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The Art Of Parenting: 10 Invaluable Lessons To Pass On To Your Kids

The Art Of Parenting: 10 Invaluable Lessons To Pass On To Your Kids

By the time your newborn has collected himself enough to be able to grab your finger and smile, you probably have his entire life planned out for him. Holding your baby for the first time, you see all of his hopes, dreams, and accomplishments throughout his lifetime laid about before you as if they were drawn on your hospital gown. Perhaps it’s around this time when you realize you don’t have the slightest clue of how to make these dreams a reality. After all, you’re new to this whole parenting thing. So much can possibly go wrong that it’s tough to imagine everything going right. Don’t be intimidated. As long as you impart the following notions to your child over the course of his lifetime, he will turn out just fine.

1. Seek Wisdom

There’s a saying that goes something like: “Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in fruit salad.” Don’t just ensure that your child grows up knowing a lot of factual information. Teach him the importance of being able to use this knowledge to be productive in life. Reading with your child on a daily basis is a good start, but he must also learn to utilize the lessons and information gleaned, whether it’s how to treat others, or how to make homemade lasagna. The smartest person in the world can make unwise decisions; make sure your child knows how to choose the right path.

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2. Show Gratitude

A funny thing happens in November. When Thanksgiving rolls around, everyone all of a sudden starts boasting about how grateful they are for everything they have in life. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but there is definitely something inherently wrong with being superficially thankful simply because it’s the time of the year in which it’s popular to do so. Teach your children to spend time every day thinking of the advantages they have, and praising the people who have given them these advantages. Teach them to write thank-you cards after a party, and to recognize when someone has gone out of their way to help them. Expressing gratitude is the best way to show someone else how much they matter in this world.

3. Have good manners

“Please” and “thank you” go a long way in today’s world. But good manners go beyond simple words. Teach your children how to behave at the dinner table, in public, and when they are guests in other people’s homes. The way they act toward others sets the stage for how they will be perceived in society. Well-mannered children will grow into respectful and respectable adults who will make great first impressions in their personal and professional lives, which will put them on the path to true success.

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4. Have compassion

There are so many people in this world that are much less fortunate than anyone currently reading this. Teach your children to help those in need – especially those who cannot help themselves. Being compassionate stems from being grateful, as having compassion requires children to first think of the things they have that others might not. When children learn to help others, they are not just exhibiting a knowledge of gratitude; they also use this gratitude in an actionable manner.

5. Be truthful

When children mess up, they have a hard time telling the truth. This may be due to the idea that they’ll “get in trouble” for what they’ve done, so they’ll do their best to skirt the issue. As parents, it’s important to impart in our children the idea that it’s much more important to tell the truth and learn from the mistake made than to lie and continue making that same mistake over and over. If a child lies, it’s because he’s afraid of what will happen to them. They have to feel safe coming to you when they screw up. Of course, you will need to show your disappointment in their negative behavior, but always remember to reinforce how proud you are of them for admitting they were wrong.

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6. Advocate for yourself

Teach your children that they should stand up for what they believe in. This can be tough to do, because going against the grain has the potential to land them in trouble. But if they feel that they’re being treated unfairly, they should be confident enough to stand up for themselves. And they should always know you have their back, no matter what.

7. Money management

Teach children the value of a dollar when they’re young. Set an allowance, and give them chores which they will complete to earn this allowance. While there’s no problem with bringing home a special gift every once in a while, make sure your children learn the importance of saving up for something they really want. As they grow, help them diversify their “income” into short- and long-term savings, so they start to learn the basics of budgeting their money. When they get even older, start taxing them so you can slowly get back all the money you’ve ever given them (just kidding…).

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8. How to handle failure

This is a big one. Many children are so afraid of not doing well that they never take a risk and try something new. In classrooms, children feel uncomfortable experimenting with a new math problem if they haven’t been given explicit instruction on how to solve it, and will often need their teacher to “give them the OK” every single step of the way. It’s important to instill in your children the notion that failure is not a dead-end road. Pencils have erasers for a reason. Life is a series of successes and setbacks; it’s how they handle the setbacks that determine how great their successes are.

9. Keep promises

Children should know that a promise is a sacred contract that should never be broken, and should be taken seriously. In fact, once children make a promise, you should make it their utmost priority. If they promised to clean their room, but have to be told five times that day to do it, they haven’t kept their promise. A promise isn’t something to be completed on their own terms; it’s a vow that they will give something of themselves for another person, and will do so as humanly possible. Make sure they know not to make promises on a whim, because the other party will put a trust in that promise that will be hard to earn back if broken.

10. Keep learning

Walk into any high school class and you’ll certainly find a large portion of children who are bored to death. Knowing that those teenagers were once toddlers who were dying to know everything about the world around them is downright depressing. Parents should encourage their children to learn something new every day, and never give up that childlike sense of wonder. There’s so much to know about life, and so much that still hasn’t been figured out yet. Instill in your children the idea that they could make the next big discovery if they continue striving to learn all they can, every day of their life. Being a life-long learner is perhaps the most important step in becoming a successful adult.

Featured photo credit: Flickrr via farm6.staticflickr.com

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Published on January 24, 2020

5 Ways to Improve Your Parenting Skills (Psychology-Backed)

5 Ways to Improve Your Parenting Skills (Psychology-Backed)

There is no such thing as a perfect parent. Parenting is hard. It takes a great deal of effort to be even a decent parent. My husband and I are raising our three children ages 6, 6, and 7.

Yes, I have my hands full. Twin six-year-old boys and a seven-year-old girl keep me on my parenting toes, so to speak. It is not easy, but I do my best to be a good parent. Having a PhD in psychology is helpful, but I still devour plenty of parenting books and research articles to continually try to do better. I am still a work in progress just like all parents.

    It would be great if we knew exactly what to do and how to do it with our kids. But not all kids are the same and they are not born with a manual that provides us with instructions on how to raise them right. However, we do have research on parenting and psychology that can help us out and point us in the right direction.

    Below I have five tips on how to improve your parenting skills starting today! These tips are backed by research. The first step toward being a great parent is knowing how. It is difficult to be a good parent without knowing first and foremost the how and why.

    1. Practice Loving without Conditions

    Loving unconditionally seems like a given that we all assume we are doing as a parent. However, we may have behaviors or words spoken that undermine our ability for our children to feel unconditionally loved.

    For example, asking our child if he wants another mom when he is acting out is not practicing unconditional love. The message that is being sent to the child is that if they act out or misbehave, they are at risk of losing you as a mother, since you ask “do you want another mom” or “do you want to live somewhere else?”

    If you have ever made these statements, it doesn’t mean you are a terrible parent. However, if we want our child to feel loved unconditionally, then we need to stop saying things that make the child feel like the relationship could ever be severed because of their behavior.

    Another way to look at these threats is comparing them to threatening divorce. If you have ever been married, or lived in a home with married parents, then you know that when one person threatens divorce, it cuts to the core.

    Threatening divorce damages the relationship, because trust is lost. The other person begins to feel that that their relationship may not be forever, and that the relationship can be ended because their spouse is threatening divorce. Even if the person threatening doesn’t really mean what they are saying and they truly love their spouse, the words are damaging none the less.

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    The same principles go for parent and child relationships. If a child has been threatened with loss of their current home life, the parent leaving them, or being placed in foster care, then that child does not feel loved unconditionally. They will believe that love from their parent is contingent on their behavior. It is conditional love which means that they are only loved under certain conditions.

    My son Charlie has recently gotten into the habit of saying “I love you Mom” every time that he gets in trouble. He kicked the dog the other day. Not hard, but nevertheless he kicked our family dog. I was fuming. I yelled at him and he was sent to his room for a long time out (I know the yelling was not a good thing to do). I couldn’t even think of a consequence in the heat of the moment so I said “go to your room, I don’t want to see you right now, I will think about your consequence later.”

    He cried, and as he was running up the stairs and he was saying “I love you Mommy, I love you Mommy, I love you Mommy.” Why was he saying that? Because in his six-year-old mind, he is worried that I will stop loving him if he has bad behavior.

    Kids don’t know that we love them unconditionally. They are learning though and we must teach them that we do. My response in this situation and always is to say “I love you too.” I then usually follow it up with “I don’t like your behavior right now, but I will always love you.”

    Kids need to be told that they are loved regardless of their behavior. It needs to be ingrained that they are loved even if they act out, break the rules, or misbehave.

    An article by Elite Daily examined several research studies on unconditional love.[1] The findings from these studies showed that children become more well-adjusted, emotionally healthy, and physically healthy adults when they experience unconditional love in childhood. When children are exposed to conditional love in their parent-child relationship, the research showed that, children have higher levels of anxiety which in turn negatively affects their long-range health, such as heart health.

    Loving unconditionally means loving without conditions. Unconditional love is loving someone just the way that they are, flaws and all. Tell your children that you love them, even when they break the rules, misbehave, or they tell you that they hate you (most kids say this to their parents at some point in time).

    You must always respond with “I love you regardless of your behavior.” It doesn’t mean that you are accepting or allowing the bad behavior. There should always be reasonable consequences to match the behavior. However, they shouldn’t ever be made to feel that the love of their parent can be revoked because of bad behaviors.

    2. Develop a Bond That Will Last a Lifetime by Creating Memories

    You need to spend time with your kids in order to create a bond. Quality time matters, but so does quantity time.

    Kids want to be with their parents. Spend time together as a family. For example, make it a point to have dinner at the kitchen or dining room table at least a few nights a week. Make a rule that no technology is allowed at the table during that time, so that you can talk and spend time together.

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    Before you know it, that child will be grown and out of your home. Take the time to spend meal times together, talking and truly getting to know your child before they leave your home as an adult.

    Barking Up the Wrong Tree looked at research on how to create happy memories that last a lifetime. Some of the things discovered in the research included:[2]

    • Memories are made when our senses and emotions are elevated.
    • If we are pulling out the camera phone, it is likely an elevated experience that you want to remember.
    • Celebrating milestones and praiseworthy moments (graduations, winning seasons, etc.) helps to create positive lasting memories.
    • Struggling together creates a bond. If you have worked through conflict in your relationship and made it better in the process then you have created a bond. Fraternities haze, soldier fight together, and families overcome struggles together. These all make for lasting bonds. When you struggle together as a family, celebrate the success at the end of your victory, once you have overcome the challenge together.

    Take the time to make memories with your children. They are only little once. Go on those vacations, hike to the top of a mountain together, sail across an ocean, go camping, or teach them to ice-skate.

    Do anything and everything that will help create memories, bonds, and experiences that will last a lifetime in their memory. Those memories are what will carry them into old age with happiness in their heart.

    3. Stop the Yelling

    Yelling at our kids is not good parenting. Yet it is still happening on regular basis in most homes. I admit, I am still continually working on this one. I think this quote summarizes the situation.

      However, I know I need to continually work to not yell or raise my voice, as I would prefer a household with zero voices ever raised.

      Yelling causes our children to become anxious. It also affects them emotionally and mentally in a negative manner. If you have ever been yelled at by a boss or superior, you probably remember it and it is not a fond memory. It made you feel bad. It is hard enough to be reprimanded in a calm voice.

      When someone, whether adult or child, is yelled at while being reprimanded it causes anxiety, stress, and negative emotions to abound. When the yelling involves name calling or insults it becomes emotional abuse.

      Heathline Parenthood examined research on the topic of yelling and found that parents who yell at their kids end up with children who are more aggressive verbally and physically.[3] Children learn from their parents’ example. If yelling is a regular occurrence in your household, then your child is learning that when dealing with behavior or situations that they don’t like, it is appropriate to yell. None of us want to teach that to our children, so we must take action to stop the yelling.

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      Healthline provides some tips on how to stop yelling:

      • Know what triggers the yelling. What are the behaviors occurring or situations where you find yourself yelling at your children?
      • When you feel that you are going to yell, give yourself a time out or count to ten.
      • Practice responding in a calm, even tone. Practice makes the action a habit.
      • If you do yell, then admit the mistake and apologize to your child. They will then learn that it is not an acceptable behavior and that they too should apologize if they make a mistake and end up yelling. (Yes, I apologized to Charlie for yelling and he had to apologize to our dog Max.)

      My article about yelling less at your kids less is also helpful: The Only Effective Way to Talk With Children When They Are Acting Out. This article outlines the steps to use the “one-ask” parenting approach. This approach is used to help parents follow up with consequences more quickly so that situations don’t escalate to worse behavior by the children and yelling from the parents. Some tips from this article on talking to your children without yelling include the following.

      • Get on their level, talking face to face in a calm voice.
      • Don’t make repeated threats about a consequence that is coming to them and wait for the situation to become more heated.
      • Follow through with the consequence (i.e. loss of playtime or time-out) immediately after they violate your warning. Don’t wait for them to repeat the bad behavior several more times. One warning is all that is needed. Then, if they break the rule or don’t obey, the consequence should be immediately implemented.

      If you find that your yelling is so entrenched in your daily behaviors that you have a hard time kicking the habit and you need more support, then buy, or find at your local library, the book Triggers by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake. Their tips were even featured on the Focus on the Family national radio program and were rated as a number one show for 2019. Their gentle parenting methods simply work.

      A quote from the book:

      “Peacemaking moms produce peacemaking kids.”

      Wendy and Amber also have a Facebook group that is free to join. It is Gentle Parenting with Amber and Wendy. In this group, you will find thousands of other parents looking for support to yell less in their homes. Check out the group if you want more connected support to stop yelling at your kids. I am a member of this group too. Nobody is perfect, but we can do better as parents by yelling less starting today.

      4. Provide Experiences Over Toys

      Toys are fun. But our kids don’t need an excess of overcomplicated, electronic, and expensive toys in order to be happy or develop in a healthy manner. Focusing on experiences over toys is a way to improve as a parent now.

      The next holiday or birthday that comes up, think about gifting your child an experience, for example, a year membership to the children’s museum or zoo. Another experience is a trip to someplace interesting such as a National Park. These experiences help to create memories. They also help to make your child a more well rounded individual as they are out in the world experiencing activities rather than sitting in their room playing the newest video game.

      Motherly posted a recent article that delved into the science that experiences are better for our kids than toys. Here is a quote from that article that is worth noting.[4]

      And if we need one more reason to cool it on the toy giving, researchers have discovered that gratitude and generosity increase when experiences are given instead of objects. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, conducted many studies over many decades and found that happiness is derived from experiences, not things. Bottom line: The happiness derived from a childhood experience is far more significant than the fleeting excitement of toys under the Christmas tree. Giving experiences that involve spending time together instead of gifting toys brings greater and longer-lasting joy. Don’t stress about the number of toys, mama. Focus on making memories.

      Creating family experiences and making memories go hand-in-hand. Our money and resources get more bang for their buck when they are used on experiences for the family instead of things. The research from the Motherly article shows that families are happier overall when they have more experiences together and less toys.

      5. Let Them Play and Be a Child

      Play and childhood development go hand-in-hand. However, the amount of playtime our children are getting has been diminishing in recent decades.

      We are so intent on our children learning, that we take away from their playtime. Play is learning. We need to get our children back to basic playtime so they can develop and learn in a natural way.

      Increase their playtime and limit the electronics. Research by Very Well Family found that too much technology is damaging to our children.[5] When children get too much time on electronic devices, their research found that children have sleep issues, obesity, behavior problems, academic problems, and emotional issues. Limit your children’s time on technology.

      According to We Can, we need to aim for less than two of screen time per day for our school aged children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends far less time for children under the age of five. We Can offers a free screen time chart so you can track your child’s time on digital devices.

      The goal is to get children playing and off the technology. Playing will help them developmentally. In my book Let Them Play, I explain the importance of play and provide 100 child developmental play activities. Some great play activities that promote development and learning that are listed in the book including Play Doh, magnet blocks, Legos, puppet shows, and hopscotch.

      Parents can teach their children different play activities while they actively play with their children. Fifteen or twenty minutes of playtime together can help to create bonding time between parent and child. Then the parent can allow their children to continue playing the activity on their own. This play time is crucial to the child’s healthy social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development.

      They are only little once. Let them be a child when they are little. Two-year-old children aren’t meant to sit at desks for hours completing school work. They were made to play, explore, and be active physically. This is how they learn and develop best.

      Final Thoughts

      These are not the only ways to improve as a parent. However, these are five ways that you can begin improving as a parent starting today.

      Nobody is a perfect parent, which means we all have room for improvement. Look at your own parenting methods objectively and decide where you can improve. Then do something about it.

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      Featured photo credit: Jonathan Daniels via unsplash.com

      Reference

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