Raising Kids to Do The Right Thing

This week there was an incredible story in the news about a girl who wrote a note to someone whose car was damaged by a bus that fled the scene. It was incredible because accidents happen every day, and all too often there’s not any way to get compensation for the damage because you don’t know who was involved. But thanks to this girl and her note, the driver is able to get his car repaired by the bus company.

I was really impressed by this story because it said something important to me about how at least some of this next generation is being raised. The fact that this girl wanted to write a note and return to the scene with it says that someone taught her that sometimes something as simple as telling the truth can make all the difference in the world. She didn’t have to write the note, she didn’t have to get involved, and she wasn’t involved in causing the accident and wasn’t even on the bus. She just happened to be passing by, was familiar with the bus and knew that someone would be upset when they got back to their car.

Her good deed also speaks to the importance of being aware of what’s going on around you, and the skill of giving attention to detail that seems to be a dying art. Knowing the small detail like the bus number, something not everyone would know, meant she could not only give the car owner the story, but also the details that would help him get the situation resolved.

There are lots of things that parents try to teach their kids today, especially about navigating this rapidly changing and technologically advanced world and all the people we share it with.  But this girl and the story shows that it’s not always about the new and advanced, something as simple as a hand written note, the truth, and a willingness to speak up are all that this girl needed to save the day.   This girl’s story gives me hope that parents and teachers are imparting to at least some of the kids how to help others.

Are you teaching your kids to do the right thing?  This holiday season is a great time to remember and support the community you live in and the people you share it with.  So whether it’s volunteering at a food bank, donating to a coat drive, donating toys, or just saying “thank you” even the kids can help make someone’s holiday season special.

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Teaching Thanksgiving

One of our greatest responsibilities is to teach the next generation. Yes, that’s something that their parents and school teachers should take the primary role of, but to an extent it’s something we all have a responsibility to do. How do the rest of us teach them, the kids who aren’t our own? We teach them by being responsible, by how we treat them and their parents if we interact with them, by using manners when speaking with them, by how we drive, and in countless other ways that they’re exposed to or may hear about. In some of these situations the kids may not see us, but our actions will have a direct impact on their parents, for example if we’re a bad driver, or the words we have for their parents that hurt or stress them will trickle down to impact the kids.

The other side of that is true too: that when we do something kind, considerate or generous we can teach kids too. These types of interaction teach kids that not everyone is mean or angry, that there are supportive communities throughout the world, and that not everything about life is stressful or challenging. Even when we’re not in a situation to remember or be reminded of the kids someone has, just about everyone has a family and your words and actions can impact them, so it’s always smart to think before you act or speak, or just choose to do the right thing and treat others with respect all the time.

As a parent it is important to teach your kids how to handle life’s challenges absolutely. There are families around the US who aren’t going to be in their homes this Thanksgiving because of the mess nature has handed them from water or fire damage and destruction. But you also have to teach them that life is so much more than that. There are manners to use, relationships to build, people and pets to love, things to learn, goals to achieve, victories to create, dreams to realize, and blessings to celebrate.

How do you teach them to be thankful? Thanksgiving is a great opportunity because it’s a day that we often share what we’re thankful for.  In addition to teaching your kids manners and to recognize and appreciate blessings, you can have a thankfulness jar that you all add slips of paper to on a regular basis throughout the year to reinforce giving thanks and then read them on Thanksgiving or throughout the year when you all need a bit of encouragement.  You can go around the dinner or homework table each week and share what you’re all thankful for.  You can make a point of giving thanks before bed or sharing what you’re thankful for.

Will you teach your kids about giving thanks this Thanksgiving?

Choose Your Responsibility

As we finish out this month over the weekend I wanted to share one more thought on the topic of responsibilities, this time with an eye to kids. Part of our job as adults is to teach our kids about responsibility so that when they’re adults they can handle the pressures that life (work, family, relationship, health etc.) puts on them as they grow up and become adults.

There are a variety of ways we can teach responsibilities, like talking about ours and helping kids understand why we do things. Traditionally chores have also been used to help teach responsibilities, and they’re a great way of having your kids participate in caring for the house and themselves, and can also help teach financial responsibility and management if you attach a monetary reward to completed chores.

Part of teaching them responsibilities is teaching them how to use the power that comes along with them, and giving them the opportunity to make choices for themselves.  One of the ways you can do this is by giving them options (that really aren’t options) to give them some control and power over their choices.  For example when they have to pick a snack after school you can give them a selection (at least 3 options) of fruits, vegetables and other healthy options to choose from.  If they have homework to do and need to shower before bed you can give them the choice of which they do first or if they do some of the work and then shower and then finish the work.

Yes, some of these choices/options means that you have to be prepared to have a little more variety in your life, for instance buying more options at the food store, but it gives them the ability to make some decisions and you to de-escalate a situation that could be much more difficult to resolve or handle if you just made the decisions for them.

What are your tips for teaching kids responsibilities?

Making Life Safer and More Peaceful for the Next Generation

The words “back to school” are echoing around the country. For some school is a welcome time, for others there’s a lot of apprehension. Both parents and kids can struggle with back to school time, and one of the challenges that has been increasingly becoming a greater point of concern is the safety issue. Whether from outside sources or inside sources violence and bullying has been increasingly on people’s radars. But it’s not exclusive to schools, as you may know, violence and threats can happen anywhere and at any time, whether an orchestrated attack or driving incident that happen between two parties that have zero connection, or a natural disaster that is more serious than anticipated.

Safe is a term that we throw around but aren’t always able to follow through on. Why? Because there are too many variables to be able to fully anticipate all potential dangers. The best way to be safe though is with planning and honesty. The first thing I think as adults we need to do is be willing to admit that there are dangers around, and not to be oblivious to them. This is a first step that not everyone takes, because who really wants to think about this stuff?

The next step is to be honest about some of the potential things that could go wrong and outline some kind of plan for them. While you don’t have to have precise steps that should be taken in the event of certain things happening, it’s a good idea to at least have things outlined as to financials and last wishes and even online account information so that in the event of something bad happening your wishes and information are made known. You should also have an emergency fund (and specify what that fund can be used for) that can cover expenses for 6 months or more. You should also have at least one discussion with the family about these things so that everyone is at least aware of where the information is, what plans are if something happens and who the contact people are outside of the family should something happen.

Of course the third step is to be smart about how you live. That doesn’t mean that you don’t take some risks or don’t have any fun, but it means that you don’t drive recklessly, you don’t do drugs, you get help from a therapist or counselor if you’re struggling with anger or hurt or depression or something else, and generally think before acting in life.  Your better habits will teach your kids to have better habits as well.

No family ever likes to think about the dark side of life, but it’s a reality. If you want your family to be safer, do what you can to make it more likely that you’re all protected. But even though safe isn’t a guarantee, a greater sense of peace can be a reality if you take the time and effort to do a little planning. What are you doing to make the world a little more peaceful, and hopefully safer, for the next generation?

Parenting Relationships

This month we’ll be taking a look at some dad related topics with the celebration of Father’s Day on the 17th here in the US. If you watch true crime stories or read the news you know that both moms and dads have left their children before and that both moms and dads can do the single parenting thing. But, as you know if you’ve been on the blog for a while, I believe in raising kids with a village, including having both male and female role models in the children’s lives, whenever possible that being the child’s parents or the 2 people who claim that child as theirs. Today I want to talk about one of the challenges and choices that has to be made when it comes to being a dad, and that’s the relationship that the dad has with the mother (yes, I’ve talked about heterosexual relationships specifically here but the insights here definitely apply to same-sex relationships with kids as well).

One of the greatest challenges to raising a child is both parents being committed to that child for the typical 18 years and working together throughout those 18 years to raise that child. 18 years is a very long time in this day and age to be committed to one thing, let alone more than one person being committed to that one thing. I’m not saying it’s not possible to have a relationship with someone for 18 years or more, just that it’s a challenge and a big commitment. If you think about it we typically have much longer relationships with our families (sometimes many decades), because it’s often harder for us to separate from those we’re connected with by blood (or adoption) than it is those that we’re tied to through a piece of paper and a ceremony of some kind.

One of the best things you can do for the future of your child is to have a healthy, open, growing, conversational relationship with your significant other. Our lives are all built on relationships, and what we learn about relationships as we grow up can have a serious impact on how we view and build relationships as adults. Some children learn that relationships don’t work, some learn that relationships only work for a short time, some learn that relationships are violent, some learn that relationships change over time, some learn that relationships can be rebuilt, and some learn that there can be new relationships formed after the death of a parent.

But the bottom line is, the healthier the relationship that dads and moms have, the better example their children will have to learn from. How healthy is your relationship with your significant other, and what are you teaching your child(ren) through that relationship?

The Challenge and Opportunity of ‘Different’

With the Royal Wedding there’s been a lot of talk about changes and that a new era is beginning. I’m all for necessary changes, and I think of all the kingdoms/rulers/presidencies of the world, the Royal Family has managed to navigate the world and lead their country pretty well through the many different ages that they’ve been in charge in England. Parents too have lots of changes to navigate, babies have far different needs than teenagers, so parents are very familiar with the concept of change through the ages. As I was thinking about changes the thing that popped into my head was the phrase that adults say to kids (and other adults) from time to time: “yes, but that was different.”

It’s not an easy lesson for kids to learn (or parents to teach), that different rules apply to different situations, different times and different people, let alone that things could easily have changed between the last situation that was similar and the current one that’s being discussed with the child. It’s an important lesson to learn because it helps children learn to deal with change, to adapt, to plan ahead and to consider all the options and opinions, skills that will serve them well when they’re adults.

It’s really a two-fold lesson though, because it’s a reminder to not judge everyone or every situation the same, and that while you can lean back on past lessons, you have to be open to things being different, even if they look similar. Yes, the Royal Family could easily have said that they wouldn’t go in that direction and Prince Harry had to choose someone more in line with what was expected or tradition. And I can’t say that there isn’t another woman somewhere around the world that would also be a great match for him, but I think that the now Duke and Duchess of Sussex are well suited and can do more to help the world, and the Royal Family move, in a very healthy and prepared direction for the future.

The good news is that even if you’re an adult there’s still time to work on learning life’s lessons and adapting to changes. You don’t make one decision in life that says you’ll never ever learn lessons or never change, you can make a new decision each day on how you’re going to live your life and what you want your future to look like. Don’t let “different” hold you back or scare you, be willing to embrace all that life gifts you.

Teaching Forgiveness

With Mother’s Day just around the corner for those of us in the US, I’m thinking about an interesting topic that moms are pretty familiar with: forgiveness. It’s one of the many life lessons parents are supposed to teach us or help us learn, but not always an easy one to teach or to live. One of my earlier memories is one of needing forgiveness for having done something wrong, it really didn’t feel good to need forgiveness or to be caught doing something wrong.

It can be hard to teach forgiveness because it’s not always fun to forgive, nor is it always easy, especially if we’ve been hurt before or it just doesn’t seem to add up for us in our heads on why we should be forgiving them. It’s even hard to forgive when we know the other person doesn’t know what they did or didn’t do wrong intentionally, because we’re still hurt. It can take a lot of courage to take the time to really understand all of the situation, not just how hurt we are, and choose to forgive.

Teaching forgiveness, grace and understanding are all things that parents should to teach kids, and are lessons that we should use throughout our lives. We have to decide to forgive our coworker for standing us up at the big meeting, our neighbor for the damage caused to our property during a party, our kids for the car accident, the town for a lack of notice when they decided to tear up the street and turn off the water, or our significant other for forgetting our anniversary, and countless other little things that happen during our lives that hurt us.

What about you? Do you need forgiveness in your life or do you need to forgive someone? Life’s too short to let the hurts build up and cripple us. I encourage you to take steps this week towards forgiving someone, even if it’s just that first step of understanding what and why they did what they did.

The Marathon of Parenting

I was talking with a friend this week and she mentioned that her husband wanted time to do some things and therefore could she watch their son while he did them? It’s not a strange request, in fact it’s pretty normal. But the statement that followed his request and their discussion of her need for him to do some parenting was that he “didn’t realize kids would be this much work”.

Ah yes, that old “let’s have kids!” chat sounds great until you realize how much money, time, effort, blood, sweat and tears are involved. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. I believe kids are a blessing, but I also would do my absolute best to never bring a kid into the world if I was not prepared for taking care of them and investing in them for the next 20+ years. And some people simply aren’t capable of being the parents their kids need them to be.

But, since you’re here you’ve already most likely got kids and are being met daily (and hourly) with challenges and craziness. This is par for the course. But how you do the course is what makes all the difference. You can be a miserable parent, and your kids will sure remember it and probably make your life miserable at some point in time because of it. Or you can choose to take each challenge as it comes with an open heart, lots of love, extra patience, and the security of knowing that you are never alone in the journey. I’m here, there are countless blogs, Facebook pages, local groups and organizations who are ready, willing and able to support both you and your kids.

Don’t worry about fixing today’s problems by the end of today, plan for the long haul and that when you and your kids cross that finish line you’ll all be proud to be there.

A St. Patrick’s Day Legacy

Today is St. Patrick’s Day! I’m excited as always, it’s one of my favorite holidays each year. Over the last day or so I’ve been checking out some Irish companies and looking at products made in Ireland and was struck by the care, consideration and effort that’s put into each product. No, no company is perfect, but when you think about truly Irish products and companies many of them have stood the test of time and consistently offer fantastic products. I’m not one to spend tons of money on things like jewelry or clothing, but I’m willing to spend those extra dollars to get such a quality product and support the families who are behind them.

No, this post isn’t really about running a business or offering a quality product, it’s about the quality and character of the people behind them. As parents and those in charge of the next generation we have a choice in what we want to teach the next generation, and hopefully what they’ll learn from us. Do we want to teach them to value the world, put their best foot forward, take pride in their work, leave a legacy that can be appreciated for a long time, and make a positive impact on the world? I know that’s what I want to teach the next generation and encourage them to value life and their talents.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with buying a sweater or piece of jewelry from your local big box store, I’ve got some of them that I absolutely enjoy very much and were on low clearance prices even (prices that couldn’t get me anywhere near something from Ireland). So there’s nothing wrong with finding shortcuts and doing a quick job of something (as long as it gets the job done), but there’s value to be found in being a person who does more than just meets the status quo.

No one else can be who you are, no one else can be who your kids are or will grow up to be, no one else can be the neighborhood kids or who they will grow up to be, each and every one of us are unique and have the ability to bring something awesome to the table. In the case of the many families in Ireland who craft gorgeous products those families are teaching their next generations about leaving a legacy, honoring your heritage and sharing who they are with the world. What are you teaching your kids?

Impact Big and Small

As I was thinking about the big football game happening in a few hours I was reminded of the topic of impact. In hearing the different plans that people have depending on the results of the game and about the history of the teams for winning seasons, it got me thinking about how many people’s futures are going to be impacted by the events of a few hours. No, it’s not life and death like cancer and it’s not as impactful as something like an election, but it’s still a really big deal to many people, and people are willing to put their health on the line for the victory today.

For some the events of today in the world of football mean very little or nothing to them. They don’t watch, they don’t care, they may not even know which teams are playing. And that’s OK, because what we’re talking about today isn’t really about football. It’s about the impact that each of us have on each other. Yes, today’s game will have a big impact because it impacts many people. What you choose for dinner tonight may not have a big impact on many people, but it will have an impact on you, and maybe a few of the people who live with you. How you talk to your kids will have an impact on them, how you show your partner you do/don’t love them will impact them, the way you treat yourself will have an impact on your self esteem, your self image and your confidence.

The thing is it’s these little things that add up to make a big impact. If you put one quarter in a jar every day for the next year you’ll have $36.53 which might be enough to take your significant other out for dinner. Divorces rarely are the result of one event or thing but days, months and even years of issues and buildup. People are rarely born bad, they turn that way after years of negative influences and anger directed their way. I doubt that any of the parents who have kids playing in the football game today knew the day they were born that they would end up playing today.

You can’t predict the future, but you can do your best to make choices that will give you the best big and little impacts possible. What impact will you choose to have?