When I was expecting my twins, I had two goals in mind – one was to raise healthy children and the second was to raise good children. I knew that if I got these two aspects right, the rest would fall in place. But, once my children started growing up, went to school, faced the world, and made friends, they became influenced by the not-so-good. Well, the not-so-good was my definition, and I am sure other parents out there would also have felt the same.
Let's start by trying to define a good child? Our definitions may include, but are not limited to, children who are well-mannered, disciplined, eager learners, kind, compassionate and more. The list is never ending, but before we search for an example of a good child and are lost in a maze of, ‘What psychologists say’, reports, I would like to ask you – "Are you setting an example of being a good person to your children before you expect them to be good?"
We are raising children differently today, as we are living in an era of instant gratification, gadgets that simplify life and abundant information, which is easily accessible. But, at this point, let's pause briefly to recollect how we spent our childhood. Most of the time was spent playing outdoors, often late into the evenings until the street lights came on. It wasn’t a deadline that was specifically mentioned, but something we knew. A bruised knee, a cut or a scrape didn't matter much.
Having said that, I must admit that I am guilty of bringing up my boys differently. I give them iPads so that I can work in peace. Two hours of uninterrupted bliss is enough to meet a deadline. You must be doing it too. Right? Branded wear is a ‘must’ for my children; for, buying nothing but the best is what I aim at. I also settle for the best school and the comforts they want. Like most other parents, I too ensure that my children have an easy life. But the question that we should ask ourselves is, “Does all this help us raise good children?”
Think about it. Do you feel that we, as parents, need to learn and follow some special techniques to raise good children? Or, do we opt for simpler methods that are non-fussy? Maybe, we can aim for a blend of life hacks and values that will stay with our children for life. Here are 5 simple tips to help you raise good children!
Tip #1: Spend time with your children
With most parents leading busy lives, this is something that most of us are guilty of – not spending enough time with our children. We can’t argue that we are spending time with our children when, while sitting beside them, we are furiously tapping on the phone, replying to an email or watching a TV show. During such times, we barely listen to them, and our answers are usually an imperceptible nod or a half-hearted ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
As I’ve said earlier, I am guilty of handing over to my children the iPads just to keep them out of my way while I needed to work. Later, I would drown in feelings of guilt at not being able to answer their query when they wanted me to, or listening to something they wanted to share with me.
Spending time with your child means giving her that undivided attention she needs. Put away everything, the phone or the important presentation you are preparing, and be present in the moment for her. Interact with your child person-to-person. Do you know that these are the moments and gestures that she will remember? Forget the expensive gifts, just make time to be with her.
Tip #2: Teach them to be honest
Helping children find a way to tell the truth is very important. One of the best ways to teach them about honesty is to be honest yourself. Avoid deceptions of any kind and set an example, since your child will take cues from you. While it may seem harmless, a simple statement like, “Let’s not tell daddy that we ordered pizza for lunch today,” can make your child believe that a lie, even if harmless, is not something that he should worry about much.
Another important thing is to not over-react. I try this technique on the days I am not ready to climb the walls! As a mom to 8-year-old twins, there are times when accidents happen and the volley of blame game begins. All I have to say is, “I promise I won't yell and punish if you tell me the truth. If you don’t accept, then both of you get grounded. I’d rather have you accept and own your mistakes and not blame anyone for it.” It works.
Appreciate your child for being honest. And you’ll end up teaching him an important lesson – ‘Telling the truth may not always be easy, but accepting a mistake will always make you feel good about yourself.’
Tip #3: Teach them to appreciate others
Praising others’ accomplishments goes a long way in shaping your child’s personality. If your child learns to acknowledge others’ good work and appreciate them for it, it will help him to establish goodwill with others. Also, it will keep him free of jealousy or an unhealthy competitive spirit. Once envy takes root in the child’s mind, it can hold complete sway over him and plant negative thoughts in him. Therefore, it is important to make your child recognise the achievements of those around him and praise them for the same.
The first step in imparting this lesson will be to congratulate and praise your child whenever she achieves or accomplishes something. But, while appreciating, you’ll need to clearly differentiate between excessive praise, which pampers the ego, and an honest feedback, which can be shared in a way that does not belittle what your child has achieved.
Tip #4: Teach them to be kind and considerate
The other night, as we headed for dinner, the boys insisted on going to a restaurant that we visit often. Needing a change, we made the boys understand that sometimes we need to accept others’ choices and decisions. So, rather than enforcing a decision on them, we explained to them why choices made by others matter as well.
This seemingly simple conversation made them ask us if we would like to go somewhere else, and prevented the prospect of a decision being forced on them.
Parting with their almost new Star Wars shoes, which they had outgrown, was a huge challenge, till we pointed to children on the street who had no shoes. They gladly gave theirs away because they understood they were helping someone. Let there be no barter associated with kindness and consideration. Over a period of time, your child will realise how his actions and words can make a difference to someone else’s life.
Tip #5: Teach them to be grateful
While we are so busy complaining about the things that we do not have, we forget to show gratitude for the things that we already have. And, in this age of instant gratification, we make it so easy for our children to get what they want. Therefore, they end up experiencing a feeling of entitlement. To address this issue, it is important for you to let your child know how grateful you are to have them in your life. It helps boost their self-esteem and value relationships. You also need to let them know your gratitude for all your material possessions and comforts. Only then will they, in turn, be able to express the same gratitude. All this just points to one fact – the values that children embrace as they grow older aren’t those we have forced them to learn, but the ones that they see us practise.
I know, I need to make this a daily habit; but, whenever I have the time to snuggle in next to the boys as they sleep, I ask them to tell at least three things that made them happy during that day. It makes a world of difference to go to sleep with a positive thought in your mind.
Wrapping it up
We give our best to raise good children by working on being the best parents, but there will be times when your children will throw tantrums when you least expect them to. But don’t look at such one-off incidents as signs of failure of your parenting skills. It’s probably a mix of circumstances that make them happen.
Now that we have had a long discussion about good parenting, raising good children and ensuring nothing but the best for the next generation, I would like to leave you with a thought – there is no such thing as a bad child, some children just need a little guidance to set them in the right direction. So, are you ready to raise a good child?
Pratibha Pal is an avid blogger and writes regularly on her eco-parenting blog, www.pratsmusings.com, and her blog on social media, www.socialmediawired.com/blog