I recently got to sit down with one of my favorite parents and friends, Rachel Cruz. She’s a New York Times best-selling author and the mother of two beautiful girls. She travels the country teaching parents, families and young adults about how to spend money wisely, save money, and teach kids good money habits.
On her program, “The Rachel Cruz Show,” I got to answer some wonderful questions from parent viewers.
One of my favorites was this: How do you make sure your kids turn out to be moral, independent, and kind-hearted souls?
This is such a good and important question for parents to be asking. We have to stay focused on not just raising our kids well now — but raising them to be good adults, good employees, good spouses and good friends. We do this by focusing on their character, which is exactly what this parent was asking about.
How do you make sure your kids turn out to be moral, independent, kind-hearted and, overall, good people? It’s pretty simple actually: You model that behavior.
Something both Rachel and I say often about our kids is that more is “caught” than “taught.”
If you want your kids to have a good moral framework, if you want them to be kind, if you want them to be independent and healthy adults — you must model these characteristics. This is particularly true for boys. Boys are visual learners, so they need to see their parents being kind, making good choices, talking through decisions, and serving others.
They have to see what courage looks like, what strength looks like, what integrity looks like.
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Girls are more auditory learners, so you can talk to them about being kind and independent and strong and they will grasp it; but it’s equally as important for them to see you model it, too.
One of the best ways you can model the type of character you want to see in your kids is to make serving others a priority for your family.
For example, when our kids were growing up, our entire family ran the soup kitchen at church every Sunday. Because all of us did it together, we got way less pushback from our kids. Kids are more likely to be kind if everyone is being kind together.
You are helping her build that muscle in a safe, unified environment, so it’s stronger when she is out in the real world, practicing kindness alone.
If you tell your daughter to be kind to a girl in her class, she will be until the moment the other kids stop being kind. When you’re a kid, kindness is very difficult to do alone. That’s why being kind as a family can go such a long way.
When you intentionally practice kindness together — whether it’s at a soup kitchen or volunteering elsewhere in your community — it’s like kindness strength training for your child. You are helping her build that muscle in a safe, unified environment so it’s stronger when she is out in the real world, practicing kindness alone.
So, parents, if you want your children to grow up to be strong, moral and kind adults, model that behavior for them and model it together as a family. You will be amazed at how quickly your child learns to serve and love others, just from watching you do it first.
Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for 30 years. She is the author of the online course “The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids,” which is part of The Strong Parent Project.