Green Parenting: 5 Things to Teach Your Kids (Because No One Else Will)
By Jackie Nunes, Wondermoms.org
As a parent, you know that there’s no limit to what your child needs to learn, both from you and others. From math and science to reading and writing, there’s a lot to know to get ahead in life.
Unfortunately, there are significant skills and lessons your child won’t necessarily learn in school, and a lot of life experiences that don’t happen in a classroom. To a point, it’s your job to make sure she learns everything necessary to succeed as an adult, including the things that don’t come out of a book. Here are five nuggets of knowledge your child needs to know before she’s ready to live a full, happy life on her own.
Life Isn’t Fair
An oldie, but a goodie – all children need to know that life isn’t fair. There are going to be people your children meet who don’t value the things they do, and people who seem to have all the luck, even if it doesn’t seem deserved. As unpleasant as these realizations are, they represent an important life lesson for everyone. From the moment your child is old enough to understand, it’s important to highlight the fact that he won’t always get what he wants, he’ll eventually face situations like nepotism or authority figures who play favorites, and sometimes, things beyond his control will happen that he won’t enjoy.
Your child must also understand that just because someone else triumphs – a win at a soccer game, say, or a better grade on a test – it doesn’t mean he should have an angry, jealous, or bitter reaction. Life isn’t a finite experience, and there isn’t a cap for anyone on victories, big or small. As long as your child knows to try his hardest, do his best, and make every move with integrity, success isn’t far away – even if it doesn’t always feel that way.
Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference
It’s easy to tell yourself that you don’t need to do things like cut out plastic straws or recycle soda cans because those kinds of actions are so small that they don’t matter. But small changes do add up to a big difference in the end, and your kids need to see that principle demonstrated.
Take, for example, a year-long process to cut costs and inspire greener living in your apartment. One simple step, like buying an insulating jacket for your water heater in January, won’t make much of a noticeable difference – but when you combine it with stoppers to block drafts in your windows in February, opting out of junk mail in March, switching to nontoxic cleaning products in April, and planting a container garden in May, your sustained hard work will become quite evident.
While the apartment scenario may not resonate with a child who’s still far from independent living, consider presenting your argument with spare change. Ask your child to save 25 cents every day for one week. At the end, she’ll only have $1.75, which likely doesn’t carry that much weight. However, if she keeps up that habit for a year, she’ll have $91.25 – and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
Food Doesn’t Have to Come from the Grocery Store
Most Americans are heavily reliant on grocery stores and convenience stores, whose purchasing, shipping and storage practices lead to sub-par products and a lot of waste. While farmers’ markets are growing in popularity, leading to a resurgence in food that goes right from the farm to tables nationwide, there’s more that can be done.
For those who want to make an impact on the environment – especially for the younger generation, who are just learning life skills and habits they will take into adulthood – it’s important to drive home the point that putting dinner on the table doesn’t necessarily require money changing hands. With a greenhouse on your property, you can grow a significant amount of your food yourself, right in your backyard. When you bring your kids into the mix, you’ll not only teach them gardening abilities, but you can also show them that what grows at home tastes far better than what can be bought on the shelves of your local grocery – and it’s better for the environment.
Saving a Life Isn’t Limited to Professionals
There are plenty of careers geared toward heroism and saving lives, from military pros to trauma surgeons, but lifesaving skills aren’t limited to those who enlist in the service or go to four years of med school and complete a rigorous residency. Anyone can learn how to play a helpful role in an emergency.
Common medical skills, like rescue breathing, CPR, and using an AED, are things anyone can learn and practice, including pre-teens and young adults. By enrolling your child in CPR classes, teaching basic first aid, and going over things like how to treat burns, stings, and bites, you can help ready him to face anything life may throw his way – and especially to respond with a cool head in a crisis.
More Isn’t Always Better
Which would you prefer: one toy from which you get endless amusement or a whole bunch of toys that are only okay? Most kids will naturally gravitate toward more toys, but as your child grows up and learns to think critically, you can drive home the point that minimalism can be a blessing, not a curse. You don’t have to have the most of everything or the best of everything to enjoy life; instead, enough of what counts is what’s most important.
When it comes time for spring cleaning, or any cleaning, for that matter, make sure your child plays a role. Let her help you file papers; fold and store clothes that are out of season; and throw away, donate, or recycle items that aren’t needed anymore. The more time she spends seeing you keep your home neat, organized, and accessible, the more these valuable skills will carry over into other parts of her life, from keeping track of school assignments to her eventual performance in the workplace.
Your child needs to learn a lot to excel in life, most of which she’ll discover at school or by trial and error as she joins sports teams, picks up an instrument or other interest, falls in love, or goes off to college – but the more you can do now, the better. By teaching these five valuable life lessons that your kids won’t learn anywhere else, you can do your part toward bettering the next generation.