We live in a world that changes constantly: from the education system to political stances, technology, parenting styles and morals. Opinions fly everywhere, and children learn from what happens around them. The problem is children learn from everything, everywhere, all the time. How do parents know the things kids learn will actually help them become a positive, contributing member of society as an adult?
We want our children to be successful and happy, but when children take life-lessons from this fast-paced, ever-changing world, how do we know what they’ll become? We don't. However, as a parent, you can take some matters into your own hands. You can teach your children values that will help them find true success as adults. Five values that all children must learn include compassion, gratitude, integrity, commitment and patience. With these values, children can build their lives to reach their highest potential.
It's hard, even as adults, to look beyond ourselves. Because of the society in which we live, where we are taught to look out for number one, we tend to forget that others need our love and companionship. Living a life of selfishness can lead to isolation and bitterness. A life of compassion can lead to understanding, strength, friendship and joy.
Compassion includes selflessness, empathy, mercy, tolerance, kindness, love and charity. These values help us build positive relationships with surrounding people, along with ourselves. We must teach children to find opportunities to show compassion. This may be through helping children understand other people’s backgrounds — lessening judgment of others’ situations, helping children do nice things for their siblings or friends who are having a bad day or teaching them self-compassion when they feel like they don’t measure up. Teaching children compassion will go far. As they grow older, compassionate children will be able to find opportunities to make a difference for others, leading them to feel more secure, joyful and self-confident.
It's hard to be grateful for what we have when society tells us we need more. When we aren’t grateful for what we have, life feels less satisfying. If we teach our children to be content with what they have and grateful for the little things that happen in their lives, it will be game-changing for their futures.
Children must understand the beauty of gratitude. True happiness doesn’t come from the material possessions that society teaches us we need more and more of. It results from a security and confidence with life that comes from the attitude of gratitude, no matter the circumstance.
In my first year of teaching, I found that children who constantly seek after more struggle with various negativities, such as negative self-concept and depression. That isn’t to say gratitude would automatically fix these problems, but it could soften the blow. If children are grateful for what they have, the constant need for more wouldn’t be so saturated in their motivations, actions and desires.
Integrity is a high level of honesty in all dealings with yourself and others. As I have taught high school, I’ve been surprised at the lack of integrity I’ve seen in teenagers. Many do not understand that certain things, such as copying a friend’s homework, are dishonest. Students have informed me things like that are only wrong if you get caught, but if you don’t get caught then it doesn’t really matter.
A person’s ability to act with integrity will have a direct correlation to their reliability, responsibility and self-confidence. If he relies on cheating or sneaking to get what he wants, things may go his way for a while. Sooner or later, however, it will likely come back to hurt him and the people he loves. For example, he could be mistrustful since he knows he can’t be trusted. He could get fired from a job for cheating the company. A person's closest relationships could be marred by lies and betrayal.
For children to truly be successful and know they have earned it, they need to be taught to exercise integrity.
Some things take months or years to achieve, but most kids wouldn’t know that based on what they see every day. We live in an age of fast-food and high-speed Internet. We have computers in our pockets that give quick, easy access to any information we desire. It's no wonder patience is becoming a lost virtue.
Children can learn patience by doing chores to earn an allowance and saving their money to pay for things they want. They can learn patience by learning to garden and patiently nurture the plants to help them grow. Children can learn patience by accepting failure. They might not win that basketball championship, master the piano right away, or get an A on their report card, but as children continue to work hard to achieve their goals, they will learn the art of patience. Good things come over time, and the reward is so much better after heart and effort have been put into achieving the goal.
These days, so many practices are in place that allow people to be non-committal. Divorce rates are high. Cohabitation practices are high. People run from job to job, trying to find the one that suits them best. And when the going gets rough, people tend to just quit.
The ability to commit to something and see it through is a talent that must be practiced. It’s easy to quit to escape the hard things in life. However, taking ownership and facing trials builds a strength that is necessary for living a life of fullness and joy.
Children can learn commitment through things such as doing chores or being involved in extracurricular activities.
Children learn by example and experience. If you create an atmosphere and set an example of these values in your home, the kids will catch on and live a fuller life with high potential.