When I was growing up my parents often reminded me they were raising me to leave home. By default, our parenting skills are often rooted in how we were brought up. Raising wise children is often the end result of the whole parenting experience. My parents, like every other parent out there, had the ultimate goal to raise competent, capable and independent adults.
When we are intentional about our parenting we are not just leaving it up to chance, but working together with our kids to help them become the best version of themselves. I’ve found five important keys to raising wise children.
Of all the characteristics to help our kids develop kindness is one of the greatest. Our culture has slowly put more emphasis on personal happiness and achievement rather than the care or concern for others.1 Raising our children to be caring and kind teaches them to be moral, humble, patient and compassionate – doesn’t the world need a little bit more of that? Kindness is learned by example. We teach more through our example than any other way.
Emphasize how important it is to be kind – more important than making the team or getting good grades. Remember, arrogance is used by the weak while kindness is used by the strong.
As each of our children reached different developmental milestones it also meant an increase in independence and responsibility. Every consideration should be age/maturity appropriate, but always be on the lookout for ways to encourage your kids to be more than just an appendage of you and your spouse. By the time our kids were in high school they were getting themselves up in the morning, making their own breakfast and lunch, taking full responsibility for their school work, doing their own laundry and helping with the occasional meal.
I was a big proponent of teaching life skills that would prepare them for the world when I wouldn’t be there to do it for them. Sometimes it was too much too soon and we adjusted, but we were always moving towards the independence line.
Nurture Confidence Not Fear
Our belief in our children’s capabilities increases their self-confidence. Do you remember the Olympic commercials where the mom is cheering on her hockey-playing son from the sidelines? The commercial showed flashbacks to where he was just learning to skate and playing his first hockey games. We aren’t shown if she questioned the safety of the sport or her apprehension that he might fall – repeatedly. But we can safely assume whatever concerns and fears she had, she didn’t allow them to keep him from conquering the world.
Failure IS an Option
Any mother can relate to the fear of watching her child fail, but that paralyzing fear doesn’t do anything to help raise a confident and well-adjusted adult. Widen+Kennedy, an international advertising agency, has adopted the phrase “Fail Harder” as their mantra.3
Failing means that we are trying, and the harder we fail the harder we are trying. As parents we teach our kids to try, we watch them fall on their faces, help pick them back up and encourage them to try again and again. It’s these moments of failure and encouragement that help them gain the confidence to go and do something extraordinary.
Never Too Early, Never Too Late
When our children are young it seems we have all the time in the world to teach and prepare them for what might lie ahead, but before you know it your kids will have kids of their own and the opportunity seems to have passed. I remember being told something along these lines as a young mother, and now here I am on the flip side looking back.
When our children are but babes in our arms they are learning from us. Our tone, attitude and very presence teach them – good or bad – about how to become an adult. As we become more intentional in our parenting we are better preparing our children for what lies ahead.
In the same regard just because your child is now an adult doesn’t mean that you don’t have anything to offer. Keeping an open relationship where your adult kids might come to you for advice or instruction is important. As the wise prophet Isaiah said: “line upon line; here a little, and there a little.”4
At times I think my kids thought I was the meanest mom in the world, and I guess I am okay with that. They know I love them no matter what, but they also know I want them to be the best they can be. Time has taught us that the only real failure is to not learn from one. Teaching our kids wisdom is an ongoing lifelong process.