As a first year classroom teacher I thought I knew everything. By the time the second year rolled around I realized there were a lot of really important things that I had never done during the first year. By the time I was a third year teacher, I was painfully aware of how much I didn't know and how much I still had to learn.
This is exactly how I feel as a parent.
I do know two things though.
1. I love my children and want them to be happy.
2. I want to raise my children not only to BE good, but also to DO good wherever they are.
I think about the second statement a lot. When I'm dealing with anger and frustration, I definitely don't feel like I am setting a good example. I've been thinking about how I can raise my children to "do good" and I thought maybe we could brainstorm a bit today and hopefully you can share your ideas with me too.
Here are four ideas that I came up with for helping teach my children to DO good:
1. Make sure that my words and actions are aligned with my values?
I attended a presentation a few weeks ago by Torie Henderson called Raising Gracious Children. She talked about looking at the things we say and making sure that they are teaching our children our values. For example, instead of asking your child after an event, "Did you have fun?" try asking instead, "Did you learn something?" "Were you kind?" "Did you play well as a team?" "Did you respect the rules?" "Were you helpful?" Try it. It is amazing how these conversations with your children reinforce what is most important to you.
2. Model doing good.
Every single person counts- the rude person in the car next to me, the waitress that messed up my order... twice, or the person who rings the doorbell when my baby has just fallen asleep. How I handle each situation teaches my children something that they will hold on to and remember. I am hoping that they remember me being kind?
3. Catch my child being good.
When I taught sixth grade we had a school-wide positive behavior system where teachers handed out gold slips when they caught kids being good. The good deed was listed on the slip of paper. Imagine the impact that made on the lives of those kids. They learned what doing good looked like and felt like, and they wanted to be people who did good things.
It is so easy as a parent to notice the disruptive or negative behavior. I need to do a better job at focusing on the good that I see.
4. Teach them to do good things in their own little worlds.
It is easy to get caught up in big campaigns and big acts of community service because the need is usually obvious and defined. Sometimes it is harder to notice the little good acts that could be done in your own little sphere of influence.
I think it is important to teach my kids to look outward towards the global community and do good, but at young ages, I think it is also important to make doing good meaningful to them daily through small acts of kindness- helping purchase a birthday gift for a friend, making thank you cards, taking a treat to a neighbor, sharing their special toy with a friend, cheering up a sibling that is sad, running to get something to help mommy, giving a compliment to a teacher, reading a story to a sibling, saying please and thank you, clearing a plate after dinner, etc.
Reinforcing these small acts and making them important to my children will hopefully instill in them a love for serving others- in big and small ways.
Being a parent is overwhelming sometimes. I am planning to choose one of these ideas above to focus on this next week. I'll probably work on all of them, but choosing one just makes it a little bit easier for me. How about you?
What do you know as a parent?
How are you teaching your children to "do good"?
What is your advice to parents who want to raise generous children?