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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"That every little set back isn't the end of the world. My parents always overreacted about every little thing...now i immediately want to lose my shit everytime something little happens. anything from breaking a glass or running late, whatever. i've had to learn to just chill man." (offwhitehorse)
"That you don't have to be too nice to everyone. There are just some people you need to figure out its better to RUN from." (whowaswhatwhen)
"Eating right. I was born in the 70s in the south and all we ate was fried foods. I wish I had been taught to eat a moderate amount of healthy food. "Instead the motto was, 'if you put the food on your plate, you had to sit there and eat until it was all gone.'" (Ileokei)
"My parents never apologized to me for anything so it took me some time to learn that owning up to my own mistakes and saying sorry was okay." (lpilky) "How to learn from mistakes, since they don't admit to any. As an adult I realized how horrible that is. It's harder I guess to take responsibility, but it's the only way to improve your life." (gplex86)
"Intelligence isn't all I need to succeed" (onedappervagina)
"Basic household chores. Dishes. Laundry. Keeping things generally clean. Developing clean habits. My focus growing up was always school first. I have a great job and am in fantastic financial shape at 24 but my place is horrific and I can't seem to figure out how to keep it clean." (omglia)
"I'd say a work ethic or commitment, it's definitely something I've acquired myself (the work ethic is...in progress) but ever since I was a child I've never been pushed into committing myself to something, whenever I've wanted to quit I've just been allowed to" (Dib-Dab)
"How the world really works, they made life to be all black and white when it is the exact opposite." (mrshatnertoyou) "My parents never taught me about perception. I was raised to believe in absolutes. I thought everything had a right and a wrong and for every argument or thought there was a correct answer. In reality perception is everything. People provide different answers to the same question based on who is answering them and life is full of grey (very few things are black and white)." (rthrow18)
"Not just money management but, more importantly, saving and realizing that just because you want it doesn't mean you get it. I'm still struggling with this today as are many folks. Debt is bad."
"To try new things. This covers everything from eating avocados, to watching avant-garde movies." (seniorkite)
"The only thing that my parents ever told me regarding sex: 'Just wrap your jimmy son, we don't want grandchildren yet.'" (BrutalReckoning) "Nothing about the birds and the bees. The only time my mom talked to me about sex was when she walked into my room (before I was about to go off to college) and said, 'Hey, I was reading an article today about how Doctors discovered that sex leads to cancer.' Okay, Mom, ok." (reecia-ruu)
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