Hey, parent, guardian, or grownup. You are busy. The pace never seems to slow, does it, especially with kids! Yet life has given you one of the highest callings. As one communicator recently said:
“The most important thing you will ever do in life isn’t some thing you will do, but some one you will raise.”
Think about that. Even more than your job, your reputation, your platform or potential in other areas of life, the heart you are molding and the life you are shaping matters most. In other words, jobs, reputations, and platforms are necessarily limited and temporal, but your kids will outlive you. In fact, your kids are your legacy.
So, since you are so busy and since your kids matter so much, here are three non-negotiable life hacks to raise smart, problem-solving, compassionate children. Of course, nothing is foolproof. But if you were going to bake three practices into everyday routines or regular rhythms for your family, these three would give you the
highest return on your investment. I’ll tell you why as we go along. Oh...and they’re super fun!
1. Read together. Everyday spend at least 15 minutes reading together (better if closer to 30!). This starts from the first few months all the way through middle and high school.
Why? Early on, reading together builds literacy skills as kids see you follow print with your finger, help you turn pages, and learn how books work. Later on, they will begin to sound out words and read to you! But the real fun starts when you discuss the content together. Asking open-ended questions like, “How do you feel about that character’s decision?” or “How would you have responded to that situation?” allows conversation to flow into value formation, flexible thinking as they explore different perspectives, and problem solving. Not to mention, these may be some of their favorite memories!
2. Play lots of counting and thinking games. Every week play games together or turn everyday activities (like going to the grocery store) into a game! This starts young and just keeps going as cognitive capacities grow!
Why? Math, in essence, is critical thinking and problem solving. However, from early on, math depends on strong number sense - the ability to count and know what amount a number actually represents. So, games that require counting like Chutes and Ladders or Candyland help build these foundational skills. A trip to the grocery store with a simple prompt like, “How many boxes of cereal do you see?” accomplishes this, too. Later on, strategy games like Shut the Box , Monopoly , Ticket to Ride , Risk or others that are age-appropriate continue to develop both mathematical and critical thinking skills. Have fun as you build problem-solving skills in your little world-changer!
3. Model and teach empathy. Rather than running from conflict, use those moments of emotional outbursts (even your own) and sibling conflict to teach and develop empathy.
Why? We live in a divisive and divided world where people have lost the ability to respectfully disagree, much less show empathy to one another. Empathy, or the ability to see the world from another’s perspective and feel what they feel, represents the key to building not just compassionate children but a better world. So, model it! In response to inappropriate behavior, name the physical clues and the feeling - “Oh, I see your face is red and you’re stomping. That tells me you probably feel angry. That’s so hard!” Now that you’ve validated and moved toward the feeling (empathy), you can work together to
solve the problem that led to the outburst, always considering what’s it like to be my child right now?
With a few intentional practices folded into your life, you can raise smart, problem-solving, compassionate kids!