The 10 Things Every Child Should Be Taught

1. Always question authority. It’s one of the most important and valuable things I learned in college. Questioning authority does not mean being disrespectful. It means holding elected officials, experts, doctors, lawyers and teachers accountable. A person of authority in a child’s life – like a teacher or a doctor – sometimes seems to have an aura of “untouchable” about them. Children should be encouraged to ask questions and insist on answers. And yes, questioning authority does include questioning our parenting. We all have bad days and need to be reminded that we are not an absolute ruler of our children, but rather someone who helps them to be the best they can be.

2. Be honest and accountable. Those two things go together like peanut butter and jelly. Kids have to be honest with themselves to be accountable. While questioning authority holds others accountable, it’s also important to do the same with ourselves. Children need to learn to own their decisions, mistakes and triumphs – from beginning to end.

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3. Be comfortable outside your comfort zone. Everyone loves to stay in their comfort zone; it’s warm and cozy and we just never want to leave. But, here’s the thing – if our kids never try anything new, never deliver an unpleasant message to anyone, have never been there for a friend even though it made them uncomfortable, then they are missing out. They are missing out on new experiences, on personal growth and on inspiring others to do the same.

4. You win some, you lose some. It’s important to know what it feels like to lose. Guess what – most people don’t win all the time, they are not even in the Top 10. If a child has never known what it feels like to disappear in the masses, he or she will not be able to feel the thrill of winning. Getting a trophy or a ribbon every time does not only diminish the joy of placing first when it’s our kids’ turn, it also lessens the accomplishment of the people who actually won. This is not only true for winning and losing – it’s valid in every part of our lives: if we don’t experience the lows, we won’t know what a high actually feels like.

5. Not everything on the Internet is true. (The Internet is a big thing in parenting. And a hard thing. And almost impossible to control as kids get older. I try to use the common sense approach – so far, so good.) There are billions of people using the Internet, each and every one with their own opinions and tastes. Sometimes people make shit up, sometimes they make fun of other people and sometimes they even do illegal things. The point is that children should approach the Internet like they should everything else in life – ask if it makes sense. If someone in their school would tell them face to face what they just read online, would they believe it? If one of their friends would ask them to do what they just saw somebody do on YouTube, would they do it?

6. Sometimes you screw up and that’s OK. Yes, exactly that. Nobody can bring their A game all the time and sometimes we screw things up. Sometimes children get a bad grade and sometimes they don’t ask the lonely kid to join the game and sometimes they click on that link even though they have a feeling it’s a virus. There is always another day. Tell them they can do better next time, encourage them to just move on and not beat themselves up – not everything is a big deal.

7. Don’t be a jerk. Being respectful and kind is essential and this one should start at a very young age. Kids need to know that they can’t assume they know what’s going on inside anyone’s head. They don’t know another person’s story, whether they are just having a bad day or their grandma just died. Yes, they will encounter people who are jerks to them – but they should still give them the benefit of the doubt; they can always just walk away, there is no reason to be a jerk themselves.

8. Have a slice of humble pie. Humble pie tastes bitter and sweet at the same time. It’s not a particularly good taste and doesn’t need to be on the menu all the time, but it’s important for children to learn a lesson or two in humility. They should never assume that they are “too good” for certain jobs or better than other people. Starting at the bottom and not having everything fall into their lap can be a lifesaver later in life. Clearing all of life’s obstacles out of their way because you “want the kids to have it easier than you had it” can break their back later in life.

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9. Sometimes you just have to tough it out. A little cut on the finger? A ball took your kid’s breath away while playing soccer? The girl with the pony tails was mean to your child? We don’t always have to abort mission for every little incident. It’s tempting to just call it a day and go home, but there is value in seeing something through to the end and children can learn a great deal about what they are capable of by doing so.

10. Don’t get knocked up or knock anybody up until you’re old enough to take on the responsibility. Our children will start having sex sooner or later. I trust my children to decide when they’re ready. It’s essential that they are responsible and while I think they can handle the responsibility of using protection, I don’t think they will be able to handle the responsibility of having kids for a while. And I’m not willing to look after their kids, that’ll be their job.

About the writer

German-born, but made for Canada (except when it’s below -20°), Kerstin lives and works in British Columbia with her husband and two kids. She loves hanging out on her blog Auer Life, shares too many pictures of her puppy on Facebook, she pins like a boss and she is the freelance writer and consultant behind Auer Communication.


Michelle 2 years ago

#1 needs some serious caveats — question authority if your conscience is troubled, if you are suspicious that someone doesn’t have your best interests in mind, or if you are afraid. Do not question the authority out of arrogance or a sense of entitlement. Learn to think for yourself. Ask out of a need to understand and grow in wisdom and maturity, not because you believe it’s your right. Let’s raise children who are able to cognitively engage with others with confidence and gentle humility.

Darcy 2 years ago

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MISTER LOGIC 2 years ago

I would amend #1 as it is incomplete. In addition to what you mentioned, children should ALWAYS be encouraged to call into question ALL religious doctrine and indoctrination, question the bible, and especially question the church, as they think that their authority is BEYOND reproach. Which is definately ISN’T.

jacki 2 years ago

Thanks for this. It kind of gives me peace of mind when my daughter gets older and the kind of things I should be instilling in her. I’m sure I’m just like any other parent, wanting the best for my daughter and trying to keep her out of harms way in every way possible, but I’ve gotta let that go lol. I’ll definitely be keeping these in mind :]

Priscilla 2 years ago

Great tips. My toddler seems to be working on the questioning authority role.

sarah reinhart 2 years ago

damn Kerstin, look at you here! Love the list and of course I’m with you on all of it. xoxo my friend!

CanNurse 2 years ago

I think this is a terrific list & includes almost all the essentials. I’d add one more. 11. Teach your kids to say “I’m sorry”, if they make a mistake or do something that hurts another. And model this behaviour to them as a parent by apologizing TO your child when you mess up with him/her. Kids need to see that their parents can make mistakes, can apologize, & make amends too.

Leigh Ann 2 years ago

#7 and #8 are my favorite!

Lydia 2 years ago

#5 ‘and sometimes they even do illegal things’
It’s super cute how you demonstrated illegal usage of the Internet by appropriating my mother’s photo and using it illegally outside of copyright, really taught me a lesson.

    Jill Smokler, AKA Scary Mommy 2 years ago

    I am so sorry, Lydia – that is NOT something I believe or teach; I found the picture on a free photo website – when I have time, I will try to retrace my steps and find which one for you. I’ve taken the photo down, please e-mail me if you’d like to talk more.

      Lydia 2 years ago

      Thank you so much, my mum has had a number of issues in the past with stolen/misused images and it is beginning to really bother our family. It’s a good thing number 6 on your list exists! We would love to know which website has taken that image as ‘stock’ or ‘free’ as it is really important for photographers that heir images are correctly used and credited, thanks.

      Lydia 2 years ago

      (Also, I apologise for being quite short in my initial comment)

        Jill Smokler, AKA Scary Mommy 2 years ago

        I completely understand your frustration, and yes, as someone who puts pictures of my kids out there agree completely!! I looked around quickly and couldn’t find the site, but will try again later.

Kim@Co-Pilot Mom 2 years ago

These are great! I love the #1 and #2 combo – they really do go together, don’t they? So many of these are so similar to the thing I strive for as a parent, too.

Sandy 3 years ago

These tips are great for adults, but IMHO they need a little tweaking for kids. For example, in our house we have The Golden Rule rather than don’t be a jerk — treat everyone as you would like to be treated. The difference is more than just semantics, because it encourages your child to focus on other people and their needs rather than only on her own behavior. As for the question authority rule, that’s an awfully slippery slope. I still remember the face of the parent at a workshop I attended for parents of kids with ADHD who had made that his number one rule, and it wasn’t a happy face. You see, his kid decided to question his parent’s authority, at which point this poor guy couldn’t teach his kid anything because every conversation turned into a debate. You can’t live successfully without being able to respect authority even when you disagree with it — we pay taxes when we disagree on foreign policy, we do what the teacher says even when we think she’s a fool, and we obey all the traffic laws or we know we will get a ticket — but kids do need to know the limits to that authority (no inappropriate touching, etc.).

Kim Siegert 3 years ago

Totally agree with all of them and have told my children virtually the same speech. Luckily, no one's gotten knocked up or knocked anyone up unintentionally. My daughter-in-law may disagree a little about the last statement:) Daughter will graduate college in a year, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Jack 3 years ago

Number 9. We don’t do a very good job of helping kids learn how to deal with adversity.

kate 3 years ago

Yeah, what she said. Especially #2 with a twist: sometimes good enough isn’t good enough. Always room for improvement. And one more: don’t be a bystander: disrupt a bad situation and applaud and be part of a good one. kickass post!

Jamie@SouthMainMuse 3 years ago

All great ones Kerstin — but I find that #3 is something I’ve struggled with my whole life. But I think it’s one of the gifts of aging. Not so worried about looking foolish or insecure. That is one thing I wish for my children too.

Keely 3 years ago

Brilliant, lady. This list needs to be bronzed.

Joelle Wisler 3 years ago

This is a great list! I especially like “Always question authority.” I wish I would have learned that at a younger age.

Jessica 3 years ago

#1 Always Question Authority. I love this rule so much I want to marry it. Yes!! For decades the focus has been about “stranger danger”. When in reality it is often a “trusted” adult (family member, priest) who ends up harming a child. Children should absolutely be taught to question why any adult wants to be alone with them, or anything else suspicious.

Grace | Yummy Baby Gifts™ 3 years ago

Do I have to think about #10 right now?? YIKES!

Debbie 3 years ago

These are really good. This one for sure; 4 You win some, you lose some. I find it really sad when little ones are playing sports and there are no winners or losers. What are we really teaching these kids.

8. Have a slice of humble pie. “want the kids to have it easier than you had it” can break their back later in life. This is so true. Giving them everything they want and they make fun of the kids that don’t have everything. maybe they don’t have the right clothes or shoes, etc. The lucky kids are the ones that learn to work for what they want and really do appreciate things.
Hope a lot of parents take these tips very serious, because they need too.


Poppy 3 years ago

I try and let my kids tough it out, too. All bleeding stops eventually and sometimes you just have to suck it up.

Practical Mama 3 years ago


Natalie – The Cat Lady Sings 3 years ago

*saving this list for future children*…

SB 3 years ago

I love the tips here- although I would encourage my kids to wait until marriage or at least an adult relationship to have sex. I know it’s not always the case, but that’s my safest ideal for them both physically and emotionally. High school is for learning how to pick a date, not for jumping in the sack. But try telling that to teens, right?
I don’t trust my kids to have sex when they are ready; I trust them to have the morals and self-respect to wait until they put a ring on it, or at least have found a committed relationship where they won’t regret their decisions later. :)

Brandy 3 years ago

Yes, yes, and YES! I love this. And I think some adults need to be (re)taught these things as well. I hope to raise my children to be respectful, compassionate, and independent. To be contributing members of society. To take the consequences of their actions, good or bad, and own up to their actions. I hate that so many communities are under the assumption that “everyone wins.” What? A team LOSES? That can’t happen. Yes, it can, and it should. I don’t want my kids to think that they will *always* get praise or succeed at everything in life. They won’t.

I’m going to stop rambling. Thank you for sharing!!!

Ioana 3 years ago

I love #1 especially.

Elaine A. 3 years ago

I wish my parents had stressed #1 more, honestly. I feel like I still do not question things enough sometimes and am only learning to do so now. I like that way you explained not to be disrespectful about it.

I like #4 too…

This is a GREAT list!

Jennifer Hall 3 years ago

Yup, yup, excellent points and all things we need to teach our kids!

Shelley @ThatGirlShelley 3 years ago

Great tips!

Kelly Goode 3 years ago

10. Don’t get knocked up or knock anybody up until you’re old enough to take on the responsibility

Jennifer 3 years ago

Oh #2 really is the key isn’t it? LOVE that. I tell my kids that all the time. Be honest and own up to your mistakes. No one else might, but you will be respected because you do.

tracy@sellabitmum 3 years ago

Love these and trying to do more of #3 for myself! xo

Brittany 3 years ago

I love these tips. Honestly, I just think overall childhood should be awesome but that doesn’t mean we have to make it super easy and cushy for kids. They do need to learn how to behave in the world and that everything will not always be given to them. And yes, I agree with Arnebya that adults should re-learn these rules too!

Arnebya 3 years ago

#7 I love but would add “purposeful”. Don’t be a purposeful jerk. These are such good tips, many of us as adults need to be reminded of them because they still apply.

Alison 3 years ago

All good, and incredibly important lessons, Kerstin. I particularly like #7, #8 and #9!


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