You might be surprised to hear that one of the best things you can do as a parent is to develop humility in your kids. The surprise comes because humility is grossly misunderstood. It conjures up images of a meek and unassuming child who eats alone in the school cafeteria and does not belong to any group of friends. And you don’t want your kid to be like that.
But genuine humility is not putting yourself down, being subservient all the time, and allowing people to walk all over you. By developing humility in your kids early in their lives, you are building their character and preparing them to meet the challenges and difficulties they will inevitably encounter, while appreciating the good that is given to them.
Misinformed people view humility as a weakness. But studies have shown that humble people are more likely to succeed in their professional lives, have harmonious and long-lasting relationships, and are happier and more contented individuals.
As a matter of fact, humility is a complicated quality to define and is best understood through behavioral traits. Here are the characteristics of a humble person:
- They acknowledge their limitations and shortcomings.
- They admit to making mistakes and are not too proud to apologize.
- They listen to others and value their opinions, even if it is contrary to their own.
- They are grateful for what they have.
- They are not jealous of others’ positions and possessions.
- They are not afraid to ask for help when they need it.
But humble people who recognize their inadequacies are not losers. On the contrary, they don’t easily lose hope and give up. They don’t quit pursuing their goals and dreams. They work on improving their skills and capabilities and learning new ones.
So now you know why humility is a valuable trait for your kids to have. Here are tips you can follow to make them humble.
How to develop humility in your kids:
1. Inculcate the trait of gratitude.
A kid who develops gratitude naturally adopts a positive view and builds empathy which are essential elements for humility. Teach them to say “thank you” to people even for small things, and to count their blessings instead of griping and complaining. Being humble and grateful improves and strengthens relationships with others.
2. Teach your kids how to genuinely listen to others.
Genuine and sincere listening is a valuable habit to teach your kids for them to develop humility. Teach them to listen without judging the person speaking and without being defensive of their views. It may seem difficult, but if you train them to truly care for other people and be interested in what they have to say, your kids can master the art of genuine listening. It takes healthy self-esteem to do it, which is also a mark of a humble person.
3. Train your kids to accept that they can’t have everything they want.
Children need to experience disappointments to prepare them for life’s realities. If you give them everything they ask for, they will develop selfishness and a sense of entitlement. Explain why some things are simply out of the family budget. Then talk with them about dealing with disappointments and frustrations and graciously moving on.
4. Teach your kids to ask for help if they need it.
Even as parents want their kids to grow up as self-reliant adults, it’s just as important to make children understand that it’s okay to ask for help if they need it. For many people, asking for help is a sign of weakness. But true humility is neither demeaning nor belittling. It’s simply acknowledging that no one knows everything, that no one’s perfect. When your kids learn to seek help from others, they are showing their humility and the courage to withstand criticism from misguided individuals.
5. Encourage generosity and a helping hand.
Teach your kids to be generous. These acts can be as simple as donating their toys to a center or befriending a shy classmate. If you offer your time and services to a charity center or assist a neighbor with repair work, bring your kids along to serve as an example. Generosity without expecting anything in return is a key element of humility.
6. Make your kids understand the importance of an apology.
A sincere apology requires humility because it’s an admission of being wrong and taking responsibility for one’s actions. It’s a humbling of the self and it’s something that’s so hard for most people to do. The worse part of saying sorry is, the other person may not immediately or never accept it. That’s only one of the consequences of apologizing.
Stress the point to your kids that apologizing sincerely is necessary if they know that they were wrong and that it’s not a sign of weakness to do so. On the contrary, an appropriate apology can strengthen relationships between friends and partners.
7. Don’t humiliate your kids.
Some parents confuse humiliation with humility, and by words and deeds, shame their kids thinking it’s a way to teach them humility. Done in private or publicly, the results are just the opposite. An emotionally abused child becomes an adult with low self-esteem and an inferiority complex. Humility comes from a place of self-worth and acceptance, and shaming does not promote humility.
8. Don’t be too extravagant with praise.
In contrast to shaming, don’t lavish your kids with effusive praise especially when they haven’t done anything to deserve it. A few decades back, the self-esteem movement was borne, and parents were mistakenly led to believe that praising their kids built their self-confidence. Instead, these kids grew up to be arrogant, narcissistic adults. To develop humility in your kids, praise should be directed to the efforts made to achieve a goal (good grades, completing a project,) and not to a child’s innate ability.
Lastly, did you know that Benjamin Franklin and George Washington were vain and arrogant in their youth, yet developed humility and rose to greatness? Other humble personalities are Bill Gates, Mother Teresa, and Pope Francis. While you may not be raising future presidents or billionaires, it’s still good to know that they are the role models when you develop humility in your kids.