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Things Kids Should Know

Apart from their name and how to wipe their own backside

young girl thinking

Our children are more complex than we give them credit for and they are constantly learning, growing, discovering and inquiring. We often think we know our children because we spend the most time with them. We know what food they like and don’t like, their favourite colours, tv shows they like. But how much do you really know about them as people and what kids should know.

Think about the main interactions you have with your kids. Most of it involves food and meal times, telling them what they’re doing wrong, having fun and games with them or being a taxi for them. This of course makes sense, it’s the normal bulk of normal day to day life.

We want to guide them, teach them and mould them into young adults and be the best versions of themselves. In order to achieve this properly you’ll need learn more about their character, the essence of who they are, and they will too.

scrabble tiles

Dive Deeper

How often do you delve deeper into the conversations you have with your children? We talk with our children about what they want to be when they grow up and try to explain answers to questions they have about the world. Or make stuff it up if we don’t know the answers, however, there are other levels to the conversations you should be having.

I’m talking about character building conversations. These aren’t just questions for you to ask for the purpose of gathering information, but also for helping them reflect on some of the deeper meaning to who they are as people and where they fit into the world.

We often had conversations with our own children when they were younger (and still revisit regularly) on these sorts of topics, and realise now from talking to other parents that it’s actually quite rare.

Talk to your children about who they are. What traits and characteristics do they think they portray? Do they feel resilient, confident, are they an effective communicator, a good friend? Are they persistent, goal setting, self regulating, inquisitive? What really lights them up? How do others see them?

child dressed as teddy bear looking out a window


My son when only 9 years old once asked the question, ‘What’s the point of me?’ How do you respond to something like that? A child wondering such a deep existential question about life really does hit home some the sorts of complex feelings that children can have about themselves.

Unpacking that question he posed involved asking what he meant by it, why he asked it and what his worries were about himself. It wasn’t a simple question and response. It’s a journey he’s only just started that involves asking meaningful questions. Answers will present themselves as he grows and develops, and it’s our responsibility to help him understand these answers, by talking meaningfully and not simply brushing such questions away with, ‘I dunno, ask your mother.’

word light board sign

Egocentrism Take a Back Seat

A lot of character building conversations are often focused inwardly with questioning about themselves, but it’s equally important for them to look outwardly.

Things kids should know are not only where they fit in the world, but also how they can contribute to the world. What can they give or do for the betterment of the planet and society. It’s fair to say that in modern society, a large number of children are spoilt. They are the centre of everything from their parents’ perspective, often getting what they want relatively easily. Those who are ‘only’ children are more likely to have this experience amplified, as attention towards them isn’t split amongst siblings, and there is more money available to spend on one child then multiple children.

So begin to ask them questions about bigger picture thing like what they think about the world and what changes would they make and what they would fix. Conversations like this are great to have around the dinner table or in the car when there are fewer distractions. You’ll likely get some crazy, impossible ideas like free rollercoasters in every town, but you’ll also get some sound, thoughtful ideas about fixing pollution, how to advance technology and how to solve an energy crisis.

Their generation after all will be the ones to work on these issues and take the world into the future. Getting them thinking about more than Tik Toc and Xbox games is necessary for their growth and a single dad needs to play a great role in achieving this.

neon word sign

Are manners a thing of the past?

Raise your children with manners. Let’s not have this basic, fundamental human trait disappear in a screen staring, grunting generation. Knowing and using etiquette cannot be overstated. Some important things every child should be able to do:

  • greet people respectfully, shake hands (or a Covid safe greeting) and look them in the eye

  • use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Words that go a long way

  • learn to complement others

  • speak nicely and clearly to others. It’s ok sometimes to let slide with your own parents but not outside the family

  • be able to set goals and achieve them

  • learn how to lose and win gracefully

  • learn to eat nicely. Just being able to use a knife and fork mystifies some kids

  • learn some cooking skills

  • personal hygiene

  • ask others if they need help and be willing to offer assistance.

road signs

I’m Sorry

Do your children know how to apologise properly, because it isn’t just saying ‘I’m sorry’.

Sorry is a word that is used in many situations like: ‘I’m sorry your dog died’, ‘I’m sorry I bumped into you’ or ‘Sorry, after you’, When holding a door open for someone. Sometimes we even say ‘sorry’ if someone accidentally barges you out of the way when they’re in a rush. None of these are really an apology for having actually wronged someone. Apologising for purposely doing or saying something horrible to someone else is a skill that needs to be taught. Being able to apologise to someone in an authentic, meaningful way that seeks to repair harm is a skill that children often lack (just like many adults!).

The times I’ve seen parents and teachers force children who have caused harm to each other to ‘Say you’re sorry’ is countless. Seeing a child purposely kick another child’s lunchbox across the playground only to be told to say ‘I’m sorry’ does nothing to repair the harm. The child will either argue back, begrudgingly grunt out an ‘I’m sorry’, say they’re sorry in a sarcastic manner or just say it quickly like a ‘get out of jail free’ card and carry on doing whatever they were doing. There’s no authenticity, no real meaning. It’s just a token gesture to get out of punishment or to make the situation go away.

What the offending child should do in this situation is take ownership of what they’ve done and apologise in a way that sounds more sincere. An example could be: ‘I’m really sorry I kicked your lunchbox, it was a mean thing to do, what can I do to make it up to you?’ In this case they are acknowledging what they did is their fault and it was a nasty thing to do, then offering a way to mend the harm.

This style of apology is much more likely to have an impact on the victim, as well as the self reflection it offers the offender. Such a model of apology can be applied in other such situations. Of course this only works if someone has the empathy and strength of character to apologise in the first place.

If you’re interested in delving into this topic deeper there’s a great article here.

Remember that many life skills your children acquire have to be taught, be modelled, be expected. It all starts in the home, and its a dad’s responsibility to guide them in these life lessons.

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