By Dr. Michele Borba
There has been a strong movement in recent years on raising caring kids. Traits like self control, empathy and respect are promoted as strong factors to help prevent violence and bad behavior. There is no question that nurturing these and other virtues will go a long way to giving kids a strong foundation and raise kids who simply will not want to misbehave.
In addition to these virtues I think the beliefs our kids learn are equally important and something I would like to see more focus on, given what kids have to deal with in today's complicated and often toxic world. Here are five beliefs I work daily to instill in my kids.
1. Popularity isn't important.
Mutually caring relationships with others is. So many parents today force popularity on their kids. It is though having a child that isn't trendy and obsessed with boys by the age of 11 is a shameful thing. Kids need to feel valued for who they are and what they do rather than external influences that are not based on anything real. Kids need to think about WHY someone is popular.
It is because a certain boy likes them? Is it because they have designer clothing at the age of ten and elaborate lifestyles? Or is because they are caring and kind and happy and people are responding to that. It is the best compliment a child can receive to be well thought of and liked because of what they give to others from their heart and how caring they are, and will go a long way to building life long happiness.
2. I will define myself by what I do and not by what I have. Working hand in hand with the "I want to be popular" mentality, kids need to learn to feel proud of themselves for the RIGHT reasons. Help your child look at what they did each day for others. Did they do their best? Did they use their creativity and rely on themselves to cope with a difficult situation? These are the kinds of beliefs that will cultivate self esteem and confidence. The size of their house, the extravagance of their lifestyles and the price of their clothes will never contribute to raising a secure and happy adult.
3. I will learn to see my spirit in the mirror of those around me. We so often judge our kids by their behavior, their grades and their friends. In an attempt to teach them to do the right thing we might lose sight of how important it is for them to just see themselves for who they are, regardless of how they perform each day. Does your child see how warm their eyes are or how their smile lights up a room?
Do they know how many people rely on their positive nature or their competitive sprit? Are they able to feel how important they are to others who might need their special capacity for being a good listener or their selflessness? We all come to this earth with natural traits that are our birthright. It is a crucial factor that kids learn to see their natural qualities and how much they can bring to others by just being themselves.
4. I will learn to have compassion and understanding. Around the age of 8 kids start to really see how other kids and adults behave and they learn that some of those behaviors are not always the wisest choice. Rather than allowing them to be judgmental, use these opportunities to help them look at why someone might act in a cruel or inappropriate manner. Help them see what these behaviors might do to someone's life and to have compassion for them.
A kinder perspective on others will help kids see the world as a good place even though there are often people in it that do not behave morally or with kindness or good judgment. The lives our kids create one day is often the result of how they see the world, so do everything you can do help them see others in a positive and caring light, regardless of how they act.
5. I always have a choice. Ultimately this is one of the most important beliefs kids can learn to internalize. Tough times and tough circumstances happen to every single person on earth and it is our belief that we can always come out on the other side. that we can choose to find a way to still be happy that leads to life long happiness. Many people do learn as adults that it isn't what happens to us but what we do with what happens to us that matters. Helping our kids learn this when they are young may be the most effective tool we will every give them. They will go through life knowing that no matter what happens, they always have power….the power to make a choice in spite of any obstacles that may cross their path.
For more information visit www.micheleborba.com.