5 Ways to Be a Voice in Your Child’s Ear When You’re Not There

This post was written for our sister site, iMOM, by Mary Jo Wyse.

When I was 15, I went to a sleepover at my new friend Sara’s house. She was pretty, popular, and everything I wanted to be. Once the sun set, she suggested we head down the street to our math teacher’s house. “Let’s bring eggs,” she said, a wicked grin on her face. The other girls giggled and leapt to their feet. Nervously, I followed as we hurried down the darkened sidewalk. At some point, Sara slipped an egg into my hand. When we stopped in front of a modest, two-story home, Sara shouted, “Throw ’em!” Around me, the girls fired away. Eggs splattered across the crisp, green lawn while others hit the porch, and the side of our teacher’s car. I clutched the egg in my hand. It’s wrong, I thought. Our teacher will be so sad when he sees these eggs tomorrow morning. Then we hurried back to Sara’s house, a flurry of excitement abounding in everyone, it seemed, but me.

That voice in my head telling me not to throw the egg was my mother’s voice. She’d never explicitly said not to throw eggs, but she’d instilled in me a sense of right and wrong that applied to this situation. Even though I wanted Sara to like me, I couldn’t bring myself to do something so wrong. I want to do the same for my children by teaching them the values my mom taught me so they’ll make good choices when I’m not around. Do you want to be a voice in your child’s ear? Here are 5 ways to be that voice in your child’s ear when you’re not there.

1. Teach her good values.

What are your values? Do you value honesty, generosity, humility, persistence? Children will learn more through what we do than what we tell them. Sometimes it’s easier to cut corners because we’re tired. Eating a quick dinner while catching up on work might save time, but sitting together, saying a prayer of thanks, and sharing some time in each other’s presence is one of the best ways to model character traits to teach your child.

2. Teach him with connectedness.

Sometimes it feels like a chore, watching swim practice or driving the kids to school. But being there—even for half of practice—tells them of your love and strengthens your connection. Forging connectedness comes from your constant presence in their lives, assuring them of their importance to you.

3. Teach her through mindfulness.

If my kids start fighting with each other, it’s hard not to jump in and react. But presence of mind is the ability to stay calm and keep it together. If we can anticipate rather than react to a situation, it can help kids feel more secure. When my son left the kitchen with my daughter’s dolly under his arm, I stopped him before a fight ensued. Wisdom from prior experience helped me stay on top of this situation before it got out of hand.

Having compassion for your child provides not just stability but a safety net through life’s challenges.

4. Teach him courage.

When my son was in second grade, he befriended a sweet little boy named William who has autism. I encouraged this friendship by telling my son that everyone needs friends, especially kids who struggle with a disability. “You can make a difference in William’s life,” I said, “by supporting him and standing up for him.” Fast-forward to eighth grade and a kid at my son’s lunch table made a snide remark about another child with autism. “It’s not his fault,” my son piped up. “My friend William has autism too, and he’s great. But sometimes people don’t treat him right.” The other kid, effectively silenced, dropped the subject. When my son told me this story at dinner, I was so proud! I’d like to think I played a role in building my son’s courage by being that voice, by telling him to speak up for what’s right.

5. Teach her with heart.

“I will always love you,” I told my daughter. “No matter what.” At bedtime, she felt guilty about some disobedience earlier in the day. We talked about it, and I assured her my love isn’t conditional. I want her to know that life will be bumpy, and I don’t expect perfection. I want my voice in her ear, reminding her that she will always be loved, even when she thinks she doesn’t deserve it. Having compassion and heart for your child provides not just stability in her life but a safety net through life’s challenges.

These are just five of the seven traits to teach your child from Joy Thomas Moore’s book, The Power of Presence: Be a Voice in Your Child’s Ear Even When You’re Not with Them.

Sound off: What are some other traits to teach your child that will help strengthen his or her conscience?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How are we alike—which character traits of mine do you think you have?”