5 Important Life Lessons to Teach Your Children
Raising children is one of life’s greatest joys as well as one of life’s most daunting challenges. With the busyness of everyday life, sometimes it can be easy to forget the importance of imparting valuable life lessons to your children. There are some things that are just too crucial to their long-term well-being for responsible parents to neglect, however. Outlined below are five vital life lessons to teach your children that can impact their lives in a positive way for years to come.
Expect and Respond Appropriately to Disappointment
Some parents, often termed “helicopter parents,” spend the entirety of their parenting years trying to shield their children from disappointing circumstances. If the coach decides to put their child on the bench, they throw a fit. If their child wants something, this type of parent is more than willing to pay an exorbitant amount of money or pull whatever strings are necessary to make sure their child is never disappointed. The results of this unhealthy parenting style can be devastating. Disappointment is a normal part of life. Sometimes, as an adult, you may work hard for a promotion at your office and get passed over. Or you may have a relationship that doesn’t work out the way you had hoped. Children who are never taught that disappointment should be expected as a natural consequence of living in an imperfect world grow into adults who don’t know how to cope with disappointment.
Instead, teach your child to persevere in spite of disappointing situations. If they don’t make the team or land the role in the school play they were hoping to get, remind them that they’ll have opportunities to be involved in other activities or to try out again next time. Don’t play into their youthful tendency toward dramatically exaggerating every setback into a crisis. Let them know that it’s okay to feel upset at disappointments, but not to use them as an excuse for bad behavior.
Teach Your Child to Accept Responsibility
Along those same lines, it’s absolutely crucial for responsible parents to teach their children to accept responsibility when they’ve done something wrong. Rather than simply pay for the candy bar your child grabs off the candy store shelf and starts eating without asking, make the child apologize to the cashier or store manager for stealing. Then have a heart-to-heart talk with the child about why stealing is wrong. Have them earn the money by doing chores to pay you back for the cost of the candy bar. The same is true with a myriad of situations. If they go through their younger years with you constantly excusing them, blaming others for their misdeeds, and enabling them to live irresponsibly, you can cripple your children’s character for life
So next time your child comes home with a bad grade, don’t give in to their tendency to blame the “mean” teacher. Help them to see that their own lack of preparation could very well have led to them getting a bad grade. If the bad grades persist, take away their leisure activities and access to technology until the grades improve. In the long run, your child will likely thank you for not letting them off the hook. They’ll learn early in life that no one else is going to bail them out, so they’d better learn to make responsible choices.
Basic Financial Principles
A recent study showed that U.S. households that carry credit card debt have an average of over $16,700 and they pay over $1,200 in interest per year. This sobering statistic highlights the importance of financial literacy for kids. Though sometimes debt is the result of unfortunate circumstances beyond your control, in some cases it can be avoided or at least less of a devastating factor if you follow sound financial principles. The first financial principle you can teach your child is that they can earn money by honest work. This can be accomplished by following through on a regular monetary allowance schedule. When you make their allowance contingent upon their willingness to do their chores, they’ll soon learn the value of a dollar.
Rather than just buy them toys on a whim, teach them the need to save for many of the things they want. Also, teach them the value of continuing to save and not spend all the money they earn. Teach them to put some of it away in a bank account. Start an education fund that they can contribute to each time they get their allowance or birthday and holiday money. Teach them to find creative ways to save money, such as shopping at the clearance rack, finding sales, or resale shopping. Help them learn not to buy things they don’t need on impulse. As they get older, show them how to create a budget and how to balance their budget. Financial problems can lead to all sorts of problems later in life, including major relationship problems. When you teach your child financially healthy habits at a young age, you’ll be sparing them from a world of heartache and headache down the road.
Children often tend to be naturally self-centered. They don’t come out of the womb knowing how to sympathize with others. This is behavior that you can model and intentionally teach them that will help them become the kind of human beings that make the world a better place. One of the first places you can teach your child compassion is in social settings, such as preschool, elementary school, daycare, or your house of worship. If there’s a new child or a child who doesn’t seem to fit in, pull your child aside. Ask them how they would feel if they were new or didn’t have any friends. If they can’t figure it out on their own, you can prompt them by saying, “Do you think you might feel lonely? Do you think you might want someone to talk to you and try to be your friend?” Then ask them how they could help this other child to feel accepted.
Encourage them to play with those who are being left out of the group. You can also take them along with you to places where you can teach them how to show compassion to hurting or neglected people, such as visiting nursing homes or homeless shelters. Let them help you with preparing and delivering a meal for a friend who is sick or who has recently lost a loved one. Help them to get their eyes off of themselves and learn to care about others who are facing difficulties.
Think Before Acting
One of the hardest lessons to teach children is not to act on impulse. Children tend to struggle with constantly being led by their emotions. If this tendency is left unchecked, they can become adults who continue to live simply by following their emotions wherever they lead. The result is a life of roller-coaster highs and lows, often leading to destructive habits like drug, alcohol, or illicit sexual addictions. To help your children avoid being carried to and fro by their emotions, teach them the importance of letting their mind guard their heart. Help them to look into the future and see where the road they are stepping onto will take them.
A good question to ask a child who is making unwise choices is, “What’s going to happen to you in 10 years if you keep engaging in this behavior? Are you going to be able to get into college or training for the job you want? Are you going to be healthy, or are the substances you’re taking into your body going to eventually make you sick? Are you going to attract the kind of person who would make a good spouse?” Setting forth clear consequences for bad behavior and sticking to those consequences can also help your child realize early in life that they will reap what they sow, so they’d better sow wisely.
If you look at your entire lifetime, your children may only live under your roof for a relatively short amount of time. Make sure you don’t waste these precious formative years. Every day is filled with teachable moments. Take the time to teach your children these five important lessons and someday they’ll probably be immensely grateful that you cared enough to point them in the right direction.