Our daughter just graduated from college. She was a student employee and worked two jobs during her time there. At her graduation party, both her bosses sought out my husband and me to tell us how highly they thought of her. One gave her the superlative: Most likely to be the Youngest CEO. The other, when introduced to us, said, “Oh! You’re her parents? Can I hug you?” On the drive home, my husband said, “I guess we did okay after all.”
Raising children is delayed gratification to the max. It took me 22 years to answer the question: “Am I doing this parent thing right?” You don’t have to wait that long. Here are 3 signs you’re raising your child to be a good person.
1. You set a good example.
You don’t yell at her when she makes a mistake: “It was an accident.” You let her experience the consequences of her choices (“But, you still have to clean it up”). You encourage empathy (“I understand you’re upset because you spilled your glass of milk. I would be too"). You forgive (“I’m not mad at you for breaking the glass. We can replace it"). You care about her feelings (“I hope you don’t let this mishap ruin your day”). You apologize (“I’m sorry I set the glass of milk that close to the edge of the counter”).
All these interactions boil down to resilience. You coach her on how to recover from setbacks. This helps her develop a positive mindset so when bad things happen she doesn’t freeze up, but instead can figure out how to move on.
2. You look forward to spending time with them.
Some things children are just born with like engaging personalities, curiosity and kindness that make you (and everyone else) want to be around them. You can nurture these qualities by teaching your child respect. Encourage him to treat others the way he wants to be treated. Put him in situations (e.g., after-school clubs or sports, volunteer opportunities, a part-time job in food service when he’s old enough) where he will encounter people different from him. Talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the people he interacts with and how they complement his. Ask him how they make him see the world differently. At home, push him to share (“You’ve watched two episodes of that show, how about letting your dad have the TV for a while?”). Help around the house ("Would you please empty the dishwasher?”). Help other family members (“Your sister could sure use your help with her vocabulary homework"). Help with pets (“Would you please walk the dog?”). All these suggestions boil down to respect. When you teach him to respect both himself and others, you’re raising a good person.
3. You’re asking yourself the question: am I raising a good person?
Just thinking about it means you’re concerned and want to do the right thing. If you haven’t been intentional about it so far, come up with a plan now. This can be as simple as teaching her the basics of responsibility. Show your Kindergartner how to put her toys away before bedtime. The next night or two, have her help you put her toys away. The night or two after that, you help her put her toys away. Be sure to praise her for a job well done. On the sixth night, you remind her and watch her put her toys away. On the seventh night, you tell her to put her toys away. After a week, it should be a habit that she automatically puts her toys away.
Did your teenager drop her phone in the lake while canoeing on a class field trip after she was instructed to leave it in the locked school van? Insist she pay a percentage of the cost to replace it. If she doesn’t have income (an allowance or a part-time job), work out a plan for trading a certain amount of work around the house (e.g., babysitting her younger brother on your date nights) as payment.
When given the opportunity, if other parents, teachers, and/or supervisors seek you out to tell you how wonderful your child is, odds are you’re raising her to be a good person. Way to go! Keep up the good work.