I was recently asked, what would you say is the most important thing for a new parent to do?
I usually shy away from attempting to boil down a broad topic into one quick answer. Clearly, there are so many parts involved in trying to parent in a way that leads children to their best lives it would hardly make sense to focus only on one thing.
However, in this rare case I didn’t want to skirt the question. Although I have never tried to answer this question for myself, an answer came to mind:
Live as though your kids were going to exactly match your actions. Model the type of behavior you want your children to have. Act as though every move you make, little eyes are taking notes and making a plan to do the same thing when they get the chance.
Lead by example, not by words. Lead with actions. Spend more time working on making yourself better than trying to criticize your children’s activities.
The reality is, our kids will see everything we do. In some cases, they will watch what we do and how we behave and decide that they would not like to live the same way, and instead choose to have a different path in life. But many times, our kids will observe how their adult figures are acting and often follow first because they think it is what is supposed to be done. Then, they will learn on their own the results of performing such actions.
To Do: Teach first by modeling.
It would be easy if we could teach kids why we do everything in life and then with a full understanding of “why” an action is important to do (or not to do), it would be easier to follow. However, sometimes it is difficult to teach kids first the reason why something is important.
For example, most mornings my wife and I make it a part of our morning activities to perform some level of exercise. Often, we can be found together in our converted garage/gym with music on, doing rounds of exercises.
We already know why we do this. We know all the studies about the importance of fitness in your lives. We each feel more energetic the days we start out exercising. Often, our mood is lighter and happier just by incorporating some physical fitness. But all of these reasons we perform physical fitness really do not mean too much to a little one. They are not yet in tune with their feelings enough to understand all the good the exercising does.
What they do see is two people they look up to doing something that looks like fun. Now, after observing our actions, there have been mornings where we find our two kids waking up and heading into the garage to “exercise”, to them it is playing…and I am perfectly fine with that.
We have not told them the importance of exercising for a healthy life. We do not lecture them about it. We just live it and let them feel it for themselves.
If you believe something is important for your children, incorporated into your own life first and watch the behavior unfold in their lives.
To Do: Incorporate disciplines that lead to a better life.
The other side of the coin is to remove (or lessen) things that you do not feel will lead your child to their best lives.