What I’m (Trying To) Teach My Kids

What are you teaching your kids? If you're looking for parenting tips or advice on parenting, click through for insights from 13 smart moms!

If you’re a parent, what are you trying to teach your kids? Not just the basic stuff like making a bed or saying please and thank-you, but The Big Stuff. What are you teaching them about kindness and self-worth and how we treat other people?

Today, I asked 14 of my favorite moms what they’re teaching (or trying to teach) their kids. Read on!

Brandy // Serena, age 3

I want to teach her never to say “I’m so bored, Mom.” When riding in the car or standing in line at the grocery store, I think we feel the necessity to keep our little ones entertained and that often involves the phone or other electronic device.
I try to let S be bored for a little while, spurring her on to come up with ways to entertain herself. She might sing or engage me in good old fashioned “I spy.” I am hoping this helps not only further her innate creativity but also help her to develop patience.

Gia Duke // Tobin, age 11

I really want to teach my son is to be a kind, caring and compassionate person. My wish for him is to grow up with an understanding of what it means, looks, and feels like to care about and take care of someone else, nature, and animals.
I’d love for him to be open and curious about what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. I truly believe it’s the most important quality we can have as people. Because with kindness and compassion and empathy comes love and connection. And to me, that’s what life is all about.

Katie Dohman // Ruby, age 15 months

The list of things I want my daughter to know spirals out to the ends of the Milky Way and back—the tang of Northern Lights blue cheese, the joy of reading e e cummings, that being generous is the best way to feel fulfilled, and that her mom and dad love her beyond measure, for starters.
But one complicated thing I think about a lot is how I might model for her that I believe there is no upper limit to her success, so long as she believes in her smart brain and beautiful body. That she can benevolently take over the world—or at least help create the world she wants to live in. She is pure potential. She has power. She is power.

Kate O’Reilly // Aidan, age 10, Coleman age 7

We do the work first. We work hard, and we do it early in the day. The payoff of the movie or the trip to DQ (or just doing what you want!) is so much sweeter knowing that there isn’t a ton of work waiting for you upon your return. It’s tough and it takes consistency to master.
We value rest and sleep. My kids love their jammies and beds and respect when their bodies and minds need rest. I’m so proud of this.We talk about hard things. Their little brains are more capable than we give them credit. Author Maurice Sendak nailed it when he said, about children, “…Just tell them if it’s true. If it’s true you tell them.” And then we provide the soft place to fall, whenever needed.
We tell the truth, in the kindest way we can. Big and small things, and it takes effort keep it up. Learning to stand up for what you value is a priceless skill and being honest is at the core of that.

Tami Hackbarth // Ruby, age 3

As someone who struggles with perfectionism, I want to help my daughter learn how to treat herself (and others) with kindness and gentleness. In fact, ‘kind and gentle” is our family motto. We use kind and gentle as a reminder to her when she’s having a hard time – which is about every 10 minutes because she’s three.
It comes up when she’s roughing up the cat, or yanking a toy away from a friend. Said with a kind and gentle tone, usually it brings about a change in that direction. And when we’ve had a hard parenting day- because who doesn’t – and naturally fall into our hyper self-critical pattern – we go back to the basics of kind and gentle – and then we let go of the negative (which is sometimes really hard) and start over the next day.

Ashley // Gabe, age 3

I hope to teach my son that boys can be kind, sweet, helpful, and nurturing, too. That he should march to the beat of his own drum and not base his actions on the opinions of others. That eating adventurously and traveling often will make his life better. That he should always eat brownies in bed while watching HGTV at a hotel, when given the chance.
That men can, and should, be feminists, too. That being kind to others matters more than getting into an ivy league university. That violence is never an answer and “bad guys” usually just need to be loved. That he is unconditionally loved.

Aviva Romm // Iyah age 28, Mima age 26, Forest age 22, Naomi age 20

There is no need to fear failure – stay curious, try new things. Grab your one true life and live it fully!

Brooke Saul // Kaiden age 9, Lucy age 5 1/2

Adam and I are atheist, and living on the “Bible Belt,” our kids have a lot of exposure to Christianity. We work to raise them as freethinkers, and educate them about the various belief systems. Sometimes they ask if they can believe in something other than what we do, so we tell them it’s up to them.
The deal is: You can believe in whatever you want to believe in, you just have to know WHY you believe it and speak intelligently about your beliefs.

Tiffany Beveridge // Christian age 15, Max age 10

We have a sign in our kitchen that says, “Be an interesting person.” That’s what I want for my kids. Interesting people are thinking for themselves, learning, growing, experiencing the world around them, challenging themselves, taking opportunities, and being vulnerable. That’s interesting. Oh, and I also want them to be nice. And funny. Being nice and funny goes a long way.

Diana Saez // Penny and Will – twins, age 5

My kids have been asking a lot about what happens when we die. I try to tell them that everyone has different ideas and beliefs on that, but no matter what you believe, it’s important to be a good, kind, moral person for the sake of being so, and not because there is punishment/reward awaiting us.

Shanai Matteson // Amasa, age 2

I’m trying to teach Amasa to pay attention and notice things about his environment, and to ask lots of questions. When we go for walks, I like to point out the sounds of birds, or water in puddles, or neighbors that we pass on the street. It’s also good for me to remember to slow down, and to take it all in.

Christina Holm-Sandok // Amelia, age 3 months

I am currently trying to teach her how to self soothe when falling asleep…a well-rested baby is a happy baby! When she gets older I hope to show her the importance of gratitude. A handwritten thank you note goes a long way.

Tara Mallick // Elliott, age 2

The most important thing to me is making sure that I’m modeling kind and loving behavior for him. I want him to know that it is possible to live in a joyful, peaceful home with parents that love him. I also want him to learn empathy and to be accepting of others. I didn’t have much of this growing up, so I’m intent setting on changing that for him.

Emy // Coen, age 3, Ryan, 4 mos

Right now we’re trying to teach our son to be a good listener and to follow directions, since those things often go hand-in-hand. We’re trying to frame these things in terms of love and respect; namely, that when you listen well and do what you’re asked when you’re asked, it’s a good way to show Mom and Dad that you love them and respect them and want to make them happy.
In that vein, we need to be sure that what we’re asking him to do comes from a place of love and that we’re showing him respect when we ask him to do things. That means respecting and understanding his abilities, giving him choices, and saying yes when we can. It also means that when we get frustrated (and that happens ALL. THE. TIME.) that we try to stay as calm as we can.
We fail at this one a lot! So we always make sure to apologize and tell him why we acted the way we did, since he learns by our example and it’s important that he knows we’re human too. And that when you act in a way you’re not proud of, you can apologize and work it out.
If you’re a mom, what have you been teaching your kids? And what was the best, most important thing your mom taught you? 
Photo by KE ATLAS on Unsplash

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  1. Manisha

    I want to teach my daughter to love herself, something I struggle with all the time. Loving oneself, being her own best friend, enjoying her alone time – all of which touches upon most of what these mothers have shared on your blog. Thanks!

  2. Traci

    This is an amazing post and fitting for Mother's Day, of course! I am only a daughter thus far but one of the biggest things I have learned from my mom is that with strength, you can get through ANYTHING, and you never know what someone else is going through, so empathy is important.

  3. rachelannpierce

    I think the most important thing my mom taught me (and I'm not sure if this is specifically what she meant to teach me), is to never let other people stop me from going after what I want. She taught me to make my own mistakes, to own up to them, and to work to fix them.
    She also taught me to put a sweater on when I get cold. Because my being cold is not everyone else's problem to listen to.
    (What an appropriate post for so near mother's day!)

  4. angieeatspeace

    This is such a great post and I really applaud Brandy for what she is trying to teach her child. I work at a high school and constantly hear how kids think "school is boring." They are used to constant stimulation or immediate gratification from technology and have not learned how to tap into things more creatively. I think many kids are missing the beauty of just being, as well, because some parents are allowing them to be distracted.

    My mom taught me to always take care of business, first and have fun later. I appreciate that and am pretty good now about paying my bills first, before spending money on other things, and getting tasks done early in the day, to be leisurely later.

  5. Anonymous

    I have two girls, 21 and 23. A couple of these lessons are hackneyed cliches, but they absolutely take you far in life & my kids have taken them to heart:
    1. Pay attention; learn as much as you can.
    2. See the connections between all that stuff you've learned.
    3. Fake it. Most people can't tell the difference, and by then you've learned how to do the thing, whatever it is.
    4. 90% of success is just showing up.

  6. kathrynoh

    My son is grown up now. I always taught him to be authentic but that's backfired 🙂 Like I ask him if he wants to meet for dinner and he'll tell me no straightout if he doesn't want to. That can suck but it means when we do meet up or do things, it's because he wants to be there not because he feel obligated.

  7. Catherine

    I started reading this thinking that it wasn't really going to be relevant to me, only to parents, and that I'd probably end up skipping half of it. In the end I read every word! Some really interesting and thought provoking things here on many different levels. A few points serve as reminder to things that I should have taught myself already!

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