13 Lessons I think children need to be taught
I must start this post by saying that in no way do I regard myself as an expert. But I really do stand by this set of lessons for children. I’m a big believer in leading by example. So sometimes I have to remind myself about these lessons.
Children may not display the behaviour you are desperately trying to teach them whilst they are little, but trust me they are definitely learning from you. You can see that when they repeat a phrase you’ve said and you didn’t think they’d heard it!
Why do all this? You might ask. I do understand that all children are different. These are just my opinions. My daughter is 4 and my son 8 months, so its a constant learning journey. I truly believe however, that by getting the foundations right we are setting our children up for their future.
We need to teach them love, good manners, respect, the ability to integrate and to be confident.
Above all else a child needs love. To feel, see and be loved and be able to love.
#TWO Please and thank you
Good old manners. Manners show respect for others. How can anyone have respect for you if you don’t show respect for them?
#THREE Say sorry and make amends
I think it’s really important for children to recognise when they have done something wrong. It is quite easy for them to say sorry but harder for them to understand why and make amends. I think that saying sorry is not enough, they should say what they are sorry for and try to make the situation better.
As adults we do things wrong all the time. Mistakes are part of life. It’s how we deal with them that’s important. Again lead by example. Say sorry to them too when we have done something wrong.
My daughter hates saying sorry, she tells me she doesn’t want to say sorry because it’ll make her cry. It usually does! But we always have a hug after and try to make amends.
We all know that telling lies is normal for children. Some are really good at it! It’s part of their development. ‘I didn’t do it” with chocolate smeared round their mouth! They are testing us and boundaries. They know we have expectations of good and bad behaviour.
It is important that we teach our children to the honest. That telling lies only creates more problems. Lies as children don’t often have serious consequences but as an adult they can. So we must teach them early that it’s ok to get things wrong sometimes but lying is unacceptable. It can be hard for a child to tell the truth and it can be hard as a parent to remain calm when we know they are lying. I try my best to thank her for telling me the truth (if she eventually does!).
#FIVE Self respect and self belief
If we want our children to grow into happy healthy adults we need to teach them self respect and self belief. They must have a good degree of self worth if they are to get by in life. Make them feel important, that their contribution was valuable. Above all else they need to feel loved.
We are our children’s biggest role models. Don’t ever put yourself down or utter phrases such as ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I look horrible in this’. We all do it, myself included but then I look at my children and I don’t want them to have the same hang ups as I do. Praise good behaviour and effort not just achievements. I try to tell my daughter ‘I could see you tried really hard, well done’. Praising effort teaches children that although the end result may not always be what we hoped for, putting in the effort will also be recognised and you will eventually get a result.
#SIX How to lose gracefully
I put this lesson next as although we need to encourage them to believe in themselves, we can’t always win. We need to have realistic expectations. My daughter is not good at loosing. I persist however in telling her that she tried her best and that is what counts. I also encourage her to say well done to the winner. If she wins, I still tell her well done for trying hard and I definitely don’t condone boasting.
#SEVEN Be inclusive
This to me is so important. Loneliness can be one of the worst feelings ever. Being different can be a magnet for bullying. I don’t want my children to grow up thinking thats its ok to single others out or make others feel bad. I ask her what it feels like when nobody wants to play and she’ll reply ‘sad’. So I ask her what she thinks she should do if she sees a class mate looking sad on their own. She tells me she would go up to them and ask them to play.
Again lead by example. Don’t criticise or joke about another person for being different. Encourage them to ask other children to play at playgroups/parties. It is normal for children to question situations and people that are different. It’s our job to normalise them.
I believe that teamwork is a building block of life. Its a lonely and difficult world out there if we try to succeed on our own. Teamwork teaches children to take part, learn about working with others, recognise strengths and weaknesses in themselves and others and teaches skills in building friendships. I always tell my daughter its ok to ask for help. I ask her for help also. I teach her that if we all chip in together the end result is better.
#NINE Allow them to have an opinion and express it
Children always have an opinion about things. Often as adults we find their opinions don’t make sense and may include incorrect information. However it’s an opinion all the same and they should be allowed to express it. In the adult world it is crucial that we understand others opinions and have respect for them, even if we don’t agree with them. Tell your children that it’s ok for them to have opinions. They should understand you have opinions too, sometimes you may not agree and that is ok.
This is a massive life skill in my opinion. So many children grow up not knowing basic cooking skills. A child does what a child sees. If all they see are microwave meals and take aways then this is what is normal to them. Not that I never have take aways – of course I do. I try to involve my daughter (an I will my son when he’s older) when I’m cooking a meal. It may just be choosing the veggies out the fridge or mixing something up. I talk to her about the ingredients and which are good foods.
Best of all I actually think it’s cheaper when you cook from scratch. Bulk up with cheaper veggies and keep expensive meats to a minimum. Never let your child grow up not knowing how to cook. If you’re not confident yourself, then why not figure it out together. You Tube, cook books, websites, it’s all out there to help you. Its a great way of spending time together too.
#ELEVEN Problem solve
It’s far too easy to sort out our children’s problems for them. Usually whilst they are little, these problems are insignificant and easily solved. As they grow problems become more complex and more significant.
Problem solving is a complex but important skill. It’s ok to help them, but try to lead them to figure things out for themselves. For example ask them open leading questions like ‘what do you think will happen if you tried this/that?’ or ‘What could we use to help us right now with this problem?’ or ‘Is this a problem that we need teamwork for?’ Whilst we want our children to be open and honest with us, there maybe times when we can’t help or they don’t want us to help. Sometimes they need to come to their own conclusions.
#TWELVE Tell me more
Encourage children to talk about anything and everything. It’s important that they have confidence in their own explanations. Never finish the explanation for them unless they ask you too. Encouraging them to talk helps them to open up and talk to you. It helps them understand that they can talk to you. Have time to listen to them. Children need to know that what they have to say is important.
#THIRTEEN Stand up for themselves
This is a difficult one. Where do you draw the line? When and how do you assert yourself and when do you back down and walk away. For children a big part of this is learning right form wrong. I tell my daughter that no body should hurt her or make her feel sad. If someone is horrible to her, I tell her she should tell the perpetrator to stop and that they are not very nice in a loud voice. Then to walk away and not let it bother her. Similarly I encourage her to stand up for someone else if they are being bullied.
Of course at aged 4 this is easier to handle. I’m not sure how we will tackle this once they’re older and problems are more complex. For now I want her to stand up for herself and show bullies that they are wrong.
Growing up is tough. Lessons can be hard. Many life events influence our outlook on life and how we deal with situations. But if we can try and get some of the basic life lessons instilled in our children then surely we can give them the best start. Give them the skills to develop themselves.
I’d love to hear your comments, tips, thoughts and questions. Have you older children? What worked for you?
I urge you to watch this TED Talk on over parenting by Julie Lythcott-Haims. It’s very inspiring.
“My children are not bonsai trees, they are wildflowers…of an unknown species!”
Read 7 reasons why I think we should read to children too.