My husband and I are in family planning mode. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how children turn out to be the adults that they become. I’ve been lucky to have some students that have left lasting impressions on my heart and on my mind. Students that even as teenagers exude unique characteristics, where you want to ask their parents “What’s the secret?” Even at the tender (and impressionable) age of 14, they have integrity… they are self-motivators… they are organized… they are studious… Now that I’m hoping to have my own baby soon, I’d like to spend some time thinking about child-rearing and as I think out loud, I hope that I can inspire others. The name of this weekly column that will be published every Monday and it’s called MOB: Mothering Our Babies. Please feel free to share your tips and experience as a teacher, parent, family member or friend.

Based on my 10 years of experience as a teacher, my 4 years of experience as a step-mother and my 15 years of experience as a baby sitter, god parent, & play Auntie, I think you can trust that my musings will be honest, open and inspire more dialogue.

#1: Teach Them To Care for Something Besides Themselves

Chicago’s violence regularly makes international news. Most of the violence is being perpetuated by older teens and young 20-somethings. I believe that most of this violence is happening because young people don’t value life… their own or other people’s. There are certain things that you can do that will strengthen a child’s ability to be compassionate, empathetic and a future humanitarian. It is also useful to have your child do community service. Whether it’s donated new or gently used clothes to a local shelter, or feeding the homeless at a local shelter, the tangible experience of dealing with those who are less fortunate will humble them and give them a new perspective.

– Get your child a pet. Even if your child is a toddler, he/she can share in the responsibility of feeding, cleaning, walking and “cuddling” an animal. If you have a cat or dog, have your child participate in filling up the feeding bowl. If you want a low-maintenance pet, buy a fish (it takes a couple of months to set it up, but once the water is right, it’s pretty low maintenance from there). Make your child feel like he/she is responsible for the care of the animal.

– Get your child a plant or teach your child to garden. Similar to a pet, nurturing a plant from seed to full-growth will teach your child patience and consistency. If the child neglect’s the plant, the plant will respond and you can have a conversation about the importance of being consistent and following instructions. Many families use gardening to inspire children to eat fruits and vegetables, as they are more likely to want to consume something they helped grow.

– Talk about your feelings in a realistic way. It’s fun to play with different emotions. If your child has a problem hitting or biting, let them know that it “hurts,” and walk them through the process of addressing the hurt. Encourage sharing by making your child take turns with toys with other children who may be nearby. Have regular play dates so that your child can develop a healthy relationship with his/her peers. Allow your child to get used to other family members by allowing them to be held & talked to by other families.

Be sure to check out the MOB Week 2: Teach Them How To Fight Their Own Battles

Co-Founder & Executive Director of Donda's House, Inc. Wife to Che "Rhymefest" Smith. Believer. Writer. Scrapbooker. ΣΓΡ.

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