The greatest subjects children can learn aren’t graded. Those lessons are in a strong character and moral values, yet we seldom receive any instruction. Here are some of the best gifts to help you introduce those great lessons and build character in your children.
For children, the warmest love comes from the companionship of parents. Companionship and learning about others begins in childhood with parents, other primary caregivers, and family members. As a child grows and explores the world outside the home and interacts with peers, he or she begins to understand social mores.
When 15-20 year olds were asked about the most lasting memories with their parents, one respondent said:
“One day, my brother and I were sitting on the steps of my school waiting for our mother to pick us up. When she saw us, she raised her arms up with a big smile as if she was waiting for us to fly toward her. I felt so happy!”
But another responded differently:
“My parents like to play with their cell phones all the time, and they don’t care about me.”
When parents have time to be with their children, they should put down the trivial things and create lasting memories with their children.
Teaching children gratitude at an early age provides them with an outlook that will impact them positively for the rest of their lives. So, how do you do it? The most effective way is to model grateful behavior in front of children. Say “thank you” often to friends and strangers, talk about things you’re thankful for everyday, not just at Thanksgiving, and teach children to be appreciative of all the wonderful things they have in their lives.
Exploring the natural environment
Today’s children and families often have limited opportunities to connect with the natural environment. Children spend more time viewing television and playing video games than they do being physically active outside. A “culture of fear” has parents afraid for their children’s safety outside, while “stranger danger” means that many children are no longer free to roam their neighborhoods, or even their own yards, unless accompanied by adults.
Children learn by exploring their environment. Exploring is normal and important for children to do, and is one of the first steps in learning about objects and how to solve problems. Loss of children’s outdoor play and contact with the natural world negatively impacts the growth and development of the whole child and their acquisition of knowledge. It also sets the stage for a continuing loss of the natural environment.
Love of reading
As parents, we recognize the importance of teaching a child to read as well as they are able. Reading instruction is usually one of the first academic activities we attempt as home, and it can be one of the most rewarding. Creating a love of reading offers many benefits to both parent and child. Academically, if a child likes to read, they will find the study of literature, history, and even science easier and more enjoyable.
Reading not only gives knowledge and teaches children about the world, it can help them to better understand people in a way that nothing else can. If children learn to love to read and choose good books, they soon learn to feel the power of literature to expand their minds and release their emotions. This can increase their desire to experience that power for themselves, thus enhancing their own desire to write.
Parents must give their children a good reading atmosphere, take them to bookstores and libraries often, so that they fall in love with reading. Parents must also set a good example by reading themselves and removing obstacles that interfere with reading, such as video games and television.
An understanding of history
Teaching history to children has many important benefits. History provides identity and improves decision making and judgment. History shows children models of good and responsible citizenship. History also teaches children how to learn from the mistakes of others and to understand change and societal development. Parents should promote this interest by planning trips to a variety of cultural institutions, including art, natural history, and science museums, as well as historical sites.
One of the most exciting things that has happened for children in recent years is the creation of living history museums. In these museums, people live and work the way they did in that era in the past, assuming the roles of real settlers. Visitors to a living museum often get a more real sense of the time by observing and interacting with the personnel than they would have by just viewing displays of artifacts or homes.
Famous psychologist Abraham Maslow once said:
“Frustration is not necessarily a bad thing for the child, but the key lies in his attitude toward frustration.”
In China, the tradition of “eat bitter” has been passed down from generation to generation. “Eat bitter” refers to enduring hardships. While adulthood is filled with serious responsibilities, childhood isn’t exactly stress-free. Children take tests, learn new information, change schools, change neighborhoods, get sick, get braces, encounter bullies, make new friends, and occasionally get hurt by those friends.
What helps children to navigate these kinds of challenges is resilience. Resilient children are problem solvers. They face unfamiliar or tough situations and strive to find good solutions. When they step into a situation, resilient children have a sense that they can figure out what they need to do, and can handle what is thrown at them with a sense of confidence.
Translated by Yi Ming.
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