Its hard to imagine my children as grown-up human beings. I know that day will come, of course, but at age 2 and 6 months, they seem so far away from that time to come. But I am, however, thinking about the kinds of people I want them to grow to be. And the lessons I want to teach them.
Children are sponges. They soak up everything, will store it away and then bring it back out again when you least expect it. That’s why it’s so important you think about modeling key behaviors you want to pass on to your kids now. The more consistent you are about your behavior and reactions, the more they will learn.
The other week I realized this when I was emptying the dishwasher. I must have dropped about 4 different pieces of silverware as I was putting it away and I kept getting progressively frustrated. When the next fork dropped my response was a little less than attractive. And that’s when it hit me. I think my two-year-old has been modeling my behavior.
You see, she has been getting really frustrated at herself. When she can’t get a card into the box or can’t get a toy to work, she has been grunting, getting angry and sometimes even pulling on her hair in frustration. Of course, some of that is because she’s two and she wants to be five. But when I was standing over that dropped fork, I realized I was doing the grown-up version of the same thing. That was a punch in the gut!
Since then I’ve been practicing my deep breathing and trying my best to be more even keeled. And interestingly enough, she hasn’t exhibited the frustration she has been. That was an eye opener and I began to take an inventory of behaviors I want to model to my children so that I can focus on the big ones and hopefully they will begin to exhibit these as they grow. So, without further ado, here are the six lessons to teach your children.
This is a big one, which is why it’s first. Kindness costs nothing. Makes us happier and makes others feel good about themselves too.
This can be exhibited in countless ways – bringing cookies to a new neighbor, waving at the garbage man, cooking a meal for someone who needs it, volunteering, sending a card to someone who needs a pick me up, letting someone with only 3 items go ahead of you in line at the grocery store or simply saying “please” and “thank you.”
My husband and I are also very careful not to talk ill about anyone in front of the kids – no matter how harmless the comment may seem. We don’t want them to see that and begin to do the same.
Forgiveness is something we need to have our entire lives. People will inevitably hurt your feelings or slight you in some way – whether intentional or unintentional. You have two choices. Wallow in your hurt or forgive them and move on. I want my kids to to choose forgiveness.
So, how do I model that to them? I make sure they see me or my husband forgiving each other. We are particularly aware of how our kids view our marriage. (For more on ways to keep your marriage healthy check out this blog post.) We want to model behaviors that are positive so that our kids look for spouses with similar behaviors.
I also make sure they see me forgiving others and that they forgive others. Kids unknowingly hurt each other (both physically and emotionally) often. This behavior provides plenty of teaching moments.
Be Willing to Say You’re Sorry
This goes hand in hand with forgiveness. But being willing to say you’re sorry is sometimes harder than forgiving. When you have wronged someone else, “sorry” is the first step to forgiveness. But guilt, shame and pride sometimes stop us from saying it.
When I’m in the wrong I want my kids to see me apologizing to others. And sometimes that means apologizing to my kids as well.
You see, there are days when I feel on top of my game and other days when I’m overwhelmed. If I raise my voice when things are getting out of control and it was unwarranted, I sit my children down and apologize to them. It’s ok for them to understand that mommy isn’t perfect. And it’s more than ok to see me apologizing when I’m wrong. It’s like having a “Saying You’re Sorry” and “Forgiveness” lesson all in one.
The power of prayer is awesome! We have a direct line to God every day, whenever we choose to take advantage of it. We can ask him for help, ask him for forgiveness, ask him for wisdom, whatever it is we need, He will listen.
Prayer makes us more mindful too. When we bring the issues we’re struggling with in our lives to our Creator, we slow down and walk Him through the problem (even though He already knows every detail). But sometimes doing that is EXACTLY what God wants us to do and in doing that He provides an answer.
I want my kids to see me praying and I want to pray with them too. Before meals and bedtime are obvious places to do this and are a great part of a routine. But other times are great teaching moments as well. Are you in the car and running late, say a quick prayer aloud. Did you just find out a close friend is ill, pray for them. Did your daughter just have a great report card, say a prayer of praise with her.
In praying, you’re teaching your kids to turn to God in any circumstance.
Parents want their children to be happy. When you’re thankful, you can’t help but be happy.
Childhood can be filled with disappointments that may seem small to us, but can feel enormous to them. What better way to help guide your child to happiness than living with a thankful heart.
So I want them to see me deal with disappointment gracefully. I want them to hear me talk about and focus on the blessings I do have (most notably them).
Generosity is contagious. When you give freely and happily others want to pay it forward. But generosity doesn’t just mean financial giving or support.
- Be generous with your time. Volunteer, help an elderly neighbor or grandparents with chores around the house, or just sit with your kids and help them with their homework.
- Be generous with your gifts. Are you a great baker? Make some cookies for the baseball team’s bake sale. Can you sew? Pitch in to make costumes for your daughter’s school play. Whatever skills God gave you, use them to help others and give back.
- Be generous with your money. Obviously depending on your season of life, this will increase and decrease, but it’s a good thing to show your kids that you don’t hold too tightly to money. And in my experience, when we give to others God always provides.
It’s also important to talk about the lessons to teach your children with your husband. You both need agree on a few that are a priority for you and decide on an action plan to make it happen.
I will totally admit that I don’t model these behaviors perfectly every day – we are all human and fallible. But with patience, perseverance and God’s help, I’m trying to be better about it every day. And sometimes, that’s a victory we can certainly celebrate.
Have another behavior that’s important to you? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.