As parents, pretty much everything we teach our kids can be divided into one of two categories. First, there are skills; dressing themselves, washing themselves, mastering the finer points of eating spaghetti with a fork and a spoon. Then, there are values; being selfless and kind, not judging people on appearances, working hard for the things we want in life. If there’s one value we can’t let slip through the net these days, it’s a love and respect for the environment. Here are a few great ways of teaching this important life lesson.
Monkey See, Monkey Do
As with many things, one of the most effective ways to foster a greater respect for nature in your children is to set a good example yourself. Seen as you’re reading this, you’re probably pretty good at conserving water, fuel and electricity. However, almost everyone can make at least one change to be that much greener. Think about your energy-consuming habits and anything you can do to improve them. Try to be more conservative with all your home utilities, cut down on buying products that would wind up in your landfill bin, and try to find ways to reuse your unwanted items, or donate them to someone. With every good habit you pick up, be sure to point it out to your child, and explain why you’re doing it.
Breathe it All In
Another great way to teach your child to love and respect nature is to get them out in it as often as possible. If you’re in a particularly urban area, make the most of what you have, with parks and other enclosed green spaces. You can also plan trips to areas that are full of natural beauty; and nearby forests, wildlife conservations, streams or national parks. If you’re finding it really hard to get your child up close and personal with nature, it may even be worth renting or buying some mountain real estate, and using it for family weekend trips. When your child spends more time in nature, they’ll form fond memories of it, and will have more chance of respecting nature on their own initiative as they grow up.
Find a Bin!
Finally, make sure you’re not letting any of your child’s (or anyone else’s!) environmentally harmful behaviours slide. While a plain and simple telling off might work to condition good behaviour, it’s important to make sure your child knows why these things are wrong. If they drop some litter in public, have them pick it up, and tell them how it not only looks ugly, but has the potential to hurt a bird or other animal. If you’re walking in the woods, and they kick up a patch of wild flowers, tell them that they’ve just ruined a resource for animals and bees. Try to avoid turning it into a heavy chastisement or guilt trip. Instead, think of every little slip-up as a learning opportunity.
Make these things a habit as you raise your child, and you’ll foster a much greater respect for nature.