As a former early childhood professional, I’m keenly aware of how much children learn from observing those around them. The adults in a child’s life are especially influential.
I was recently thinking about what I want my children to see me doing and I came up with this list of essentials:
I don’t read as much as I would like to. Plus, when I do read, it’s while I’m riding the exercise bike or before bed. Children need to see their parents reading and enjoying books. By modelling an appreciation of literature, children are more likely to engage in reading as well.
Try scheduling reading time as a family. Everyone grabs some books and reads on the couch together.
2. Helping those less fortunate.
We are a one-income family. Even though our budget is tight, we often look for ways to help those less fortunate. Whether it’s donating food to the food bank or collecting money for the homeless, we do what we can to help those less fortunate.
Commit to one volunteering or charitable action at least once a month. Whenever possible, involve your children. It could be as simple as asking them to look through their drawers to select clothing items to donate to a local shelter. Another idea is to have your children choose several items to donate to the food bank.
3. Saying please and thank you.
I don’t mean to sound like your grandparents but what’s with the lack of manners nowadays? I think good manners are essential and have an enormous impact on the way people interact with you. Children need to see their parents being polite with others because this is the fastest way for them to learn. They won’t do it if they don’t see you doing it!
When someone holds a door open for you, say thank you (or be the one holding the door open for someone else). Be kind and polite to servers and cashiers. Be well-mannered with your spouse. If your hubby washes the laundry, thank him for it (and make sure the kids see you doing so as well). Thank your children when they do something helpful.
4. Making healthy choices.
Many factors contribute to living a healthy lifestyle. From exercise to food choices, to adequate sleep and hygiene, we have got to demonstrate to our children what a healthy lifestyle looks like.
When selecting beverages, opt for water instead of soda. Involve your children in making healthy choices at the grocery store; instead of chips, get hummus and carrots! Opt for a family walk over a family movie. Demonstrate proper (and thorough) hand washing.
Do you pray in front of your children or do you reserve prayer for meal time and before bed? Our children need to see their parents praising God and thanking Him for His blessings.
Pray regularly in front of your children. If something comes up (i.e. they mention a friend has a cold) offer to pray with them.
6. Doing the things they love.
Do you have a hobby? How often do you reserve that hobby for a time when the children are involved in other activities or after they’re in bed? Wouldn’t it be neat if your child got to see your enthusiasm for building model train sets? Wouldn’t it fascinate them to see how much you enjoy something?
Plan your hobby times so that your children have an opportunity to see you doing something that you enjoy. If they ask questions, tell them about your activity. Maybe they would like to try it, too!
I struggle with playing. Quite often, I feel like there are many other things I can and should be doing. Yet, I always make time to play.
Children benefit from seeing their parents engaged in play. It’s an incredible opportunity to role-model conscientious and courteous play attitudes.
Look for opportunities to play. If you’re having troubles connecting with your inner child, then check out this post for inspiration –> How to Connect With Your Inner Child.
Schedule times to play, even if it’s just 20 minutes per day!
8. Planning and goal setting.
I am a planner. This is an easy one for me to demonstrate. My daily routine involves planning and setting goals for the day. This skill is vital to our children’s future! They need opportunities to schedule their time, plan their days, and set goals. The greatest lessons will not necessarily come from achieving objectives but by having unmet goals or days that don’t go as planned.
Give your child an agenda like this one. Once a week, spend some time together writing in your agendas and setting goals for the week. Encourage your child to look at and assess their previous week before they start planning a new week.
9. Being conscientious with money.
All children grow up to be adults who buy, sell, and invest. Children need opportunities to observe their parents being practical and wise with money.
When shopping, allow your child to hear your decision making process (i.e. I won’t get this but I’m going to watch for a sale). It’s also beneficial to demonstrate how you purchase based on needs rather than wants. You could also start a family savings jar for a special purchase or activity.
10. Enjoying nature.
From rivers to mountains, to grass and trees, this world contains much beauty. In the documentary Play Again, they shared that environmental degradation is directly related to our detachment from nature. Why care for something we have no connection to? Why care for the environment or the planet if we rarely connect with the beauty and wonder that nature presents? It’s critical that our children see us enjoying and appreciating nature.
Take your children on nature walks. Frequently pause to enjoy the scenery. Involve your children in planting a garden. Whenever possible, choose to be outdoors.
Our children’s greatest influence is us! Is there anything you would add to this list?