Parenting: The Importance of Teaching Life Lessons

I am the mother of two children. But the funny thing is, when I run into people who knew me in my teen years, I often hear this: "Don't take this the wrong way, but I'm kind of surprised you had kids!" You might think I would be insulted to hear something like that. But I always laugh, shake my head and say, "I'm not surprised that you're surprised!"

What these people mean is that I don't have the most nurturing, care-taking personality in the world. Therefore, they're surprised that I would have kids because that's the image that most people have when they hear the world "mother." You know, someone who cooks, cleans, does things for you and takes care of you when you're sick. Yes, I do cook and clean all other domestic activities, mostly because they're required. But I'm not a good "care-taker."

I was always the only mom in the park who forgot to bring snacks for my kids. And I'm still the mom who usually forgets to bring water for my son to his basketball and baseball games. And if my kids have a minor injury or have a cold, I say: "Gee, I hope you get better soon!" I used to feel bad about these things when they were little, but now they're old enough that they should remember to do these things themselves (well, at least the water and things like that). Anyway, that's what I mean when I say I don't have a nurturing personality. I blame my mom. She's like that too. (I don't really blame her -- I was just being funny!) My dad was the nurturing parent. Definitely gender-role reversals.

What I always tell people is that I love being a mom, but what I really love is the teaching part of parenting. I hated all the diaper-changing, bath-giving, tantrum-diffusing kinds of duties that came with being a parent to young kids. That's not to say I didn't love my kids. I am a loving parent with my words and actions (like hugs and kisses). But those things that parents have to do that are care-taking... well... I just didn't like it.

I am a teacher by nature -- I even made a career out of it. But by far, the best teaching role I have had in my life is being a mother. And I take it very seriously. So, I wanted to share some of the things I have been teaching my kids their whole lives -- life lessons that I think are priceless.

1. Empathy.

Research shows that empathy can be taught. We don't usually think of it as a skill, but it actually is. Ever since my kids were little, I was always asking them about how they think "that person" feels (whoever it was at the moment). This helped them develop a habit of looking at a situation from other people's perspectives.

2. Optimism.

We live in such a negative world that it would be easy to raise your kids to be pessimists. But we truly have two choices in life: (1) Look at what is wrong, or (2) Look at what is right. Teaching kids to go through life with a sense of appreciation with all of life's experiences helps them develop the attitude of optimism.

3. Personal responsibility.

I have pounded personal responsibility into my kids' heads their whole lives. And I think it's paying off because the other day, my oldest came home from school and said that someone had stolen his phone (I recommend getting mobile phone insurance!). I have lectured him so many times about this possibility, and now it happened. But instead of expecting me to pay for a new one, he assumed it was his responsibility to replace it, and he is.

4. Striving for excellence.

I teach my kids that there is a difference between excellence and perfectionism. My youngest child is a bit of an over-achiever and has gotten mostly straight As his whole life. But when he got his first B, he wasn't too freaked out because he knows he tried his personal best. And perfectionism is just a myth anyway.

5. Healthy Eating.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not some organic-only vegan. I'm simply a normal eater who tries to be conscious of what I'm eating. I've taught my kids that too by modeling decent eating choices and not over-indulging in anything.

6. Balance.

I am a naturally balanced person, but I think most people in the world are not. Most people I know are constantly living with a ton of stress, and much of it is self-inflicted. I have taught (and modeled) that it's important to work, play, relax, and take time for yourself -- all without sacrificing excellence.

7. Self-Love.

Self-love is not narcissistic like some people believe. It is related to high self-esteem - just a genuine, healthy feeling about liking and wanting the best for yourself. I also tell my kids that people who truly love themselves don't go around telling others how great they are. Instead, they show it by simply being an amazing person.

8. How to not take anything personally.

This is a huge lesson that will make anyone feel free. But when my kids were young, I always told them that if someone was mean to them, it was usually because they didn't love themselves. And that has pretty much bully-proofed them. Usually, people's words and actions have nothing to do with whom they are aimed at. Rather, it's because of their own pain.

Am I the perfect mom? Of course not. Because like I said, there is no such thing as perfection! But what I am is a good teacher. And a very conscious, and present parent. I love my kids and they love me. We talk. We connect. And I know I'm sounding biased, but I think I am raising two human beings who are going to be good, kind people and will leave their mark on this world.