Do you remember your first teacher? Was it Miss Sally or Miss Nancy from preschool? Perhaps it was Mr. Jones from kindergarten? Who was your child’s first teacher? Miss Suzie? Nope. What about Ms. Smith? Wrong again. I know who your child’s first teacher was. It was you.
You are your child’s first teacher. It doesn’t matter if your child is traditional-schooled, homeschooled or unschooled; you are your child’s first – and longest – teacher. From the moment your child was born, you were there to nurture and support their growth.
As they continue to grow and enter preschool, elementary school and even middle or high school, you don’t stop teaching them. Grade level doesn’t determine your role as teacher. YOU determine that role by cultivating a healthy relationship with your children that is built on consistent love, support and commitment to their growth.
Three important life lessons to share with children of any age
The Lesson of Gratitude
Teaching gratitude can seem tricky, especially when so often children have a well-deserved reputation for self-centeredness and selfishness. However, gratitude is an essential lesson. Children who are thankful not only are polite and pleasant, they are sensitive and empathetic to the feelings of others and also develop strong leadership ability and life skills.
A simple way to instill gratitude is to take a daily gratitude inventory. Ask each person in the family to list and share all the things they are grateful for in their life. Not only do you learn something about your family, it’s a fun way to see how priorities change over the years. For example, a three-year-old may be grateful for his favorite truck while a sixteen-year-old may be thankful to drive a truck.
The Lesson of Responsibility
There is no greater teacher than a good example. Teaching responsibility, the act of being answerable and accountable for your words and actions, requires you be that example. Parents have to model the behaviors they hope their children adopt as their own.
Do what you say you will do, be honest in your dealings with your peers, show courage in standing up for your beliefs, and maintain self respect for self and others. Additionally, to teach responsibility, be prepared to give your child the space to make his or her own choices and deal with the consequences, both positive and negative.
The Lesson of Service
Teaching the lesson of service or giving back helps children learn compassion and empathy while also strengthening their own self-esteem and confidence. Often, all it takes is one act of selflessness to make selfishness go away and open a child’s eyes to the joy of service.
So, what can you do to teach the lesson of service? Small acts of kindness, like sharing a smile, holding the door open for another or baking cookies for a neighbor, are fantastic ways to teach service. You may also want to create a family giving box where everyone can regularly add a small amount of money to contribute to a group or cause.
You will always be their first teacher. Instilling the lessons of gratitude, responsibility and service will not only make you the most important teacher in their lives, it will set them up to become a teacher and leader of others.