Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.
As parents, we’re always looking for ways to improve our child’s life, from decisions like what school he should attend to long-term worries like paying for his college education.
But we often forget that it’s the little things that really matter — the things we do today, with the kid, that will shape his life.
These things don’t have to be huge, or expensive, or time-consuming. We can take a few minutes out of each day to do one of these little things, and it’ll make a big difference, over the long term.
Don’t have the time? Try shutting off the computer after 6 p.m. and not doing email or web browsing. Try shutting off the TV and any other media, and just make time for these things.
There are many little things you can do, but here are 6 good ones.
- Read. The best way to improve your child’s education is to read to her. Daily, if possible. It doesn’t much matter what you read, as long as you’re doing it. It’s a great way to bond, it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort, and it’s a lot of fun for both you and the child. When you read to your child, she learns language, learns to read and become a self-educator, learns the importance of reading, because you’re spending time doing it with her. Here are my favorite children’s books.
- Talk. Just sit on the couch, or go for a walk outside, and have a simple chat. What’s on your child’s mind? What has she been playing today? What has she been wondering about? What worries her? What does she love? A conversation, like language, teaches your child an essential skill — how to use language — and also gives you some quality bonding time.
- Snuggle. It takes seconds, and it matters. Your child loves to have human contact (as we all do), and in fact it’s a human need. It can be a simple hug, it can be laying together and cuddling, it can be manly if you’re not comfortable with hugging — just wrestle.
- Remove your shield. Parents today are overprotective, with their parental controls on the Internet and selecting every TV show and movie the child watches and not letting them play with fire or go outside for fear of them getting hurt. It treats the kid like a baby, which leaves him totally unprepared for the real world and leaves his brain without the development that comes from trying complex, risky things and having the freedom to play and make decisions. Remove your shield, today, and allow your child to play outdoors, play with knives, play with fire — but teach him how to do it without killing himself.
- Get them excited. This isn’t necessarily as hard as it sounds. It’s as simple as playing a fun game, learning about something cool (dinosaurs, space, rockets, chemistry, animals, how video games are made, kung fu, and so on). When your child gets excited, and you do as well, he learns what it’s like to be passionate about something, to learn about something that fascinates you, to do it and put what you’ve learned into action. That’ll translate to any career, and to life in general.
- Trust. We parents find it hard to trust our children, it seems, even if we won’t admit it. Stop watching over them all the time, stop putting shackles on them, stop treating them like their opinion doesn’t matter, stop being so authoritative and ask for their help and their thoughts and their input into decisions that affect them. Trust them, instead, and they’ll grow to deserve that trust, and grow because of that trust.