I taught children for 30 years, all told. I have seen the results of good and bad parenting, and I see the results of good and bad attitudes. All of the good ones follow the same 10 lessons outlined here. As parents, it is never too early to begin these lessons, but it can be too late.
- 1. Manners and consideration. From the time they can talk, if you teach then basic manners, like “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome,” it will teach your child respect, and consideration of others. People will like them, and YOU, better for it.
- 2. Learn to say “I’m sorry.” They need to understand what it is they are saying sorry for, and mean those words when said.
- 3. Accept the consequences of their actions. When they fail, when they do bad things, and when they mess up somehow, they need to know that they must accept whatever consequences come with that, and own those behaviors that got them there. If not, they will repeat bad behaviors over and over. If you fix their problems, they never will grow to be responsible adults.
- 4. Learn the value of money. If you give them everything, and they never have to earn anything, it sets a bad precedent for someone always taking care of them. If you want your child to blossom, don’t give them things so easily. Real self esteem is earned, not given without work or study.
- 5. The value of hard work. This goes hand in hand with number 4. If a child has chores, or learns to work early for what they want, it will be a lifelong habit. That goes for study, and not just mowing lawns. Grades should be connected to effort, and that means study.
- 6. The value of an education. I have run across many young people who do not have basic skills. Make sure your child sets up a study time every day after school and hold them to it. Quiz them on basic skills, like making change, spelling, multiplication, and division. The parent is ultimately responsible for attitudes toward learning. Put in your effort toward this and stop blaming your kids’ teachers. It’s a parental duty.
- 7. Self-reliance and problem solving. Teach your kid to cook, to clean, to sew (no matter what their gender) to drive, to read a map, and to wash their clothes. They will be better off for it.
- 8. Teach them to be kind. Teach them kindness to animals and kindness to people. They are not the center of the universe. Other people and animals have feelings. You can teach this to them best, like the other lessons, by your own example.
- 9. There is value in all life. Your life may have privilege. Others may not. Not having money or possessions or an Ivy League education does not diminish the worth or humanity of others. All people have value.
- 10. Teach them to trust and love. They will learn this literally at your hands. If your love is conditional or withheld, how can they ever love fully? If you harm them, how will they ever trust others? Their whole life’s pattern depends on what you do.
I was their teacher. You are their parents. Nothing can ever underscore the value of what you are to them. As Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young said in their song, “teach your children well.” Be good to them, but hold them to a high standard. Love them in success and in failure. They will reach for the moon and stars if you do.