazine Philippines – June 2012 Edition ***
Christine Amour-Levar is a self-described “work-in-progress” Mum, Wife, Freelance Writer, Editor, and Marketing Consultant. Mother of Yasmine, Malcolm, Louis and Angeline, Wife of Steven and Author of The Smart Girl’s Handbook to Being MUMMYLICIOUS – a motivational and practical guide to getting your body (and your GROOVE) back post pregnancy. Learn more here: www.thesmartgirlshandbook.com.
August 22, 2012 by Guest Writer