Last month, I introduced my two-part post about how, as parents, we bestow the most important lessons our children will ever learn – no matter where they go to school.
My perspectives are based on my own experiences, growing up in an immigrant family where honesty and pragmatism were combined with creativity and love. Here is the second half of my list (the first half is here).
6. Art and creativity in the home stimulate non-linear thinking. In our house, nothing went to waste, and we became expert at creating something out of not much. At one point, I wore a coat that had been made from an orange blanket. (Had it been curtains, might I have become a great singer?) But this also led to outside-the-purchased-box thinking: we collected natural items and recyclables to create homemade crafts. I created lots of dioramas as a kid with materials found in the forest. I made homemade books. Our home was filled with music from my Dad’s guitar and his affinity for folk, country, and bluegrass (and, later, Michael Jackson. It was, after all, the 80s!).
All of this contributed to the wide-ranging problem-solving skills my sister and I have used in every aspect of our lives.
7. Learning to respect adults teaches children to respect everyone. Our parents loved us unconditionally, and demonstrated their love in many ways, every day. But that didn’t mean we were “equals,” or that our house was a democracy. I’ve seen it often over the years since: children who don’t learn to respect authority have to learn it eventually. And the older they are, the tougher that lesson is to learn.
8. Giving children a role in family decision-making builds their confidence. As much as a family isn’t a democracy, it is a group of people who can all play a role. Where it makes sense, ask for their input… and where it makes sense, follow it. (Where it doesn’t, acknowledge it would be a great idea if circumstances were different, and then explain.)
9. Children learn to value education the way their parents do. My parents enrolled me in the best pre-school care they could afford before I began kindergarten. But even more importantly, they were serious about their own role as our teachers. They expected us to learn math and basic literacy from a young age; we did mental math drills in the car. I remember translating Czech to English for my parents at the Service Canada office when I was 3: in our family, the relationship between learning and living was an everyday experience.
10. Helping children manage difficult truths is better than shielding them from those truths. Our parents were truth-tellers. They complimented us and celebrated our accomplishments, but they also set the bar high and didn’t over-compliment. As a result, we always knew where we stood – and that saved us a lot of misgivings as we grew up. It also trained us to look for the helpful advice in opinions about our work, and not to be hurt when others are trying to help.
Now. Were my parents perfect? Of course not. Nobody is. We struggled together, we failed together, we learned together.
The love never faltered. That’s the most important lesson. And no matter how much experience or education you have, you can share that lesson with your children.
In loving memory of my Dad,