For 2015, my goal as a parent is to focus even more on the character development of my boys. One particular value I have been thinking about lately is humility. At first glance, humility probably doesn’t sound like a significant value but what I’m talking about is not false modesty or a pretense of being humble, but the true essence of humility. If I’m not making any sense, then let me try to articulate it…
There is a terrific article from the Atlantic titled Why Experts Reject Creativity which sort of explains where I’m coming from. When you’re an expert in the field, it is easy to reject ideas from amateurs because you should know better as the expert. And while it is often the case that the expert knows best, there are rare occasions when the fresh insight of a “newbie” may be worth exploring. However, it is only when we are humble enough that we are open to new ideas even when we think we know better.
I think Claude Bernard said it best:
“It is what we think we know already that often prevents us from learning.”
Once you accept that idea that you don’t know everything – no matter how much you think you know – even the simplest person will have something to teach you if you are humble enough to listen.
“Everyone and everything around you is your teacher.”~Ken Keyes
But just because you are willing to listen to an idea does not mean you have to accept it. The important part is really listening and considering the idea in your mind before you decide to keep it or reject it.
Teaching Children Humility
As with all character building lessons, it is always easy to say but not so easy to do. Here are some ways to get started…
- Model it – the best way to teach a child is to be the example. Children will always do what you do and not what you say, therefore if you want them to value humility, you have to demonstrate that it is important to you, too.
- Serve others – participate in volunteer services that help others.
- Role Play – teach them how to respond with humility by acting out scenarios. Create scenarios that call for the expression of humility and show children the appropriate actions through the responses of the puppets.
- Valuing others – everyone deserves to be respected and honored. Recognise and reward the contributions of others. Treat everyone equally and live by the same rules and standards that you would like to see others to uphold.
- Acknowledging mistakes – admitting when you are wrong and apologising for it is probably one of the most humbling responses you can teach your child.
- Ethics – help children set goals and teach them ethical methods to attain those goals. Discourage cheating, lying and bad sportsmanship.
Let’s Grow Leaders also offers some great suggestions:
- Build Confidence – often what passes for arrogance is actually fear. Some leaders attempt to “humble” other leaders or “put them in their place” through public criticism or embarrassment. This tactic actually has the opposite impact. We need leaders who are confident enough to not need to talk about it.
- Get your children out of their comfort zone – working on something they know nothing about is great because nothing is more humbling than being clueless. Put them in arenas where they must rely on their team or peers to be successful.
- Encourage them to work through their own conflicts.
- Encourage and help them to be the very best they can be—no matter what they do.
- Make sure they understand where their real value comes from.
- Never humiliate your kids.
- Expose your child to the great teachers and their stories – lessons from stories are some of the best ways to teach.
- Teach them to give thanks – e.g. when someone gives you a compliment, say “thank you”.