I have been thinking a lot about what I want to teach my kids and what I want them to learn in life. There are so many important life lessons but these are the top 10 I am focusing on now, with simple ideas on how how to encourage them in daily life.
1. You deserve to be loved and respected.
Every person deserves love and respect, no matter who they are or what they have done. If you feel you are not being treated appropriately, you should communicate as best you can to help rectify the situation – in a way you would like to be spoken to and treated.
Practical tip: Let your child express their emotions within a safe space and give them tools to let others know their thoughts and feelings. Show them that they deserve love and respect by loving and respecting them, and also loving and respecting yourself. You are your child’s biggest role model and what you do and expect will influence their future actions greatly.
2. Problems are not “bad.” And good relationships take work.
Challenges make us stronger and give us opportunities to become better people. Here is a great quote to remember: “Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.” -Robert A. Heinlein If we want our children to pursue big dreams and be successful at long term relationships, we need to let them learn how to work out problems on their own.
Practical tip: When your child is having trouble building something or drawing something, do not rush to their rescue. Let them try to work it out on their own and help them value the challenge as a chance to enhance their skills. Same goes when challenges come up in friendships. Let them work it out as best they can, and try to give them tools (not answers) to fix problems on their own. Most of all, do not give up on your own challenges and relationships. Work through the problems and become a better person in the process.
3. You are what you think.
If you see yourself as a caring, competent, confident person, you are on your way to being one. If you only see the faults you have, they will plague your mind and prevent you from moving forward.
Practical tip: Never speak badly of yourself (especially in front of your kids). Do not say how “fat” or “stupid” you are; they will only copy your language and learn to think negatively of their own selves. Instead give yourself intentional goals to improve yourself such as, “I would really like to focus on eating more wholesome meals, it would help me get to a healthier weight” or “I am really learning a lot from using this GPS and I bet with more practice I will become quite good at understanding how it works.”
4. No one is perfect.
We all make mistakes. Do not judge others and do not let others’ judgement affect you.
Practical tip: Do not put down others and when your children say negative things about other people, remind them that we are all different and that we all make mistakes. Sometimes we have bad days, sometimes we are distracted by other issues, and sometimes we just have different opinions on how things work. The thoughts or actions of someone else, however, should not be an excuse for our own behavior.
5. You should be the friend you want to have.
Being a good friend means forgiving and helping someone through a problem or mistake. It means laughing and crying alongside someone, and wholeheartedly letting someone laugh and cry beside you. If you work to become a better person, you will help your friends to do the same.
Practical tip: Let your children witness your own healthy friendships by showing them how you can call someone up to ask how they are doing (and to ask for emotional support when you are having a rough day), dropping off a meal when they are going through a busy time (and accepting a favor when it is your turn to need help), and being considerate of others’ preferences for certain activities or foods (and being thankful when your friends consider you as well).
6. Everything is not necessarily “easy” or “fun,” and that is okay.
Hard work allows us to make the most of our lives. If we challenge ourselves to become the best people we can be and give our most to the world, this will make us more satisfied with our daily lives and our contributions to the community. Just getting by with “easy” or focusing on only having “fun” will keep us from meeting our potential.
Practical tip: Show your child how you are willing to do things you do not necessarily “like” because of the long term benefits (anyone else not enjoy weeding or doing taxes?). Give an example of having a positive attitude doing jobs that are not your favorite, simply because they are a stepping stone for living the life you want to live.
7. Learning is a life-long adventure.
We never stop learning, even when we are old. And the sources of learning are endless – we do not just learn from books or experts. We can also learn from experiences, our own experiments, and even people younger than us. Sometimes little people are the biggest teachers.
Practical tip: Be a life learner and engage your child’s interests in the new things you are learning about. Even if you are focusing on learning new recipes or reading about world news, your open mind will be an example to your child and increase their thirst for knowledge and wisdom.
8. Appreciate others and also inwardly acknowledge your own contributions.
As important as it is to be grateful to others, I also want my children to be proud of their own contributions (though of course be humble about them, as well). I want them to recognize what everyone is doing – whether it’s bringing in an income or doing the laundry – and find ways to help out, as well. You are a great team player when you are grateful to others and also feel good about what you are offering yourself.
Practical tip: Encourage gratitude by saying “thank you” often and giving your child tasks to help the family and show kindness in the neighborhood. If your child is an active member of the household and the community, they will appreciate the hard work of others and gain courage to contribute their own share as well.
9. If you ever losing hope or direction, find a way to be of service.
When we feel sad or uncertain about what we should be doing in life, we can always gain perspective by finding a way to serve someone else. We will be reminded of what we should be grateful for and find new opportunities for using our individual talents. Stepping out of our comfort zone reminds us how special it is to be alive and how we should use the time we have to do good in the world.
Practical tip: The nature of sacrifice is giving up something lower for something higher. When we give up our seat on the bus (even when we feel tired), share our meal (even though it was our favorite food), or donate an extra $10 to charity (instead of buying a new toy/shirt), we will find strength in knowing we have the opportunities – every day – to make the world a better place, if only we can find them. Little acts of kindness go a long way.
10. Life is a journey, not a destination. Be thankful for it.
You will not be happy “when” something happens any more than you can choose to be happy now. Goals and dreams are important, but being thankful for the every day is what makes daily life rewarding. Gratitude grounds us in what is truly important.
Practical tip: Surround yourself with positive messages, and be thankful for the moment – whatever that moment may bring. Keep your goals in mind but do not let them detract from living your life right now, right here, with gratitude for all the smiles, surprises, insights, memories, challenges, and opportunities that make your life yours. No one else can live your life and no one else has the chance to be you. Embrace the ride and be thankful for everything that comes with it.
Are there any life lessons for kids can you add? How do you suggest teaching them?