It may seem impossible to raise great kids in a world full of deception, unfairness, and entitlement. While there is plenty of good in the world we live in, there is no denying the negative influences around us and our children. We as mothers may be tempted to put our kids in a bubble and protect them. But we know that doing that will not help them progress and develop, and it won’t give them a chance to make the world a better place.
So how do we raise great kids with strong values in a world full of bad influences? We are their teachers. We need to teach them kindness, empathy, honesty, integrity, respect, confidence, responsibility, good work ethics, patience, and the ability to have a handle on their emotions. All these things have a role in raising great kids.
Here is how to raise great kids with strong values who grow into remarkable adults
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1. Teach them to listen
Tell them that being a good conversationalist and a great friend begins with being a good listener.
2. Let them make mistakes
When kids are scolded for making mistakes, one of two things happen. They either become perfectionists or stop trying altogether. Neither of these things is good for our children. Teach them that making mistakes is ok, but what’s important is learning from those mistakes and doing better next time.
3. Encourage them to keep going
When something doesn’t go well, often kids will want to throw in the towel. While sometimes it’s ok to do, don’t let them make a habit out of quitting every time things don’t work out. Raising great kids means encouraging them to keep trying and not to give up.
4. Encourage them to do their best every day
“I did my best,” My five-year-old said to me. I could see that he worked hard on his project, and I knew he started over several times. It was true, that day he did his best. But the next day, his best got better. Encourage your kids to do their best every day.
5. Encourage them to learn something new
It’s easy to stay complacent in our bubble, with familiar things and familiar habits. It’s important to teach kids to step out of their comfort zone and learn something new, whether it’s a new sport, a new craft, or even taking the first step in making a new friend. Growth is uncomfortable. Teach them that it’s ok to feel nervous or anxious about something new they’re trying; tell them not to let those feelings get in the way of their progress.
6. Teach them to do hard things
Tell them that if things get hard, they need to keep going. Teach them perseverance.
7. Teach them that trying and failing is better than not trying at all
Talk to them about failure, and that they need to fail forward, which means learning from their failures, pinpointing what didn’t work, and trying something different next time.
8. Teach them to work for what they want
Talk to them about entitlement versus hard work. It’s true that working smart is better than working hard but to understand that kids need to learn to work hard first. Talk about what entitlement does and that they need to stay far away from thoughts of entitlement.
9. Teach them what love really means
Start by opening up a conversation about what they think love is. Look at love from their perspective. Then talk about making sacrifices for the ones we love, and putting them first. “Would you let your sister have the bigger piece of your favorite apple pie?” “Would you let your brother ride on the go-cart first?” Talk to them what love really means and how to show love through actions.
10. Teach them that helping and giving is better than receiving
Talk about situations in their own life when they helped a classmate or gave away their piggy bank savings to someone in need. Talk about how it felt to be able to help someone else, and raise great kids by encouraging them to do it more often. Give them ideas on how they can help others, like holding a door for someone or helping someone pick up something they dropped.
11. Serve together
Teach your kids the importance of serving others. Some people see serving as something negative, something inferior. But I don’t see it that way. It’s an important lesson to teach kids to become great people. Visit a local nursing home, bring donations to a shelter, or volunteer at a soup kitchen. Make it a tradition, and make serving others a tradition.
12. Seize teachable moments
Catch the opportunities to teach your kids a life lesson. When kids witness a situation, hear a story, or ask a question and you see an opportunity to make a point or teach a lesson, seize it. Don’t turn it into a lecture, but make it a conversation instead.
13. Teach them to be thankful
When my son complained that he didn’t get a new bike for his birthday, his brother responded with, “But at least you have legs. Some kids’ legs don’t work, so they can’t even ride a bike.” That night, my son prayed thanking God for his legs. Teach your kids to be thankful for what they do have.
14. Teach them about positive self-talk
Remind them how great it feels when a friend says positive words to them. It works the same way when kids say the same kind words to themselves. Encourage them to change “I’m not good at this” to “I can do it”, and “I messed up again” to “I will try again”. Teach them that negative self-talk is destructive and should not have a place in their thoughts. Teach them not to be mean to themselves.
15. Teach them to treat others the way they want to be treated
Talk to your kids about how it feels when others are nice to them, and raise amazing people by encouraging them to treat others with kindness.
16. Teach them to say kind words
Talk to them about gossip and that talking negatively about someone else, even when simply repeating facts, is not good for anyone involved. If they can’t find something positive to say to a person or about them, teach them to not say anything at all.
17. Teach them to take the first step
Tell them to be nice first, to smile first, to say “Hi” first. Remind them that it always feels good when someone takes the first step, so why not take the first step to make someone else feel better?
18. Teach them to play fair
Explain the importance of being honest, not stealing, and not cheating. Explain to them that although the excitement from winning a game or a bet feels good, it doesn’t last if you did it unfairly. Explain to them the repercussions of unfair behavior. Give them an example from your own life.
19. Tell them that having negative emotions is okay
People are made up of all sorts of feelings, good and bad. That’s what makes people real. It’s ok to feel sad, frustrated, or upset. What’s not ok is if your child turns those negative feelings into negative self-talk or negative behavior. Teach them how to express their negative emotions in a healthy way.
20. Tell them that they can make a difference
When I first heard that I, a little school girl who wasn’t outgoing or confident could make a difference, it was hard to believe. But as I grew older, those words stayed with me, and the more I think about them, the more I believe them, and act upon them.
Teach your kids that they are capable of making a difference. Tell them that they don’t have to solve world hunger to do it, tell them they can start small. They can make someone’s day better by helping them or saying a kind word to them. Raise great kids by teaching them that even the smallest act of kindness can make a big difference in someone’s day. Making a difference in someone’s day will turn into making a difference in someone’s life, and your kids will grow to be confident that they are capable of making a difference on a bigger scale.
21. Teach them to be respectful
Kids need to learn how to respect their peers, their parents, and especially older people. I was born in a country where the elders were respected by their own family and strangers alike. In fact, part of the culture was calling the older population “grandpa” and “grandma”, even if they were strangers. Where I grew up, when a senior citizen came in to stand in a line, she was ushered to the front of the line. When an older gentleman crossed the road with grocery bags, he was helped by strangers, and sometimes even walked all the way home by a good samaritan.
It’s important to respect those who lived a full life before us. Teach your kids to be polite, kind, and offer help to those around them, especially the senior citizens.
22. Teach them to treat grumpy people with kindness
One day my children got off the bus and told me a story of one of the kids saying something mean to one of my boys. “How did you react?” I asked my offended son. “I didn’t say anything back. He could have had a bad day. Or maybe something happened in his family that he was sad about.” While being mean is never ok, sometimes all you need to do is be kind to the grumpy person. Maybe they could really use a smile or a kind word that day.
23. Teach them to be a good cheerleader
Teach them to offer encouraging words to their classmates in gym class or another child on the playground. When a friend is struggling to complete his pushups, tell your child to cheer them on. When your child notices his friend going the extra mile for another classmate, teach him to tell his friend that he saw him being kind, and he thought it was pretty cool.
24. Teach them to keep their word
It’s important to teach kids to do as they say, even if they don’t feel like it. Raising great kids means teaching them to keep their word, and this builds integrity, respect, and reliability.
25. Teach them to take responsibility for their choices
Kids need to know that actions come with consequences. If they made a choice that got them in trouble, teach them that shifting the blame will not help in building a strong character. Encourage them to be responsible for their actions.
26. Encourage them to be a good team player
Take the opportunity to teach them about working together as a team, explain to them the importance of being an active participant in a team activity. Explain to them that teamwork builds great people skills, communication skills, dependability, and responsibility.
27. Teach them that feeling superior or inferior to someone else isn’t healthy
If they see another child in a wheelchair, or someone that looks different than they do, teach your kids to not think they’re “better” than those kids. If your child encounters a peer that can kick a ball farther than he can, tell him it doesn’t make your child “worse”. Explain to your child that all people are different, and everyone has different strengths, and different weaknesses. Comparing yourself to others is not healthy. Instead, encourage your children to look beyond the differences and be nice to others, no matter how different they are.
28. Teach them to look for good qualities in people
Let’s face it, our kids are humans too, at one point they too can encounter someone they don’t particularly like at first encounter. Encourage your kids to notice a good trait in that person. Everyone has good qualities. Tell your child to concentrate on something positive.
29. Teach them to think before they act
This is sometimes hard to do even for adults. Encourage your child to take a brief pause before acting or reacting, and ask themselves these questions. Is it good? Is it kind? Is it helpful? Will my parents like it? If they said no to any of those questions, it’s probably not a great idea to go through with it.
30. Teach them to stand up for their values
Raise great kids with strong values by encouraging them to stand firm and not be influenced by other’s words if they don’t align with your child’s values. You’ve taught your child that lying and cheating is not ok, he knows that stealing is wrong. But when a group of friends want to steal something and lie about it, teach your child not to be influenced by peer pressure.
31. Tell them that they are unique
Teach them that they don’t have to try to be like someone else to be amazing. Every person is different, there are no two people that are the same. Teach them not to conform to others’ opinions and standards.
32. Teach them about the effects words can have
Explain to them and words can build another person up, make their day better, and make someone else happy. But words can also hurt. Teach your kids that words matter with this analogy.
33. Teach them about being courageous
Explain to them that being afraid or scared does not make them a weak person. Everyone is afraid of something. What makes a person courageous is taking the first step and moving forward even when they’re afraid.
34. Know what they do online
The internet is here to stay. We can’t protect our kids from online influences and negative exposures by banning the internet altogether. At some point, they will get online and we need to prepare them for what to expect, what’s good and what’s not. Help them make good choices by paying attention to what your kids do online, and having open conversations and setting boundaries. This post contains affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, I will earn a small commission, but it won’t cost you a penny more. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
35. Tell them stories
I love telling stories to my kids, and they love hearing them. I tell stories about my childhood, about their babyhood, and other kids, real or made-up. We derive lessons from the stories and talk about what we would do in a similar situation. Reading stories with them is great too. Pick books that teach a lesson and discuss the story after reading. We are a family of believers and we read Long Story Short with the kids every night. What the kids love about this family devotional is every chapter has questions, and they love to answer them, especially the open-ended ones.
36. Laugh with them
Teach them that laughter is medicine, and laugh with them often. Teach them that laughing is good for everyone involved, but not at the expense of others. Teach them to laugh with people, but never at people.
37. Talk about what’s important to your children
When you have an opportunity to talk to your kids, it’s tempting to turn those conversations into lectures. While healthy instruction has its place, don’t overdo it. Instead, start listening. Listen to what’s on your child’s mind, and talk about what he’s interested in.
38. Have family meals together every day
I know this may not always be possible, especially with families with children participating in different activities and having different schedules. But do your best to find time to connect with your kids daily. If it’s not at dinnertime, take the opportunity for conversations in a car ride to school. Turn off the music, and talk to your kids. Ask them leading questions they will want to answer and get to know your children better. Here’s a list of 100 Questions to Ask Kids.
39. Spend one on one time with each of them
Special time with mommy is a very important occurrence in our home. During this time, one child gets my undivided attention and we talk about things HE wants to discuss. This is a vital part of connecting with our children and taking a good look at their world, their perspective, and learning what’s important to them. We need to make our kids feel important and heard, and one on one time is a big part of that.
The secret to raising great kids
Teaching them all these lessons can seem overwhelming, but when the groundwork is in place, it is absolutely possible and totally doable. We need to connect with our kids, we need to hear them, and we need to show them how it’s done. If you want your child to become a good listener, be a good listener first. If you want your child to be honest, don’t lie about his age at the theme park to get a discount. If you want your child to respect others and be kind to them, don’t talk about other people behind their back.
Kids are like sponges. They absorb what they see and hear, and we need to make sure that they have a good example to follow that will help them form good habits and great character.
Part of raising great kids is raising happy kids. Happiness is not about what you have, it’s about being grateful for what you have. Happiness is not controlled by what happens to you, but instead, it’s determined by how you react to things that happen in your life. We need to teach this to our children. This is how we can raise great kids that grow into outstanding adults and remarkable people.
Want a free printable cheat sheet of the above list? Sign up for the motherhood tribe email list below and it will be on its way to your inbox.
Raising a strong-willed child? Read How to Get Through to your Strong Willed Child.
Tired of sibling wars? Read How to Help Kids Stop Fighting and Get Along.
Want alternative ways of saying “no” to kids? Read How to Say No to your Child in a Positive Way.