The first gift, on my list of top 5 gifts, is the gift of giving my little sweethearts a sincere, well deserved compliment or recognition. I wish I’d always gotten this right, but I know I remembered sometimes and I hope our legacy continues on with more good stuff than bad.
The second gift was to help them learn how to interact with grownups, even at a young age, and to be mature, respectful and confident when they do.
The third gift is a little bit hard to explain.
The third, very important gift that I’m trying to give my children, out of my top 5 gifts, is to teach them to develop an awareness of others around them.
Why? – Why would I bother to teach this to my kids? I think it’s a sign of unselfishness and selflessness to be aware of others around you. When you’re aware, you notice the needs of others and then you can put people first. You’re more available to interact with strangers or friends. As much as I love having dear, little cuddly babies, I know that I’m raising future adults and I want them to be successful in life, so the sooner we instill great qualities in the little dears, the sooner it becomes a natural habit for them, and the greater chance they’ll have of success in their lives, when I’m not around to prompt them anymore.
It’s so natural for kids to be self-absorbed and that’s a terrible character quality. Kids have been use to adults catering to them all of their lives. It goes against the grain to turn the situation around and think about others and give back. If my babies are always self-centered, they’ll never learn to be thoughtful of others or learn gratitude.
Having an awareness of others is natural for me, and probably for a lot of mothers. We need to be ‘tuned in’ all the time. Children often don’t have the awareness naturally, so they need a little training.
How? – How do you teach this? That’s the question, right? This is not a one time lesson, like how to write the letter A. This is ongoing training. It’s a shared life lesson where we can ‘practice’ together. Practice is the key, because thinking outside the box and being aware of others is a skill and not a natural one. So, I take time to talk, on the side to my little dears, when we’re out and about, and point out some people they could talk to, or a new person they could go up to and greet. Another thing I can do to help them is to point out a place where they can complement someone or ask a question to start a mini conversation. Then, as soon as I get a chance, I’ll ask my little dear, what did they find out, and did the other person seem to enjoy talking to them. That’s where we can talk about how it went. It’s a process, but with a few successes under their belt, they develop a confidence beyond their years.
My friend Jillian is newly married and just had her first baby. She cares for her husband’s little daughter who is 5 and she started telling me about some of the things she’s teaching her. I was astounded at her wisdom and completely impressed that this new mom has such insight and the strength to carry out some disciplines that she thinks if important.
1. She instituted a rule that there are no electronics at the dinner table. That is family time and not to be interrupted, or it will lose its value.
2. When an adult comes to visit, the little girl is to put down her device and greet the newcomer politely and visit until she is excused to go and play.
3. When they were at a restaurant, their little girl had to put down her device and tell the waitress, like a big girl, what she would like to eat or drink. She had to make eye contact and speak up clearly. This one was really hard for her, since she’s a sweet, shy little 5 year old, and was really scared, but they helped her through and it strengthened her ability and her confidence.
4. Ok, don’t be mad at me with this one! Part of the awareness of others, is to be kind. Part of being kind is to say nice things. ‘If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all” -Thumper. Ok, its Food! Yup, when you’re visiting friends and those silly friends don’t know how to feed your little dear his favorite food. What are they thinking, right? I’m trying to teach the kiddos to look at the food they are sure they hate, and put a smile on their face and just say thank you for dinner. It’s really hard to say something nice about food that you hate! (picture a 5 year old child’s face) It’s important to teach them to be gracious. Please let me know how this one is going for you. Trust me, it’s good progress just to go from Mr. 5 Year Old saying out loud to your friend, “I hate your food” to at least whispering it in your ear, right?
I’m a little older, hopefully a little bit wiser and its good to look back and realize that the top 5 gifts we’ve given to our children are all intangible. What are some of the gifts you’ve given to your little dears that are helping them become successful in their lives?