I always joke that my kids’ favorite holiday is Father’s Day. They love the way I celebrate the occasion by writing each of them a thank-you letter and a generous check. It’s my way of letting them know how much I appreciate the great pleasure and privilege of being their dad. I have eight children, with ages spanning more than 20 years. They have been powerful and important teachers in my life, always keeping me humble and grounded. Over the years, they have given some of my greatest material. If you have ever been to one of my speaking engagements, you’ve heard my stories about them and seen one or more of them on stage with me.
Poet and philosopher, Kahlil Gibran, said, “Your children are not your children….They come through you but not from you….though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.” Gibran advised looking at your children, divine beings that they are, with awe and wonder. You might strive to be like them, but Continue Reading
It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. When you watch children playing, notice how totally involved they are in what they’re doing, how they run everywhere they go. Notice how they are oblivious to future problems almost as if they have given themselves permission to be free and they show it by becoming totally absorbed in their play. To be more childlike, you don’t have to give up being an adult. The fully integrated person is capable of being both an adult and a child simultaneously. Recapture the childlike feelings of wide-eyed excitement, spontaneous appreciation, cutting loose, and being full of awe and wonder at this magnificent universe.
Here’s what kids know how to do best:
The child in you, like all children, loves to laugh, to be around people who can laugh at themselves and life. Children instinctively know that the more laughter we have in our lives, the better. They will go out of their way to linger with anyone who makes them laugh, who can go along with their jokes.
Keep Fantasy Alive
Children love to dream, Continue Reading
When teachers and parents ask what they can do to help young people get off to a healthy start in life, I say, “Set a good example.” Let your respect and love be seen and felt. It works for children just as it does for all of us. Everything depends on what you believe about yourself. If you want to change your life, you have to change your self-concept. If you want to move to a higher place, you need to change your belief about what is possible for you and elevate your beliefs about yourself. Young people are forming their self-image every day—based largely on the examples of self-respect and self-esteem they see in the important people in their lives. What they believe about themselves and their lives is shaped by what they see and feel. We can make sure they see love.
Of all the beliefs that each one of us own, none is more important than the ones we have about ourselves. Our beliefs about ourselves are the single most telling factors in determining our success and happiness in life. A child’s self-image is a direct result of the kind of reinforcement he or she receives on a daily basis. Do they have the confidence that they can successfully complete any task before they attempt it? Do they feel good about the way they look? Do they feel intelligent? Do they think of themselves as worthy?
As you think the self-esteem of children, keep in mind that the barriers we erect to our own growth and happiness almost always are internal barriers. The lack of love in a person’s life is the internal fear that he or she does not deserve love. The absence of achievement is most often due to a genuine belief that one could never achieve at a high level. The absence of happiness stems from Continue Reading
The amazing wisdom of the Tao offers us principles for parenting if we look at the way Lao-tzu describes our power to lead by example. The 65th verse of the Tao Te Ching advises us to live by staying simple-hearted, “Content with an ordinary life, you can show all people the way back to their own true nature.” Being open to the guidance of your own true nature will free others to do the same. And “when they know they do not know, people can find their own way.” Parenting shouldn’t mean imposing rules or impressing others with your supposed intelligence and superiority. Refuse to convey superiority. Show others how to live from the Tao perspective by being willing to admit that you don’t know what’s best for them, nor do you even know with any degree of certainty how your own life should go. Let other people know that you’re willing to ask for guidance. Show them that you’re not “in charge,” either of them or of what happens to you. Allow them to see a man or woman who’s humble, lives peacefully in the cycles of life, and stays simple-hearted.
Be willing to say to those in your charge, “I don’t know.” This phrase is a symbol of strength rather than weakness, so use it freely. When you teach others to do the same, they’ll begin to allow their highest selves to be guided by the Great Way. Keep in mind that nature never forces anything to grow, but is silently and invisibly ever present. Do the same to the best of your ability by not forcing yourself and your ideas on anyone (with sensible precautions for those too young or too immature to take on adult responsibilities).
Practice keeping your life simple and uncomplicated. Model this behavior for those you feel obliged to lead. Don’t “pole-vault over mouse turds”—dispose of those rodent droppings with a simple tissue and dump them into the garbage! Keep it simple. Spend a day without the label of “parent” or “boss” and put yourself on an equal footing with those who usually look to you for direction. Think of yourself as one of those you lead—in fact, pretend that you are him or her for a day. I’ve found that when I practice this with my children, they respond according to their best and true nature. For example, when I simply say to my teenage daughter, “I know that you’re perfectly capable of being responsible and sensible while I’m out of town, and I love that about you,” I remove the “authoritarian parent” label and treat her the way I’d want to be treated. When this becomes the norm, it’s obvious that Lao-tzu is correct: “The simplest pattern is the clearest” when showing people the way to their own true nature.