We teach our kids every day whether we realize it or not. They watch us. Their eyes are keen to what we do, say, and practice as their parents. They mimic us starting at a very young age. But there are some things we teach our kids very intentionally, like how to clean, drive a car, be generous and kind, or how to care for our bodies. I’m going to share 10 smart things to teach kids because as a mom three times over and I think these things are worth mentioning and stressing.
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We all do the normal parenting teaching such as tying shoes, don’t put metal in the microwave, watch out for cars, etcetera. But there are some things to teach kids that I believe are very smart and essential to helping them make it in this world.
1. Eat Leftovers
Simple but so true.
I think teaching kids to eat leftovers is one of the best things to teach your kids. They learn to conserve and not waste both money and food, not to mention learn it’s a timesaver as well. These are both important things to teach kids. They will learn to save money by eating their leftovers and they will also not waste food, which is really a sad thing to do with so many hungry people in this world.
When they are out on their own, money might be not as plentiful as when they live at home, so if they can learn at a young age to eat leftovers, this will help them out in the future when they are buying and making their own food. If kids grow up eating leftovers, they will think it’s normal and learn that it’s smart.
I know some families where the kids refuse to eat leftovers. Most of the time this is because the parents themselves don’t eat leftovers. Be a good example and eat leftovers in front of your kids. You will be doing them a favor and saving yourself money, plus you will save yourself time by not needing to do extensive meal prep. Win-win all around!
I personally love leftovers because it’s good food ready fast.
2. Be a Nerd
Let kids in on the secret we all know … nerds rule the world.
It’s true … nerds rule the world! It’s certainly not run by the slackers. They are just along for the ride. But those who work hard and keep learning, the nerds, they run everything. Teach your kids to become a nerd, an expert at something, and they will do well in life. If kids delve deeply and extensively into a certain topic, encourage them because you never know if that interest/obsession could turn into a fantastic career for them. Plus, if they spend time on it they will learn more about what they like to do and this will help them when it comes time to choose a career.
Be a nerd in school. Teach them to study their butts off and try their hardest. They will learn good learning skills and it will benefit them for life. We all encourage our kids in school, but if we really help them stay focused they will end up learning so much.
Be a nerd. Do your homework. Study for that test. Because slacking never got anyone anywhere. Tell them it’s okay to be a car nerd or a rocketship nerd. Learn all about it and maybe someday it will spark at interest in a career. Whatever their interest is tell them to be a nerd in it. Learn it all!
3. Things to Teach Kids: Do Things to Prevent Cancer
We don’t understand cancer. Not fully anyway. And since we know some things that cause cancer, we should be hammering it down their throats to help them ward off cancer later in life by avoiding these cancer causers.
Sunscreen is a huge one. Some may argue that putting chemicals on your skin is harmful, but so is the sun’s damaging rays. So for this one, you have to pick your battles (more on picking battle’s later on 😉 My boys often have complained about applying sunscreen. They have many excuses like “my friends don’t use it , “it’s cloudy so I don’t need it”, or “I don’t like the smell”, but I always tell them they will dislike getting skin cancer much much more.
Skin Cancer is not just skin deep.
My stepbrother died of metastatic skin cancer at the age of thirty-two. It spread to his internal organs. That was horrible, sad, and just … we don’t need to go there how awful it was. My point here is … we know that sunscreen stops skin cancer so I’ve made my kids wear it. Every day. I let them have input on the kind I buy and the smell it gives off should be tolerable, but we all put it on in my family.
The obvious ones…
Obvious ones include don’t smoke, use chewing tobacco, eat many fruits and veggies and foods low fat, get screened at the recommended times, and don’t drink alcohol in the excess. All of these things are known to lead to cancer in individuals. So, kids need to know.
4. Teach Them to Cook
Eventually they will be on their own so giving them basic cooking skills is important. Whether they show zero interest, or are chef wannabe’s, teach them something (or everything) at the level they show interest. This never hurts. Of course they can read instructions, but if you never tell them to not put anything metal in the microwave, you know disaster will happen! Remove that soup from the can, then heat it! Laugh out loud … yeah. That’s super important! (Caught one of my kids doing that … major yikes moment!)
This is also a helpful time to teach them basic skills of measuring, mixing dry ingredients and wet separate, then combine. Kids should learn that enough butter is needed to cook a grilled cheese and that you should be sure to grease pans in certain instances (or suffer massive pan scrubbing). They may refuse to listen and end up learning the hard way, but hopefully, in the backs of their minds your words will resurface and help them out.
They can even learn a bit about healthy foods perhaps while learning to cook. Kids can be shown how to cook lighter with cooking sprays, steaming foods, and baking rather than frying in large amounts of oil.
5. Things to Teach Your Kids: Let others Serve You
There is great value and satisfaction in letting others serve you.
Many kids get this one down pat as they are served by their parents for years. But if they never learn to let others do for them, they will miss out on the joy of give and take, of giving and receiving, of doing for others and letting others do for them. So many may harp on teaching kids to be self-sufficient, but what about talking about letting others serve you as well? I think this is definitely worth a mention.
One of the main reasons I think this is important to talk about is due to my own experience. My mother died when I was sixteen. I became the cook, cleaner, and woman around the house, trying (and mostly failing) to fill her monumental shoes. I learned that I only had myself to rely on, and I forgot to keep the mindset of letting others help me. Now, you may say this isn’t the case for your child, but what if it was someday? Teach them not only to serve others but to let others serve them and this will make them much happier. Hopefully, they are less hard-headed than me in trying to take on everything themselves.
Letting others serve sets the scene for a healthy relationship in the future.
Find a balance of teaching them about serving others and allowing themselves to be served. Healthy relationships are like that with give and take, and they should learn it young. This type of teaching will help them realize what a healthy partner relationship is all about, and that it’s never one-sided. It’s just a great expectation to have going into a marriage.
And, parents, always make an effort still serve them. This will hammer it home for them if they see you serving them. Yes, they may be old enough to get that glass of milk, but serving them also shows you care about them and their well-being.
6. Always Pick Your Battles, Don’t Try to Do it All
No one can do it all and should never be expected too. That’s way too much pressure and for what? A temporary fix? That’s pointless. And it only adds stress. What do I mean?
Cleaning and Picking up can wait … it really can!
Say your child is busy with school and activities and at the end of the day there are still toys or sports equipment on the floor. Do you yell at them to clean it up, or do you let them rest and recharge and let it slide until tomorrow? I’m a fan of the latter. Mental health and low stress are more important than a perfect home in my world.
While it may be true we all want a clean and picked up home, sometimes you have to pick your battles and let things slide. And it’s super important to teach kids this at a young age. Maybe a few toys sit out for a few days, or a drone sits on the table for a week or so, who cares if the important things are being addressed like eating, bonding time together, schoolwork, and rest time to destress.
LET THEM GET DIRTY!
Let them play and get dirty, messy, filthy. They will outgrow this stage so pick your battles and let them revel in it while they are young. They are most certainly washable and what stains don’t come out … it won’t matter because these are really minor issues in the big scheme of the world. Teach them this. Let them play in the dirt, make a mess while making a project, get all wet in their clothes in the sprinkler … teach them that enjoying life is important.
I’ve seen kids terrified because they got dirty or spilled something, and they are afraid the parent will find out. This is just silly in my opinion and it teaches kids that cleanliness is more important than having fun and being creative. I guess each parent teaches their kids what they want, but I’m sure going to stress fun and creativity over a perfection dirt-free spill-free existence. Life is messy. Fact.
BE FORGIVING OF YOURSELF AND OTHERS
Pick your battles. Don’t play the blame game. No one can do it all and it’s time to learn all that when they are young so they don’t put so much unnecessary stress on themselves, or on others. They should learn early on to not only forgive others but to forgive themselves. They can learn that what they can’t do today can actually wait until tomorrow. Also, they can learn that they need to be flexible with their expectations of themselves and of others in their lives rather than be rigid and unforgiving. Circumstances will change constantly and if they learn to pick their battles, and that it’s okay to do that, they will be much happier people.
7. What’s Important to You Will Change Over the Course of Your Life
I think this is very important to impress upon kids that the things that are important to you in your life will change over time. This is important because kids need to try to grasp the bigger picture, if they can get even a glimpse of this, they might just be able to not takes things so seriously. This might be easier for middle-grade kids and older to realize, but it never hurts to say it to them so they can think about how this won’t affect their future.
Being made fun of as a kid is not fun, but if as a parent you can guide them to the belief that they should not take what so-and-so said about their new shoes, or hair, or outfit, or whatever, so deeply to heart that they can learn to not let what others think about them rule their own thoughts about themselves. I was very guilty of this as a child and I was obsessed with what others thought of me. I’ve realized with the maturity that comes with aging, that is a ridiculous thing to obsess over and I want that in the backs of my kids’ minds.
And mainly that what’s important, or devastating, to you now will change with time. So, don’t take all the peer crap too seriously. This is a lesson I wish I had learned as a young person, but no one told me, or maybe they did and I just didn’t listen!
8. Just DO IT
Kids often fret and worry if they should do something or not. What will people think? What will my friends think? Will I be able to do it? Kids will wonder many things. Will I suck at the new thing? Will my friends do it too or will they think I’m stupid for doing it? What if other kids make fun of me for doing what I want?
I say. To copy the famous Nike slogan … JUST DO IT! If they really want to try something, they should do it. Especially when young and able to do things. Try out new sports, the school play, the debate team, scouts, anything and everything they want to try, tell them to try it. This is the only way to figure out what their true likes and dislikes are, and what their natural abilities and talents may be. But also this shouldn’t limit them as they can also learn to improve with practice. Remind them of all this and urge them to try it out … whatever the it is.
They won’t regret trying something, but they will most likely regret not trying it when they still had the chance. I tell my kids not to let the feeling of “being too old to start” something stop them. And, honestly, they are kids, this is a ridiculous statement, but it is cropping up now and again too frequently in the current youth climate, especially with youth sports. And this brings us to my next of things to teach kids.
9. Don’t Take Sports Too Seriously
Sports. Are. For. Fun.
So many parents and kids take youth sports so seriously when really, it’s just for fun. Only a tiny amount of people will go on to professional sports, so for the vast majority of kids, sports are for fun, socialization, exercise, something to occupy time, and for putting down on your college application showing you did extra-curricular activities. Or they are for getting scholarships, but still, the main reason should be for fun.
We as parents need to tone down the current environment of placing so much importance on sports. The sports that cut kids especially need to reevaluate what they are doing. We need to give children every opportunity to play sports, not cut kids out. Besides, many kids don’t come into their abilities until they are older, we can’t cut them out of a sport at fourth grade and completely ruin their hope for the future. It’s just ludicrous!
My kids contemplated playing hockey, but since they didn’t start as tots, they never felt like they could try it. To me, that’s just wrong for youth sports. Kids shouldn’t ever feel too old to start a sport.
What are we doing adults? We are creating an exclusive inflexible environment for youth sports. And it’s just wrong. Teach your kids this is wrong and that they should try a sport if they want to, no matter their age.
10. Use Natural Products When Possible
It seems with time passage that we are always finding out different products, especially manufactured ones, end up being bad for us. So, I tell my kids to try and use all-natural products and organic products whenever possible to protect themselves from the unknown. Companies are always creating new products, but we don’t find out the exposure of said products could be bad until years down the road. So, to be safer and healthier, stick to natural products and foods when possible. (Clearly not possible with sunscreen, however. But in my opinion, preventing skin cancer is the less of two evils here).
I love organic moisturizing skin lotions though made with essential oils because they don’t have chemical additives (scroll down to see a link to one of my recipes). Also, I practice buying organic fruits, vegetables, eggs, and meats when possible for my family (and definitely from local farmers). Plus, I love how buying these healthier food products help out the smaller farmers who tend to do humane and organic practices. It’s just a better way to be, more caring, and healthier for all.
Things to Teach Kids:
There are so many things to teach kids, but remember to pick your battles here and teach them what you think is important for them to know. Realize you have years to teach them and they have years to learn. They will make mistakes and so will you, but that’s okay. Hey, that’s an important thing to teach kids too! We all know that but it bears worth repeating because all of us can never hear that too much.
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