Raising good kids, that is to say raising well adjusted (future) adults, requires parents to take an active role. If you want your child to be kind, tolerant, open-minded and responsible, you have to help guide them through the world appropriately. These skills require practice. There are many “everyday” situations that you can use as examples of teachable moments.
Empathy is the basis for interpersonal understanding. It’s part of what binds us together as a society. Compassionate and kind people can see someone in a situation different from their own and extrapolate how that might feel for the other person. Ask your child how they would feel if they were the ones in a particular situation. Not only will your child start to recognize social cues, but they will also be able to connect to others in a meaningful way.
It’s essential for your child to learn (as early as possible) that they have autonomy over their own body. This helps them develop healthy boundaries for themselves. Just as crucial, it opens the conversation about boundaries (and what’s acceptable) when it comes to others.
3Practice Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence involves being able to recognize emotions, both in yourself and others. You then use this understanding to guide your thinking and then respond appropriately. This can be a tricky task even for adults. Make it routine to talk about how your children are feeling. From here you can help guide them through the appropriate response. You can do this by asking lots of questions and giving examples of potential results.
Giving children choices gives them a sense of control. Options don’t have to be numerous or complex. Something like, “Do you want to eat an apple or a banana?” or “What color socks would you like to wear?” The choices can become more meaningful as your children grow. This includes letting your kids take risks. By allowing them to test their limits, they become more resilient, self-confident, and creative.
5Require Acceptance of Outcomes
Part of the responsibility of making choices involves accepting the outcome of those choices, both positive and negative. Children should be allowed to fail and experience disappointment, in additional to celebrating success. As a parent, you can be supportive without “fixing” everything all the time. Failures allow children to learn healthy coping skills. Recognizing that no one is ever going to be perfect helps reduce anxiety and build resilience.
6Exposure to Diversity
Children exposed to more diverse groups of people are much more likely to learn, not only tolerance but acceptance of others. There are so many different people in the world and even in our communities (race, religion, physical and mental abilities, etc.). With exposure to diversity, children can see that even though people are different, we are still the same in many regards.
7Teach the Value of Work and Money
Many parents strive to give their children everything they didn’t have growing up. That’s okay, to an extent. However, we should strive to instill a strong work ethic in our children. Once they understand the concept of money, it’s probably time to start “working” within the family. Consider assigning chores and (potentially) setting up an allowance. It’s a good idea to clue kids into the relative workings of the family budget as well. All of this should be used as a means to teach your children that they are not entitled to things but should work for them. Have a conversation about saving and planning. Depending on their age, you can even discuss taxes, credit, and debt. Having a healthy approach to finances is an essential life skill.
8Practice Authoritative Parenting
A majority of psychologists agree that authoritative parenting is the most beneficial for children. This involves implementing healthy limitations and rules but also allowing for warmth and emotional support. It’s not about being your child’s friend, but it’s also not a “my way or the highway” situation.
9Acknowledge your own mistakes
Of course, it’s next to impossible for parents to remain constantly patient and understanding. We are fallible too and are hopefully learning from our shortcomings. Children learn a great deal from simply observing their parents. When you make a mistake, acknowledge it, apologize (if necessary) and move on. If you yell out of frustration, come back later and address it. You can explain your feelings and discuss why this was not what you should have done. This helps children understand why you reacted the way you did. It also validates their feelings in response.
10Keep an Open and Judgment-Free Dialogue
It’s always a good idea to “check in” with your kids. They should feel comfortable expressing themselves to you. This allows you to help guide them through any challenges they may face. Try not to react negatively to things that you may not like or comprehend. Instead, try to seek more understanding and find resources that can help.