Recently, my daughter and I enjoyed a day in one of the metro’s popular attraction made especially for kids. And while we both enjoyed our day there, there were also a few instances that were somewhat disappointing.
To be clear, I was not disappointed with the establishment we went to. I was somewhat disappointed with the other kids and even other parents. Some kids do not know the concept of lines and would just proceed to the front — and the parents would just nod and do nothing about it. Other kids were unintentionally causing small harm to the other kids — and the parents would just quietly look on. No, this article is not intended to shame other parents or moms. On the contrary, I’d like to think of this as more of a wake-up call to us parents. Hey parents, we need to be more mindful in instilling values to our kids. Respect, kindness, courage, honesty, self-discipline, perseverance, generosity, compassion, dependability, and empathy are not dead. These are not just mere words thrown about, these words should have meaning and each one of us should strive to live it and pass it on to our kids. Honestly, we’re failing as parents if our kids fail in the good manners and right conduct category.
Granted, parenting and instilling these values take time and hard work. Plus, outside influences such as peers and the Internet make it harder still — as all these hold great sway and influence over our kids. To start us off, here are a few easy and practical ways that might help us raise decent and civil humans:
Model good values yourself.
Probably the best and easiest way to raise decent human beings is to be one of ourselves. If we want our kids to exhibit values such as honesty, compassion, and respect, then we need to embody these qualities ourselves. Our kids should be able to see the right values in our everyday interactions with others — we cannot teach them compassion if they see us mocking and berating a household member, we cannot teach respect if they see us disrespecting our own parents. In short, if we want polite kids who will say “please” and “thank you,” we need to start doing so ourselves.
Start them young.
Some parents would say that toddlers are “too young” to be taught, but honestly, it’s best to start them young even if they still might not understand what “please” or “thank you” mean, than starting them late. Toddlers can be quite easily taught and using such words when speaking to them early will ensure that the words will be included in their developing vocabulary too. At the same time, you don’t need to sit them down nor formally train them to practice saying these words. The easiest way to do so is by again, saying and modeling them yourself. Always say “please” when you ask your toddler to do or give you something, say “thank you” when he does, and “sorry” or “excuse me” whenever the situation calls for it. This way, your kids will get used to using them and eventually understand the meaning and importance of these words
Always apologize to your child when you make mistakes.
No one’s infallible, and that includes us, parents. This means that we are also prone to commit mistakes every now and then. If the mistake involves your kids, then it is your responsibility to tell them you’re sorry. By doing so, you acknowledge your mistake and shows them that you value and respect their thoughts, feelings, and perspective. And in so doing, you are also modeling to them the importance of showing and treating others with respect, and how to accept responsibility for their mistakes.
Train them to be accountable.
Along the lines of showing them how to accept responsibility for their mistakes, you should also train them to be accountable for any trouble they might get into. Its quite normal for kids to get in trouble — whether it’s getting bad grades, misplacing a friend’s toy, or breaking your neighbor’s window. In such instances, one of every parent’s first instinct is to “soften the blow” and “make things better” because they’re “just kids.” Try not to overdo it. If you always rescue your kids from their mistakes and troubles, then they would not learn how to take responsibility for their actions. They need to learn and know that bad choices can and will result in unpleasant consequences. This way, they’ll also learn to exert self-discipline and behave properly whenever the situation calls for it.
Get your children involved in encouraging and helping others.
Try to encourage your children to help out whenever they can. You will be surprised how most kids are very much game into helping out and performing small acts of kindness every day. It could be as small as helping out another kid get a toy from a higher shelf or cleaning and putting back the Legos after they’ve finished playing with it in the toy store so another kid can take their turn to play, and yes, even falling properly in line and waiting for their turn patiently. Try to motivate and remind your kids every day to be mindful of such things. This could also be a great way to teach empathy, ask them what they’d feel if another kid took their place in line or how bad they’d feel if they couldn’t get a turn at the Lego table. Granted, they will feel bad for a bit but by asking them to relate with how other kids might feel because other actions will let them be more mindful of their actions and its impacts on others. The bottom line is, our ultimate goal as parents is not to raise men who live just for themselves but to raise men for others. And the only way to do this is by raising and giving our kids every opportunity to develop and practice virtues such as kindness, generosity, respect, and compassion. Never hesitate to talk to them and call them out as necessary. Constant communication about what they did right and what they did wrong can help them make better moral decisions and ultimately, live life in the image and in service of God. The real world is hard enough as it is, let’s raise people who will strive to make it better for everyone.
*Originally published in momcenter.com.ph