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Parents, Educators Can't Teach Life Lessons For You

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A week ago I wrote a post that struck a nerve in the community about the need for parents to stop undermining our kids' teachers. In this post, I want to continue that theme by writing about a few of the simple, but important, lessons we as parents aren't teaching our kids.

Parents, you are your child's biggest influence, and your bad behaviours will be reflected in your children.

In the last 12 months I have coached children's soccer, basketball and baseball teams, and one common feature I have seen across all these sports is the parent who behaves in a manner that they would never accept from their children.

We have one dad in boy's baseball who, when asked to help out as volunteer umpire, was happily willing to bend the rules in favour of his child's team. What sort of example do you set for your child when he sees his dad make clearly incorrect calls to ensure his team wins? Does he expect his child will play fairly the next time when his hero (his dad) is so cavalier with the rules?

Another dad was screaming at kids in under-eight soccer. This is under-eight soccer, not the pro leagues. Let your kids play, make mistakes and have fun. A bad game in under-eight has never cost a child a university scholarship, so relax and watch the kids play.

Most importantly, regardless of the outcome, if they played hard then give them a hug and some praise and they will be the better person for it.

Parents, admit it when you are wrong and make sure your children hear you apologize.

Going back to being your kid's best example, there are times when you (the adult) are going to be wrong or make a mistake. That is a teachable moment. Make sure your children hear you admit to being wrong and making amends.

You will always be your child's biggest hero, but even heroes are not perfect and how you respond to your own imperfections is just as important as how you behave when you succeed.

I, unfortunately, did not learn how to say "I was wrong" until far too late in my life. Happily a friend taught me the importance of saying "I was wrong" and "I don't know" as a young adult, and it has served me well ever since.

It is healthy for kids to understand that their parents have limitations and don't know everything. So when you don't know something, simply say so.

My typical response is to say "I don't know, but why don't we look it up together then we will both learn something?" I've found a variation of the theme works really well at work. Instead of bluffing or faking it I simply say, "I don't know, but I will find out and get back to you." My clients appreciate my candor and, more importantly, they won't make important decisions based on bad information.

Parents, I have never seen a coach get angry when you take the time to control your child at a sports practice.

I have coached many, many sports teams in the last 25 years. For the last five I have been coaching a lot of younger children. These children are necessarily accompanied by their parents as they are too young to be left unaccompanied.

What I can never understand is when a parent just sits back and watches as their child misbehaves and disrupts a practice. The coach is there to teach skills, not to be the parent. If your child is misbehaving in a practice, call them aside and get them under control. It will help the coach and be appreciated by all the other parents as well.

Parents, teach your kids to look at someone's face when you say please, thank you and sorry.

My final point seems like a little thing, but it is one that will really hit home as your children grow up. It seems that we have raised a generation of children who believe that it is okay to say "Thank you" while walking away and "sorry" while looking at the ground.

The fact is looking at someone when you are asking for something is an important sign of courtesy. The problem is that children, especially young children, do not always feel comfortable looking into an adult's face.

If your child is not comfortable looking someone in the eyes teach them to look at the space between someone's eyes or the center of their glasses. Eye contact means a lot in our society and if you teach them early to make (or even fake) eye contact you can avoid a lot of problems later in life.

Now I realize that for many of you, this blog post only reinforces the things you already do at home. However, based on my experience and those of all the teachers I socialize with, there are a lot of parents out there who need to read these words and take them to heart.

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