In this time of great joy, where we spend time with our families, give gifts and exclusively enjoy life for a short time, we sometimes forget about the most important gifts we give to our children.
While the toys, the phone, the clothes or the cash will certainly provide moments of surprise and happiness, parents provide a much longer lasting gift, in fact a gift that lasts a lifetime.
That is the gift of “example.” And the more time parents spend with their children, the better the gift.
You see, the whole idea of love, marriage, having kids and raising them, is that the kids are a reflection of their parents and provide continuity into future generations. The best possible life a child can aspire to is to take the best qualities from each parent, and combine them into the most productive, most compassionate, and best member of society possible. That is the gift of “example.”
For your children, you are their whole world. Even when you think they are not paying attention, they still know. Every action you take becomes a guide for their growing up, and it sticks with them (with the possible exception of a short rebellious period in their teen years, of course!).
Some of the gifts you can impart:
Integrity. Make sure your children see you behaving with integrity. Keep your promises, even when they are difficult, show that your word is good. You don’t really have to explain it to them (but its OK if you do), they will see the example and they will know what it means. And then you should give them the opportunity to behave that way. Practice makes perfect!
Responsibility. If your children see you meeting your responsibilities, they will want responsibilities of their own. They will realize that taking on and meeting responsibilities is the most grown up thing they can do. And children always want to be grown up.
The Desire to Earn their Way. Your children should know how hard you work for them. If not, take them to work to see what you do. Let them help you with projects that take time and effort, even if it means working into the night sometimes. And let them be proud when you finish it together.
Compassion. When you help a homeless person, tip a waiter well, feed or help an animal, or be concerned with a lost or sad child, your children will learn compassion from you.
Love of Country. Your respect for your country will be contagious with your children. Respect for the police, respect for the military, and respect for the concept of America are important. Teach them the Pledge of Allegiance, make sure they know what it means, and how many people died to keep us free.
In a world where children’s lives are dominated by video games, TV, texting with friends and music with anti-social messages, the best gift you can give is to spend time with them. Those qualities they learn from your example will last a lifetime.