There are so many life lessons we want to teach our children. So many values and morals we want to instill in their young minds. It’s true that the youth is our nation’s future. The decisions they make will impact future America. I find this thought to be extremely empowering, exciting, and hopeful. I’ve always believed that empowering children is an extremely important part of their upbringing. Teaching kindness, responsibility, and confidence. These are not easy tasks. And as parents, we often stumble and fall, just as our children do. We don’t always know what the right answer is. We can’t help but worry that our advice falls on deaf ears or may be misinterpreted. But all we can do is try our best. The same thing that we encourage our children to do each day when we send them out the door. We can’t follow them everywhere they go (as much as we wish we could). We can’t be that little angel on their shoulders, reminding them to make good choices and to ignore the little red devil sitting on the opposite shoulder. All we can do is hope that we’ve taught them everything we could to prepare them for the real world.
I think this starts with kindness. Of course, there are the old adages that we’ve all likely used - “Treat others the way you want to be treated”, and “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. But, sometimes, kids are influenced by others. They might act a way that goes against their values. They know it too. They get that gnawing, awful feeling in the pit of their stomach when they do something they know, deep down, isn’t right or kind. But sometimes, peer pressure is a hard thing to defend against. Other times, your child might be testing the waters and pushing boundaries. This is a natural, though ugly, part of any child’s development. They start to feel their oats and want to exert their individuality and “power”. This means trying different personas and characters on for size. They’ll likely contemplate questions such as, “What will happen if I do this?” or “What does it feel like to say this bad word?” These are natural curiosities. All you can do is meet them with proper discipline and consequences but also try to understand that your child is slowly discovering who they are, and making mistakes is a big part of this process.
Bestowing responsibility on your children is another great way to help foster independence and also hold them accountable. In life, nothing is given to you for nothing. Whether it’s school work, playing on a sports team or getting a job, life requires hard work and discipline and it’s never too early to instill these good habits in your child. If your child is small and in elementary school, responsibility can start with simple things like keeping their room clean, brushing their teeth, packing their lunchbox and backpack for school, and keeping their homework assignments organized. Holding them accountable for their own personal belongings and even hygiene, are the perfect baby steps into bigger responsibilities down the line. As your child gets older, they can perform household chores to earn an allowance. These include taking out the garbage, cutting the grass, laundry and whatever you deem age appropriate.
With that allowance, they can purchase things they want whether it’s a new mobile phone, video game, or article of clothing. Giving your child a phone is a great responsibility in and of itself. Phones aren’t cheap and they’ll need to take proper care of it. There’s also a lot of trust that goes along with giving your child a phone. If they have access to the internet, social media, and other apps, you’ll likely need to monitor their activity. But once they’ve gained your trust, be sure to explain how important and valuable that is. I’ve always told my kids, if you never lie to me than I can always trust you. But the first time you lie, well, then I can’t believe anything you say. And this is true for more than just the mother child relationship but for all relationships going forward.
As parents, we are laying the foundation for future America. Our children are a product of their environment. Whether or not you think your kids are listening to you, trust me, they are. Their beliefs about the world as they know it start with you. They internalize what you say and often, believe it as the truth, no matter what it is. So that means we have a great responsibility not only to our children and ourselves, but to future America. To guide our children in becoming kind, responsible, and gracious human beings. It starts with you!