What are you teaching your kids? You may be shocked to realize much of your child’s behavior, whether appropriate or not, is connected to how you parent.
Parenting is the toughest job you will ever have. What other job requires you to supervise, protect, teach, encourage, love, provide for, and use empathy, thoughtfulness, kindness, patience and creativity every moment of the day? It is a job that can be very trying but the rewards will fill your heart with each smile, laugh and, “I love you” that your kids return.
Parents often say, “I hope when my child goes off to college or moves out they make the right decisions.” Or “I hope they can take care of themselves.” What I would say to those parents is- it is the early lessons they learn from us that allow them to succeed in life.
First of all, the truth is that the earlier we start teaching our children important lessons and give them responsibility, the easier it will be to continue those lessons as our children reach their teenage years and approach their twenties.
If we want to raise a child that will be a responsible, productive adult, who can take care of themselves, we need to start paying attention to the messages we are conveying to our children even when they are very young. We also need to emphasize learning, having fun and allowing kids to explore their world, but we should begin introducing our kids to money management, teamwork, household responsibility, ownership and social cooperation.
Start Teaching Lessons Early
By the time your child is 2 you can have them help you with easy tasks around the house. When you are doing laundry, allow your child to help you. Let them help carry the clothes or put them in the dryer or help you pour the detergent in the washer. It is fun to help mom at that age and without even saying anything you are starting to lay the foundation for teamwork, cooperation and household responsibility.
Even my 18 month old helps clean up toys and throws a tissue in the trashcan for me when I ask. You can see the sense of pride at having accomplished the task when he runs back to me after throwing the trash away. As your child gets older, you will want to add the amount of help or chores they do around the house. Children need to be given more responsibility as they get older and they need opportunities to learn what to spend their money on.
Two Guiding Principles for Raising a Child to Succeed
Of course, your primary concern is providing your kids with love, respect and the necessities but beyond those, these principles will help you raise independent children that will learn to take care of themselves and the world around them.
1. Language- What you Say is What You Get
It is important to be aware of the language we use when talking about housework, yard work, chores, money, helping others, and teamwork. We are our children’s first teachers and we have an opportunity to teach them throughout life if we honor that responsibility and privilege with respect. We may not feel like doing laundry or dishes, or vacuuming or saving money, but if you are positive or explain the necessity of those chores and saving to our kids, as they grow, they will be more likely to help with important work around the house. If you want your kids to do chores as they get older, be mindful of how you approach the chores.
2. Be Consistent with Your Discipline, Teaching, and the Messages You Convey
Consistency is one of the most important things in parenting. It is so easy not to be consistent but children actually feel more secure when there is a consistent message to our parenting and, amazingly, their behavior usually reflects it.
Kids Need to Learn Patience and Delayed Gratification
It is so important for kids to learn that everything does not happen right when they want it to. It is also important that they learn they do not get a toy just because they want it. An important lesson to work on with your kids is teaching deferred gratification and patience.
I learned my lesson with this principle. When I would go to a store like Target, on occasion I would buy something that only cost a dollar for my kids. Well, after doing this 2 or 3 times, I realized when I did not buy them something they threw a royal fit and acted like possessed children. I was shocked and embarrassed. I realized I had broken the cardinal rule – do not let them think they are entitled to get something for no reason.
I thought it’s only a dollar. My kids thought, we get something every time we go to the store because mom said it did not cost very much. As soon as I realized I had caused this problem I worked to fix it and within a week or two it had been resolved.
If you are wondering how I stopped the tantrums and begging it is simple. Before going into any store, I explain to my kids why we are going to the store, what we are getting, and I explain if I am getting anything for them (usually I am not unless it is for a special reason).
The other thing I do is tell them when they see something they want, that they can save their money and buy it once they have enough money or they can wait until their birthday or Christmas and ask for it and maybe they will get it if that is really what they want.
Once I was consistent with my message, my explanations and my actions, the kids behavior improved because I reinforced my rule and, in the process, my kids are learning about delayed gratification and patience.
Kids Need to Learn How to Handle Disappointment
Many parents focus on providing everything for their child. Every opportunity, every new toy or product, but it is actually very healthy for your child to learn how to handle disappointment. I am talking about an experience in life that does not go their way. It is an opportunity to coach your child, to listen and reassure them and explain that sometimes things do not work out the way we want them to. A good example of an appropriate disappointment is a child’s soccer team losing a game or your child having to miss a birthday party or not being able to take riding lessons.
I am not suggesting you purposely create disappointment for your child. I am merely explaining that disappointment is part of life and that, if we have small doses of it as we grow up, kids will be mentally able to handle these situations as they grow into adults. Be aware and sensitive to your child’s disappointments, but do not try and make up for the disappointment, just listen to them and talk through it and give them hope for a different outcome next time.
It is Your Responsibility to Teach Them Life Lessons Everyday
I know many parents who spoil their kids with every toy or outfit, or new gadget they want. I also know parents who usually give in to their child’s request to eat something else or stay up late. There is a time for bending the rules, but in everyday parenting we need to remember we are the adults, we make the rules and we need to help guide our children in the direction we want them to go.
We need to provide them with the information and practice in making smart decisions, learning to work with others; learning to save for important or necessary purchases and that sometimes life closes a door in front of us. These lessons will teach them that we work hard to open another door and to walk through with confidence and strength.