I had a friend who recently traveled to another country for a mission’s trip. She shared her experiences in working with the children there. She admired how grateful the children were, how well-mannered they were, and how respectful they were. After hearing this I thought about my experiences with children as an educator and parent. The juxtaposition of these children are in stark contrast of each other. As an educator and citizen of an amazing country this frustrated me, but as a parent this drives me to action. How can I teach my children to respond like the children living in this other country? How can I teach my children to serve, be respectful, and respond with thankfulness? Is the responsibility that of the child, or is the responsibility that of the parent? Maybe it is to be shared. Below I mention one thing you can begin doing right away to make a difference.
Be A Model
Modeling is an old and effective teaching practice. Showing people how to do something before they attempt it themselves just seems to work. Once upon a time this was called an apprenticeship. Somewhere we became very good at barking out orders and not so good at modeling good principles. I believe modeling is something we incorporate into our parenting whether we mean to or not. Our children watch our behavior and get their cues from us.
So, what’s the secret sauce? How can you teach children to serve others? You serve others in front of them. How do you teach thankfulness? Show them gratitude and be thankful yourself. How do you teach children to be respectful? You respect others around you beginning with your spouse. If you start calling everyone you disagree with names, belittle people in front of your children, or use derogatory and inappropriate language, in no time at all they will be doing the same. They may even do it to you. I’m not judging you, but how can you be upset with your child when this is the behavior you modeled for them? Model the characteristics you want your children to show. Doing this will make a huge difference. You will make mistakes. Let your children know when you made a mistake. We are human, not superhuman. Give yourself a little grace. Hmmm, Grace…sounds like another awesome trait to model.
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