We all hear over and over again that our kids are learning by example. Although we know that this is true, while battling through the chaos that is parenting, it is easy to backslide on our ideals. Here are twenty simple goals that each of us can make to help create a more positive, progressive, supportive environment in which we can set a healthy example for our children in the coming year.
1. Stop putting yourself down! Of course, the goal is for us not to do this in front of our kids, but ultimately, if we learn not to do it to ourselves at all, we will not slip up and do it in their presence. Even a child catching us in the bathroom, frowning at the scale or at our image in the mirror can set an example for them to be more self-critical. If we think highly of our own selves, and place greater value upon what is on the inside instead of what we see on the outside, our kids will follow suit.
2. Don’t tell lies. I know that this can be particularly hard for people who have grown up in secretive environments with secretive parents, but eliminating that sort of dysfunction for our own kids is so very valuable. Kids who grow up without the fear of being lied to are far more secure than those who do not. This does not mean that you have to disclose every private thing about yourself to your children, simply be honest by telling them that it is not something that you are prepared to discuss, rather than inventing a lie.
3. Do not gossip or speak poorly of others. This does not mean that we are not allowed to have our own opinions or notice negative behaviors in others, but we must speak of other people with kindness and respect. When our children witness us doing otherwise they instantly mirror the behavior. Children have a limited capacity to understand adult behaviors and motivations so if, for instance, we are gossiping about a relative or friend in their presence, there is no telling what could come out of their mouths in regards to that person in the future. Gossip is bad news on every level.
4. Do not neglect your own health. I know too many women who do not eat enough food to be healthy, and some of them are doing it in front of their kids. I have been guilty of it in the past myself. I actually know a woman who passed away recently because of this. The opposite can be said for many people who overindulge in front of their kids. If we want for our children to grow up in health, and live long comfortable lives, we must set a good example for them by observing healthful habits ourselves.
5. Try wrestling these words from your vocabulary and banning them from your house: hate, stupid, dumb, retarded, and idiot. I know that most people do not allow their kids to use curse words, and if you don’t want your kids to use them then I certainly hope that you are refraining from using them yourself. These other words may seem far less negative, but in actuality they hold similar connotations to all of the words that we traditionally ban from our kids.
6. Observe the rules of healthy argument. Everyone argues from time to time, and anyone who doesn’t is probably suffering from a very large stomach ulcer. Kids can actually benefit from observing healthy discussions where the adults involved maintain respect for one another, do not name call or put anyone down, attempt to remain calm, and work towards healthy resolutions. Attacking another parent verbally or putting them down when they are not present sets a horrific example for children.
7. Spend more time at home. Easier said than done, right? We have lived as a single income family for the past eleven years for the sake of our kids. It is not always easy and it has definitely involved sacrifice, but I would not take our decision back for the world. For families with two working parents, there are small changes that can make big a difference. Cook with your family and eat at home together instead of in a crowded restaurant. Cut out some of the kids activities so that you can spend more time at home as a family. Instead of going out to see a movie, stay at home and play a board game. The key is to interact as a family with fewer outside distractions as often as possible.
8. Do not ally yourself with groups that put down the human race. It can happen in any group that is considered radical. From radical animal activists that proclaim animals have far more spiritual worth than human beings, to religious sects that believe that very few humans are worthy of their god’s approval; these groups all disrespect the potential of our very own species. To raise a child under a cloud like that is something that could entirely destroy their potential to be a good person, to help others, and to do great things in the world.
9. Invest in people and not in things. Money invested in enriching our families and our own selves by participating in learning experiences, visiting new places, and cultivating new skills is money well spent. Money spent on fancy toys, status symbols, and unnecessary gadgets that actually serve to distract us from our own families is money sadly wasted.
10. Do kind things. Children never fail to notice these small acts, or to acknowledge them. When my children observe me doing good things for other people they want to follow my example. It is difficult for a child to understand the impact of a parent writing a check to a charity. Sometimes kids learn far more from witnessing a simple act of kindness, like making soup to deliver to a sick friend.