The Classroom of Life: 6 Essential Lessons to Teach Your Children
By Dr. Augusto Cury
Kids grow up so fast. One day they are nervously starting their first day of kindergarten; the next they are throwing graduation caps in the air at high school commencement. Along the way, they will learn their ABCs, geometry, American history - but don't let academics be the only lessons your children learn. By helping them explore who they are and what their unique identities hold, you become your children's greatest teacher.
Here are six essential lessons you can pass onto them starting now:
1. Be generous – in a different way.
Give your child something so much more valuable than toys: your stories, your experiences, your tears and your time. Material things are remembered until the memory of the thing fades, but parents who give themselves to their children impart lasting memories. Talk about your adventures, your dreams and the greatest (or perhaps toughest) moments you've experienced. Sharing your past with your children teaches them to be open and comfortable with who they are.
2. Model emotion management.
Many children grow up believing they should act on whatever emotion they feel, but this allows them to be ruled by their emotions, rather than reason. By modeling healthy emotion management, you will teach your children to be better able to temper their own fears, anxiety, sadness, impulses and aggressiveness. Similarly, by talking through conflict with children, you show them how to dig themselves out of emotional sand traps. The ability to reason through problems will help build the coping skills they need when you're not around to make everything better.
3. Encourage “inner dialogues.”
Ten years into his life, a child is still learning to speak his native language with facility. Help guide this language toward self-discovery by encouraging inner dialogue. Talk to your kids about having “roundtable discussions” with themselves, figuring out what they feel and what their emotions mean. When your son has hurt feelings, what's going on inside his head? How can he change what's going on in his head? Similarly, what thoughts can your daughter put inside her head each morning to start off the day happy and excited?
4. Color outside the lines.
Let your children explore their creativity and their compassion. Every child has their own uniqueness that must be embraced, so create opportunities for their own self-expression. This could take the form of cooking assistance in the kitchen, art projects in the driveway, or playing musical instruments together. If they get frustrated because they aren't doing it “right,” remind them that some of the greatest artists in the world didn't get things right – and that's what made their work incredible.
5. Teach them to be a go-getter.
Taking charge of one's life is empowering. However, no one can truly succeed without taking some risks, so communicate to your child that it's okay to take chances. Nothing dangerous of course! But it's never too soon to cultivate a sense of wonder at life, and help them be open to new possibilities. What if they flew to Mars one day? What if they discovered a new animal species? Remind them that life is full of twists and turns, and they have tons of adventures in store for them.
6. Celebrate life.
Through life's ups and downs, your child will learn to sit back and enjoy the ride if they are anchored by love. Teach your children to be passionate about life and taking every punch that is thrown, because in the end, you trust that they will make good decisions and you are always in their corner. Rejoice at every winning season, straight-A report card and acceptance into college, and support them through every heartbreak, bad grade and rejection. Just by being there for them, your children will never feel alone.
Dr. Augusto Cury is a psychiatrist, psychotherapist, scientist and best-selling author of “Think and Make It Happen: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Overcoming Negative Thoughts and Discovering Your True Potential” (Thomas Nelson, 2008), from which this article is adapted. He is the founder of The Intelligence Institute in his native Brazil. For more information, please visit thomasnelson.com.