7 tips for giving your kids a head start on life (plus a few more for good measure)

Children are unique…

We all come into this world equals. We are born with a blank slate but almost as soon as we arrive, we go our separate ways not by any choice of our own.

Our environment, the people we come in contact with, and most importantly, our parents will dictate much of who we are as a kid.

Which is why parents must do their best to prepare kids mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually for what is to come their way.

It’s no mean feat. Knowing what’s right and wrong for your children is never easy. And we won’t know for years if we made the right decisions.

Someone once said, “You don’t know if you did well as a parent until you see your grandchildren.” I agree.

So just what can we do?

I have my own list of what I feel are important but before I get to it I’d like to share psychologist and author Madeline Levine’s ideas from her new book, Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success.

  1. Remember the basics
  2. Build a good foundation
  3. Spend time with your kids
  4. Define internal definition of success
  5. Let kids fail
  6. Focus on child’s strength
  7. Don’t drown your kids in praise

From my perspective, Levine pretty much hits the nail on the head but there are those out there who might disagree so I’d like to share my thoughts.

Most parents I know never take the time to study how to be a better parents. Most people simply raise their own children as they were raised, right or wrong, it’s just what they know. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Being a better parent is just like being a better sales person or manager, it takes time, it takes effort and it takes study.

There’s no denying the world has changed. Today in many families both parents work which means more money for the family, but less time together. Gone are the days of the nuclear family which is why it is so important that each week parents set aside time to be with their children.

It doesn’t have to be anything radical. A few minutes before they go to bed, breakfast and dinner, Sunday afternoon. Whatever you can spare will be appreciated by kids even if they don’t realize it.

It’s not the hours of games we remember when we grow up. Nor is it the toys we got at X-Mas. Our greatest memories are always shared with people that we love. Every parent would do well to remember that.

As for Levine’s concept of letting kids fail, this is a crucial one.

I love my son dearly and want the best for him but sooner or later he will discover that the world does not revolve around him. He needs to know that he’s fallible. We all are.

He needs to know that there will be times when in spite of his best efforts, he will lose. It’s an important lesson to learn early on because it is a dose of reality and it shows us that there is always room for improvement.

Finally another area which I feel many parents fall prey to today is too much praise.

It’s one thing to encourage your child, it’s another to have them think they can walk on water.

After reading Levine’s tips, I thought about what else I could add to the list for those parents or soon-to-be parents out there and came up with the following:

  • Love
  • Punish
  • Stimulate imagination
  • Travel
  • Listen
  • Play

It sounds trivial to include love on the list but some people out there that forget just how much a hug can mean to a child, or an adult for that matter. It’s not enough to simply say you love your child, show them.

Punishment comes with the territory. Kids don’t know what’s right or wrong so it’s up to us to teach them. It gives me no pleasure to raise my voice or slap my son’s hand when he does something wrong but I know that is the only way he’ll understand at a young age.

Imagination is something that will go a long way for a child so we should do whatever we can to help stimulate it. Educational games, cartoons, superheroes, and the next item on my list, travel.

Children have no concept of what’s out there. Most children simply know their town. They assume there is one language, one way of doing things, one size…when we all know that’s not the case. We know…but kids don’t so whatever we can do to show them just what is out there, what is available and what is possible helps stimulate their thoughts.

As for listening, too many parents get caught up in their own lives that they forget to listen, I mean really listen, to their kids. But to kids, their parents pretty much are their whole world so we must take the time to hear just what their life is like. Their happiness and their troubles and in doing so you will form a strong bond with them.

Finally I added play to my list because many parents are too serious. They’ve forgotten what it means to be a kid. Life is one big game for a kid. Dinner is not just time to nourish our body but entertainment central. TV is not just fun but an entire world to be explored.

To relate to kids, we must think like them and playing their games, doing what they do you’ll develop a connection with your child that sadly some people never have.

Parenting is no walk in the park. It’s hard. But it is the greatest journey we’ll ever have, so enjoy it.

I hope these ideas help you along the way.

Adrian Shepherd

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