A few decades ago, it was a lot easier to be a kid. Be polite to grown-ups, eat your vegetables, stay out of troubleóthat pretty much got you through. Now, fast forward to 2011, where things are just a little different. First-graders tossing profanities around? Check. Pre-teens knowing the street names of most drugs? Frighteningly common. Sex at 12? Donít pretend it isnít happening. Yes, kidsí lives have become more complicated, and it looks like the lessons we need to teach them have too.
1 Be accepting. While itís nice to think weíve evolved as a species, there are frequent enough acts of ignorance and prejudice to disabuse us of that notion. Sure, tolerance and harmony seem like commonsense ideas that any normal person should espouse, but donít assume that your kids see things so clearly. Theyíre still young, and impressionable, and the wrong messages can sometimes be persuasive. Itís your job to help them see the world through a clear lens.
Imparting the crucial messages today is a sensitive song-and-dance that requires delicate execution Ė and weíre here to help. You canít keep your kid in a bubble, but you can do your best to make sure he or she turns into a productive, well-adjusted, non-delinquent member of society. Hereís the good news: Any kid Ė anyone Ė only needs to know five rules to live right. If you can somehow get your progeny to internalize a handful of tenets (by the way, donít call them ďtenets"), youíre off on the right foot. Here are the five most critical life lessons you ought to convey to your offspring while theyíre still willing to listen to you.
1. Be accepting. While itís nice to think weíve evolved as a species, there are frequent enough acts of ignorance and prejudice to disabuse us of that notion. Sure, tolerance and harmony seem like commonsense ideas that any normal person should espouse, but donít assume that your kids see things so clearly. Theyíre still young, and impressionable, and the wrong messages can sometimes be persuasive. Itís your job to help them see the world through a clear lens.
GOOD: Everyone has a heart and a soul. And thatís the only thing that matters.
BAD: Be nice to everyone, you never know when youíre going to need something from someone.
2. Show respect. Call it being a mensch. Call it being a stand-up kind of person. Call it general kindness and sensitivity. However you describe it, itís the simplest act we should all offer each other every day: basic consideration. Kids usually get that part easily enough; the part they sometimes have a harder time with is the part about having respect for yourself. Tell them often why you think theyíre great and theyíll learn to be the kind of people who want to make others feel good about themselves too.
GOOD: Donít compare yourself to anyone else. Be the best that you can be.
BAD: Donít take crap from anybody. Let them know they canít mess with you Ė thatís how you get results.
3. Tell the truth. There are really only two circumstances in which you should lie: to avoid hurting someoneís feelings or to keep a surprise party a surprise. Outside of those two scenarios, it will serve you best to be the kind of person who regularly says things that are, yíknow, true. Itís amazing how much weight a simple little thing like trust can carry. The best way to demonstrate that little nugget to your kids? By living it yourself.
GOOD: No one will ever resent you for telling the truth as long as you do it with tact.
BAD: It isnít lying if you donít get caught.
4. Be yourself. Hey, it ainít easy out there. Sometimes conformity seems like the easy way to go, and it doesnít take much for kids to get freaked out into being anyone other than who they really want to be. Let them know that they have choices and that, most important of all, youíre in their corner. For the most part, they donít want advice or lectures; they just want to know thereís someone who believes in them even when they make stupid mistakes. When they mess up, donít let them know how big a blunder it was. Tell them about some of the ones youíve made.
GOOD: No matter what you choose to stand for or believe in, Iím always going to love and support you.
BAD: Canít you try to be a bit more normal?
5. Keep your promises. At the end of the day, all you have is your word. If you can get your kid to take that message to heart, youíre a leg up on most parents. Tell them your own basic principles, how you arrived at them, and what you do to try to uphold them in your daily life. Theyíll get that you arenít just yapping to hear your own voice, but that youíre actually talking about something that has meaning in the bigger picture.
GOOD: A person is only as good as their word.
BAD: If you ever lie, Iíll break your knuckles.