During our recent winter school break, our three children were laughing with each other and having a great time catching up while my husband and I observed from a distance. My husband and I took that scene in, reveling in these super kids who are not only sisters but also great friends. It underscored that the greatest gifts we gave our children were not the ones that cost money.
When it comes to rearing children, parents often get caught up in the material items rather than the fundamentals. The most important gifts we can provide our children aren't tangible. They are gifts from the heart that reflect who we are and what we want our children to become on the inside. These gifts ground our children and create people of substance rather than glitter. What are these gifts? Here are my top 10 gifts of substance to focus on in 2013:
- Confidence - The ability to stand up for your beliefs, to take risks and to admit when you've made mistakes and learn from them.
- Love of Travel - My husband and I love to travel. Before we met I was a flight attendant and my husband biked across the U.S. with three of his friends. We have transferred that travel bug to our children. Ever since they were babies we took them on trips by plane, train and automobile.
- Love of Reading - We read to our children when they were little. But I attribute this wonderful gift to my mother (and J.K. Rowling) who found the "Harry Potter" book series and gave the first novel to my daughter when she was 9 years old. All of my children are voracious readers. They now provide my husband and me with book suggestions. I thoroughly love it.
- Curiosity - Kids are naturally curious. Encourage that by having them figure things out on their own. Allow them to discover ways to peak their curiosity by having them question more and seek answers on their own with the right tools. Have them seek mentors. I recently read that a student at my children's school who won a $100K scholarship was always encouraged by her father to question things and seek answers to her ideas. Her father instilled the love of problem solving by filling her time with riddles and opening her mind to how things work.
- Kindness toward others - Most people are egocentric. My husband and I always felt that it was important to teach our kids to look outward. Help your children to see and feel what others see and feel to develop empathy and have a greater sense of the bigger picture.
- Good eating habits - One of the best things we did NOT do was keep soda in our house. That single omission has helped our children develop healthy eating habits. That's not to say they don't love their sweets. But we have taught them proper nutrition otherwise they know the consequences.
- Street smarts - Being book smart is one thing but I often think that being street smart is more important. This goes hand-in-hand with curiosity and allowing your children to think on their own. It's also important to present "what if" scenarios from your own experiences and current events and discuss them often with your children.
- Gratitude - This may actually be one of the single most important gifts to teach your children. Being grateful enables them to be humble, sensitive and most of all, appreciative of what they have rather than what they don't have.
- Humility - Everyone loves praise. But we have taught our children to allow others to toot their horn for them which carries more weight. I need to keep this in mind for myself.
- Humor - When difficult times happen, as they will in life, it's important to have faith and hope. Along with that is humor because that will help lighten any burden and instantly ease the stress that can weigh us down. Humor is being able to see the smile in any situation even when you think there is none. We always tell our children that looks will fade but humor only gets sharper.
I believe this list can be endless. But these 10 gifts of substance are a good place to start. What New Year's gifts would be on your list?
Tina is a proud Yahoo! Shine Parenting Guru. When she's not busy writing about parenting she can also be found pointing her camera and clicking away. You can also find her on Parent Grapevine and Moms Who Click.