The Most Important First Lessons For Kids
When we think of our role as parents, we all know we need to do more than just provide food, clothing, and shelter. Indeed, one of the things we pride ourselves on as parents is when we’ve taught our kids important life lessons that will serve them well as they grow up.
From the time our kids are old enough to understand, we are teaching them–intentionally or unintentionally. With our words and our actions, we are showing them what we think is the best way to live life.
As we think about the deliberate lessons we should share with our kids, we can frame things up in a few key areas that will benefit them the most. Stick with age-appropriate topics within these major topics:
There is probably no more fundamental childhood lesson than “Don’t talk to strangers”. It is an easy point to emphasize with kids, especially since they already have a reluctance to interact with people they don’t know.
But strangers are found in many different ways these days. It’s no longer just the smiling man driving up to ask for directions. Strangers now can show up on social media, chat rooms, and even email, often portraying themselves as someone the child would have no reason to fear.
It can be intimidating to think of all the new ways there are for predators to approach our children. The good news is that there are also new ways to protect them. Kids who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s didn’t have access to protection like Black Hat Security, which can thoroughly fortify the home physically. They didn’t have the safeguards of apps that monitor their interaction with people outside the home. So while the threat has evolved, the options to address it have evolved as well.
Lessons on safety are usually best taught overtly, with direct lessons to your kids about what to do and what not to do. But other lessons are usually most effectively shared by example, and choices about a healthy lifestyle are a good example.
Kids learn a lot by imitation. If their parents and older siblings do things a certain way, they’re likely to follow suit. So if they see Mom and Dad smoking, eating a poor diet, and not getting enough exercise, they will do the same. Indeed, kids have no choice but to eat junk food when that’s what their families buy, and even if they don’t take up smoking themselves, their parents’ tobacco use can affect their health as well.
So while it does help your kids’ health to tell them what to do, it’s definitely more important to live a healthy lifestyle yourself. Not only will your kids learn how to take care of themselves, they’ll also get to have more years with healthy, active parents.
We tend to think of money as a lesson for older kids, but the fact is that the sooner kids understand the value of money, the sooner they’ll develop sustainable habits for themselves.
It’s true that the more complex lessons are best saved for the teenage years, but we can teach things to our youngest kids that will help them throughout life. Very young kids can understand the idea of interest, both paid and earned. They need to know that a credit card is a way to spend money conveniently, but that it’s a very expensive tool if it’s not paid off immediately.
They need to know about saving. Show them that when you have to make large expenditures, you’re able to do so because you’ve been setting money aside. And show them that you have to spend some money; it does no good to teach them to fill the piggy bank without ever teaching them how to spend wisely from what they’ve accumulated. They’ll learn to differentiate between wants and needs, and they’ll learn the value of saving by feeling the impact of spending.
Our role as teachers to our kids is critical. We don’t need to wait until they reach a certain age. They are always learning from us, and it’s our job to make sure they are learning the right things.