Regular communication between parents
and kids is not only the key to good manners,
but it’s also important for their safety and
Over my many years of working as a school
social worker and my many years as a parent,
I have come up with a list of 10 things that all
parents really need to talk about with their
Yes, there are probably more than 10
conversations you need to have with your
child over the course of their lifetime, but these
are the biggies. Some of these topics will be a
one-time thing, but many of them should be
Here they are, in no particular order:
1) Believe in Yourself
Self-confidence might be the most important
factor in life success and overall happiness.
And no, I am not talking about the
overconfident trash-talking kid (or coworker!)
that we all know and love.
Kids need to be able to recognize their
talents and positive qualities.
They need your help to discover these
things. Take the time to tell them how proud
you are. Point out their positive qualities. Tell
them that you believe in them. This will help
them to explore, take risks, and find success.
2) Appreciate What You Have
Whether you are super wealthy or barely
getting by, it is important to remind your kids
to be grateful for what they have.
My husband does a great job of pointing out
the little things to our kids all the time. Warm
pajamas, healthy food, bikes, great teachers,
helpful neighbors, the ability to walk: all of
these things are so easy to take for granted.
Help your kids notice the little things.
Having an attitude of gratitude is contagious
and makes you appreciate the little things.
3) Be Nice
While this may sound overly simple, it’s a
great way to live.
I love wearing my “be nice” shirt. We even
have a “be nice” sign on our wall at home.
It matters how you treat others.
Be nice to your siblings, be nice to your
friends, and be nice to your parents. If you are
nice to others, they will be nice to you.
4) Be Safe
Regardless of your stance on guns, as soon
as your kids start going to other people’s
houses, you need to talk to them about gun
Lots of people have guns in their homes and
lots of people do not have them locked up. It is
hard for children to understand how
dangerous guns are. Tell them (more than
once!) what they should do if one of their
friends wants to show them a gun. Go through
different “what if?” situations.
Teach them from a young age to listen to
that little voice in their head. Tell them, “if
something is telling you this doesn’t seem
right, listen.” The same is true for alcohol,
cigarettes, and a myriad of other scary and
It is important that your kids know what is
acceptable and what is not and that you will
always be proud of them for doing the right
Make sure kids know your phone number
5) Your Body Belongs to You
This one really ties in with the previous
message about safety. While there are some
discussions in elementary school classrooms
about personal safety and good touch/bad
touch, it’s not enough. Parents need to talk to
kids about this, too.
Both boys and girls need to understand that
their bodies are private and belong to them.
There is a very small group of people who
should be allowed to see children naked.
Funny story: I forgot to mention to my kids
that their pediatrician is someone who is on
“the list” of approved people. My feisty little
daughter just about kicked the poor doctor
where it counts during her last well-child visit
when he tried to pull her pants down a little
bit to feel her belly. Oops!
6) Winning is Not That Important
We live in a competitive society. And let’s be
honest, everyone likes to win more than they
like to lose.
But winning isn’t the only point of
competition. It breaks my heart to see kids in
my son’s little league division (ages 9 and 10)
already smashing bats on the ground,
chucking gloves, and crying over a strikeout or
Allow your kids to lose at games and
competitions (yes, I know that sounds mean)
and teach them how to be a good sport.
Praise hard work, effort, and not throwing a
fit when they lose.
Oh, and be a good example yourself!
7) Stand up for What You Know is Right
Teach your child to listen to that little voice
in his or her head that tells them whether
something is a good idea. And teach them to
stick up for others who are being mistreated.
One of my proudest mom moments was
when my 5-year-old daughter saw some kids
being mean to her friend at the park and she
marched right over to them, said, “You leave
my friend alone!” and took her friend over to
another part of the playground.
Do the right thing. Always.
8) Choose Good Friends
This is a tough one. Once your kids enter
elementary school, they start to navigate the
surprisingly tricky social world of childhood
I encourage my kids to have a lot of different
While having a best friend sounds like a
great idea, it’s really not when kids are young.
Being completely wrapped up in one
individual isn’t very healthy. If your child has
a friend who they are getting into trouble with,
try to get them to understand how that might
not be good for them.
The more you can talk your kids through
those situations (rather than telling them who
they should and should not be friends with),
the better off they will be in the long run
- 9)Be Creative, Go Outside, Get Dirty
It saddens me to hear how many hours kids
spend in front of screens. Video games have
become a full-time job for so many.
While I enjoy playing the Wii as much as
anyone (though my husband said I am about
to be cut off because of my language when I
play Mario Kart!), have limits. Take a family
walk or a bike ride. Have a picnic at the park.
Let your kids play in the mud. Plant a garden.
Go catch frogs. Finger paint. You get the idea.
Again, you have to set a good example for
10) Do What You Can to Make Things
Better in the World
While you shouldn’t expect your kids to be
raising thousands of dollars for charity or
volunteering every weekend, it’s never too
early to plant the seed of doing good in the