A parent is a child’s first teacher. It’s up to us to be their best, too…

Mother and daughters

It’s up to us to calm a crying newborn, crack the ‘get the baby to sleep through the night’ code and navigate the troublesome toddler and teen years. It’s also up to us to raise the next generation of world changers.

Somewhere in between those sleepy newborn days, terrible twos, fascinating fives and testing teen years, there are many life lessons that we need to teach our kids – lessons that will hopefully help them cope with the challenges of the real world with grace and confidence.

That’s a monumental task (and, privilege actually) and one we can’t afford to get wrong.

In everything we do with (and for) our kids – from the most mundane tasks like meal making and butt wiping to navigating school, friendships, and relationships – we’re teaching them about life, what it means to be good and how to make it in what can often be a difficult world.

Here are the values that all children should develop by their fifth birthday, and some easy ways to make them stick.

Help Kids Find a Way, To Tell the Truth

The best way to encourage truthfulness in your child is to be a truthful person yourself.

Your child takes his cues from you, so it's important that you try to avoid any kind of deception, even a seemingly innocuous one. (Never, for instance, say something like "Let's not tell Daddy we got candy this afternoon.") Let your child hear you being truthful with other adults.

Another way to promote the value of honesty: Don't overreact if your child lies to you. Instead, help her find a way, to tell the truth. 

Insist That Children Make Amends

Saying "I'm sorry" is pretty easy for a child, and it lets her off the hook without forcing her to think. Having a child make amends in a proactive way conveys a much stronger message. If you're aware that your child has acted badly toward someone, help him think of a way to compensate. Maybe he can give one of his trucks to a playmate whose toy he has damaged. Perhaps he could draw a picture for his sister after teasing her all day. By encouraging your child to make such gestures, you emphasize the importance of treating people fairly-an essential value that will one day help him negotiate the complicated world of peer-group relationships.

Encourage Them To Take on a Challenge

The determination is a value that you can encourage from a very young age. The easiest way to do so is by avoiding excessive praise and by providing children with honest feedback, delivered in a gentle, supportive fashion.

Another powerful way to help kids develop determination is to encourage them to do things that don't come easily-and to praise them for their initiative. If your son is shy, for instance, quietly encourage him to approach kids on the playground, even if it makes him feel nervous and scared. If your daughter is quick to blow a fuse, teach her strategies (such as counting to ten or taking a deep breath) for holding back a temper tantrum. Congratulate kids when they manage to do things that are difficult for them. The child who hears "Good for you, I know that was really tough!" is bolstered by the recognition and becomes even more determined to keep trying.

Teach Them To Think about Others' Feelings

Do these small problem-solving exercises actually help a child learn the value of consideration? You bet. Over time, even a young child sees that words or actions can make another person smile or feel better and that when she's kind to someone else, that person is nice to her. This feedback encourages other genuine acts of consideration.

Be Generous with Your Affection

Parents tend to think that children are naturally loving and generous with their affection. This is true, but for loving sentiments to last, they need to be reciprocated. It's chilling to realize that over the course of a typical busy day, the phrase "I love you" is probably the one that a child is least likely to hear.

Let your child see you demonstrate your love and affection for the people in your life. Kiss and hug your spouse when the kids are around. Talk to your children about how much you love and appreciate their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

And, of course, don't let a day pass without expressing your affection for your child himself. Show your love in unexpected ways: Pack a note in his lunch box. Tape a heart to the bathroom mirror so he'll see it when he brushes his teeth. Give her a hug for no reason. Don't allow frantic morning drop-offs or frenetic afternoon routines squeeze loving gestures out of your day.

I can practically guarantee you that the more you say "I love you" to your child, the more your child will say "I love you" back. The more hugs and kisses you give, the more your home will be filled with love and affection. And when our children feel free to express their love to us, we instill in them perhaps the greatest value of all.

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