Parenthood. You have officially been granted the largest responsibility of your life. This is not something to be taken lightly. Raising kids is hard work! How you raise your children from birth molds who they will become for the rest of their lives. Not every day will be perfect, but we all try our best!
In today’s day and age, there is a huge stigma on the ‘entitled’ generation. You know who I’m talking about. The people who feel like they deserve everything yet work for nothing. The people who call all the shots, make all the decisions, with no room for compromise. The people who are totally reliant on everyone else for everything, because they never learned for themselves. Worse yet, the people who expect everyone to do everything for them, just because.
I think that we can all agree that it’s time for a culture change. And it starts with us, as parents. We cannot expect the next generation to be any different if we don’t change our behaviors from the start. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with spoiling your babies, loving on them, giving them the world. But it is also our responsibility to set them up for success in life.
Raising Tiny Humans: How to Set Your Kids Up for Success for Life
There are many things that you can teach your children from a very young age, and many best practices that you can implement from birth. The earlier in life you start, the easier your kids will catch on. Once your children have developed habits of their own, it can be very difficult to change them!
Here are a few things that work for us:
No Baby Talk
I’m sure there will be people who disagree with me on this one. No baby talk is something that you can implement from day one. I get it, babies are adorable and all you want to do is love on them, call them cute names, and find 101 different ways to tell them that you love them. This is all fine; I do it myself all day, every day.
However, talking to them like actual people will benefit them long term. Namely, it will help their own vocabulary. My son has talked like a tiny human since he was nearly one year old. He is very verbal, and never really went through that typical phase where mom is the only one who understands him and needs to translate for everyone else. Using ‘real’ words from birth with your child will also eliminate the need to then correct their vocabulary as they get older.
Read to Them
This one is a big one, and I’m sure that you have heard it about a thousand times. Read to your child. Start while you are still pregnant. Make story time part of your routine. Books help stimulate your child’s imagination, and help tremendously with building verbal skills. Reading to your children from a very young age will help establish a love for it that will stay with them forever. And there is nothing more educational than a good book! Get reading; it’s a great hobby for you and your family!
Teach Them Manners
Manners are a huge miss in today’s society. It’s a ‘me first’ world. Time to bring back basic manners! Please, thank you, holding doors, taking turns, etc. From birth, you can instill manners in your child. Speak to them, and around them, using manners. If you’re talking to your husband, use your ‘please’ and ‘thank you’s.’ If you are out in public, hold doors for others. It is amazing what they pick up on. Remember, who you are is who your child will learn to become.
As your children get older and are speaking on their own, they should have already picked up on your demonstration of manners. Otherwise, work with them. Ensure that if they ask for something, they always follow up with a ‘please.’ And be sure they always ‘thank you’ for anything you give them or do for them.
Perhaps the biggest issue with lack of manners in today’s society is that no one ever taught or demonstrated good manners. This is our responsibility as parents. To teach our children valuable life lessons, including manners in everyday life.
Recognize Behavior: Good and Bad
Recognition of behavior in your children is vital for shaping how they actually will behave in life. If we look the other way towards bad behavior, then your child will grow up thinking that what they are doing is acceptable. Worse yet, they may even think that there are no consequences for bad behavior.
Similarly, if you ignore good behavior, then your child may again think that their behavior doesn’t matter; good or otherwise. Give them a reason to behave well. And children thrive on recognition. They truly do live to please us as parents. Nothing makes my son happier than making me proud!
Expose Them to Various Social Settings
Start this at as young of an age as you can! I cannot stress this one enough. Many moms I know are afraid to take their kids out to dinner, for example, because they are afraid that their children will act up. Some parents never take their kids shopping out of fear of what kind of meltdown their kids may have.
I get it. Even in the best of circumstances, with the best of kids, bad days happen. Those days where you just want to crawl in a hole away from all of the staring, judgmental eyes. But you can really increase your odds of successful outings by exposing your kids as early, and as often as possible.
We started taking my son out to restaurants once he was old enough to sit in a high chair. Since we rarely have a babysitter for date nights, this has provided my husband and I a way to still have nights out together. Because we started at such a young age, my son has learned how to behave in this environment and we are able to enjoy nights out as a family with no issue.
This applies to any social setting. Whatever you and your significant other like to do, expose your child to it early. They will learn to enjoy the atmosphere equally as much as you, and learn proper behavior. This will make the whole family’s life easier and more enjoyable. Now you are free to go out and live your life without the typical “I can’t go there, I have a toddler!” mentality.
Let Them Make Decisions (no matter how long it takes)
Your children are people, with minds of their own. Teach them to make decisions (within reason). Personally, I am the most indecisive person I know. Because of this, “I don’t care, you can decide” is my go to response to any question that I am asked. I want my child to be different. I want him to learn to make decisions for himself, and be confident in those decisions.
I’m not talking about going crazy here; start simple. For example, I always let my son choose which cereal he would like from the grocery store. However, he’s 3. Let’s keep that in mind. Therefore, I let him make a decision based on my parenting rules. I narrow down his options for him, and then let him choose. And if your child is anything like mine, he takes FOREVER to make any decision! So each week, we sit for 5-15 minutes staring at his options. I do always make it clear that his decision is final, so we don’t end up going back and forth ten times.
Another example, I like to let him choose what he would like to do for the day. Again, I set the options based on what I will allow for the day. “Would you rather play outside, go to the zoo or go the library today?”
As you can see, you are not letting your child totally call the shots. You, as a parent, are still the one in charge. You provide the options, they make the decision. It’s a simple concept, but it empowers your child to make decisions for themselves.
Treat Them With Respect So They Will Learn to Respect Others: THE GOLDEN RULE
Just because your child is just that, a child, does not mean that they deserve a shred less respect than any other full grown adult who you interact with on a daily basis. And respect is majorly lacking these days. It’s right up there with manners. So simple, yet missing from so many people.
Treat your child how you would like to be treated. Treat your child how you treat your spouse, your parents, your friends, the cashier at the supermarket. Children imitate everything and everyone. They pick up on things that you don’t even realize. Respect. You don’t need to teach this. Simply demonstrate it on a daily basis and your child will reward you with the same behavior in return.
Clean Up After Themselves
You will thank yourself for this. Your child’s future spouse will thank you for this. Everyone wins! As I have mentioned before, I am an absolute clean, neat freak. No shame here. My son has grown up watching me pick up, clean, scrub and organize all day, every day. Because of this, he has caught on too. Just last year, he got his very own cleaning set because he wanted to “clean like mommy.” Now we clean together.
Since my son was just over a year old, he has been very particular about putting things back EXACTLY where he found them. If you haven’t started yet, get on this! We have a rule in my house; before you pull out a new toy, put the last one you were playing with back. It’s super simple, but keeps the messes at bay. Bonus, it saves you the trouble of having a mountain of a mess to clean up later! If you want to get specific, make the rule to put it back exactly where you found it. Not only is the giant mess eliminated, everything will stay organized, saving you from a giant organizing project down the road!
Commend Them. Let Them Know They Have Value.
I always, always, always make sure to commend my son for anything that he does well, anything new that he learns, or any new skills he acquires. I want to foster his self esteem. Personally, I have struggled with self esteem my whole life. I don’t want my son to ever feel that way. This is similar to recognizing behavior, which I mentioned earlier. Your kids will feel good about themselves, and it will encourage them to continue to learn and grow.
Additionally, one of the most important things your child can learn about themselves is that they have value. Being a big fish in a little pond, it can sometimes be hard to see where you fit in. Your child has a purpose. Your child has value. Make sure that they know and understand this, so they never question it as they age.
As some of you may be aware, raising a child can always be a constant battle of negotiating. Negotiating bedtime. Negotiating buying the toy in the store that they definitely don’t need. Negotiating how many more bites they need to eat off of their dinner plate. As parents, we may automatically take the stance that what we say goes. I want to encourage you to change your mindset on this. Encourage you to allow the negotiations to take place with your child.
This does not mean that your kids run the show. Similarly to allowing them to make decisions which I mentioned earlier, negotiating is a great life lesson. It teaches them to be flexible. It teaches them that things will not always go their way. Negotiating teaches them the art of compromise. Life is not just about them; other people have input too. When you negotiate with your child, you can help them to understand give and take. Plus with a bit of negotiating in life, you may just encounter a few less tears and meltdowns! So loosen the reigns a bit and watch your child grow!
Success For Life
Hopefully you and your children will find value in these tips. If we want to make changes for our future generations and set our children up for success, I feel that starting as early as possible is vital. This by no means takes away from the fact that they are children. Implementing these steps also does not take away from their childhood in any way whatsoever. My son follows basically all of this, and he is the happiest, most carefree, loving, silly boy that I know. I am not rushing him into adulthood. Trust me, I would keep him a little baby forever if it was up to me. I am merely doing the best that I can to set him up for success, without sacrificing his childhood.
It is very difficult to change bad habits, and it only gets harder the older your kids get. Add in what they pick up from school and classmates, and you will certainly have your work cut out for you! No one is perfect. But we all need to try our best! Ultimately, who YOU are is who your child will learn to become. They adapt to your values and behaviors, no matter what they are ‘taught’ otherwise. We will slip up. We will have bad days. It’s part of life. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and remember, you are doing a GREAT job!