We all want to see our children grow into happy, successful adults. It's fun to see them grow and develop different personality traits and interests. As parents, we want to give our kids the best future possible. That doesn't mean we need to give them everything they want or spend a lot of money on vacations or activities. Here are 10 simple things that may have a big effect your child's future.
1. A book
Books are dear to the heart. Most of us remember a favorite bedtime story, thrilling read or character that was there for us when no one else was. One book can lead kids to decide on a career or lifestyle.
A study from the National Endowment for the Arts says a child's engagement with books affects future life in broader ways as well. Poor reading skills tend to equate with lower pay, lack of or poor employment, and fewer chances for advancement. Poor readers are less likely to be active in civic life, volunteer less, and vote less than better readers.
It's important to get children a good start in engaging with the written word. It will make a lifetime of difference.
2. Taking out the garbage
Financial guru Dave Ramsey says, "You should view teaching your children to work in the same way you view teaching them to bathe and brush their teeth — as a necessary skill for life."
Giving kids chores prepares them to be able to take on and fulfill assignments in the future for employers and teaches them the relationship between work and success. As a bonus, it gives them confidence and a sense of community as they contribute to your family's well-being.
3. A teacher
A child will have many teachers over the years, but sometimes he makes a special connection with one that will change his life. Whether by igniting a love of a particular subject or by helping a child through a hard time in life, a teacher can earn a special place in his student's mind and heart.
4. A friend
While not related by blood, a friend can hold the same place as family in your heart. The wrong friends can send your child on a downward spiral and the right ones can support and uplift him to greater success. Click here for advice on helping your children choose good friends.
5. Time with dad
A study posted on childwelfare.gov found, "Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections with peers. These children also are less likely to get in trouble at home, school, or in the neighborhood." Having an involved father was a better social indicator of future success than having money or social status. Enough said.
6. An instrument
Playing a musical instrument has numerous benefits for kids ranging from improving memory and mathematical abilities to creativity, self-expression and stress relief. If your child joins a band or orchestra it can improve his social skills and widen his peer group. Some budding musicians will even go on to music careers.
7. The city you live in
Throughout their lives adults will identify themselves with their hometown, even after living away for years. Where you live affects your child's educational and recreational opportunities. Each place has its own culture that will influence your child's thoughts and ideas. How you talk and feel about your neighborhood will also influence your child's feelings.
8. A pet
Having a pet has been shown to keep you healthier both emotionally and physically. Pets can teach kids responsibility and compassion. A study comparing children with dogs at home to those without, found that the children who were dog owners were significantly more empathic and pro-social. Pets can also provide a sense of security and reduce anxiety. For these reasons, animals are often used in therapy with children. The study also found that children with higher levels of attachment to pets reported more positive feelings about their family and home, than those with low attachment to pets.
Having a pet can teach your child to love more, be a better friend and have fonder memories of childhood.
9. A walk
Regular exercise has too many health benefits for your kids to list. Getting outside is particularly important. It helps boost your child's immune system, stimulates the imagination, promotes problem solving skills, gives the Vitamin D and is a proven mood booster. Added to this is the beneficial bonding time you can get with your kids when you walk together. This is a great time to talk with your kids away from distractions. Some of your most meaningful, life changing conversations can happen on a walk.
10. A grandma
Or, grandpa, aunt, uncle or cousin. Studies have shown that children with strong extended family ties tend to do better when faced with a problem. "The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned," according to an Emory University study. Extended families often provide care and support when a parent is unavailable, or in conflicts between parents and children.
When it comes to raising children, it's not the trips to Disneyland, the latest gadgets or even the best schools that have the most profound influence on the future. It's often little things you can do that turn out to make a big difference.