Before we start the day, think about how we want to show our children that we respect and love them. Yelling is often a big struggle for parents. As much as we may falter in our attempts to be the parent we strive to be, we should also make time each day to cuddle, appreciate, listen, and love our kids. How we parent our children will directly affect how they parent their children. It may benefit our family to take a step back to look at how we interact and ask ourselves, "Is this how I want my children to remember their childhood? Is this how I would want my grandchildren to be treated one day?"
2. Empower Them to Take Responsibility To Help
Whether it's taking part in helping out around the house, or volunteering within the community, children learn to respect their own home & community and gain confidence in themselves knowing they can make a difference. A clean home with dinner on the table on time may appear like a well-managed home, but if the adults are doing all the work (as we all know it's sometimes less work, and faster if we do it), the kids are not learning to take responsibility for themselves. If they never learn how to run the dishwasher, chop an onion, fold clothes, etc - they will become young adults that are still looking to mommy and daddy to take care of them - or worse, feel that they are 'above' doing basic tasks.
Teaching kids how to maintain their own home one day is our responsibility - and we need to take on the role of a teacher, and not mock or put down our kids as they're learning. We certainly expect patience and encouragement from their school teachers, and we need to prepare for the bumps in the road - whether it's an accidental dose of bleach in the laundry, or a forgotten casserole in the oven.
Same goes for helping out in the community. It's easy to write a check or do a fundraising walk. It's more work, but more valuable, to show kids that picking up trash along the sidewalk or beach, raking leaves for a neighbor, lending time at the food bank or visiting the elderly at a nursing home are activities that connect us to those around us. We improve the quality of own communities when we take an active role.
3. Promote Respect Within the Family, But Don't Make it 'Us vs Them'
Were you ever told "be nice to your sister/brother" or hear yourself saying "that's not how we treat family!" Bullying and name calling between siblings should not be acceptable - but we shouldn't stop there. While we may not see how our children treat their peers, it's our job to teach and remind our children how to treat others - family or not. Its up to us to lead by example in how we treat people outside the home. Whether it's a waitress who brought the wrong order or person who cut us off on the highway - respectful people exercise respect towards everyone, not just who we've 'chosen' as worthy of being treated with respect.
4. Praise Hard Work and Good Deeds, Not Just Results & Talent
Good looks, inherit artistic/musical/athletic talent, or natural test-taking skills are gifts that people are born with. They didn't work to achieve them - they're a matter of "good genes". When children are praised for things that they didn't have any control over, they feel like their sense of self worth is out of their control.
Make sure you praise the time they spend practicing their talents to improve them, or their dedication to learning something - especially when it doesn't come easy for them. Children gain confidence when they find that they can accomplish things that weren't easy, or they couldn't do at first. Praise them for doing good things that make others feel good: comforting a friend, wanting to do something for someone in need, standing up for a kid being teased on the bus. Those are things we can all do, that are always within our power, and if done selflessly will create long-lasting feelings of contentment - knowing we have the power to add good into the world.
5. Don't Avoid Vulnerability
Children, naturally, believe their parents (and adults at large) are 'perfect' all-capable beings. They expect us to know the answers to their questions, and solve their problems. Likewise, we are constantly making decision on their behalf - their doctors, their schooling, their activities. They can't make much of a move in the world without our stamp of approval.
But everyday, we falter - in how we parent, how we care for ourselves, how we manage our relationships. And that's OK. We're human. It's important to address with our kids that we sometimes don't hit the mark, we make mistakes, we do the wrong thing - but we're trying to do better, and we still love ourselves through it all and a lot of the time. We cry, need encouragement and help. Everyone struggles, and everyone needs some comfort and assistance along the way. Sometimes we have to admit when we've done something that's hurt someone else - apologize and make amends as best we can.
When our children can see us recognize that we can be hurt, that we can be wrong, that we are striving to be better people, they can more easily accept that it's OK for them and others to not be perfect, but still deserve respect and love.
In the end, our children are not just "children" they are people in the stage of childhood. Over time, all these little moments, are building a foundation and structure for the adults they will, much sooner than later, become. As the saying goes, the days are long but the years are short. We need to hit the pause button as often as we can and realize we are affecting the future, for our children and the world.