Every responsible parent wants their child to grow up to be a good person. They want them to be happy and successful in whatever field they choose to pursue. We want them to be able to form lasting, meaningful relationships and to be able to survive and prosper in what remains a difficult and challenging world.
Everyone has moral values that they hope their child will inherit. These may be culturally ingrained, learned from experience, or the result of individual reflection. It’s also true that we are all flawed and contradictory human beings who don’t always live up to our own highest standards. Nevertheless, some qualities will undeniably help a child to get on in life. Also, some values are universally accepted as right and desirable, even if we can’t always embody them as well as we should.
Valuing others starts with valuing yourself. If your child is taught that they are a unique and worthwhile individual who deserves to be respected and loved, they are much more likely to accord this worth to others. Happiness and success in work and relationships are all made much more difficult, if not impossible if there isn’t a bedrock of self-worth and self-respect to start with. Teaching your child that they are valued, that their body is beautiful and that their thoughts, opinions, and ambitions are worthwhile is the most important lesson you can give them.
Respect for others
Your child needs to learn respect for others, regardless of age, gender, background, beliefs, ethnicity, or skin color. That is more difficult than it sounds as we are often unaware of our own unconscious prejudices when educating children. Author, academic, and activist Bree Picower in her role as co-director of the Newark Teacher Project and the Critical Urban Education Speaker Series, has written and lectured extensively on the need for teachers to understand and be educated around issues of race in particular. Mutual respect and empathy are the foundation of peaceful coexistence and cooperation.
Honesty is a principle we all strive for, but consistently telling the truth can be difficult and sometimes painful in the real world of our day-to-day existence. Try to lead by example and resist telling your children what you might think of as a “white lie.” Never encourage them to conceal information from others, however harmless it might seem. Instead, explain to them why it’s always best to tell the truth, even when owning up to something that might get them or others in trouble.
Teaching your children to be polite is more than just a matter of expecting obedience and self-discipline from them. It will also make them more confident in social situations as they get older and will make them more pleasant company as they grow into teenagers and adults. That will improve their prospects when it comes to getting on at work and forming relationships. Being polite, friendly, and considerate does go a long way in the world.
Working hard and overcoming challenges
When a task is difficult or unpleasant, it can be too easy to give up and decide not to attempt it again. Teaching your child that it’s worth persisting and that hard work pays off is an incredibly important life lesson in building their self-confidence, independence, and self-reliance. As a parent, it’s hard to resist helping them with something they find so difficult that you could do for them in a second. Letting them learn for themselves while encouraging them to keep trying is so much kinder.
It’s okay to fail
While it’s good to teach your kids to be competitive, they also need to know that they don’t need to be winners all the time. Everyone fails sometimes, and if your child learns to feel failure, then they might avoid the risk of it by never attempting to meet challenges in the first place. Show them that we learn from our mistakes and that being able to lose gracefully is as important a value as winning in the same way.
It’s good to learn
Learning isn’t always fun, especially if you don’t get it the first or even the second time around. If you inculcate your child with a love of learning new things from an early age, they’ll find it so much easier to develop new skills and study, giving them a significant advantage in life. The child who loves learning for its own sake and is prepared to persist and keep getting gradually better will accumulate a wealth of knowledge and a “can-do” attitude that will enrich their life.
There are many lessons to be learned as we prepare to embark on life, and indeed we should never stop learning as we continue along its path. The values we are taught as children continue to sustain us as we go along, and often if we start on the wrong foot, it’s hard to go back and relearn the things we missed.