Earlier this year, I did an informal survey on a popular social networking site. I asked several people from around the world to post the question “If you were to teach your children only ONE quality so that they would grow up to be the adult you could be proud of, what quality would it be…”. The response was tremendous. Whether their child is a newborn, six, sixteen, or an adult, parents feel an immense responsibility. Overwhelmingly, the top qualities that parents want to impart on their children, out of hundreds of responses from all over the world, are compassion, confidence, and respect. A parent puts a lot of pressure on him or herself to ensure their child grows up the “right” way.
How do we instill compassion, confidence and respect, along with hundreds of other qualities? I have heard parents (who are now grandparents) say about their child-rearing “We just didn’t think about things so much back then”. Is that true? Or better? Or is it better to think about things? Is it better to pre-teach, pre-plan, discuss, give choices, discuss alternatives, and compromise? Some would say absolutely. The anxious child, the one who “doesn’t transition well”, who needs consistency and structure, who does not like surprises might do a lot better and enjoy himself more when parents “think about things”. Other children might roll their eyes with all the discussion. It depends on the individual… it depends on YOUR individual child.
As evidenced by the variety of responses, there is no recipe for what we need to teach our children. But, we as parents are responsible for teaching our children. Whether it is trustworthiness, citizenry, humility, kindness, responsibility, determination, confidence, integrity, spirituality, self-reliance, generosity, patience, self-respect, or compassion, we are teaching them. No matter what the method, no matter how many times we question our parenting, we are teaching them. And they will grow up and teach our grandchildren.