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The Simple Path to Parenting

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.

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Bryan, The Date Safe Project says:

Well said. What is your approach to tweens/teens regarding dating?

Peter Hanfileti, MD says:

I agree that even those of us in the position of being doctors who take care of kids should get in the habit of saying “I don’t know”, because in this way we allow for the higher aspects of ourselves, parents and the kids to appear when most needed.

Victoria Cummings says:

Great post! I love the notion of being humble and allowing childen to see this as the way to “be”. As a result of society and its pressures, so many times children focus on the wrong things. We would all be better off if we would simply be at peace with ourselves, and let this inner peace become what children admire and aspire to obtain.

parvin says:

Now we ( middle aged ) know that one of the rules of nature: Nothing happen when it is not its time. Be patient in any condition to see the perfect result. Our children are the best image of us, just do the things that you want to teach them, and see the unbelievable pattern on their behavior. They gradually grab our manner in their concept.

parvin says:

An old tree with lots of branches and numerous leaves provides a delightful and comfortable place for the by-passers (who pass the endless road of their lives) to get some rest.And it has taken a long long time for that tree to experience cool summers, beautiful autumn, harsh winters, and bride of spring.

Nealon Hightower, Six Simple Truths says:

With 8 children, Wayne, I’m inclined to listen to you! You should meet my 2 year old Henry…I should have called him Iron Will. One day you’ll have to tell us all how you managed to bring up 8 kids and carried on your honorable life changing work…must be a wonderful woman behind the scenes somewhere.

Mika says:

Thank you. This is quite inspiring as a mother of two teenagers. I have listened to Dr.Dyer’s audiobook for the past week. It’s wonderful. Thank you so much. Today I’ve found this article and it inspired me so much. God bless you and your family!

Mona says:

Spirit must love you so very much my friend, as I had a dream that you were in last night. I did my healing work on you. Just letting you know… kinda cool in the astral! 🙂 Love and Blessings!!! Mona ~

Diana Fitness & Wellness Coach says:

Today I want to say tou you: Thank you for being in this world Dr. Dyer; your books,Cd’s put me in the best place I can have ever been. You are, and will be my virtual guidance, and I can not thank you enough for being such an inspiring and dedicated person in this world. God bless you.

Rusty says:

Thank you.

anna says:

Happy Father’s Day to you Dr. Dyer!
I never knew my Father, and yet somehow I became a good Mother to two wonderful boys.
May it be a day of absolute Joy for you!

Eric T. says:

I have been inspired by your teaching since I was a kid when I ignored a paralyzed arm and discovered unlimited potential, raised my children teaching them that “you will never rise above your mouth” and eight grandchildren later, I see and enjoy many positive, productive lives. Would love to speak with you some time. Thanks.

Penny says:

When my kids were very young, I started to see them as little spirits. A treasured gift from God. I realized my own limitations trying to raise them as a human being. Truly giving them back to God with his limitless love and power made it easier to put my trust in them, believing in the love that connects us all. Opening the doors for them.

Nathalie says:

I’ve always been very close to my 18 year old daughter as she has had learning difficulties. Lately, our relationship has become conflictual. Your article, Dr. Dyer, makes me realize that by being humble, we actually are encouraging our children to be more responsible, autonomous and empowered.

Ted says:

Unfortunately some parents of sensitive boys try to force their sons to be something they are not. In the new book, “The Strong, Sensitive Boy” by Ted Zeff, Ph.D. he shows parents how to help their sensitive boys become happy, confident men.

Aisling says:

I agree with You Dr. Dyer that if we treat our children with pure love and respect we will free them to find their own way in life. Surely that is what we really want, to raise Loving responsible people who can find their own path in this Beautiful World we Live in.

Parag says:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
by Kahlil Gibran which is true when bringing up our children

Jacques says:

Great advice! Thank you, Dr. Dyer.

MariaJosep says:

Siempre he percibido que Dios esta ahi y siempre lo he buscado. Hoy, gracias a tus palabras y a lo que veo detras de ellas, la presencia de Dios es una constante en mi vida. Ser consciente de nuestra conexion con esa fuente generosa de Amor y Paz me esta mostrando un universo maravilloso y magico. TODA MI GRATITUD. Namaste.

Denise Allen says:

On some level, I think this advice does not work with challenging children. If you are working with your own children that you have raised from birth, then yes, this approach makes sense. But, when you take on someone else’s children (as I did with my niece), you will need a stronger hand to undo the damage that’s been done.

Mucunda says:


Kenneth says:

Being true to yourself and others is very good advice.

Elena says:

I love when great wisdom meets with great humor creating a good laugh in me when I read something. Dr. D, thanks for a fantastic line that I certainly plan on using myself = “Don’t pole-vault over mouse turds”…Brilliant!
I love a wise teacher with a great sense of humor! ;D

Melinda says:

Such wise words and great parenting advice. The more I practice being peaceful and zenlike in my heart no matter what is going on around me, the more peaceful I see my children becoming!