We all want to raise good kids. We try our best to teach them good values, but it's not always an easy task. Personalities clash, and some kids just have a mind of their own. It's hard to know whether or not your kids are listening and learning when you try to teach them things.
But according to psychologists at Harvard University, there are five secrets to raising a good kid, and if you want to make sure your kids turn into well-adjusted adults, you should take note! Even if you already have kids, see if your lessons make the list.
1. Spend time with them.
This sounds pretty simple, right? But it's so important. Instead of plopping your child down in front of the television or computer, actually spend time with them. Reading, playing outside, or even just talking can leave a lasting impact on your kids. It will show them that it's still important to make face-to-face connections with people, and they won't feel like they're being pushed to the side in favor of technology.
Think back to your own childhood, how many memories do you have with your parents? A lot, right? Make sure your kids have the same.
2. Let your kids know you're interested.
“Even though most parents and caretakers say that their children being caring is a top priority, often children aren’t hearing that message," Harvard researchers said.
If you're asking a teacher if your child's behavior has changed or if their grades or okay, let your kid know that's happening. Children need vocal affirmation that they are important to you and that someone is caring about their well-being. Feeding them, clothing them, and putting a roof over their heads are expected by your kids, but putting emphasis on other areas of their lives is an important way to tell them you care.
I remember my parents went to every single parent-teacher interview, even if it wasn't needed. They genuinely cared about my academic life and wanted me to know that. Sure, at the time I may have found their questions "annoying," but as an adult I now realize they were doing it because they care.
3. Teach them to calmly solve problems.
How many times have you seen your child try to solve a problem and they start to panic? Instead of getting upset with them or solving the problem for them, teach your kids how to figure the situation out without stressing about the outcome. Also let your kids know that they can come to you with any problem and you will help.
When my nine-year-old niece has a problem, we make sure to lay things out very simply for her. "Take a deep breath. What is the problem? What outcome do you want? How can we achieve that?" It helps her to understand that a small problem is not the end of the world and that we are there to help her find a solution.
4. Show them gratitude.
Don't spoil them, of course. But according to researchers are Harvard, "studies show that people who engage in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate, and forgiving–and they’re also more likely to be happy and healthy.” The psychologists found that most parents only give their children praise for "uncommon acts of kindness" as opposed to daily acts, like doing the dishes or setting the table.
Showing gratitude doesn't always mean praise, either. It can also mean teaching them to be grateful for what they have. Bringing your kids to a homeless shelter to volunteer can make it easier for them to understand that they are fortunate.
We used to make "Christmas Socks" for those less fortunate than us at our church, and even from a young age I remember feeling like I needed to do more to help those who didn't have the same blessings I did.
5. Look at the bigger picture.
Too often, kids are focused on themselves and how things affect them (and only them.) Teaching your kids to see the larger picture, whether that be how their actions affect others or how to notice when someone needs helps, can help turn them into empathetic adults who make the world a better place.
My mom to this day plays the role of Devil's advocate when I complain about something or someone. I know she is always on my side, but her point is to have me look at the situation from all angles. Sure, someone may have done something I didn't like, but what could be going on in their lives to make them act that way?
There's no "right" way to raise your kids. It's a lot of trial and error that comes with time. However, there are traits that every child can be taught which will help make the world a better place over time.