Life lessons are caught, not taught. The most effective way to help my kids learn a lesson is not to lecture them or give direct instruction but to live the lesson by example while we sit around the house or go about our day. The best life lessons for kids are in the way I live my life between the time I get up and the time I go to bed.
Our kids learn so much from watching what we do and how we handle situations. I bet you’ve already taught your children multiple lessons today, just by how you’ve chosen to live. Every day brings opportunities for us to model what we want our kids to learn. Here are five lessons to live out in front of your kids today.
1. Older people matter. Honor their dignity.
My son heard me call my mother-in-law today. I had no specific reason for the call other than wanting to check on her. I asked how she is feeling and said that I hoped she would come for a visit soon. I want my kids to know that older people deserve respect and care—especially grandparents. If I treat my mother-in-law badly, what lesson will my kids learn?
When our founder Susan Merrill was a child, her grandmother lived in a mother-in-law suite behind her house. So Susan and her husband intentionally bought a home that had enough room for their parents. Now Susan’s dad needs extra care and can stay with them and still have his own space. Are you planning to help your parents at the ends of their lives? Even if you’re not in a place to offer space for them to reside, you can love and care for them alongside your children.
2. Having plans is better than having tantrums.
My daughter sat next to me while she did her school work. I pulled out my computer to do some work, too. I opened a spreadsheet where I keep track of outstanding invoices for my business. I tensed up when I saw that one client still hadn’t paid me for a pretty big job. I saw it as a good time to show my daughter how to handle an unfavorable circumstance. “Wow,” I said. “This client still hasn’t paid me. I’ve sent two invoices, but I’ll send another.” I wanted her to see that having a plan is better than ranting and raving.
3. Love is patient.
We can teach our children to be patient by being patient with them. When they’re taking too long to get dressed, we can reassure them that they’re doing a great job getting dressed by themselves instead of by impatiently grabbing their shoes and saying, “Let me. We’ve got to go or we’ll be late.” We can teach our children about patience when we’re driving, waiting in line at the grocery store, or on hold on the phone. A loving mom extends patience to others even when she’s in a hurry or frustrated.
4. Respect others.
A few years ago, while driving home with my family from a New Year’s Eve party, we approached an intersection where police officers were arresting an obviously drunk man. When we pulled up beside them, we could see that he was the parent of one of my children’s classmates. “That is so sad,” I said. “I feel so badly for him and his family. Of course, I’m not going to tell anyone about it.” Over the next few days, as word of the arrest spread around the school, my children never shared that they had seen it happen. I thanked them for being kind and for respecting the man and his family.
5. Admit your mistakes.
When we admit our mistakes to our children and ask for forgiveness, we teach our children multiple lessons: No one is perfect. How to apologize. How to be humble. And how to forgive. We also show our children how to take responsibility for our actions and their consequences. For example, when I lose my temper with my children, I want them to know that although they may have done something that angered me, it is within my power to choose how I will respond.
How do you teach your kids life lessons as you go about your day?