Think back to the most important (and memorable) life lessons you learnt as a child. Often, they were also the simplest, taking placing in moments that might have not been particularly profound. Perhaps it was learning – from your parents – why you should say please and thank you while passing gravy at the dining table. Maybe it was learning from your sister, after you didn’t make it into the netball team, that you can’t be good at everything, and that’s okay. Perhaps it was learning – from a teacher – how important it is to stand up for kids who may be having trouble at school. While words do play a key role in passing on valuable life lessons, it’s a combination of talk and action – seeing the people we admire behaving in certain ways – that really makes these lessons stick. Which is why your father’s kindness might inspire compassion in you today. Or why your grandmother’s resilient but light-hearted attitude to challenging times still plays a role in how you handle difficult situations yourself. Needless to say, when it comes to our kids, mirroring or projecting the way we’d like them to be is vital. Basically, if you would like a calm child who doesn’t scream and shout, it’s important not to be calm yourself. If you’d like a child who cares for animals, it’s important to showcase that behaviour yourself. We reached out to eight UAE-based mums and asked them to share the one lesson that has proved most valuable to them in their lives, and how they pass that lesson on to their children today.

1. You deserve love and respect
“I grew up with a single mum, and she was my everything. She always told me, ‘you’re special, and you deserve to be loved and respected by everyone, no matter what’. Every day, just before I kiss my daughters goodnight, I say, ‘Don’t forget, no matter what, you always deserve love and respect’.” – Jackie, 40, Abu Dhabi

2. Challenging times teach us something valuable about ourselves
“My family moved around a lot when I was little, which is how we ended up in the UAE. I arrived in Dubai in my teens, and I struggled to transition. One night after unpacking some of our boxes, my father came into my room, put his arm around me and said, ‘I know this has been hard for you, but rough times teach us something valuable about ourselves. When we push through our challenges, we always get out on other side a better person. Just look at Mandela!” I can still hear his voice saying those words, and I still find value in them. This is also something I remind my children of when they’re having a rough time, from struggling to study for a test to fighting with a friend. A few weeks or months later, when they’re back to normal, I remind them, ‘Look, you got through it, and you’re better for it’. I’m usually rewarded with a wonderful smile.” – Krita, 36, Dubai

3. Be kind because you never know what battle someone else is fighting
“When I was growing up, my father lived in another country, working to send money home. When I was old enough to understand why he was away, I found myself feeling very angry with him for not being with us. My mother sat me down one day and explained to me that without him being away at work we wouldn’t be able to have as good a life as we did, and that he was sacrificing more than I knew. ‘Always be kind and understanding to others,’ she told me. ‘You don’t know what battles they are fighting.’  Whenever my children complain about someone, or judge someone, I tell them the same thing. This lesson still serves me well today too.” – Lily, 32, Abu Dhabi 

4. Smile
“My father always told me that the way to any person’s heart is through a beaming smile. He said a smile was the quickest way to connect with someone, show them compassion, and spread positivity, and that the people we didn’t want to smile at – because they were grumpy or mean – were probably the ones who needed a smile the most. I tell my children this all the time. Even more than a smile, I think, this is a lesson about being positive and kind to others, even if they don’t reciprocate.” – Annabelle, 36, Dubai

5. We all make mistakes
“When I was about ten, my baby sister dropped my porcelain tea set on the floor and I was furious. I think I cried for days. When I finally came out of my funk, I found my sister in her room crying. I felt awful. My grandmother – who cared for my sister and I during the day when my parents were working – came in, sat us both down and asked us to promise never to fight like that again. She said, ‘We are all human, and we all make mistakes. We can replace the tea set, but we can’t replace the relationships we have with the people we love.’ I try to remind my little ones to be tolerant and understanding of other people’s mistakes too, and to be a source of strength rather than fear or disappointment.” – Salma, 41, Abu Dhabi 

6. You are what you think you are
“When I was growing up, I had an older brother who thought he was too skinny. He used to stand in front of the mirror and flex his arms and complain about being thin compared to his friends. One day, while he was looking at himself in the mirror in the hallway, my father walked past and said, “You are what you think you are. If you keep focusing on the negative, your mind will be negative and that’s how you’ll see yourself. If you focus on the positive, you’ll see yourself in a brighter light.” While this lesson wasn’t aimed at me, it made a huge impact. With that in mind, I never say bad things about myself or others in front of my children. We’ve also made a tradition of this practice. Every day at dinner, we all have to say one thing we love about ourselves.” – Mariam, 45, Abu Dhabi