Parenting is one of the hardest and most rewarding experiences in life. Everyone always talks about how there isn’t some magical book or instruction manual given at birth. It would be nearly impossible to write a one size fits all book on parenting and rightfully so, each child is unique, has their own needs, strengths and weaknesses. Regardless, parents ask me all the time “what are some things we can do to help our child?” Well I thought about this and came to the conclusion that some of the best things that we can teach our children are simple things that they can take all through life. So, here is my list that goes a little beyond the manners!
Learn to say I’m sorry: Sounds easy enough, right? Well you’d be surprised how many children (and adults 😉) have difficulty with this one. How many times have you heard someone say “I’m sorry” in some pissed off mumbled tone? Saying “I’m sorry” is something that needs to be practiced in order to get comfortable with it. Well parents, one of the best places to learn this from is you. Being that moms and dads are not perfect, it’s always a good idea to model this at home-apologize to your child when it’s warranted. Make sure you model it the way you would want someone to say it to you.
Admit when you’re wrong: We all know the person who under no circumstance can admit they were wrong! No matter how hard you try to reason with this person, they will not own up to their mistakes and some will even lie to avoid looking inward. Well, THAT person was once a young child! Much like learning to say you’re sorry, admitting when you’re wrong is a skill that can help your child grow as a person and build healthy relationships with others. Again, parents should avoid trying to look perfect to their children and admit to making mistakes- I mean we all make them! The truth is that no matter how many mistakes you’ll make as a parent, not admitting them to your child only makes them more incapable of owning up to their own. Remember you can always pick and choose the mistakes you admit to, keep it age appropriate.
Learn that failure is part of success: So many times, I see children start to work on a puzzle and quit once the frustration sets in. This is no different than an adult who sets out to reach a goal, hits one bump in the road and throws it all away. It’s important to teach our children to set realistic expectations. Kids are often surprised by how many times their successful role models have failed. The truth is that WE ALL HAVE FAILED MANY TIMES. There are so many childhood experiences that this can be learned. The cool thing is that learning to accept failure can help your child keep moving along on their road to whatever it is they want to be successful with.
Learn to be respectfully assertive: It can be really difficult for some people to speak up for themselves, while others will tell you like it is in a not so nice way! The happy medium is to teach our children to speak up for themselves in a respectful way. Like most things, this too takes practice. Parents can act out situations that children often find themselves in. For example, a kid asking your child if they can have one of their toys. You can act out scenarios with your child and model appropriate responses so they can become comfortable with speaking up-respectfully. Also remember when you are standing up for yourself to another person, your children are listening and learning from you- model it the way you would want them to do it.
Learn to accept CONSTRUCTIVE criticism: Criticism can be difficult for some people on both ends and yet it can be so easy for those who try to tear others down. Teaching your child the art of giving and accepting constructive criticism is very important. It’s okay to give feedback to people (in the right situations) when it promotes self-growth. Parents should keep in the back of their minds how giving criticism can help their child become better or more successful. Be aware of the difference between being constructive and putting them down.
There are a zillion important things that we can teach our children, however; these are some universal skills that stand out to me. While the word “simple” is used here, I want to clarify that if these were so “simple” then the majority of us would all be pretty well adjusted. The reality is that these “simple” things are not only hard for some children but adults as well. So, if you’re a parent and struggle yourself with some of these or despite your best efforts have children who are struggling, you may want to consider counseling. At A Little Counseling, we incorporate each of these topics and more into our counseling program.
Regardless, if you’re a parent and you’re reading this because you care about your child and will forever do anything to help them, give yourself a pat on the back for caring—IT AIN’T EASY….. FOR ANYONE! So, wear your imperfection like a badge and teach your child it’s okay to not be perfect! And also, if anyone does find the magical one size fits all parenting book with all the answers, send it my way-I’ll gladly admit I was wrong 😊