Parenting is incredibly hard, and as much as we can work to give our kids the best upbringing possible, some things are outside of our control. Our responsibility is to guide our children into being great adults by teaching them kindness, compassion, thoughtfulness, as well as the importance of hard work and equality. From there, they’ll hopefully become really great people when they grow up, though there’s no guarantee.
So how can you increase your chances of having “good” kids? Harvard psychologists have been studying this very topic for a while now and they came up with six important things that can really help.
Spend time hanging out with your kids. This is more important than any other thing on this list. Regardless of how busy you are, how busy they are, or how tedious it may seem, spend regular time with your kids. Use this time to really open up the lines of communication between you and to learn about your child and who they are, what they like, and what’s on their mind. This will make a major difference.
Teach your kids how to work out their own problems. Instead of allowing them to quit when things get hard or solving issues for them, teach them how to work through tough times themselves. This doesn’t mean you have to watch them struggle helplessly, but offering a bit of guidance and insight while allowing space for them to do their own problem-solving and critical thinking will equip them for adversity later in life.
Drive home the importance of gratitude and helpfulness. There’s nothing worse than an entitled person who takes everything and everyone for granted. Instead, researchers write, “Studies show that people who engage in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate, and forgiving — and they’re also more likely to be happy and healthy.” This means you should make sure your kids help their siblings and even help with chores around the house. You should also avoid effusively praising your child for showing basic consideration – researchers say you should “only praise uncommon acts of kindness.”
Make being a good person a priority. In addition to telling your child how important it is to be kind and thoughtful, it’s vital that they really understand this and take it to heart. “Even though most parents and caretakers say that their children being caring is a top priority, often children aren’t hearing that message,” the researchers say. Make sure this is something you discuss often and keep in touch with their teachers and other adults in their lives to make sure they’re acting in accordance.
Help your child to see the bigger picture. For kids, what’s in their immediate vicinity in the moment is the only thing they can see. Therefore, it’s a parent’s responsibility to widen their scope and give them an understanding of the bigger world around them. While most kids love and care about their family and friends, it’s also important that they’re taught to empathize with and care about those who are from different social, economic, and cultural groups. This will make a major difference.
Keep your child’s negative emotions in check. While it’s important that no feelings are bottled up and that kids are allowed to experience their emotions, it’s just as vital that the negative emotions are kept in check. “The ability to care for others is overwhelmed by anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings,” the researchers say. This means teaching them solid conflict resolution skills and helping them work through negative feelings will keep them focused on the good stuff.
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