Parents are the first teachers

When we send our children to school, do we expect teachers to teach them the social skills, values and rules to live by, or is that the job of parents.

Parents are the first teacher of a child and can exert huge influence on what kind of adult they become. So, it is of the utmost importance that parents recognise their own authority, and their duty, to give children the essential qualities expected by society so that they can become happy as they grow into adulthood.

Should children be taught in the home the life skills necessary to ensure that they are well behaved and aware that  certain expectations will have to be met when they arrive at the school gate?

There are many factors that make a child grow into an exemplary adult and these need to be taught by word and example in the home. These are social skills and  values to live by, and other qualities that need to be fostered to allow a child to develop good communication skills as they mature. These are the skills that will eventually determine the quality and the makeup of a child that will last a lifetime.. Teaching by example is by far the best way to ensure that children see and hear the values that you extol and carry out.

  • Teach respect

Parents should instil a sense of respect in their children from an early age. Not just respect for all humans, but also for every other living thing on this planet. Showing respect for pets, animals, birds, insects, as well as trees, plants, the environment, flora and fauna, the rivers, seas and lakes, all give children the sense of care and importance for their surroundings. Parents need to show their children the value of respect and dignity from an early age.  In that way it becomes a normal way to live and behave, rather than trying to instil it later as they grow up. You must earn respect by giving it unconditionally.  Teaching children to respect all aspects of life leads them to appreciate everything they have, including how to treat their parents, siblings, friends and the wider community.

  • Teach responsibility

From a very young age parents should teach children to be responsible for their actions. It is important for them to understand that what they say or do has far reaching consequences, and whether or not these consequences are positive or negative, is up for them to decide. It may sometimes be hard to discipline children, but by going easy on them when they do wrong, is doing them a great disservice. Parents should recognise also, that they cannot be “friends” as well as parents when children are in their formative years. They must be kind, caring and always supportive, but at the same time being the authoritative one in the home. Keeping the long -term outcome in your mind will ease your conscience when you are being challenged. Children must be taught that all words and actions have consequences, and as they grow older  will be considered more serious if they do wrong. On the other hand, teaching children that positive actions will result in positive rewards that will put them on the path to being decent, responsible human beings who will have much to contribute to society at large.

3 Teach Tolerance

Children need to be able to tolerate other children and adults, whatever their colour, creed or background. They should be aware that all people are equal and not ever try to diminish their point of view. From an early stage they should be taught to help their fellow man, especially those in need. They should be encouraged to share and be kind, since they may need help of sorts themselves at another time. Sharing their belongings teaches them that giving is an accepted and necessary part of life, especially for those who have ample to share. Children must also be taught to tolerate those who wrong them, especially children who have bullying problems. Making them aware that this is how some children manifest emotional problems that they are unable to deal with, is a good lesson to learn. They must learn that there are many things in this world that cannot be changed, things that they may not like, but being able to deal and handle them is an added bonus. If they are able to work out and deal effectively with situations beyond their control, they are on their way to becoming a tolerant adult. Many problems will arise over their lifetimes when tolerance will be needed. When they are shown the way early in life they will put these experiences to good use and avoid conflict by understanding how someone else may feel.

4 Teach self control

Teaching self control is one of the most important tasks that a parent teaches a child. Bad behaviour should never be tolerated and tantrums and sulks are predictors of future problems. There should be no negotiations when rules are broken, if a parent gives a command, that should be adhered to. As a child grows older, an explanation becomes more appropriate, but the rules should still be enforced. Children who learn to control their emotions and behaviours in the face of temptations, impulses or desires, will quickly become independent adults. Children who have to be constantly told to do their homework, or clean their room or do their designated chores, rather than doing them of their own free will, may eventually be in trouble when they leave home and have no one to keep reminding them. When parents are no longer there, they find themselves at a disadvantage in having someone to guide them or goad them into action. Lack of self- control and willpower is the most significant barrier to any change and causes endless problems as a child grows up.

Children should be taught how to control the basics of life like, money management, be able to prioritise their resources, manage their time, by keeping promises made and by reigning in emotions. Being able to keep control during the tough times is also important, so they do not dig themselves into a deeper hole or by acting in  a way that has a negative effect on themselves or those around them.

Self control see those who lead a disciplined life as they grow to adulthood, to have received better grades at school, better attendance, less substance abuse, less criminal convictions,  better savings behaviour, and more financial security.  Research shows that the trait of self control predicts adult wealth, and regardless of income, manage to live within their means.  So, what parent would not want a child who has mastered their emotions and have self control when success and wealth are almost guaranteed, no matter if they have a high intelligence or not. If you have rules in the home, have the courage to enforce them reasonably and with regularity.

Teach Honesty

Children need to learn to be honest with themselves and with others. A child brought up to be honest will grow into a trustworthy and honest adult. It is extremely important to instil in children the idea that even if they did something they knew was wrong, it is better to tell the truth about it rather than lying to avoid punishment.  Children will make mistakes and should be taught that this is a learning process. They must be taught from an early age to be honest in what they say and do. They must learn to be upright and truthful in their dealings with money, possessions and time, and be careful with other peoples’ money and the things that don’t belong to them. Being aware of time when they start their working life, and giving an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay for their employer, is a quality that will reap benefits. Stealing and taking without consent what they do not own, must be nipped in the bud and punished. When parents place a lot of value on honesty and show their children by example that you never take what do not belong to you, this is a quality that remains for life.

Teach Integrity

When children learn about morality, decency, virtue, fairness, probity, being upright and honest, being truthful and having strong moral principles, they will come to realise that these values are admirable and an honourable way to live. They will learn the necessity of these virtues with the help of parents, and continue to develop these qualities over time. Having integrity in word and action is a commendable way of living and transferring those values to your children will reap huge benefits during  their life.  Learning that accuracy and truthfulness in one’s speech and actions show an ethic that is prized by society and is one to be developed and nurtured.

Children need to understand the whole notion of what integrity is about. They must learn to do what is right and proper, even when no one is around or the possibility of being found out. Integrity is a prized possession throughout life and one that needs to be fostered and encouraged every day. When you are recognised as being a person of integrity, people will trust and admire you. Children who have integrity, even from a young age, will always have respect from peers as well as adults.

Teach Perseverance

Those who achieve the ultimate success persevere in spite of difficulties, delay or failure. Teaching  children to have tenacity, determination and staying power when the going gets tough, is the way to achieving dreams in life. Success does not happen by accident. It comes after hard work, learning, sacrifice, having an aim in life and staying with it until the task is completed successfully. So many children are scared of not doing well that they never even try. This applies to homework, tests, examinations, new hobbies, or applying for a new job. Children are much more scared of the big world than you may think. From early on, teach a child that it is okay to fail, just putting in the work and doing their best is all that will be asked. Teach children that failures are the stepping stones to learning a different way of doing things that produces a different result. What is not okay is letting life pass by without trying and working hard to get to where you want to go. If children get lax or lazy and lack the motivation to get the job done, then the result of having no  perseverance will raise its head. Children need to know that failure is not the end of the road, but one of the many pathways to success.  The dream life that they may wish for may never come to pass without the gift of perseverance. Hard work and perseverance will always reap success.

Teach Gratitude

Show your children every day how to be grateful for all the things they have in life, for the people who care for them and for their own contribution.  Show them how to be thankful everyday in the home or at school,  by doing chores without having to be asked, writing a “thank you note”  to someone who was nice to them for no reason, or by giving a hand to someone old or disabled. Saying thanks and acknowledging the goodness of another should be encouraged every day. Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has. It helps us to realise our many blessings and this can lessen our needs for wanting more all the time. It strengthens relationships and makes us happier.

Saying  thanks immediately is a custom to be practised as otherwise we may forget. This is good practise for teaching a child to be grateful. Being grateful reinforces the idea that each of us has a civic duty to one another.  Gratitude requires humility, modesty, and respect. We all have experienced people who find it difficult to be grateful for favours done.  When that happens point it  out as a lesson for children to see firsthand.  Children who say “Thank you” will come to understand that when you show gratitude to another it is a way of showing their support for them and what they do. They will also become  a child to be valued by society, since people are always grateful for acts of kindness and graciousness. Good manners and a good attitude thrive on the words “Thank you”, so  teach your children their importance and encourage them to be prolific in their use.

Teach empathy

Like many other skills children learn empathy from example. When parents demonstrate empathy, children develop greater trust and attachment. It is these attachments that drive children to want to imitate empathetic  behaviours. It is important for parents to show respect and empathy to others, regardless of their social status and background. By treating the gardener, spouse, housekeeper, shop assistant, or a family member with a problem with the same level of respect as the wealthy neighbour or  the teacher, you teach by example a very important lesson that we all deserve empathy and respect. Caring for others shouldn’t be a secondary issue, rather it should be the driving force as to how relationship are formed and managed.

Children should be reminded everyday of the importance of caring for others, especially those who do not  have the same advantages as themselves in life, and that the world does not revolve around them. Empathy is not just a concept, it is a way of living and needs to be carried out by our actions every day.  Acts of giving time, talents, and belongings to others, who are less well off, can stress the importance of helping other people and can instil good habits and the practice of empathy. Sometimes children have difficulty understanding  the feelings of others, especially if a difficult person or situation. They may feel frustration, anger, or sadness that blocks their empathy for others. By encouraging them to express and manage their feelings, you help them to be in a better position to resolve conflicts and develop a level of self control that leads to greater empathy.

Teach self sufficiency

In between instilling values and teaching life lessons, parents must also remember to teach life skills to their children. Teach them from a young age, so that it becomes normal everyday living, how to wash dishes, clean the bathroom, vacuum the house, fill the dishwasher, sow vegetables and flowers and keep them watered, or hang out the clothes on the line. Or bring them in if there is going to be rain. Insist on them doing it, so that they will become self- sufficient. When they move out of home to college or their own place they won’t die of shock with all the little jobs that has to be done to keep a place in order.  Teach them the importance of making a list to be done that day, so that they have goals to be met by evening. This teaches responsibility also. They may resent you for insisting on their jobs being done before they can go out to meet their friends to play.  But one day they will appreciate it when they must take care of themselves and where they live.

Every child growing up should be taught the basics of everyday chores and be allowed and encouraged to do them. As they get bigger teach them the basics of cooking, making a sandwich or laying the table. These are all lessons that are just as important as what they learn in school or from books and are skills needed to last every day of their life.

Teach conscientiousness.

Parents can teach and encourage conscientiousness in honesty, responsibility and industriousness. Conscientiousness is a fundamental personality trait  that influences whether people set long-term goals and deliberate over choices and behaviour and take seriously obligations to others. They have virtues like being thorough, careful and vigilant and always want to do a task well. They have qualities of being organised and efficient as opposed to being easy going and disorganised.  When you are rearing children, you must teach by example. Teaching children to work hard and hold down a job in an honest and responsible way becomes a habit that will stand in good stead for life. You teach virtue by being virtuous. Giving example of being honourable to your word will allow children to know that if you say something that you keep to it. Your word is one of the most valuable assets that you have. Your word belongs to you and you alone and is a valuable virtue to have.

Be Role models

Absolutely none of this can be achieved if you, the parent, do not set the stage and be with them in showing them how to achieve and learn from all you have taught.  If you do not model how you want it done but take the attitude “Do as I say, but not as I do”,  as this does not work. The minute you turn your back, they will be gone too. Be the person you want your child to turn out to be. In fact be strive to be a better person  than ever before in your life, if only for the benefit of how you teach and care for your child. It takes a lot of hard work to raise a child, but in that process it will boost your own confidence and self esteem.  Rearing a child that can go out and be successful independently, is the true definition of success in life and one which you will be proud of every day. You are responsible for the example you give to the next generation of children and  grand-children in the future. Good parents who teach their children the way to an exemplary life have seen all that in their home from their parents.

Last but not least.

Tell  your children every day that you trust them, love them and are glad that they are happy and doing their best.  Tell them how proud you are of them and their achievements, however small and insignificant to others, but important to you. As they get older let them make decisions for all the family. Give them responsibility for organising days out, holidays and destinations. Give them control of the budget to do the weekly shop or other necessities. Encourage them to shop sensibly and carefully. Reward them if they make savings on special buys and special offers.  Encourage them to be cheerful and gracious  as they do their work, to be patient and generous with shop assistants, other people that they encounter and to always greet them with a smile and a greeting.  All these attributes garner success for children and how they are perceived in public. Good manners and their attitudes to other people will always be  noticed and commented on. This is the public face of the family you have  reared and good qualities and values will remain with your children for their life.

All parents like to give their children the chances they never got, but be wary of going too far with the way you show them your affection. Remember that no matter how smart they are or how they fare in college, that a good work ethic is the most valuable asset you leave your children. Don’t lose authority over them. Discipline and living within parameters set and learned behaviours are all lessons that last a lifetime and are valued and important to live a fruitful life.