Raising Good Kids Who Care

What does raising a “good kid” really mean?
Firefighters 01
"At that moment, I realized that the right thing to do was to buy breakfast for these community helpers."

There’s a phrase that gets thrown around a lot by adults when talking about kids: “So and so is a good kid.” Generally speaking, I believe this is true, but how does it happen? Firm discipline? Good genes? Sheer luck? We’ve all encountered parents who refuse to admit fault in themselves or their children, and are averse to compromise. I celebrate my kids’ successes, but I don’t want to raise an entitled child. I don’t want to be the parent of a teen or adult who ends up on the news for all the wrong reasons. And I certainly don’t want them using ridiculous excuses for doing something wrong.

In my mind, making sure you raise a “good kid” means that you teach them important life skills and ensure they understand that they are part of a very large world. Kids can make a difference at 5, 7, 10, or any other age. My wife is really good about making sure everyone in our home keeps things in the proper perspective. She finds small ways the boys can help like encouraging them to write letters to servicemen and women, donating old toys and books, and taking part in walks or runs for charity.

I recently had the opportunity to show my kids a small example of kindness in action. My wife was out of town and my boys, Tyler, 7, and Chase, 5, wanted to have a special “dudes' weekend.” One of the things they wanted to do was go out to breakfast in pajamas — something their mom frowns upon because, as Tyler claims, “women just don’t get it.”

After we sat down at IHOP, a group of Charlotte firefighters sat behind us. They were nice and struck up conversation with the kids about dudes' weekend, Star Wars and sports. When our food came, we wrapped up the conversation by thanking them for the incredible jobs they do. At that moment, I realized that the right thing to do was to buy breakfast for these community helpers.

“We’re gonna do what?” asked Tyler. “Are you sure you have enough money?” (My wife and I clearly have done a good job of making him believe everything is expensive). I told the boys we were going to be sneaky and do it without the firefighters knowing until after we left. The boys thought that was pretty cool.

On our way home, we talked about how our little good deed would be appreciated and how those firefighters hopefully will always remember them. My oldest told me how cool he thought it was “helping the helpers,” and asked when we could do it again. That made me smile.

We all love our kids and want them to know how special they are. It also is our responsibility as parents to help them see that showing appreciation, sharing good fortune and celebrating the specialness of others is crucial. A life lived well doesn’t happen in a bubble. I’m going to work to make sure my boys always appreciate others. All in all, I’m pretty sure I’ve got two good kids.