Legacy of Love
As parents there are a 1000 lessons we need to teach our kids about life. But, as humans, there are only a handful of lessons that we impart upon our little humans that set them up for life. I’m talking about those lessons that make them who they are, our legacy that we hand down to them. The wisdom that we impart to them that will stay on in their heart long after we are gone.
I’ve broken it down to 6 main life lessons that we need to share with our children. These are the foundations for a good life and what a legacy of love looks like to me. With these foundations we can raise happy, well balanced children. They are:
We start our kids young with the lessons of manners. To me manners are essential foundations for children. Manners give them a basic understanding about respect for their fellow man. Without the basics of Please and Thank You they have no guidelines for how to treat people in this life. This means they are not shown any consideration for people and they will go through life thinking they can do just as they please and not giving much thought to the impact of their actions.
When you teach your child manners you are showing them how to be respectful. Teaching them that being on time is good manners as opposed to being late which is disrespectful. Eating the food provided to you at someone’s house even if it isn’t something you would eat at home. These are things we do to be respectful of others feelings and it is a lesson that will serve our children well as they grow into adults. It comes down to understanding how we would feel if we were treated disrespectfully and being aware of others feelings.
As much as our kids are full of love, they also don’t hold back in the kicking and biting departments, unless we teach them that it’s not okay. Kids are taught to be kind. When we are little we don’t have any frame of reference for how ‘other’ people feel. We only know the experience of our own emotions. And, on top of that, we are too little to be able to express them properly. So, what happens is an over expression of ALL of our emotions. Happy? Kisses and hugs all round. Angry? Slapping, biting and screaming will do.
Until Mum and Dad step in and show us how our behaviour is affecting those around us. So, we teach them kindness. Without this lesson children will go out into the world thinking they can do just as they please without consequences. We show them the consequences of their actions, eg. ‘look how sad your brother is’ after a fight, or ‘give her a cuddle’ when someone grazed their knee. These small lessons dealt out on a daily basis are foundations for how they go out into the world. This is not to say that without us our children will be mean! It is more about setting a clear example of how to treat people kindly.
This is a life skill that we pass on to our kids to help them get through all of life’s difficulties. It starts young, when your first crush is un-requited or you lose your place in the race because you fell and grazed your knee. These lessons early on in our life help us to understand what it means to be able to ‘bounce back. Get back up and try again is an attitude we all need in this life, without exception.
Without the lesson of resilience life can feel like it is always against us. Resilience, in the end, is teaching your child an attitude towards life. Never give up. It’s teaching them that there is a silver lining or ‘tomorrow’s another day’. When you see life as having many opportunities to try again you are much more inclined to keep going. Resilience is an outlook on life. It is something we teach our children through a repeated, positive, ‘can do’ mentality. Resilience will make your children strong and determined. It will shape their attitude towards life.
This goes hand in hand with my post on Defining Boundaries. Teaching our kids to respect us and each other through setting boundaries. At home it would be examples such as ‘bath time is relaxation time for Mum, no disturbances allowed’. Out in the world it would look more like, ‘Don’t talk back to your teacher’ or ‘Offer up your seat on the bus for an older person’. It is teaching them that everyone is important and deserving of respect. It is teaching them the value of every human.
Growing up we were taught to ‘respect our elders’. An important lesson, but often just yelled at us without any real explanation. As an adult I respect their wisdom of the older generation, but when I was younger it just felt like one more order being shoved down our throats. What I’m trying to say is, be more open with your kids when trying to teach an important lesson like respect. Talk to them, share stories that will help them to form their own understanding of being respectful. Respect is something that can’t be forced, but rather formed through understanding.
Empathy connects us to the people around us. Being able to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes helps us be more connected, kinder and happier people. The definition of empathy is the ability to understand or share the feelings of others. In other words as if going through it themselves in a way. Sympathy on the other hand is recognizing and acknowledging another’s situation but not feeling an emotional connection. For example, knowing someone is going through a touch time financially and feeling sorry for them but never having been through it themselves.
You could argue that empathy cannot be taught but I believe if you teach your children to see past their own environment, show them the differences (and similarities) between people, teach them kindness and compassion, empathy will develop naturally. Empathy is about understanding that we are all connected and feeling that connection deep within when someone else is going through something. This can show up when someone you love gets hurt or even when you are watching an emotional documentary of people you don’t even know! It is a deeper level of caring.
6. Self Love
This is a frighteningly new concept! I don’t think we ever really thought about ourselves at all growing up. We were taught to respect others. We were definitely taught resilience and the ‘don’t give up’, ‘you’ve got this’ kind of mentality, but never true Self Love. Why? Because it wasn’t a real thing! Nobody knew about nurturing your inner child and being authentic to yourself. I can still see 10yr old me singing ‘The greatest love of all’ by Whitney Houston but do you think I gave the lyrics a second thought? No!
I have come to realize that for my children to grow up to be confident adults they have to learn to love themselves. Don’t get me wrong here, I see the struggles in them already! Life does not make it easy to accept yourself. It is especially important at this young age that we keep reminding them of how special they are. I have the most amazing son who just cannot see how special he is! It is one of the hardest things in my life. I make a point of reminding him every day how incredible he is because I know that for some reason that self-love just isn’t strong in him. And, as his mother, I will do everything in my power to keep reminding him of how incredible he is.
Know that You are their Example
There is no rule book for being a parent. It is a tough job, for sure! But, the love has magic in it! You do the best you can and you shower them with love. The most important thing you can do is to remember that you are their example. Be kind, be resilient, be empathetic. Show them the best example you can of how to live a good and happy life. They will follow in your footsteps. We cannot shelter them for their own pain but we can show them resilience. We cannot prevent unkind words aimed at our precious babies, but we can teach them how to handle themselves in a kind and respectful way.
And, again, if you can come to understand how important Self-Love is in shaping a well rounded and happy person. And start practicing it on yourself! Then you will see your children follow your example – and love themselves! What better legacy could you leave for your children than to learn to love? When you learn to love yourself, loving everyone is becomes easy!
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