16 June 2016

Four Ways to Teach Our Kids How to do Good In a World Full of Hate

If there's one thing I've learned over the last four years of being a parent, it's that I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. I’m just being honest. I read all the books, took all the classes, listened to all the unwanted advice, and watched all the parenting videos but let's be real - there is nothing that can prepare you for having your first child. It's a crazy roller coaster ride of emotions. Between the lack of sleep, adjusting to a new life and new normal, and learning about your child, it's easy to get caught up in the day to day hum-drum of life and forget our focus as parents. While I admit that I’m still learning every day how to do this parenting gig right, there was one concept that I was certain of from the day that Maddy was born that I wanted her to understand: How to not only be good but to do good in this world. 

I believe this characteristic of fostering good works starts early in childhood development and is either fostered to its full potential or thrown to the wayside as our children grow up to be adults. I would say that from her sixth month on, Michael and I made it a point to begin instilling the ‘Not only be good but do good’ mentality into Maddy’s everyday life. It’s not a method that comes easily because it requires constant attention to our own actions, but it’s something that we work towards on a daily basis in getting her to understand good works and how our actions, words and deeds affect others.

Fast forward four years later and I’d say our hard work is paying off. I see how attentive and caring she is with her friends at school. Just the other day I saw her rubbing the back of a classmate that seemed to be sad and asked, “Chloe, are you OK?” I see how she does nice things around the house for us without asking and how she uses her manners to express herself and her needs. I see the kindness she expresses to strangers and the acute awareness she’s developed in recognizing that she’s not alone in the universe and that other people’s feelings and needs matter.

Now, don’t get me wrong. She can totally test my patience and my will. We have plenty of bad days, and there are times that I feel like the majority of my time is spent being the behavior police but overall, I think we’re on the right track. We expect a lot from Maddy which most parents would poo-poo for a four year old but I don’t understand why to be perfectly honest. I’ve always felt that our kids, even the babies and toddlers while they are still young, are people just like adults so why do we set such low expectations for them? I think that sometimes we shortchange our children and pigeonhole them into a category of, “Well, she/he is only three. What can a three year old possibly learn about doing good?” 

My response? A lot.

I've come up with four ideas I think that fit the mold of teaching our children to not only be good but to do good as well. These are things that we’ve worked on each day since Maddy was a baby to make a habit and routine in her life. They have proven to be beneficial in shaping the person that she’s becoming so I hope you find them helpful for your little one as well.

Four Ways to Teach Our Kids How to do Good In a World Full of Hate. #parenting #parentingadvice #workingmoms

ONE. Catch my child being good and make sure she knows how proud I am of her.
When the days are long and crazy, it's easy to see the disruptive or negative behavior. I need to do a better job at seeing the positive behavior while letting Maddy know that I see and approve of her choices and decisions to do good throughout the day. Our children relish and crave our attention, adoration and applause. They learn through our reactions to their behavior what doing good looks and feels like and they want to continue doing those things which feel good. It's a win-win for everyone, really.

TWO. Be the model for doing good.
Through a child's eye, everyone counts. Everyone is important - the sales person who is rude to me, the person who cuts me off in traffic, the neighbor who never picks up after their dog - each of these situations are opportunities to show our children how to treat others with kindness even when we feel it's hard to do. How I handle these types of situations sends a message that our children hold onto for a long time and remember. I can only hope that Maddy sees me as being kind.

THREE. Make sure that my words and actions are aligned with my values.
It's one thing to constantly say, "Share your toys with so and so. Share the slide. Be nice to Sally." But what do my actions say? Force your child to give up their seat on the swings if you see other children waiting - this is a perfect opportunity to show your child what it means to give and share. When another child falls down on the playground, have your child offer a helping hand. Our children may be too young at this point to truly understand the value of what they are doing but they will soon learn to associate kindness with helping others.

FOUR. Teach them to do good and big things in their small world.
In our busy lives, I think it's easy to get caught up in the larger community service projects because they're highly publicized and well-defined. Sometimes it's harder to notice the smaller acts of good that can be, or are done, by our little ones. 

While our children are young, I think it's important to make doing good meaningful to them on a level that they can understand easily through small acts of kindness; sending thank you cards to family and friends for gifts, sharing their special or favorite toys with friends, being mommy or daddy's helper, saying "Please" and "Thank you", giving small gifts of appreciation to day care and school teachers. All of these small acts of kindness make big impressions on the hearts and minds of our little ones.

What are your thoughts? What advice do you have to share with other parents looking to raise kind, thoughtful, and generous children?
Courtney @ Shiraz In My Sippy Cup
Courtney @ Shiraz In My Sippy Cup

Courtney is a published author, mom, taco enthusiast, and a Star Wars and Tennessee Volunteers fanatic. She's never met a piece of sushi she didn’t like and enjoys an amazing glass of wine and a great cut of meat. You can read more of her wine-induced, sleep-deprived adventures on The Huffington Post and Scary Mommy.

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