How to Raise a Superhero
Career day at preschool was always amusing. Children, drawn in by the allure of superheroes, wore their favorite warrior's cape. Flying through the air on a swing they exclaimed, “I’m going to be Spider-Man when I grow up!” While that childhood dream may be far-fetched, the idea of raising a superheroes may not be. For what makes a superhero is not incredible powers but the ability to choose to do what is right. It is therefore crucial to instill a spirit of bravery and steadfastness into our children so that they will be virtuous even in the face of adversity.
Teaching our children to have resolve takes courage on our part. It means as parents we must live above reproach and expect our children to do likewise. It means taking the harder road and standing firm in our decisions to teach our children rather than enable them. It means leading by example to train them to be honest when honesty hurts, to train them to be responsible though gratification is delayed, to train them to be superheroes even if they are surrounded by villains. By having faith in your children and teaching skills like the ones below you can train your children to be strong when it counts.
It can be so easy to convince the cashier at the ticket counter that your three-year-old is still two or your young teen is still qualified for the child fare. But in doing so you are teaching your children that it is okay to do the wrong thing when it benefits you. The problem is our children often follow our example. Being honest in the big and little things in life gives children the strength to be resilient even when others are willing to compromise.
Teach Family Pride.
Standing up for what is right is easier when you are surrounded by like-minded people. From the time our children were very little we taught them our family culture was encouraging and respectful. Each family member is taught to both demonstrate and expect these valued behaviors from others. This gives our children pride in themselves and their family as well as the strength to stand up for what is right knowing they are not alone.
In almost every movie about a superhero’s beginnings, the hero must choose between accomplishing their own desires or sacrificing for the greater good. In that moment of truth, the heroes choose to place the needs of others over their own wants. Teaching children to see the needs and the pain of others and responding in a compassionate way affirms the dignity of all involved. (Be sure to do this in a safe environment for the children, making them aware of the difference between safe and potentially harmful situations).
Lead by Example.
The 17th century proverb, “Actions speak louder than words,” is as true today as when it was first penned. Your example is one of the strongest teaching tools you have, so use it to mold and shape your children into the people you dreamed they would be. Show them your superpowers!
One of the greatest differences between renting a home and owning a home is a sense of responsibility. Suddenly planting trees, cultivating a garden and gently using appliances take precedence over efficiency. The same is true of children. Teaching them to care for their toys, wash their clothes, or clean their rooms helps them understand life is a balance of pleasure and responsibilities and teaches them to do what is right even when other things seem more appealing.
Give Kids An Out.
A few years back I stumbled across a blog post written by a counselor. He noticed many teens who gave into peer pressure initially wanted to say no but did not know how. As he raised his own children he gave them a way out of that situation. By simply sending what looked like an accidental text, the parents knew to call and ask the child to come home. This took the pressure off the children to conform, allowing them to choose to do what was right without some of the social repercussions.
Expect Great Things (utilize bragging rights).
Have you ever met a person who truly believes in you? I remember my mom visiting my workplace a couple years after I graduated. My bubbly mentor waltzed in and sang stories of the wonderful things I achieved. Both women beamed from ear to ear as they swapped stories of my accomplishments. I was on cloud nine. I knew how much these dear advisors expected and was thrilled to hear my efforts were paying off. When things got tough I recalled this day and had strength to persevere.
It's time to teach our children skills that will follow them in every path in life. Do not let them become complacent in doing good but teach them what every superhero had to learn: standing up for what is right is essential for a fulfilling life. Who knows...maybe some day your sweet baby will save the world!
Antoinette is a wife and mother of two young boys. In addition to her experience as a parent, Antoinette draws valuable insights from her many years as an elementary school teacher and her masters degree in education. She also offers interactive lessons for preschool and early elementary aged children on her Etsy store, Reason2Discover.