52 Truths Parents Should Teach Their Kids


As we begin a new year, it is a tradition to take stock of the last year, reflect on what we did well and what we would like to improve, and set some goals for ourselves for the coming year.  In that spirit, I humbly offer a week-by-week guide for us parents who aspire to teach our kids how to be little mensches. And if by some chance these are lessons you’d like to embrace as well, then I hope you do!  So here you have it, a lesson a week. Shana Tova U’metukah – to a sweet and happy new year.

  1. Live by The Golden Rule – For starters, of course don’t do anything you wouldn’t want anyone else to do to you, but take it one step further and don’t do anything you’d be (oy) embarrassed for your mother to find out about!
  2. Leave it better than you found it – Essentially, repair the world; whether that’s the place where you camped out or had a picnic, or the ozone layer, leave it better than you found it, for your kids’ sake.
  3. Try your hardest – Winston Churchill said, “Never ever give up.” It may not be necessary to never give up, but before you do, you must try your hardest.
  4. Know where you came from – Learn your family’s history, culture, customs, stories, food, etc., ideally from a living relative but also from books and movies and museums.
  5. Give generously – Whether it’s tzedakah or a gift for a friend, don’t hold back; give audaciously.
  6. Accept a gift – You’re doing a mitzvah when you let others give, so accept it with grace and let them be the mensch sometimes.
  7. Respect authority and boundaries – Parents, grandparents, teachers and those who make the rules are there to keep things in order, so listen to them.
  8. Know when to push back against authority and boundaries – Sometimes rules are meant to be broken, like when leaders become dictators and autocrats and in those cases we must rise up; also, it’s good to test those boundaries sometimes to always keep those leaders in check.
  9. Win with grace – No one likes their faced rubbed in a loss so don’t do it; stand up and shake the other team’s hand.
  10. Lose with grace – You aren’t always going to win so don’t take your ball and go home, or no one will want to play with you next time; stand up and shake the other team’s hand.
  11. Get back up after falling down – Have a growth mind set; it’s ok to fail, treat those times as learning opportunities so pick yourself up, brush yourself off and try again.
  12. Be the protector when necessary – Stand up for yourself and the ones you love, especially those who can’t stand up for themselves, like your little siblings, and stand up for your values too.
  13. Let down your guard sometimes – Often it’s light that enters through the cracks so let yourself be vulnerable and open yourself up, even if that means getting hurt sometimes.
  14. Make a good meal – Pick one meal that you can knock out of the park and make it for your loved ones from time to time; and make sure it’s more sophisticated than Mac & Cheese.
  15. Pick up the check – It’s nice to be able to treat people so pay for meal at a restaurant when you can.
  16. Open the door for your date – Chivalry is not dead, and show your date you know that by making her/him feel like the queen.
  17. Greet someone properly – Look them in the eye, shake their hand, tell them your name and make sure you remember theirs.
  18. Offer an outstretched hand – Even if you’re not sure someone needs help, offer it because they may be faking it to save face and you could really be saving them.
  19. Take an outstretched hand – You may not need it but if someone reaches out their hand to help you, take it anyway and you are likely to wind up better off.
  20. Be a part of your community – We all need to belong to something and community can lift you up during the down times and give your life more meaning so join in and help it thrive.
  21. Show gratitude – Learn how to thank people for the big and small things, and offer thanks to a higher power too, no matter what you think that looks like.
  22. Make a sacrifice – Some things are more important than your own personal interests; that may be serving your country, moving cities for your partner’s job, or giving up something that you really want so your sibling can have it; self-sacrifice for the right cause is a noble trait.
  23. Know when to walk away – Sometimes it’s not worth the fight, so swallow your pride and turn the other cheek.
  24. Know when to not back down – Sometimes it is worth it, for one reason or another, and that’s when you need to fight for what’s right.
  25. Apologize and make up – Sometimes the two hardest words to say are “I’m sorry,” but they can go a long way so make sure to say them when you need to (and sometimes even when you don’t), and really mean it.
  26. Forgive – When someone else apologizes, accept their apology with grace; and even if they don’t apologize but you know they did something wrong, take the high road and still forgive them.
  27. Take risks – Life is an adventure and to fully appreciate it, you need to get out there and try new things and push yourself beyond your comfort zone.
  28. Say ‘no’ sometimes – Learn the difference between taking risks and doing stupid things that could have detrimental consequences; learn when to say when; and learn when enough is enough.
  29. Listen when someone else says ‘no’ – Don’t ever force yourself on anyone when it comes to being intimate. If both partners aren’t on the same page, then stop.
  30. Enjoy the good things in life – We were put here to enjoy life so enjoy it and help others enjoy it, that means enjoying good food and drink, good travel, good art, good music, good fun, and making good memories.
  31. Do something nice for someone unexpectedly – Everyone likes a surprise when it’s done with love so do some of that sometimes and make someone smile.
  32. Do what you love – If you follow your passion, then you’ll be able to make a living out of it and it will give you fulfillment beyond anything else.
  33. Communicate your feelings – Talk about what’s on your mind, what you’re happy about or upset about, but just don’t bottle it up.
  34. Know what’s going on in the world – Don’t be so self-absorbed that you can’t see beyond your own nose; read the paper, watch the news, pay attention to what is happening in the world.
  35. Have big dreams – Think big, for yourself and the world, and do your part to make those dreams a reality.
  36. Be patient – Not everything happens quickly, so take a deep breath and be patient and know that really good things are worth waiting for.
  37. Know when not to be patient – If someone is stalling or stonewalling or if a window of opportunity might close, know when to push to make something happen.
  38. Appreciate the moment – This very moment won’t every be here again so stop and take it all in and be present.
  39. Make plans – Big things take time to bring to fruition so come up with a plan that you can execute on.
  40. Pivot – Not everything always goes according to plan so sometimes you have to change course and try something different.
  41. Let go – Don’t hold on to grudges or the way things used to be or past ways that have become destructive; be like Elsa and “let it go.”
  42. Listen – When you join a conversation, spend the first few minutes listening to understand what is being discussed, and when you join a group (a team or board), spend the first several meetings listening to understand their culture and traditions.
  43. Speak up – Don’t stand by forever holding your tongue; make your presence known by speaking your mind at the right time and choosing your words carefully; and if ever you see wrongs being committed, then always speak out.
  44. Pamper those you love – Go out of your way to take care of your family and friends, going the extra mile to really make them feel special.
  45. Give tough love sometimes – Not everyone always does the right thing and sometimes you have to show there are consequences for bad behaviors so be firm but fair, and teach a lesson with love.
  46. Have an opinion – Stand for something; educate yourself and be willing to listen to various points of view, but then formulate your own opinion and learn how to defend it.
  47. Open your mind – Be willing to let yourself be swayed; don’t get so dug into your position that you are deaf to good arguments and changes that happen to lead to new realities.
  48. Accept those who are different from you – Not everyone has the same values, heritage, upbringing, etc., so embrace them and be more open-minded to different ways of living, but always remember who you are.
  49. Be proud of your uniqueness – No one has ever been born who is you and no one ever will be, so embrace who you are, be proud of it, and love yourself.
  50. Appreciate beauty – Whether it’s art, music, nature, architecture, literature, spirituality or any of the other things that make life beautiful, learn to appreciate them.
  51. Take responsibility – Some things really are your fault so own that and don’t pawn it off to someone else.
  52. Love unconditionally – Be willing to fall uncontrollably in love even if that means you could get hurt.
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Zack Bodner

Written by Zack Bodner

Zack Bodner spends his days as the CEO of the OFJCC and his late nights waxing poetic on the Live Fully Blog. During the in-between hours, he and his wife ro-sham-bo for who does the dishes and who puts each of their three kids to sleep. On the weekends, Zack schleps his brood from soccer to baseball to drama to dance and then back to soccer. He can often be found asleep in one of his kids' beds after reading bedtime stories to them.

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