Being a parent is a hefty responsibility but an important one. Parents have so much power to educate their children in many ways and of many things. As a mother, I feel that it is my job as a parent to encourage my child (and future children) important things about society and behaviors that would attribute to them becoming moral and trustworthy people. So here are 11 important things all parents should teach their children.
Something I want to teach my children about is racism and how to be anti-racist.
I’ve heard Ibram X. Kendi (author of “How to Be an Antiracist”) say something that really impacted me. Essentially, he said, there are three types of racists and everyone falls in one category or the other.
There are racist people who are in denial or don’t think they are racist and identify themselves as “not racist”. An example of this is: they will say something racist and usually finish the sentence off with “but I’m not racist”.
Then there are the racist people who acknowledge themselves as “racist”. People who are just ignorantly and blatantly racist.
Finally, there are the racist people who acknowledge the racism in them. They know they fall victim to the systemic racism weaved into the structure of our society but are actively learning how to fight it, these people are “anti-racist”.
Racism is a prevalent issue in our society and culture. It is everywhere. With the Black Lives Matter Movement, we are in the right direction but it will take many generations to eradicate it completely and we need to raise future leaders to stand against it.
Our children cannot stand against racism if they don’t know what it is, what it looks like, and how prevalent it is in our society. Racism is the number one thing all parents should teach their children. A great way to expose your child to different cultures and racial diversity is through books and encouraging them to play with children of other ethnic backgrounds. Check out my blog post: My 6 favorite racially diverse books for kids.
I know there are many heavy topics right off the bat but I think it’s important. As a girl mom and a woman myself, teaching our daughter about sexism is crucial.
If you are raising a little girl, it is so important to raise them to be strong and independent young women. They need to be aware that sexism is real and she may experience it in her workplace, at her schools, community, and possibly even within her close circle of friends and family.
Teaching our children about sexism is not just so they know about it or to be aware of it but they are able to identify it when it is not obvious, how to respond to it when they see it and experience it, and most importantly how to actively fight against it.
If you are a mama to a boy, teaching your son about sexism is even more important. We don’t want to raise young men to be a part of the problem but make way and be the solution. If sexism towards women comes from men, it needs to stop with men.
For the same reason, it is important for all parents to teach their children about racism, we need to educate our children about sexism.
3. Accepting those who are different
Accepting those who are different may seem like a no-brainer. We all want our children to be open-minded young individuals. However, this trait often gets lost somewhere along the way. Maybe you don’t agree with the lifestyle or you don’t know enough, whatever the reason, I believe it is important to foster in our children the ability to accept and tolerate those who may be different from them, even if we disagree with how they live.
People will always be different but they should not be bullied, rejected, or left out, etc. because of the differences. Everyone’s life is of value even those with a lifestyle that may not be the same as theirs.
I personally don’t know a lot about the LGBTQ+ community but there are many resources out there that can help educate you. Ignorance is not an excuse. How can we teach our children about something when we don’t know or understand it ourselves.
I want to start the conversation with my children instead of leaving it to someone else, especially if they do not hold the same values as our family. It is harder for parents to insert themselves into the conversation when it has already been started by someone else.
Aggression, violence, and undervaluing the lives of others who may be different comes from a place of ignorance and fear. It is important to open the doors of communication with your children. How and when you do it, is of course, up to your discretion. You know your child and what they can understand.
Here are some helpful “beginner” articles to help you on your education journey. Accepting those who are different than us is something all parents must teach their children.
- What the ‘Q’ in LGBTQ stands for, and other identity terms explained (2019)
- What does LGBTQ+ mean? (2020)
Teach your child about honesty and to value honesty. I feel honesty is something all parents should teach their children. The relationship you have with your child relies so heavily on trust and honesty as they get older.
Your child can pick up cues from you and your partner and learn about different degrees of “truthfulness” in their everyday interactions with you. Teach them to value honesty and make sure to be an example of it.
The practice of honesty and dishonesty comes at such an early age. My daughter started to exhibit moments of “dishonesty” sometime after the age of one. One day, same as any other day, my daughter is playing then suddenly she stops. She pauses and starts making a face. If you’re a mom, you know the face. It is the poop face. Around this stage of her development, she really disliked having her diaper changed after a poop.
I had witnessed her making a poop and I would ask her about it point-blank. “Baby girl, did you make a poo-poo?” She looks at me and nonchalantly says, “no, poo-poo”. She blatantly lied to my face!
It may be hard initially to instill in them truthfulness but repetition is key. Also, parents should practice it and be a model for their children. In the long run, trust is built on both sides and the relationship, in the long run, will be better because of it.
The character of honesty will impact so many aspects of their lives, especially their relationships with others. I hope all parents feel the same way and want to set their children to have healthy relationships with their friends, partner, and family. Practicing honestly is something all parents should teach their children.
Persistence is something I strongly desire for my children. The ability to keep going, to work hard and give it their all, and just as importantly finish what they started. I feel this skill is an important one all parents should teach their children.
During my mid-twenties, I experienced a time when I was emotionally and verbally abused by someone I worked with. It left me broken, weak, and at a loss for hope. I was ready to give up. After almost 3 years of the abuse, I was ready to just leave everything I had worked towards behind. I had decided to abandon my passion and dreams and everything I worked towards and start again with something else.
The persistence in me desired to finish what I started. Eventually, I completed my time there and achieved what I set out to do. I won’t lie, I did come out of it broken. I am still healing and building myself up again from that experience.
However, I feel if I left it incomplete and just ran away, not only would this person have taken from me what they did but they would have also taken from me this achievement that I worked hard towards. I didn’t want them to take everything. I feel stronger because I came out of the situation, not as a victim but as a winner.
There are many ways to handle hard and difficult situations and in teaching persistence early on they learn the tools they need, not just to deal with the situation but to handle it well. Persistence also teaches them to manage their self-discipline, emotions, and critical thinking.
6. Life-long learning
As soon as babies are born their brains are hardwired to learn. They are constantly taking in information and processing what they can. I’ve learned with some of my friend’s 4-year-olds, they are always listening and watching. They are constantly taking in and learning from us.
We as humans are programmed to learn and grow. Teach your children about lifelong learning. Knowledge doesn’t just come from a classroom or a textbook. Encourage your child to be creative, open to learning new topics, and a wide variety of subjects. Support them when they want to be hands-on and fuel their desire to learn and try new things.
Education doesn’t have to stop after they get their degree. There are always things to learn and ways to grow.
The moment we stop learning and growing we are dying. May we raise our children to be lifelong learners.
7. Money, Debt, and Taxes
I was really shocked to learn in my early twenties how much debt Canadians and US citizens had and also how little they knew about managing money, debt, and taxes.
Take a look at these scary and shocking statistics:
This is as of 2018 and unfortunately, it is predicted to only increase. (Source: Statistics Canada)
Canadians owe $1.77 for every $1.00 of disposable income. That is almost double!
Canadians owe a total of $802.1 billion in consumer debt such as credit cards, car loans, etc. Those are shocking numbers!!
The United States is worse. Americans, as of October 2020, had a total consumer debt of $4.2 trillion. (source: thebalance.com)
Many young adults entering the workforce, don’t understand taxes and deductions. And worse, do not understand the cost of borrowing money, such as loans and importantly credit cards.
I think students should learn this in high school as they are getting ready to get out into the real world but I also feel that it is the responsibility of the parents to instill good money habits and an understanding of money, taxes, and debt. The understanding of money, debt, and taxes are not often taught but something all parents should teach their children.
Check out my blog post for more information and suggestions!
My husband said the other day that he misses when our daughter was little. She is so independent now that he feels like she doesn’t need him anymore. While this is far from true at this point in time, I responded, “Isn’t that what we want? Don’t we want to teach our daughter to be a strong and independent individual?”
Independence is something all parents should teach their children. It may seem like a given, that they will eventually develop independence as they get older but I think it is important for us, as parents, to foster healthy independence in our children.
One of my mom-friends does this thing with her kid, something that I really admire and started to implement as a mom too.
For example, she encourages her child to go and play at the playground but sometimes, her child will want to climb on something they are not big enough for.
My response and I think most parents would just help their kid up but my friend teaches her child how to climb and encourages them to do it themselves. She literally shows them where their foot should go, then their hand, and step by step. If they are unable to do it, she tells them, “that’s okay, we can keep trying”. She does not help them to climb up or pick them up and places them on the playground.
It seems so insignificant and some parents might think just help the kid up so they can play. However I saw it as a wonderful opportunity to teach them healthy independence, the right kind of independence.
Another great example is her response when her child gets hurt. When her child falls and cries and looks to her. She acknowledges their hurt, asks them if they’re okay, and encourages them to pick themselves up and come to her. Of course, this is for minor fumbles. She waits patiently for them to pick themselves up and come to her, and when they do she loves on them and holds them, and comforts them. This is something I need to work on, my response is to run to my daughter’s aid and pick her up and hold her like it’s the end of the world.
These simple small ways of responding have amazing results in her children. They are some of the most self-sufficient and well adjusted little kiddos I know.
Independence doesn’t mean just being able to do things on their own, but about making the best decisions. Understanding and knowing their limits. Guiding them this way to independence encourages problem-solving, patience, and persistence. They also experience a minor form of disappointment which helps them grow emotionally and deal with these kinds of emotions properly.
Children who are independent are able to play on their own and are comfortable being alone with themselves. Studies have shown that independent children grow up to be more self-sufficient and emotionally strong adults.
9. Delaying gratification
Long-term research done by Walter Mischel showed that children who were able to delay gratification showed greater patience in everyday situations. You might not know who Dr. Walter Mischel is but you may be familiar with the marshmallow test.
The test was conducted on 4 and 5-year-olds where they were taken to a room to be seated at a table. In front of them was a marshmallow. These kids were told that the adult was going to leave the room and asked to not eat the marshmallow until they got back. If they were able to wait, they would be rewarded with two marshmallows. The adult would leave for a full 15 minutes.
A few kids were able to wait the full 15 minutes, other children held out for as long as they could but gave in after 5 to 10 minutes, and then there were the kids that ate the marshmallow as soon as the adult left the room
A follow-up interview with children that took part in this observational research, years later, showed that, as adults, those who were able to wait, were much better adjusted as teenagers and young adults. They exhibited higher tolerance and better ability to handle difficult situations and hardships than the adults that we’re unable to show restraint as children.
The common factor between all the children who were able to wait, whether it was little or the whole time was the ability to distract themselves. The ability for children to distract themselves has learned to not focus on the thing that they are waiting for but on something else. This ability to delay gratification was rooted in their ability to distract themselves.
How can children learn to distract themselves? They must learn to be comfortable being alone with themselves.
I never knew how important it is for kids to learn how to be comfortable being alone with themselves (of course, with adult supervision). However, I have recently learned that children who are comfortable being alone with themselves have the ability to distract and entertain themselves.
Children and even babies with this skill are overall better sleepers, both in falling asleep alone and staying asleep through the night, they are patient and grow up to be well-adjusted and resourceful adults.
This is also helpful for parents, better sleepers mean more rest for the parents. This leads to a better family function and overall well-being of the family. Patient little humans mean children who know how to wait. Whether that means, waiting patiently when mom or dad says no, waiting for their food, or waiting for mom to get off the phone.
There are many small ways to help your child learn to delay gratification. Exercise the lesson of waiting, short and longer periods every moment you can. When my daughter interrupts me while I am talking to my husband, I simple ask her to wait. I quickly end the conversation and then attend to her needs. Another example is when we have meals. I put the plate of food in front of her and I ask her to wait, while I get her bib. 99% of the time she waits until I tell her it’s okay to eat. You can practice longer pauses too. Practice, practice, practice.
Parents should teach their children to wait and by doing so, you will see the benefits as children and as adults.
Something I learned in my some-30 years of life, is that forgiveness is essential. Some people don’t understand that forgiveness is not for the one who has wronged you but for you. Your wellbeing and the ability for you to move on and move forward.
Forgiveness does not mean that you have to go on like you’re not hurt or forget what they did to you. It does not mean you must have that person back in your life. It is a decision to let go of your anger and let go of the hurt you’re holding on to. This will look different for each person.
Teaching your child to forgive means to teach them to not hold grudges. Life is hard and people are imperfect and they will feel wronged often so learning to forgive early on is important. Right now, I just teach my daughter to forgive small things and hopefully it will set the right tone for the future.
11. How to share properly
My friend told me when her child was at the park, he started to have a conflict with another boy. On this particular day, he had brought to the park a toy from home. The conflict was that this boy wanted to play with his toy.
When her son refused to share it, the boy ran over to his mom and began to complain and fuss. So the mother came over to my friend and her son and asked if her son could play with his toy this one time. My friend replied, no. This mother looked surprised and slighted and had to tell her fussing and crying son that he couldn’t play with this toy.
She didn’t explain herself but she shared with me that her reasoning was it was not a community toy but a toy that he brought from home. She didn’t feel that her son needed to share.
Do you agree with what my friend did?
I most certainly do.
My point with this story is that sharing is nice but there is a proper way to share. Not everything has to be shared and there are some things that shouldn’t be shared. There is a time and place to share and certain people you might want to share with.
In this case, you don’t have to share with strangers, you don’t have to share toys from home when you come to a public place. If you’re playing with community shared toys like at school or daycare or a play program, of course, sharing is a must. It is important for you to teach your child to take turns. When I worked in a daycare, there were specific rules for children such as no sharing your food from home and only bringing toys from home during show and tell.
I teach my daughter that it is good to share with your friends and she doesn’t seem to mind sharing and playing together with friends when they come over. However, I also tell her that she doesn’t have to share if she doesn’t want to. I do make sure to add but if you don’t share, others won’t share with you and she has to be okay with that.
Being a parent requires a lot, doesn’t it? Many things are important but not everything is essential. I believe these 11 things are important and all parents should teach their children. Each skill will equip them for adulthood and living life without us one day.