1. Be the example. Be well aware that no matter what you choose to tell the kids in your life, they will absolutely model your behavior before they take your advice. Choose to be an awesome parent, and your kids will want to be awesome kids.
2. Be honest. Lying to children or keeping things from them only builds a sense of insecurity and cultivates fear in kids. There are many things that are too adult to discuss with children, but that can honestly be pointed out, and my kids have always accepted it easily as an answer. Kids can handle a whole lot more information than we give them credit for, and they respect us for having the courage to share it with them.
3. Follow through. Don’t make promises to kids if there is a chance that they will be broken, and have a good reason for breaking them if it has to happen.
4. Be consistent. Consistency cultivates security and confidence in kids. They deserve to be able to gauge the level of punishment that they will receive when they do something wrong, if it is random they never know what to expect.
5. Make great friends. Especially if you do not have strong family support, or if family lives far away, friends are important. They need to be quality people who your kids can respect and look up to.
6. Keep the love excessive. Kids cannot get too many hugs, and there is no way that “I love you” can be said too often. After I reprimand my kids for something and they are feeling a bit defeated, I always tell them that I love them as a follow up, and I know that it means a lot to them.
7. Don’t be perfect. Kids have flaws; everyone has flaws. If you try to present yourself as a person that never makes mistakes, then the children who look up to you are going to be afraid to make mistakes. We learn through making mistakes, so when a child is fearful of failure, they become hesitant to learn.
8. Don’t hide emotions. Prior generations taught us that to be strong we had to hide our feelings and bury them inside. The opposite is true. To raise healthy kids you must let go of the fear of being vulnerable in front of them, it is a form of honesty.
9. Tell stories. I can get the attention of all three of my kids in an instant when I tell them stories about my past. It is some sort of bonding exercise, and I am not exactly sure how it works, but they treasure the stories that I tell them.
10. Remember that time is the most important thing that you can give. Over and over again, I have seen that kids would rather have time from their parents than anything else. They really don’t want the stuff as much as they want to spend time with you.
11. Teach respect. This starts with parents ourselves. If our children do not respect us and do not treat us with respect, there is little chance that they will respect anyone else. When I hear a child ordering their parents around it truly makes me cringe. The world does not need anymore oversized princes and princesses mucking it up.
12. Don’t be so serious. Growing up is over-rated, and our kids need to see that we aren’t dead and cold just because we are grown-ups. My kids and I sing at the top of our lungs in the car, and we dance in the grocery store.
13. Always encourage exploration. Our generation has pulled indoors considerably. There are dangers out in the world, and we have the lure of television and video games inside, but they cannot compete with the value of exploring the outside world.
14. Remember that kids are their own little individuals. We can’t expect them to be carbon copies of us, or like the same things, or even cheer for the same football team; it just doesn’t always work out that way. It is our job to encourage our children in the things that they excel at and believe in.
15. Teach kindness first. Kids who are raised with examples of kindness and generosity in their lives become kind and generous people. In turn, they will end up becoming happier and more fulfilled adults.
16. Be grateful. Your kids will notice. My kids know well how blessed they are to live the lives that they live. They pay attention my husband and I, and how thankful we are for all that we have.
17. Remind your children how beautiful they are, and not because of how they appear on the outside. Tell your kids that they have beautiful souls and beautiful minds, and that those are the things that are of true value.
18. Show your kids how to be leaders. Everyone can be a leader, even in a small way. Let your children know that their voices are important, and that speaking that voice loud and clear is their privilege and their responsibility.
19. Let your children see that every little thing counts. Help them grow up with the empowered understanding that when people get together and everyone pitches in; miraculous things can be accomplished.
20. Be brave. Being a parent to begin with requires a lot of bravery. Beyond that, children who have brave parents become brave adults. Bravery is not found in picking fights or in over-arming a home. There is far more bravery to be found in sharing our feelings openly, or in having the courage to do something differently than everyone else. These are the best examples of courage that we have to offer to our children, and they are the ones that will take them far.