Do everything you can with your kids. Play with them, Pray with them, take them everywhere. To the grocery store and to the mechanic, the retirement home to visit Aunt Sue and the bakery to get your bread.
Why do I feel it is so important to take your kids everywhere? There are three reasons, and I will present them now in no particular order.
First, spending time with your kids is a gift. They are not with you very long then they move on to bigger and better things, and you get a call once in a while or when there is a problem. While your kids are young is the magic time when you can connect with them, teach them and learn from them. I know, you are busy, we all are, but take the time to spend with your kids. Make the time. When my daughter was just four years old, she and I were walking down the sidewalk. She noticed a grasshopper on the edge and stopped to look at it. I was walking, I didn’t want to stay, but for once, I decided to let her have the lead, so I stopped too. After a few moments, she looked up at me and said: “that is the most AMAZING thing I have ever seen!” I started to reply that it was just a bug, but then I thought about it. No matter what you believe, or how you think that grasshopper got there, it really is amazing. All those little parts, all working together, Yes, a grasshopper is amazing, at the age of four, it probably was the most amazing thing. Right then I decided that there is a lot I can learn by stopping, following my kids lead, and actually experiencing the world around me. The awe and wonder of the world can be made new to an adult every day if you take the time to see the world through your child’s eyes, to appreciate their perspective. In the twelve years following that revelation, I have probably spent more time on my hands and knees than any of my neighbors can understand, simply experiencing the world we take for granted from the perspective of my child. This has also led to many conversations about how things work, why they work, and what we should do with them. I wouldn’t trade any of those ground-level chats for all the things they made me late for.
Second, going out into the world with you shows them how to act and react. It is my opinion that many of the more prominent problems we are having in society today, the violence, the rape, the robbery, the disregard for human property and life, could mostly be averted if parents took time when the kids are young to instruct them. We should model for our kids the proper actions and attitudes in real-life situations. If we take our kids to more places than just the local restaurant, they will have more chances to see adults interacting. They would learn that we don’t say whatever comes to mind with no regard for feelings like people do on the internet. If we take them with us, they get the chance to see us in action, to experience our example of proper interaction. They can see us say our pleases and thank you’s, they can hear us be polite, respectful and they can wait patiently in lines, with us, the way we expect them to without us. I have said many times, and we know it is true, our kids learn vastly more from our example than they do from our instructions. I feel that many parents DON”T take their kids out with them for this very reason. Kids act up in public, so parents opt to keep them out of that situation to minimize the embarrassment. I feel this is a critical failure. We need to put those kids out there, in the public eye, on stage, under the spotlight and give them the chance to act appropriately, then when they do we need to reinforce that good behavior, and when they don’t we need to correct that bad behavior. Concurrently, my observations are that in most cases if the children have been taught proper etiquette and opt not to use it, they are most often mirroring the actions of a parent. Much the same as our own device use and time, we model proper behavior for our kids far more than we tell them about it. If we ask our kids to say please and thank you, but we don’t do that ourselves in our daily lives, they will never pick up this trait. We cannot expect our kids to be polite and respectful of others if we continually treat the people around us like crap. If you are rude to a server in a restaurant, your kids will learn from watching you how to be rude also. If you act more important or entitled to the people you interact with in town, your kids will learn that they are more important and entitled than the other people around them.
Third, Taking your kids out into public is not only your chance to show them how to act, but it is also your chance to teach them how to do critical things once they are older. I went to town with my mom and dad all the time; my dad took me to the tire shop and the garage, the bank and butcher. My mom took me with her to the nursing home and to shop. Because of this, once I was older and had to do these things myself, there was no fear, no mystery. I did them because they were routine. However, if you don’t take your kids to these places with you and involve them in your daily business, when they need to do this for themselves they will be clueless. I realized this the first time my daughter drove her own car. We left the place she bought it, and it needed gas. We drove to the filling station, and she was clueless, she knew it needed gas but had no idea even where to start. I realized that she had sat in the car every time I had filled my tank for over sixteen years. She had no idea how to use the pump, where to put the gas or how to pay. Luckily, that was one of the few places I have seen where I let her down in her training to be a survivor and a responsible citizen. Now I make a point of letting all the kids help with everything, no matter how trivial it may seem at the time.
So there you go, spend all the time with your kids you possibly can. Take them everywhere with you. Show them thru your own actions and interactions how to be a respectful, responsible member of society. Instruct them with love and kindness, and remember that whatever shines out from you in your example will be reflected back to you when they are grown.