The Most Important Lessons Parents Can Teach Children

Teaching children to always say please and thank you, respect their elders, use good table manners, always tell the truth, and not talk to strangers are respectively the top five most important lessons parents can give their kids, according to a new poll.

Following a detailed poll of the United Kingdom’s mothers and fathers, researchers have released a list of the 59 most important life lessons. Teaching kids to say please and thank you was considered the most important lesson, according to 80% of parents polled, while teaching kids the proper way to open a champagne bottle was considered the least important.

“It is interesting that the top three things on the parental teaching list are all to do with ‘behaviour,’ and how the child ‘appears’ to others,” said psychologist Donna Dawson, who was involved in the study. “Parents are clearly worried that their children will reflect badly on them. And this is just part of the anxiety that parents feel generally. We can afford to relax a bit more, as many of the ‘must do’s’ on the list are not under their full control, and the burden of teaching is not solely on them.”

The list also includes more practical lessons as well, such as how to swim (50%), how to tie shoes (37%), the importance of eating veggies (35%), and baking a cake (17%).

The most important practical lesson and the sixth most important overall lesson on the list was brushing your teeth twice a day, a lesson which would benefit children in Alabama. According to data from the Alabama Department of Public Health, about half of the state’s kindergarten and third grade children (50%) had a history of tooth decay in their primary or permanent teeth, compared to 45% of six- to nine-year old children in the general U.S. population, while about one-fifth of Alabama’s kindergarten and third grade children (20%) had untreated decay. These children could grow up to be adults who don’t brush, which can cause serious problems. National statistics show that one in four adults don’t brush twice a day, including a third of men.

Participating parents also ranked life lessons as well, such as how to negotiate, avoiding unnecessary drama, appreciating nature, looking at the silver lining of things, and giving a strong handshake.

“It is the little everyday interactions with our children that are the real teachers: what we do, is even more important than what we say,” said Dawson. “However, rather than becoming unduly anxious about it all, parents should take each day as it comes, and remember that they are only human.”