Raising kids is tough – we all know that. Raising them to be good, honest human beings is even tougher. Now that my son is turning into a little autonomous person I realize there are certain character traits I want to instill in him, even at this young age.
I have the usual qualities on my parenting to-do list: honest, ambitious, polite, chivalrous, etc. Then there are other attributes I want to teach that aren’t as typical, but that I find equally as important:
1. Be thankful for all service men and woman –
In my previous life, as a psychologist, I worked very closely with veterans. I specialized in treating PTSD and dealing trauma of all kinds. I saw a lot, and I mean a lot, of servicemen and women. So I can say that in my professional opinion they are very under acknowledged for all the sacrifices they make.
As a parent, I want to teach my son to be grateful for those sacrifices.
Considering he is so young, the easiest way to do that is to teach him to be respectful and go out of his way to show that gratitude first hand. Simply saying thank you to all those who have served in all branches of our military is an easy way to do that.
While I do understand that not everyone likes the acknowledgement – I have heard from some that the thanks actually comes off as a shallow and disconnected gesture from civilians who have no clue what soldiers have actually gone through (which is correct, we don’t have the slightest idea) – but the truth is I still think its an important lesson to teach my child.
I want my son to admire those in the military they way he does firemen or police officers or superman – with awe and wonder and excitement! After all, they deserve that, at least in my opinion. I want my son to know that servicemen and women are real heroes, who have gone above and beyond to protect him… and the very least you can do when you meet a real life hero face-to-face is say thank you.
2. Do things that scare you –
Fear is a funny thing – it heightens your senses and slams your whole body with adrenaline all in an effort to help you get through whatever it is that you’re afraid of, it is one of the more uncomfortable feelings that’s for sure.
But every time your heart practically beats out of your chest, any time you feel the anxiety of the unfamiliar, each time you are uncomfortable – it’s a wonderful reminder that you are alive!!
And let me tell you, every day you wake up alive and healthy is a great day!
So what type of risks do I want to encourage my son to take? I’m certainly not suggesting he jump out of an airplane – there are countless ways to step outside our comfort zones without putting lives in danger:
- Try new foods
- Raise your hand in class
- Introduce yourself to someone new
- Ask someone out on a date or to a school dance
- Try out for a sport team
Will he be nervous? Probably. Will he fumble his way through it? Yes, sometimes. The thing is though, no matter what the outcome – as long as it doesn’t kill him, he will come out a better person because of it.
3. Always acknowledge the positive –
People are quick to complain these days – too quickly if you ask me.
I understand that it is far easier for people to focus on the negative. The feelings that arise in a negative situation are usually uncomfortable ones. Which is why they usually leave a lasting impression – people remember how things make them feel far more than anything else. You may not remember the date or time, the specifics of the event but you likely remember how you felt in that moment. Unfortunately negative feelings seem to stick with us in a way that positive ones don’t – blame evolution. It’s a way to protect us against negative things in the future or life-threatening events. It just happens to spill over into other areas of life too…
So when there is a bad customer service, for example, I get that people want to complain about it and don’t let it go. The thing is, the roles are rarely reversed – it is rare for someone to go out of their way to praise someone for going above and beyond. For me, as a parent, that’s the teaching moment…
Go out of your way to acknowledge the positive.
If an establishment has outstanding customer service – ask for the manager and tell them how great your experience was. I guarantee you they don’t get those kinds of encounters often and they will be appreciative.
If you see a mother with well behaved children – tell her how impressed you are with her little humans and that she is doing an excellent job as a mom. I promise you will make her day!!
I personally believe this is a learn-by-seeing type of lesion. So my son will likely learn this quality by watching his father and I do just that – go out of our way to acknowledge all the positive things we can.
4. Open your mind and your heart –
Some may disagree but I feel that tolerance and compassion are qualities that are taught. We are brought up with a set of beliefs and vales and tend to surround ourselves with people who share those same values and beliefs.
So when something – or someone – challenges those beliefs it can be difficult to accept those choices, because you don’t understand them. But one of the most liberating things is to be vulnerable enough to admit that you don’t know everything; that there are possibilities you may have never considered.
I want my son to open his mind (and his heart) to new ideas. It may change the way he thinks and feels about the world – that doesn’t mean he will necessarily change his beliefs but it will help to give him a different perspective and it will certainly allow him to grow as a person.
5. Be kind –
This seems so obvious, to be kind. To be nice to people. To do onto others as you would have them do unto you. We have all heard that saying – I know I did thousands of times growing up.
The thing is, I truly believe that kindness is a choice. In every moment you choose to respond with kindness or you don’t.
I want to make sure I raise a kind-hearted child, someone that doesn’t point or stare at people that are different, but instead smiles and looks everyone (no matter how different) straight in the eye with love and acceptance; someone that don’t bully, but instead sees the opportunity to stand up for another person and make a new friend; someone that always chooses kindness because it costs nothing, but can mean everything.
Again, this seems obvious, but it isn’t practiced enough. We get caught up in our own lives and assumptions and judgments and we forget that everyone we meet is fighting a battle that we know nothing about.
Its important to remember that, “the greatest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.”
So the most important quality of all – do all things with kindness!