Are considerate, respectful and empathetic people a thing of the past? If you find yourself wondering this yourself, then I am sure that you have wondered about how to raise children with these characteristics. This subject comes up often when talking to friends with school age children. It is a subject that stays on the forefront of my mind. These days, it seems like with all the luxuries that we have been afforded via technology or our own spoiling, that most kids only seem to possess the Entitlement gene. In teaching our kids how important they are, do we also stress how important other people are? Or that their needs wants, and feelings are equally as important as their own. We are all aware of the importance of a child knowing their value and worth, but where the problem seems to come in is when we don’t express that EVERY ONE has value and worth.
I was raised in the generation of cotillions and thank you cards, family dinners and Big Holidays with extended family. We were taught that everyone was important. We were also taught that not everyone was raised like us. I am not sure if that was about being accepting or about just being aware.
I notice all too often that my little ones tend to think that it is ALL ABOUT THEM, all the time. We struggle daily with teaching them all the things that we grew up with. To that end, we require that they wait until we finish talking before they interject what they have to say. That they do the forgotten things like say please and thank you and that they address adults as adults, with Yes Ma’am or Yes Sir. But, when they are around other children they easily discern that this is no longer a common practice.
I don’t claim to be an expert on Child Rearing, but I do think that a return to Common Courtesy is Necessary in order to see a change in Society as a whole. Here are just a few lessons that I think should still be instilled at Home.
1. Teach Your Children to Have Manners. It used to be that how a child acted outside of the home was a Direct Reflection on what they were getting taught at home. As much as we don’t spend half the time as our parents probably did with our children, I think this still remains true. You are still very much their First Teachers. They are watching you. They see how you interact with people. They place their first values on the things that are important to you. If you treat the waitress like she is beneath you, or don’t respect the authority of those in positions of power, then you can’t be surprised when they follow suit.
2. Teach them to Say Thank You and to Mean It. I know this probably falls under Manners. But, I can’t tell you how much it irritates me to purchase something for someone and don’t get as much as a Thank You. I am not saying that they need to write a Thank You Card for every gift they get. Even though, I make mine do it most of the time. But, simply acknowledge that someone took the time to think of you, and that they absolutely did not have to.
3. Teach them to Respect Their Property and The Property of Others and to Know the Value of A $1. I believe that all of these things are tied in together. I see this trait all too often in adults, as well as children. They want you to guard their property with your life, but they want to borrow and tear up your stuff. No Bueno. Are you kidding me? People used to look at me like I was crazy when I said that I didn’t lend out my CD’s or Movies, but I can’t tell you how often when I did they would come back with a Scratch and a Shrug. Hmmm… Secondly, even though as parents, we try to protect our kids from the Day to Day ins and outs of our Finances. I think they should know that Mommy & Daddy buying you a iPad is not the same as Mommy and Daddy buying you some from the Target Dollar Bins. And, that is part of the reason, I believe strongly in chores and allowance. Let them see how long it takes to make money in order to buy something that they want. O, if you are opposed to that, let them use some of the money they got for their birthday to buy or put towards something that they feel they just have to have. It quickly changes their perspective on Money. I remember being a Junior in High School and wanting so badly this White Cable Knit Sweater, I just had to have it and my mom refused to spend close to $100 for one sweater. So, it was the first purchase I made with my Check when I started working. I was soo proud of that sweater, and I was sooo pissed when I spilled something in it. It definitely made me rethink whether or not it was worth the price I paid for it.
4. Teach them Empathy. In the Age of Bullying this is extremely importance. TV has desensitized us when it comes to the Value of Human Life and Human Feelings.. In some cases, it has made us think that different qualifies as FUNNY or Tease Worthy. And, even though we would like to believe that these problems are localized to children, they really are not. Which is evident in all the Fat Shaming, and Teasing that I see go on in Epic Proportions Every Day on Social Media. We lose sight of the fact that America was founded on the backs of Diversity and that our differences are what makes us special in one way or the other. I could go on and on here, but that’s a blog for another day.
Parenting is a HUGE responsibility. Having a hand in molding the life of another person is quite frankly one of the most terrifying things that I have ever encountered. And, though I don’t think that these simple niceties are the be all and end all to raising productive members of society. I do feel like it is a start.
“Children are Great Imitators. So Give Them Something to Imitate.” – Unknown
What character traits do you think are most important for your children to possess?