As parents, we always hope that our children will grow up to be valuable members of society and make their own unique contribution to this world in a positive, meaningful way.
We don’t necessarily expect them to be rocket scientists or solve the question of world hunger, but it’s of course good to think they’ll always act out of self-respect and become responsible, well adjusted adults.
With generational shifts, there usually comes criticism of ‘kids nowadays’ and as the baby boomers relinquish control of the world’s collective destiny to their Gen X and Y children, this time ‘round is no exception.
Accused of being ‘entitled’ and ‘lazy’, children of the seventies, eighties and nineties are arguably products of a world built on the basis of consumption and competition.
Worryingly, the 24/7 stream of marketing we’re all subjected to just seems to be getting faster and more ‘in your face’ every day.
How often do you see parents struggling to maintain their composure in the shops, as their screaming child throws a wobbly at the checkout over the latest ‘must have’ toy they’ve seen on TV?
Let’s face it, we live in a material world (did you break into Madonna?) and without being appropriately guided through the chaos of consumerism; our children are at risk of becoming credit junkies who ‘have to have it now’.
So here are 16 ways to prevent your child from becoming a statistic and instead, set them up for a harmonious life of physical, mental, emotional, social and financial wellbeing…
- Eliminate the entitlement mentality. Teach your children to be the best person they possibly can, without expecting anything in return, and you’re doing them an immense favour. Expectation is the harbinger of disappointment and it’s this disappointment, when things seemingly ‘don’t go our way’, that sees many people spiral into despair.
- Teach budgeting skills.There’s an enormous black hole in our public school curriculum when it comes to important life skills, such as money management. So it’s advisable that parents take the time to involve kids in balancing the household budget as soon as they can get their head around it.
- Instill the idea of paying yourself first. As a teenager, the temptation is to race out and spend your first paycheck on the latest fad. But learning to pay one’s self first in order to accumulate enough savings to then invest, will provide a level of financial stability most fail to achieve over their lifetime.
- Give them lessons around financial literacy. I’m not suggesting you use the Wall Street Journal as bedtime reading for your three year old, but encouraging an understanding and interest in markets, commodities, compounding and money in general will at least give your children a good financial foundation.
- Encourage goal setting. The reason some people are highly successful, while others only ever attain an enduring state of mediocrity, is that they establish their desired destination and then plan their journey accordingly, rather than just drifting along aimlessly hoping for the best. By establishing clear goals, successful people assume control of their own future.
- Encourage strategic planning. This goes hand in hand with the above. You wouldn’t jump in the car and start driving without first checking the fuel gauge and consulting your trusty ‘Sat Nav’. Those who fail to plan get waylaid by distractions; think investors who always seem to fall for ‘get rich quick’ fads that end up failing dismally.
- No problems, only solutions. Children seem to have a knack for finding a disaster in any situation. The most inconsequential issues become major molehills within seconds and suddenly they’re screaming about a sibling looking at them the wrong way! Teaching your child to see problems as opportunities to identify solutions is perhaps the best lesson you can provide. It will give them an incomparable level of independence, confidence and emotional resilience that they’ll thank you for in the future.
- Do what you love and love what you do. The main thing we want as parents is for our children to be happy, not stuck in some dead end job that makes them resent the ‘nine to five grind’. Encourage them to follow their passion first, rather than a pay check.
- No blame games. We live in a world where it’s easier to blame someone or something else for our misfortunes than take responsibility for our own actions; “I’m too fat because of that McDonald’s opening down the end of my street. I should sue ‘em!” But this means abdicating control. When we take full responsibility for all that we say and do, we are no longer victims, but masters of our own destiny.
- Give back. This isn’t just about donating a few dollars here and there to your favourite charity, but also committing that other valuable resource – time, to help those less fortunate. Appreciation comes in all forms and giving back when you’re in a position to do so is a way to express your gratitude for life’s blessings.
- Feed their body, mind and spirit to promote holistic health. You can have all the money in the world, but if you’re not healthy enough to enjoy it with loved ones, what’s the point? Children are highly influential little beings and what we do in their formative years, sets them up for life. When we feed them the good stuff – wholesome meals, lots of love and the gift of our time and respect – we give them a subtle but defining message that in turn influences their self worth and encourages good habits.
- The value of self-respect. It will make all the difference when it comes to them choosing those things that help to shape us over time, including a career and life partner.
- Teach what true friendship looks like. My mother often tried to warn me away from ‘friends’ who had vested interests. Of course I didn’t listen to her at the time, only to be burnt. Pointing out the self serving agendas others sometimes have when ‘befriending’ your child might seem a bit brutal, but it will give them an instinctual insight into who they can eventually trust in life – with their body, mind, soul and bank balance!
- Encourage a love of books. Words are the foundation of learning. Instilling a love of books and expanding one’s mind by exploring unchartered waters is a wonderful way to ensure your child continues to grow as a thoughtful human being throughout their entire life. All it takes is a good book at bedtime.
- Smile more – it’s good for the soul. Plus being nice gets you a lot further in life!
- Be a good role model. At the end of the day, if you don’t practice what you preach when it comes to instilling these values in your child, then all you’re really giving them is a whole lot of lip service. I often look at politicians squabbling and name calling during parliamentary sessions, as adults condemn things like teenage bullying on social media. Lead by example and be the best person you can be. Sure, we all make mistakes along the way because we’re human. But acknowledging them will go a long way in giving your child the foresight and resilience to navigate life successfully.