With so many sad and scary things happening lately, now more than ever we need to think about how to raise kids that will one day change the world. With that in mind, read on for some tips that will help you create kind, compassionate, and respectful future adults.
How to Raise Kids That Will Grow Up to Change the World
All parents dream of seeing their kids grow up and totally change the world. We imagine becoming future First Moms, hearing our name in a Nobel Prize speech, or walking the red carpet arm-in-arm with our future Oscar winner.
Here’s the thing, though- your kids don’t have to become world-famous celebrities, politicians, or scientists to change the world. Remember, it takes countless individuals working together to enact change. Keyword, individuals.
What does “raising them right” entail? While that may mean different things to everyone, to me it means raising kids who are kind, compassionate, and respectful toward all people. Kids with a strong sense of empathy and a willingness to help others. Basically, kids who will make this world a much brighter place. Let’s talk about some things we can do to ensure that happens.
1. Teach your kids to respect other cultures
We all know that teaching our kids about other cultures is important, but it’s even more important to make sure that they respect them. Part of that means making sure we’re not appropriating someone else’s important traditions. Maybe you have good intentions when you and your kids make your own headdresses to learn about Native Americans, but that headpiece is actually part of a sacred tradition.
If you’re having a hard time imagining the harm of such things, try to think about your own important cultural traditions. For example, if you’re Catholic, imagine how you would feel if someone served Communion to teach their kids about your traditions.
Of course, you still want to teach your kids about other cultures. Just stick to more respectful methods. For example, you can read books written by authors from those cultures. Rick Riordan Presents books are a great option.
Riordan rose to fame with his fictional Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology series for middle school kids, all cultures that he felt comfortable writing about. Now, he uses that fame to elevate writers from other cultures, so they can tell the story of their own mythology.
Other ways to teach your kids about different countries and cultures in a respectful manner include visiting centers and museums that are actually run by people from those cultures or making recipes from a cookbook written by a chef from that country. For more ideas, I really love this article by Education Week.
2. Value compassion above being right
Too many people value being “right” above compassion, and it really shows. People are afraid to admit that they’ve made a mistake because they don’t want to be mocked or hear everyone say “I told you so.” NO ONE likes to hear that, ever. It makes us feel small and foolish.
So instead of admitting that we are wrong, we dig in deeper, lean into our mistake, and look for ways to justify it. We go to great lengths to avoid being shamed, and that in turn leads us to do even more shameful things.
The world would be so much brighter if we switched things up and started valuing compassion above being right. If someone could say “I made a mistake” without worrying about being made to feel like a fool. If we want to change the way people behave on that grand of a scale, though, we have to change how we react to our kids on a personal level.
Do your kids a favor and remove the words “I told you so” from your vocabulary. Seriously, ban that phrase. Add it to your “off-limits swear words” list, because it’s far more damaging than any of the four-letter words we try so hard to avoid saying.
Instead, the next time your kids learn something the hard way (rather than just taking your word for it that it’s a bad idea) react with empathy. Remember, you learned many lessons the hard way, too.
3. Make kindness a priority every day
We tend to view random acts of kindness as something to do during the holidays only. Maybe we volunteer at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving or “adopt” a family for Christmas. While those are wonderful ideas, spreading kindness isn’t just a box to tick off on a list of holiday traditions.
It’s something that we need to focus on every single day, and in everything that we do. It needs to be a genuine priority.
Here’s the good news- you don’t have to spend money to teach your kids about compassion. Remember, being kind has nothing to do with opening your wallet and everything to do with opening your heart. Maybe start a family dinner tradition where everyone talks about something kind that they either did or witnessed that day. If you need some help getting inspired, try reading these great books that teach kids about kindness.
While you’re at it, encourage your kids to be the NICE kid at school. Share this quote below with them to remind them that being kind towards others is more important than having the “right” clothes or even the best grades.
4. Talk to each other, not at each other
We adults spend a whole lot of time talking at each other instead of to each other. We do it to strangers on social media, to each other at the dinner table, and to our kids every day. When we’re not actively talking at each other, we’re tuning out and thinking about what we’re going to say when the other person is done talking.
If we can’t learn to truly listen to each other, we can’t change the world. If we all work together to fix this on a personal level, we’ll raise a generation that actually knows how to truly engage with each other.
Make a family rule that only one person can speak at a time and no one can interrupt them. Use the “talking stick” method. The person holding the stick gets to speak. Whatever method you choose, actively listen. Don’t just zone out until your son finishes telling you all about his new Minecraft world. Look at him while he’s speaking.
Show interest, even if it’s the billionth time he’s told you this story. Don’t interrupt or cut him off, don’t look around the room, and don’t use this time to run through your to-do list in your head. Only by showing him that you respect what he has to say can he learn to respect what you have to say.
5. Ask them how they would change the world
We adults seriously underestimate just how smart and insightful our children are, just like the adults in our lives once underestimated how insightful we were. One of the greatest things you can do to raise kids that will change the world is to simply ask them how they’d change it. Kids see things so much differently than we do.
They haven’t had the chance to become jaded, after all. They may have ideas that we never would think of on our own.
So, talk to your kids about what is happening in the world (age-appropriately, of course). I’m not saying you should ask your 5-year-old daughter what she thinks about war and famine or anything like that. Find something that’s reasonable to discuss with a kindergartner. Talk about it, then ask “What do you think?”
If your kids are a little older, say preteens and teenagers, you can get a bit more detailed and look at the bigger problems in the world, then ask them what they would do to change things. Perhaps more importantly, ask them what we can do to leave a better world for them.
6. Be a good role model
This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. If we want to raise kids that grow up to change the world, we need to be willing to change the world ourselves. Show them how to be a good person, don’t just tell them.
We can’t keep pushing things off to the next generation, hoping that they’ll make the changes we want to see. We need to do better now. Maybe, if we get it right, our kids won’t have to change the world. They’ll just have to keep the momentum going.