Like many of us, the biggest role I play in my life is that of a father. I’m both a proud stepfather to a 15-year-old girl and father to a 5-year-old boy—it’s an understatement when I say a typical day within my family home is very busy! Within the hustle and bustle of our every day life, it can be easy to lose sight of the most important duty we have—the job of parenting. Teaching my kids the fundamental skills that will help them grow into well-rounded adults who can handle life’s many stresses is at the top of my job description. I want my kids to be able to face any challenge with confidence and grace.
Here, I’ve listed seven lessons that I hope will give my kids the most benefits throughout their life. If I can instill these core values, then maybe my kids will have a slightly easier time than I did growing up! It’s the simple things that we tend to overlook, but every day I realize that my children’s childhood is training for the real world and I’m their lucky leader. This doesn’t come without challenges of course; I’m always reminding myself to switch gears and be DAD instead of CEO because the way I handle certain situations at work is probably not going to fly at home. The key is adapting the valuable principles that have brought me my success and making them more kid-friendly. And, sometimes you just have to be flexible and just roll with it! In the end, I know that taking the time to explain and guide my kids through the following life lessons will definitely go a long way!
Communication. I honestly believe communicating clearly with others is the most important skill to have in life. If you’re an effective communicator, your life will be a lot easier. Encouraging the foundation for strong communication skills is what I believe will set my kids up with the social skills they need to shine. Learning how to communicate appropriately in various social settings and with a range of different people is what will give my kids a huge advantage in their future.
In my family, we make an effort to sit down together for dinner as much as possible. We use this time around the table as the perfect opportunity to turn-off our phones/iPad’s/TVs and share stories about our day. This is also an ideal time to let our kids open up about different topics and ask any questions they may have. The kitchen table has become the place where our kids express themselves and share their opinions on different issues. By expressing themselves regularly with us, our kids will become more confident and easily converse with others in the real world.
We all know the notorious saying that money can’t buy you happiness. But, managing your money correctly? Well, that will certainly save my kids a lot of stressful days and anxious nights. I learned this lesson late—and unfortunately the hard way, which is why I want to make sure my kids understand the value of a dollar. In order to pay for things, we need to work. If we want something badly enough, we need to work hard and save for it, plus maybe even make sacrifices in other areas of our life to get it.
We gave our daughter a hands-on money management experience with her first lemonade stand. The first time around my wife and I paid for everything, then the second time our daughter had to repay her ‘loan’ to us with the earnings of her lemonade sales and purchase her new supplies. This gave her an understanding of revenue vs. expense and what profit truly is. Another lesson that worked well with our daughter was offering her a back to school budget. We put our daughter in charge of making her purchases for the school year, and in turn, she learned that she couldn’t have everything she wanted. Giving our daughter the responsibility of deciding what was necessary for school forced her to think about what she really needed versus what she wanted – a truly timeless lesson.
Making healthy choices
This is another life skill I wish I got started on earlier in my life. Imagine how easy it would be to eat clean and stay active if it were something you’d regularly done since you were young?
Healthy eating and living habits are sometimes a challenge to maintain. The popular saying “my body is a temple” is being expressed in my home, it sarcastically means that we’re about to indulge in something! But, as long as that extra-large chocolate cake serving is only happening once in a while we know we’re on the right track.
The only way our kids are going to make healthy choices is if they see us making those choices as well. Creating healthy meals together at home helps get them into these healthy habits, and taking our kids to the grocery store to shop for nutritious ingredients will get them interested in where their food is coming from. In the end, all the effort is worth it because I know my kids will not only be feeling better, but also functioning at their best.
A huge factor in the confidence equation is to be comfortable when making decisions. Giving our kids an early start at making their own choices is something I make sure we practice in our home. Small things, like having them order their own dinner when dining out, provides fantastic real-world practice at making decisions and communicating a message to an industry professional. The more real world practice we can give our kids the more comfortable and confident they will feel.
I was able to see the results of this practice when our daughter was able to speak up about a grade she received in school that she thought was unfair. She was confident in her work and was able to approach the teacher with her thoughts and negotiated a better mark. Things like this may seem like small victories, but these are pivotal moments in our kids’ lives that offer some major impact. Over time, these small wins begin to accumulate and help build our kids’ confidence.
How to problem solve
As much as we try to avoid running into problems the reality is something is going to pop up (and usually very unexpectedly)! I want my kids to know that problems are a normal part of life, and there’s always a solution. Sometimes it may be tougher to get to the solution but there’s always a way!
How I explain this to my kids is that they first need to take a step back and get some perspective on whatever problem they face. This is something I have to keep reminding my kids (and myself!) to do. Emotions often run high when a problem arises, so taking a deep breath and giving yourself a moment to collect your thoughts will do you a lot of good. Next, I tell my kids they need to identify the problem and begin to brainstorm solutions. We all know too well that acting on impulse to solve a problem may not always lead to the best solution. So, evaluating and choosing the best solution is always the way to go. Problem solving takes lots of practice, but life gives us plenty of opportunities to practice our problem solving skills! Next time you run into a little problem (disagreements, etc.) let your kids help with trying to find a solution—this will help them become an expert problem solver both at home and in their external environment.
To be grateful and empathetic
We live in an incredibly interesting time. Access to information is available at lightning speed and we are subject to a lot of material focused and driven content. It seems as though the more people have the more they keep wanting. This isn’t always a bad thing, but keeping my kids in check with the fact that there’s more to life than the latest sneaker trend is really important to me.
I want my kids to be appreciative of what they have, and be grateful for the things that we often take for granted. Our basic comforts—shelter, food, clothing—are all things that many people in the world do not have. Keeping our kids updated on current events is a great way to give perspective on their place in the world, and can help them understand what it would be like to walk in someone else’s shoes. Getting involved with local charity initiatives is also a great way to teach kids to be empathetic towards others and show them how they can make a difference in the community they live within.
Always work hard
Last, but certainly not least, is the instilling the skill of good work ethics into my children. No matter what paths my kids choose to take in their lives, the only way they will be successful is if they work hard.
The most successful people I’ve met in my life are the hardest working ones. Encouraging my kids to get involved in school clubs, helping them with their resume to apply for a part time job, and giving them additional household responsibilities as they get older—these are all things that help foster a strong foundation of work ethic.
As parents, this is a big one where we have to lead by example. I make an effort to explain to my kids that there are no short cuts in life, and in the end cutting corners usually leaves you with bigger problems to deal with. Hard work, honesty, integrity, and a lot of heart are what lead to that positive end destination we all want our kids to reach.