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5 Things Every Parent Should Teach Their Child

Updated on April 20, 2011

Every parent wants to do the right thing when raising their children.  It’s often hard to sort out the truly important parenting advice from what advice just white noise.  There are some life lessons that all children need to be taught to be successful adults.

Pink is for boys and blue is for girls.

It is silly in a global world where we aim for equality that we still gender stereotype.  Girls need to know about technology; how a computer works and everything they can do on it.  They also need to know how to fix a car.  Even if we have girly-girls, they might not always be in a position to not know.  They might get divorced down the line, or simply have a husband who can’t be there to help them at that moment.  A clogged drain needs to be unclogged, not sitting around waiting.  Girls should be out mowing the lawn as much as boys; yard work waits for no one.

On the same note, boys shouldn’t have their domestic side neglected.  Boys need to learn how to cook;  Baking uses an incredible amount of math skills.  And what woman isn’t impressed by a man who can cook dinner?  Boys will go off to college and need to know how to do their laundry.  Boys should be the ones cleaning the bathroom(s) at home.  Women frequently say that the thing they love most about their husbands is when they help out around the house.

“Fair” does not mean “equal”

As a society, we are hurting our children by giving them all the same things.  Parents are giving siblings presents on another child’s birthday because they don’t want the other one left out.  At the end of the sports season, every child receives a trophy.  At school ceremonies we are making sure everyone in the school gets an award and we aren’t honoring honor roll.  What in reality is this teaching our children?

Life isn’t equal.  Not everyone has the same size house or six-figure paychecks.  Not every child will get into an Ivy League school or land a pro-sports contract.  There is nothing wrong with that.   

What we are in fact doing, is giving kids that sense of entitlement that we complain about.  They expect to be rewarded when they give a half effort, or no effort.  Kids that excel are wondering why if the kid in the seat next to him received the same reward.  Kids aren’t dumb.  They know who is making As and who is making Cs.  They know the kids who win the game for the team. 

It is OK to award the kids who do well for what they do well.  The star of the team, might not be the straight A student.  The sooner kids learn that they get rewarded for the efforts they make and for the things they succeed at, the better prepared for life they will be.

What’s important is that they have the same chances; that is what is fair.  What they do with it from there, is up to them.  They will find what they do well at, and make the most of it—if they are given the opportunity and not held back by everyone trying to make sure life is equal so no one’s feelings are hurt from being left out. 

Words do hurt

“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” is a childhood rhyme that is meant to empower children, but the truth is words DO hurt.  A lot.  More than sticks and stones.  Broken bones will heal, but emotional wounds stay with us for a long time.

Parents need to teach their children to think before they speak. What might be something funny, can really be hurtful to someone else. As adults, we understand that we don’t laugh when someone has a bad haircut because it isn’t what they wanted, but we need to teach that to our children too.

Parents need to not allow their children to use words carelessly, even when not aimed at someone else.  To say “retarded” can be horrible to a child who has a sibling with a learning disability, even if it is referring to a homework assignment.  To call the autistic child in the school “freak” isn’t so comforting to the child who has an autistic sibling at home.

We want our children to put a hand out to help someone up, not to put a hand out to slap someone else down.  To teach children empathy can be one of the hardest things to do, but it is one of the most important.  One way to do this, is to teach our kids to not say anything behind anyone’s back that they aren’t willing to say to their face.

The biggest thing is the tiniest thing

The devil is in the details is a cliché, but clichés are clichés because they are true.  The big gestures are absolutely fantastic and should not be overlooked, but it’s the everyday things that truly make our lives what they are. 

We expect  presents on our birthdays and at Christmas. We expect a gesture of love on our anniversaries. But, the things that blow us away, are the things our spouses do for us for no particular reason. For example, the flowers husbands bring home when they know their wives have had a particularly rough day. Or when the kids set the table or do other chores without being reminded. These are the things we brag about to our friends. This is showing love, real love. It’s the kindness and the caring, not because it is expected or tradition, but because we know it will brighten someone’s day.

It is like that in every aspect of life.  People take notice when you send them a thank you note; it has landed the job for more than one candidate because most applicants do not.  Remembering to RSVP will put them at the top of the guest list the next time.  Small gestures open doors.  Taking care of the small details in a job, gets you noticed.

If parents teach their children small things as part of the routine, they will go farther in life.  They will have happier marriages.  They will have careers that soar to the top.  People do notice if you forget nothing and handle the smallest of details.

Now, we do need to make sure our children do not become doormats for others—no is not a dirty word.  But they should know that they need to go one extra step and think beyond what is required to what they would want in the same position.

Take care of yourself first

As parents, we tend to always put others, especially our children, before ourselves.  There is a reason on airplanes they say to put on your own oxygen mask first.  If you don’t, you will end up passing out and being no good to anyone.  This is a lesson we want to teach our children, and it is best done by example.

We don’t want our children to be selfish, but we do want them to take care of themselves.  We want them to remember to eat healthy, and not McDonalds every day because that is what is best for them.  We want them to learn to have an active lifestyle—to unplug from technology once in awhile.  To connect with other people in life and not just on the computer.  We don’t want our kids to say yes to everything where they can’t get a good night’s sleep. 

If we don’t teach our children to put themselves first, they will never be able to do for others either.  It’s OK to be selfish on occasion if it isn’t hurting someone else or falling down on our commitments that can’t be covered.  Sometimes we can’t bake six dozen cookies for a bake sale, we need to rest.  Pushing ourselves past our limitations doesn’t help anyone.  This is OK; put on your own oxygen mask first, and then help others. 

How you teach these things isn’t as important as just teaching them.  There are no hard and fast rules for parenting.  No right and wrong.  There are just some things you must do to help your children turn into productive adults.


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    • greatparenting profile image

      greatparenting 6 years ago from philadelphia, pa and corolla, nc

      This is terrific advice and I agree with each point. So many moms put everyone else first and think that's okay when they really need to know that if they don't care for themselves, they won't be able to care for anyone else. Well said.

    • healinghands1668 profile image

      healinghands1668 6 years ago from Chicago, IL

      All of these had me nodding along, but the one that really leaped out at me was the last one. It is so refreshing to read something from a parent advocating self-care as a way of caring for others!

    • RichardCMckeown profile image

      RichardCMckeown 6 years ago

      Yohoo.. nice.

    • eclecticeducation profile image

      eclecticeducation 6 years ago

      Great lessons! :)

    • profile image

      cariouweneel 6 years ago


    • HennieN profile image

      HennieN 6 years ago from South Africa

      Excellent. So simple, but so true.

    • chuckandus6 profile image

      Nichol marie 6 years ago from The Country-Side

      Great points great article thanks for sharing

    • Tamila Roberts profile image

      Tamila Roberts 6 years ago from Canada

      It's Ok, health-worried parent will definitely understand how to get things done now. Thanks for the great hub.

    • Bornagain profile image

      Bornagain 6 years ago from Cloudcroft, NM

      Super hub. Will definitely encourage others to read. A no-nonsense approach with a lot of common sense!

    • Erin LeFey profile image

      Erin LeFey 6 years ago from Maryland

      Absolutely agree with you and this is a wonderful article. Have passed it on and voted you up and awesome. What a great topic!

    • Impressions profile image

      Impressions 6 years ago from Chicago

      Love your article. Voted up.

    • sidshah profile image

      sidshah 6 years ago

      its really a great job, no doubt these five are very important in everyone's life

    • ljmama869 profile image

      Ingrid Ramirez 6 years ago

      Great Hub.....many of your points are right on the money. Thanks for sharing :)

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      These are five very important lessons indeed! Voted up.