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9 Most Important Things Parents Teach – And How They Teach Them
Children are learning all the time and parents are their children’s first and most important teacher. Kids will learn more than the ABC’s and shapes and colors from their parents. The most important things parents teach are lifelong skills and ideals that will guide children to becoming successful, happy adults.
Appreciation for nature
Cooking and Nutrition
Learning to budget and save as a child leads to a money-minded adult. Money-savvy parents start teaching financial responsibility early. Children as young as 4 years old may be given an allowance or required to do chores around the house to earn a small amount of money. Parents who are upfront with their children about family money are on the right track.
Fiscally-responsible parents will let their kids in on how much the household earns and how much they pay out in bills. Parents understand that, to children, the ATM looks like a giant slot-machine game. They teach children early that the money in the ATM is money previously earned and that they can’t spend more than they have. Websites, like www.kidsmoney.org, can assist parents in teaching their children the value of a dollar.
Compassion for others and the ability to see things from a different perspective are taught throughout childhood. Parents may not even realize when they are teaching these key social ideals. Helping a friend in need, rescuing shelter animals and giving gifts to charities are all ways parents teach empathy.
Even the simple act of stating a child’s true feelings can teach empathy. When a child throws a tantrum, instead of immediately disciplining the child, empathetic parents might say something like, “Wow, it looks like you are feeling really mad/sad/angry,” in an attempt to connect with the child and show them that they value the child’s feelings, even the negative ones.
There are tools available for parents who may not know where to start when teaching empathy. The website, www.feeleez.com can help parents open up these kinds of conversations in their quest to teach empathy and caring.
Parents teach their children about respect almost from birth. When parents treat others with respect and, especially, treat their children with respect, children see this and emulate these interactions with others. Trust, respect and honesty are all things parents teach through daily interactions with their children and other people.
When parents take a few extra minutes to let an infant know they are going pick them up or allow a child to answer a question in their own time, they are showing their children the kind of respect that they show adults. Children who are shown respect often take it up naturally as they grow. Children who are treated with the utmost respect often never have to be reminded to say, “thank you,” because it feels like an automatic part of a conversation.
Parents teach politeness and social graces through daily routines and expectations. Sitting down to a family dinner helps guide children towards what is appropriate. Consistency allows parents to be hands-on and direct when establishing the value of manners. Books, like Manners, by Aliki, can help solidify these skills and answer children’s questions.
Negotiation skills help children stand up for what they need later in life. Being able to see what the other person wants and ways to compromise on an agreement will serve a child well throughout their childhood and adult life. Parents should never be too quick to say a hasty, “no,” to children. Being able to explain different perspectives and discuss solutions will help children to become problem solvers and innovators.
Punctuality and follow-through are needed skills for surviving in the work world. Parents set their children up for success when they set expectations around times and responsibilities. Parents should always set a goal for completing a chore or job so that the child learns to work efficiently and effectively.
Parents model punctuality by being on-time to appointments and school events. Parents who value professionalism often help establish routines for their family and are well-organized. They show their children how a little forethought and planning can make an event go well.
Parents don’t need to force the idea of conservation on their children at an early age. Children learn about their environment and the importance of treading lightly from small cues given by their parents. Children learn to value nature by being exposed to a variety of natural experiences.
Camping, hiking, swimming and skiing can be enjoyed from a young age. When a child enjoys nature he wants to conserve these valuable resources and conservation becomes more meaningful. Parents with an understanding for climate change and ecological-responsibility might start off showing their children how to sort the recycling or explaining why multiple trips to the store are hard on the earth.
Adults who do what they promise they will do are usually the product of the parents before them. Integrity is typically taught through direct modeling as a family value. Children watch their parents for cues about being honest and living up to others expectations of them. Parents who teach their children to value honesty and hard work are often rewarded with forthright young adults.
Parents who consistently do what they say they are going do help their children do the same. A parent who teaches their child about not stealing from the grocery store needs to stay consistent by not illegally copying a movie for their child’s friend. Parents who have frank conversations with their children about integrity are teaching their children about being dependable and truthful.
Keeping up a household can look easy to a child. Those first few months on his own can seem daunting to a child who was never included in the upkeep of the house or the planning of meals. Cooking nutritious food is a skill that many adults lack in today’s fast-food society. Cooking from a recipe is taught early in life by including children in the measuring, pouring and baking of food.
Children and adults who can cook at home typically save money and eat better than those who cannot cook. Kids love to do things in the kitchen. Parents who enlist their children’s help in meal planning and preparation help their children build a healthy relationship with food. Keeping a small garden with fruits and vegetables can add another hands-on element to this lesson. Parents can find real, child-sized kitchen utensils at www.forsmallhands.com, an online, Montessori catalogue.
Families are unique and each parent will find a slightly different way to teach these key skills. The most important things that parents teach stand the test of time and are taught from generation to generation.