By the time your newborn has collected himself enough to be able to grab your finger and smile, you probably have his entire life planned out for him. Holding your baby for the first time, you see all of his hopes, dreams, and accomplishments throughout his lifetime laid about before you as if they were drawn on your hospital gown. Perhaps it’s around this time when you realize you don’t have the slightest clue of how to make these dreams a reality. After all, you’re new to this whole parenting thing. So much can possibly go wrong that it’s tough to imagine everything going right. Don’t be intimidated. As long as you impart the following notions to your child over the course of his lifetime, he will turn out just fine.
1. Seek Wisdom
There’s a saying that goes something like: “Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in fruit salad.” Don’t just ensure that your child grows up knowing a lot of factual information. Teach him the importance of being able to use this knowledge to be productive in life. Reading with your child on a daily basis is a good start, but he must also learn to utilize the lessons and information gleaned, whether it’s how to treat others, or how to make homemade lasagna. The smartest person in the world can make unwise decisions; make sure your child knows how to choose the right path.
2. Show Gratitude
A funny thing happens in November. When Thanksgiving rolls around, everyone all of a sudden starts boasting about how grateful they are for everything they have in life. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but there is definitely something inherently wrong with being superficially thankful simply because it’s the time of the year in which it’s popular to do so. Teach your children to spend time every day thinking of the advantages they have, and praising the people who have given them these advantages. Teach them to write thank-you cards after a party, and to recognize when someone has gone out of their way to help them. Expressing gratitude is the best way to show someone else how much they matter in this world.
3. Have good manners
“Please” and “thank you” go a long way in today’s world. But good manners go beyond simple words. Teach your children how to behave at the dinner table, in public, and when they are guests in other people’s homes. The way they act toward others sets the stage for how they will be perceived in society. Well-mannered children will grow into respectful and respectable adults who will make great first impressions in their personal and professional lives, which will put them on the path to true success.
4. Have compassion
There are so many people in this world that are much less fortunate than anyone currently reading this. Teach your children to help those in need – especially those who cannot help themselves. Being compassionate stems from being grateful, as having compassion requires children to first think of the things they have that others might not. When children learn to help others, they are not just exhibiting a knowledge of gratitude; they also use this gratitude in an actionable manner.
5. Be truthful
When children mess up, they have a hard time telling the truth. This may be due to the idea that they’ll “get in trouble” for what they’ve done, so they’ll do their best to skirt the issue. As parents, it’s important to impart in our children the idea that it’s much more important to tell the truth and learn from the mistake made than to lie and continue making that same mistake over and over. If a child lies, it’s because he’s afraid of what will happen to them. They have to feel safe coming to you when they screw up. Of course, you will need to show your disappointment in their negative behavior, but always remember to reinforce how proud you are of them for admitting they were wrong.
6. Advocate for yourself
Teach your children that they should stand up for what they believe in. This can be tough to do, because going against the grain has the potential to land them in trouble. But if they feel that they’re being treated unfairly, they should be confident enough to stand up for themselves. And they should always know you have their back, no matter what.
7. Money management
Teach children the value of a dollar when they’re young. Set an allowance, and give them chores which they will complete to earn this allowance. While there’s no problem with bringing home a special gift every once in a while, make sure your children learn the importance of saving up for something they really want. As they grow, help them diversify their “income” into short- and long-term savings, so they start to learn the basics of budgeting their money. When they get even older, start taxing them so you can slowly get back all the money you’ve ever given them (just kidding…).
8. How to handle failure
This is a big one. Many children are so afraid of not doing well that they never take a risk and try something new. In classrooms, children feel uncomfortable experimenting with a new math problem if they haven’t been given explicit instruction on how to solve it, and will often need their teacher to “give them the OK” every single step of the way. It’s important to instill in your children the notion that failure is not a dead-end road. Pencils have erasers for a reason. Life is a series of successes and setbacks; it’s how they handle the setbacks that determine how great their successes are.
9. Keep promises
Children should know that a promise is a sacred contract that should never be broken, and should be taken seriously. In fact, once children make a promise, you should make it their utmost priority. If they promised to clean their room, but have to be told five times that day to do it, they haven’t kept their promise. A promise isn’t something to be completed on their own terms; it’s a vow that they will give something of themselves for another person, and will do so as humanly possible. Make sure they know not to make promises on a whim, because the other party will put a trust in that promise that will be hard to earn back if broken.
10. Keep learning
Walk into any high school class and you’ll certainly find a large portion of children who are bored to death. Knowing that those teenagers were once toddlers who were dying to know everything about the world around them is downright depressing. Parents should encourage their children to learn something new every day, and never give up that childlike sense of wonder. There’s so much to know about life, and so much that still hasn’t been figured out yet. Instill in your children the idea that they could make the next big discovery if they continue striving to learn all they can, every day of their life. Being a life-long learner is perhaps the most important step in becoming a successful adult.
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