So, I’m going to be real honest here. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at the playground with my kids and observed interactions between other kids on the playground and thought to myself, “Wow. That kid is going to be an a**hole someday.” Of course, I would never say that out loud to anyone (well, maybe my sister because I know she won’t judge me), but I certainly think it—a lot more than I care to admit. (Seriously, please tell me I’m not the only one!).
After doing this for a while, it made me start to wonder whether other people might think that about my kids. God, I hope not! But I can’t deny that my kids can do a**hole-y things sometimes. So I started to think about how I can make sure my kids don’t turn into jerks later in life. After much thinking and reading, here are some tips I’ve come up with to (hopefully?) ensure your kid doesn’t become an a**hole.
How to Raise a Child Who is Not an A$$hole
1. Practice “please” and “thank you.”
This is a fundamental concept, one that we all should have learned from a very young age. Unfortunately, I hear less and less of these simple words coming out of kid’s mouths these days. Teaching our kids to say please and thank you is an effortless way to encourage polite, respectful behavior. And don’t forget, kids, learn the most by observing YOU. Start practicing saying please and thank you, even to people you see every day and take for granted (hello, husbands!) because your kids will start to mimic that behavior.
2. Instill good manners from the start.
Again, good manners seem to have gone the way of the Dodo. The simple act of teaching your child to say “excuse me” or “yes, ma’am” or “yes, sir” goes a long way. It teaches your child to show respect and consideration for someone other than him or herself.
3. Don’t give them everything they want.
Listen, I struggle with this one. One of my love languages is giving gifts. I buy my kids all kinds of crap because I love them and always think about making them happy. But, despite my loving intentions, giving my kids everything they want will do nothing but turn them into selfish, self-centered jerks. That’s the last thing I want for them. So instead, I need to show restraint and show them that they can’t have everything, so they learn the lessons of delayed gratification, gratefulness, hard work, and gratitude.
4. Start chores young.
Giving your child chores from an early age teaches them about responsibility, natural consequences (when they don’t do them), and the satisfaction of gaining rewards for hard work. These are all critical lessons to learn at an early age. If they don’t start learning about it young and then suddenly thrust into the real world where (typically) people have to be responsible and earn a living, they will be very unprepared.
5. Keep rewards reasonable.
Don’t start giving your child $20 each time they complete the two items on their chore list. Don’t buy them a new iPad after cleaning their room for the first time in 6 weeks. Be reasonable about the rewards you give them (and news flash, an award can be a simple “Well done, son!” and not money or things at all!).
6. Call them out when they’re rude or unappreciative.
One thing I cannot tolerate from my children is rudeness or ungratefulness. If my child is given a gift from their grandparent and they don’t say thank you or, worse, act like it’s not worthy of their thanks, I will take that gift away from them in a hot second. I work hard to teach my kids that gifts are worthy of thanks, no matter how small. And I will not tolerate that rudeness.
7. Start community service young.
Serving in the community from a young age is a great way to teach your kids the art of giving back and helping others. For example, you can take your kids with you to the local soup kitchen, or you can involve them in stuffing stockings for less fortunate children at Christmas time. There are many ways you can include your children in helping or giving back to their community.
8. Point out the needs of others.
The other weekend we were driving to our local nature center, and we stopped at a light near an overpass. There was a homeless man on the corner with a sign asking for food or money. I never carry cash, and I would instead give food or something tangible they can use, and the only thing I had was an unopened bottle of water. So I rolled down the window and gave the man my water, said, “God bless you,” and the light turned green.
As we were driving away, my daughter began to ask many great questions about the encounter, and I was able to teach her that many people in this world don’t have homes, or enough food, or even clean water to drink. It was an eye-opening moment for her and one that I know will help her to see the need around her from now on.
9. Teach them about how life is different in other countries.
Along the same lines as the story above, teaching our children about the lives and struggles of other people, especially children because that’s who they can relate to the most, in other countries, can help to strengthen your kid’s ability to sympathize and think outside of their little bubble. Not everything is sunshine and roses for many, many people, and I believe it is essential for children to learn how blessed they are and think about sharing those blessings with other less fortunate kids.
10. Write thank-you notes.
I may be the only mom on the planet still writing old-fashioned thank you notes, but I don’t care. They are important! Taking the time to sit down and write a thank you note for a gift or a kind deed you received teaches valuable lessons on thankfulness, not to mention that it has a far more significant impact on the recipient of the note. My kids are still too young to write on their own. So we will sit down together, and I will have my kiddo dictate their thank-you to me, and I will write it for them. Then I’ll have them “sign” the card and “decorate” it. They love doing this because it makes them feel good to know they’ve made someone else smile by sending a thoughtful note!
I’m sure there are many more ways to teach your kids critical character-building lessons to keep them from becoming a**holes later in life, but these are the ones that I’m starting with! Hopefully, if I do my job right, my kids will become decent human beings, and I won’t have to worry about other parents judging them on the playground (or anywhere else) someday.