How to Teach Your Children – Strong Lessons for Life

Raising up the next generation of children isn’t an easy task to do.  It takes time, discipline (both on the part of the parent and the child), love, respect, and more.  When you take the time to teach your children, it helps to prepare them for the life ahead. Think of it as putting your kids in the trenches. One day, they will thank you for it!

Although cooking, cleaning, gardening, sewing, and budgeting are all part of an essential upbringing, there are so many more thing that need to be taught but aren’t as cut and dried.  In all honesty, these are things I can’t tell you, step-by-step how to do, as each child is unique and learns in different ways.  Still, just knowing what to teach them is half the battle.  As intangible as they are, these are things I learned growing up that have served me well.

a young woman with a guitar, a young man with a dulcimer, and an older woman with a dulcimer playing music

The Difference between Parents and Friends

I have parents & I have friends- but they aren’t the same people. There was a great separation between my parents and my friends.  I once asked my mom why we couldn’t be ‘friends’ and do things together.  She very quickly told me, “You have plenty of friends.  You only have one set of parents.  A mother and dad are not designed to be your friend.  They are designed to be your teacher; your disciplinarian; your guide through life; your Jiminy Cricket (conscience); your provider, until you are able to provide for yourself.” 

She was right.  My friends would have let me get away with just about anything in the name of ‘fun’.  My mom and dad taught me that some things that seem like fun at the time, could be harmful to me and to others. Friends wouldn’t say ‘No’.  My parents used that word like a litany. Over time, my Mom also became one of my best friends, but she was always a parent first and foremost.

a young girl in a bright blue tee shirt visiting on a porch with her grandmother

Teach Your Children through Discipline

Don’t be afraid to teach your children through discipline. Set fair, but firm rules and stick with them. For each infraction of a rule, set a consequence. The first one may simply be telling the child what they did was wrong, and why. If it is done again, then explain again that the behavior isn’t acceptable, and add a bit more to the consequences.

Know that more than likely, your kids will push their boundaries. This is part of the learning process. They want to know how hard they can push to break through what they see as holding them back from what they want. They still are not mature enough to see what they want can be harmful to them now or in the future. And that is the job of the parent – to teach them.

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Teach Your Children by saying ‘Yes’

Children need someone who isn’t afraid to say ‘No’.  However, my friend Marie also encourages parents to learn to say ‘yes’ as well.  It gets tiring for a child to hear nothing but ‘no’ all the time.  The trick is to teach your children through finding those precious yes’s in a turbulent sea of no’s.

A ‘yes’ is a positive reinforcement. These can be said literally, or figuratively. Your child needs to know they are doing things right. All too often all a kid hears is ‘no’, so eventually they may start feeling as if they can’t do anything right. That’s where the positive reinforcement of good behavior comes in.

Tell them they did a good job. Praise them. Offer encouragement – “I can see where you are trying, and I am so proud of you for that.” Often, this type of positive reinforcement will go so much further than all the no’s in the world.

The lesson which goes hand-in-hand with that is teaching them the difference between right and wrong – from experience.  Children need to know their parents have traveled the same, or similar road they are on. They need someone older and wiser to guide them through the hidden tangible and intangible dangers of life.  To do any less is showing a tremendous lack of respect to our children.  Loving children can sometimes be one of the hardest things we do in life – but the rewards surpass anything else we could ever know.

a young man and his dad aiming new bb guns received for Christmas to show how to teach your children safety

Teach Your Children – The Importance of an Education

I attended school (AND respected my teacher):  I get it.  School can be a drag.  But have you ever wondered why that is so?  In most cases, it isn’t the teacher’s fault.  It is the immediate negative expectations of your child for required routine.  They can’t do as they please.  They can’t talk when they want.  And there is self-discipline involved in paying attention, reading, studying and taking tests. 

But in order to get by in this world, we need some degree of formalized learning.  If you want your child to succeed, as a parent we need to emphasize the importance of school.  We don’t often see it, but they do learn so much more than just English, Science, History and Math. 

When you teach your children these things at home, they are taking the lessons and discovering how to expand them to the outside world. Things like how to interact with people from all walks of life.  Tolerance.  Respect – for themselves and others.  Organizational skills.   Creativity.  Timing.  Compassion.  They learn how to balance life, and make it work in a positive way for them and for others. 

Those teachers who are in front of the class?  Trust me.  They aren’t in it for easy money.  Teaching has to be in the top five of the most difficult and lowest paying jobs in this country – not to mention they are required to have an extensive education just to teach.  In some cases, a Master’s and/or Doctorate level is required, which is a tough and expensive curriculum. 

an empty classroom with  desks in a line, chalkboard with a math problem and a world map

Your child’s teachers know exactly what it is like to be in school – they have already been there for 17 to 20 years of their life – not counting kindergarten.  Their goal isn’t just to stand up in front of the class and make your child’s life miserable.  They are there to teach your children not only the 3 R’s, but also how to live productive lives.

For your children (and you, as parents) to treat these people with disrespect is a direct reflection on you.  No.  Not all teachers are wonderful, and can be pretty hard-core.  But sometimes, it is those very teachers who teach us the most about the given subject and life itself. 

I was a typical school-aged kid. I would have much rather been running the roads than sitting in a classroom.  But now?  Given the opportunity, I would be right back in school, getting degrees in Agriculture, Home Economics and Business.  And I would show my appreciation to them by studying hard and learning the material. 

Teach your children that, if they cannot love school, they can at least appreciate the benefits it offers them by studying hard, learning the material, and making good grades.  Teach them to ‘see the future’ – which is exactly what school is preparing them for.

an older woman wearing a blue sweatshirt holding a young girl wearing a smocked red Christmas dress

Teach your Children Through Example

There is a song by The Police that has words every parent needs to know – because it is exactly what your children are silently telling you:

“Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you
Every single day and every word you say
Every game you play, every night you stay, I’ll be watching you.

Every move you make, every vow you break
Every smile you fake, every claim you stake, I’ll be watching you”

The Police – “Every Breath Your Take”

Your children do watch your every move.  It is those tiny, almost imperceptible things we do that can trip us up as parents.  When you do it, they think it is okay for them to do the same.  Whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not, you are your child’s hero.  They want to emulate you.  They want to grow up to be just like you. 

In most cases, their own unique personality and thought processes will prevent them from being an exact clone, but they can pick up enough actions, habits, and beliefs to come close.  Are we the people we want our children to become?  No.  None of us ever believe we are.  But in most cases, we can behave in a manner that encourages them to do their very best.

a teenage girl wearing a blue sweatshirt feeding a hereford cow over a gate

If we do something we are not proud of, show your children how hard YOU work to change.  Let them know it is okay to struggle to make things better.  It is those struggles that refine us.  In order for gold and silver to be at its utmost value, it has to go through refinement by fire.  Teach your children it is okay to go through struggles – and then teach your children the most gracious way possible to walk across those coals. 

When you breathe, when you speak, when you smile, when you give up in order to have better – make sure it is something you want your child to feel proud and comfortable doing themselves.  Teach them the intangible things in life.  Show compassion and respect to them, your family and others, as your encounter them.  You may not like your ex but treat them respect – if for no other reason than because they are also your children’s parent. 

a young girl in a straw hat with a black bow, wearing a pink top, fishing in a pond

Teach Your Children – Spend Time with Them

One of the best ways to teach your children is by spending quality time with them. Get in the kitchen and let them bake cookies. Sit down on the floor and create with logos. Teach them how to do a craft. Take them hunting or fishing.

You can also schedule a weekly family night. Use it to watch movies, play games, or just talk. When children are distracted by other activities, there is a good chance they may open up. From there, you can learn more about what their passions are, things that are bothering them, or other handy information to have.

You can then choose to just be quiet and listen, or to offer help to resolve issues. You can also relate better to them by just telling a story about how you faced the same things when you were young.

a very young girl wearing a white bow sitting on an old tractor pretending to drive

Simple (But Not Always Easy) Ways to Teach Your Children

Live a life of doing good. Be determined to do the right thing. Be understanding, tolerant, joyful, and happy in your every move, thought, action and reaction, in your day-to-day life.  Learn to be content and appreciative of what you have – and not constantly moaning about what you don’t have.  By watching you do these things, you are teaching your children a very valuable lesson.

If things get tough, it’s okay to let your kids see that, too. Your marriage isn’t perfect. Don’t subject your children to the ‘Cinderella Syndrome’. Life isn’t a fairy tale where your marriage lives happily ever after, with no wrinkles. There will be times when you and your spouse disagree. Allow your children to see that not only are you at odds from time to time with your spouse, but how you also work at ironing out the differences.

Yes. There will be times when what you have to say to each other doesn’t need to be overheard by the children. For these types of discussions, do your best to have them when the children aren’t there. It may help to have a catch phrase, such as ‘We’ll have coffee later,’. This demonstrates you are still willing to talk about it, but that moments isn’t the appropriate time.

Once you have said that, though, be sure to set aside time to talk as quickly as possible. Issues that are not worked out begin to fester and can create worse problems in the long run. This type of issue can make it harder on your children, as well as your relationship with a spouse. Remember, children pick up on even subtle changes in mood and behavior.

a young girl with blonde hair intently working on crafting a Christmas angel

Teach Your Children  – Things Can Be Tough

Raising children – and doing it well, is not an easy task.  It takes time, discipline, understanding, compassion, and a love that is immeasurable and never ending.  To sign on as parents means you sometimes have to set aside your own needs and desires in order to be there for your child. 

Some days that is one of the most difficult things to do. You are going to make mistakes. Some decisions you will question. And there are days you will pull your hair out with frustration. But let them know that. Admit to mistakes. Think about the decisions you make, and then trust them. And while you are pulling your hair out, hug them and tell them you love them – even if you are sending them off to their room for a week of detention.

a smiling young man in a red tee shirt holding a hand-cut Christmas tree next to his s,miling father wearing a blue denim shirt

Teaching Your Children Is Always a Joy

Mostly, though, it is a joy.  If you really pay attention, you aren’t only teaching your children, you are also learning from them.  And by teaching each other, you will be well on the way to a better life for both of you.

Are you ready to start teaching your children other life lessons, such as how to sew on a button, budgeting their finances, growing a garden, or more? Then stay tuned each month for another segment of Teach your Children!

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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