We took our kids camping in a tent this summer. I have no idea why, but we decided four nights and five days would be a good amount of time for the first time camping with a two and four-year-old.
You read that right. Four nights. Five days.
We waited for the showers, endured a few mosquito bites, and made marshmallows. There’s something human about sleeping outside, waiting for a shower, and not having a screen dictating your weekend.
Our kids crushed it. And surprisingly, we did pretty well too.
Coming off the weekend, Christi and I talked about the feeling of being human. Of sitting in a river in a lawn chair as the water flows by you. Of laughing with family around the campfire. Of listening to the birds and watching the morning sunrise—not a video of one on our friend’s Instagram story.
The concept of raising our kids to be human came from a recent podcast episode where we interviewed Gabe and Rebekah Lyons. Gabe, talking about setting limits on his screen time when he’s with his family, used the phrase “raising our kids to be human.”
After our brief taste once again of feeling human, Christi and I were inspired. Here are five ways we can teach our kids to be human.
- Get outside. This seems like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, we have more reasons today to keep our kids inside. Screens. Protecting them from the dangers of the world. Air conditioning. Yet, studies show the happiest people in the world live in Denmark. And one of the secrets to raising happy kids the Danish way is allowing them to play freely outside.
I’m not suggesting we let our kids roam unsupervised. Allow your kids to be kids. Encourage play. Get outside more.
- Help them work with their hands. Imaginative play is gold for a child’s brain. Yet, when our kids become bored or unruly, we put a screen in front of them to make our life a little easier. (Let’s be honest, it really does help sometimes).
However, this cannot become our default. Top executives of tech companies today are sending their children to schools that use more hands-on learning and no screens. If the people creating these devices are protecting their children, what do they know about it that we don’t? I think it has to do with imaginative play.
Give your kids blocks. Tinker toys. Legos. Let them play in the dirt. Give them chores. Using their hands—not their thumbs—is important.
- Teach them to feel. Neuroscience research shows that emotionally and socially intelligent kids know how to label what they feel. They also know how to manage strong feelings.
Use feeling words with your kids. This is one of the reasons we love Daniel Tiger for preschoolers. Christi and I also created a feelings chart you can use to help your kids label when they are sad, angry, jealous, or excited. Download it free and hang it in the playroom, on your refrigerator, or in your kids’ bedroom. Basically, anywhere they lose their cool.
- Teach them to relate. Call me old school, but I think it’s rude to order a coffee from a barista while texting somebody else. God gives us unique opportunities everyday to interact with the soul of another. Teach your kids to look into the eye of another and say “thank you,” “please,” and address their elders with “sir” and “mam.”
Being polite, respectful, and present with another is what being human is all about.
- Teach them to empathize. The Bible teaches us to love God and love others. Emotional intelligence isn’t just being able to label what I am feeling; it’s also being able to label what others are feeling. Even more, loving others is acting in a way that brings them comfort when they hurt, feeding them when they’re hungry, and giving them company when they feel alone.
The best way for us to teach our kids to empathize with others is to show them. Teaching our kids to be human begins when we, as parents, embrace our own humanity and step outside, not just into nature, but also outside of ourselves, to see inside the heart of another.
What are some ways you teach your kids to be human?