“Teaching is more than a profession; it is a mission that consists in helping each individual to recognize his irreplaceable and unique qualities so that he can grow and develop.” — John Paul II
Teaching a child is a demanding task that involves forming him or her into an adult with many gifts and values. Society, our families, and our friends, are all overflowing with educational ideas, which we adopt to a greater or lesser degree, according to our personal values. Some qualities, however, are universally valued and important to transmit. Here is a short list of important qualities that will help children mature into kind and responsible adults — and some tips for how to foster them in our children.
1. Curiosity and a thirst for learning
It has been said that curiosity is a defect, but it can also be a positive quality. Encouraging curiosity in a child will contribute to her awakening, the expansion of her knowledge, the development of her interests, and the opening of her spirit. Books are a great ally in this endeavor: have plenty of books at home, and make them accessible to your child; you will soon find her taking an interest in them. Notice and foster your child’s interests, and encourage her to be observant. Initiate question-and-answer games in both directions. You may be surprised at the questions your child asks, and at the answers she gives!
2. Sense of responsibility
Children need to understand that actions involve responsibility. Recognizing our errors and successes is an important part of learning. This notion is a bit abstract for very young children, but it is possible to help them discover their sense of responsibility simply by modeling it. When your child is old enough to help around the house, you can assign him simple chores. Allow him to complete these chores independently to show your confidence in him and encourage his sense of responsibility.
3. Honesty and integrity
“The righteous walk in integrity — happy are the children who follow them!” (Proverbs 20:7). What more can be said to show the importance of being honest and faithful to oneself? Steadfastness and integrity are qualities transmitted through the example of parents. Children need to have confidence in you and to trust that you are not hiding anything from them. Honesty encourages honesty. Don’t lie to your child – tell the truth no matter the context, even if you have to simplify certain concepts. Along with a sense of responsibility, honesty will help a child mature into an adult who is upright and respectable.
A difficult quality to acquire and maintain, patience is a precious virtue that is very useful to those who practice it daily. As early as possible, accustom your child to being patient. Let her know how long she will have to wait, and stick to your word. This way, your child will be aware that she will get what she asks for if she is able to wait patiently, and she will be more likely to be patient next time. To succeed in maintaining this quality, help your child develop autonomy. An independent child will be able to keep herself occupied while she waits. Keeping ourselves occupied certainly helps to pass the time.
Respect is a foundational quality in the education of a child. It involves many aspects: the people around us, the environment, life in all its forms … Respect is a quality that invites reciprocity: a respectful person is also respectable. In respecting your child, you teach him to respect. Don’t minimize his problems, his words, or his sentiments. Learn how to apologize and to recognize your own errors, to show that you respect him. Encourage him to express his feelings, and validate them. Assure him that his feelings are legitimate by respecting them.
6. Kindness and compassion
“Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). Kindness is a defining quality of the human heart. Altruism, generosity, solidarity, compassion… All these terms define, in different ways, this quality of attentiveness to others. It is important to surround oneself with kindness and to be kind to others. Explain to your child that we should be grateful for what God has given us, and that a good way to show this gratitude is by giving to others. Highlight the kind and altruistic behaviors you notice in your child, praise her sharing, and invite her to notice the kindness of others towards her. Succinctly put, encourage your child to notice how it feels to be kind and to receive kindness. This will help her appreciate the value of helping others, and will develop her sense of empathy.
Encouraging perseverance in a child will help him achieve the goals he sets for himself and not get discouraged at every difficulty or failure. Teach him to set realistic goals and value effort over results. Show your confidence in him — don’t overprotect, but stay available. Take an interest in what he’s doing and show how proud you are of him and his accomplishments, no matter the result. Explain to your child that mistakes are normal, highlight the lessons he can learn from them, and most importantly, don’t compare himto others.
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