In middle school, I read the book Johnny Tremain, about an arrogant kid living during the American Revolution. Only through a physical injury and a caring mentor does he learn real virtues like humility and self-control. The book’s morals remain with me today as I still remember my battle with youthful pride. I didn’t know some of the things every kid should know.
If I had learned them when I was a kid, I would have been better prepared for some unexpected challenges. Fortunately, as dads, we have the chance to teach these valuable virtues to our children. Kids form habits young, so we better invest time to instill them now. Here are 8 things every kid should know by age 8.
1. How to Be Patient
I know that teaching a kid to be patient is exhausting. But without patience, our children will grow up demanding immediate attention, results, or change. Life doesn’t work that way. Instead, give your kids opportunities to be patient while providing them with the tools to succeed. Let them feel time pass by having them count down to something. I saw Mr. Rogers do this on TV by making kids feel how long a minute takes using an egg timer.
2. How to Be Flexible
If we don’t instill flexibility in our children when they are young, it will result in frustration when things don’t go their way. Always add room for flexibility. Have your kids plan out a “Day with Dad,” and then look it over to throw a curveball into the planning. Ask them, “What if it rains when going to the park?” or “What if the ice cream shop is closed?” Things don’t have to go as planned to be fun.
3. How to Be Orderly
Without learning how to be orderly, kids could grow up into adults who always show up late and have messy offices and disorganized thoughts. I have been fortunate to have a daughter who likes to see things done in a specific order. So we started using a “daily checklist” with her. It helped reinforce a habit of orderliness.
4. How to Build IntegrityIntegrity is about doing what is right even when no one is watching you.
Integrity is about doing what is right even when no one is watching you. Teaching integrity takes trust. You have to earn this trust with your kids so they feel like they can tell you when they make a mistake. Don’t judge or yell, but thank them for sharing. Ask how they can do better next time and tell them to inform you when they do. At a young age, kids need positive reinforcement to build integrity into a habit.
5. How to Be Empathetic
Empathy is a necessary virtue for kids because it teaches them to value other people. If they can respect others, they hopefully won’t participate in gossip or bullying. Maybe they will stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. Get them involved in service projects. Have your child pick a toy to donate, pull out canned food from your pantry, or draw a picture for another child in need.
6. How to Be Loyal
Kids need to learn loyalty because it teaches them how to keep promises. It is about sticking with commitments. Do not allow your kids to quit sports, dance, or chess club because they think it is too hard. They must stick with it for however long they committed to discover what loyalty means. If they quit everything young, they may want to quit everything when they get older.
7. How to Be Accountable
We don’t have to look far to see adults blaming other people for their mistakes; just read any story in the news. Our children must learn to take responsibility for their actions. Accountability is a crucial virtue to teach at this age because it is harder to do bad things to themselves or others when someone is watching. Teach your child to take ownership of their mistakes.
8. How to Sacrifice
Lastly, every child must learn how to sacrifice because it teaches self-control. Can they offer their favorite dessert to a schoolmate who forgot their lunch that day? Can they sacrifice their desire to watch a movie when their sibling just wants to play with them? Explain to your children that a person’s character is defined by what they are willing to sacrifice for a greater purpose.
Sound off: What are some other things every kid should know by age 8?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think integrity is?”