“That which we are, we shall teach, not voluntarily, but involuntarily. Thoughts come into our minds by avenues which we never left open, and thoughts go out of our minds through avenues which we never voluntarily opened. Character teaches over our head.”
If I can only have one rule to guide me as a parent, it would be to understand our actions will always speak louder than words. Being a parent is not about herding kids from one place to the next. It is about being a life coach to small human beings depending on you to show the way.
1. Life is messy.
It happens. The kids break out a box of crayons and colors all over the walls. You can yell or talk their ear off about what they did wrong. You can make them feel bad about what they did. Whatever you decide we know one thing is true. We can never undo the act of the mess in the first place.
As parents, teaching our kids how we move forward from the mess is important. How or why the mess occurred in the first place, is second in the grand scheme of things. When everything is broken, we show them they are loved despite their mistakes. Then we help them figure out the best way to deal with it. Life goes on regardless of the mess.
2. Life is about struggles
Life is overwhelming. Parenting is about preparing them to handle life’s never-ending struggles. Kids need a safe place to try new things. A place where they can test themselves. A place they can fail and recover from.
Sometimes they need help finding the best perspective for the situation at hand. Parenting is about helping your kid understand that things are not always as bad as they seem. It’s important for them to know that sometimes things fall apart to make way for better things.
3. Life is about your resources
I grew up believing service to others is a key factor to being mentally strong. Start with helping your child learn about the different organizations in your community. By volunteering in your community, you help your kids see they have something to offer. Through their actions they see they can make a difference.
It is important to remember service is not a one way ticket. Teaching your kids how to tap into your local resources and learning how to use them effectively, will help them if they ever fall on hard times.
4. Life is about people who show up
Kids need examples of good leadership. The first leader they see is the adult they grew up with. If you fail to show up in life, you give them permission to do the same. If you are quick to blame others, they notice and make that a part of their identity too. If you take over their responsibilities and failures, they learn that someone else will always be there to clean up their mess. As adults we should lead from the front. Effective leaders learn and grow. That means we should acknowledge our own mistakes and give our kids permission to acknowledge theirs.
When we help our kids realize making mistakes is a part of our human nature, we remind them to not be cynical of the mistakes made by others. We remind them that getting up and having the courage to make mistakes is proof that we are showing up.
5. Life is about the quality of your values
Most of life’s dissatisfaction comes from not fully understanding where we stand and how it relates to others in a big picture. As a parent we tend to tell our kids which values they should prioritize. If we haven’t taken the time to fully understand our own personal philosophy, how can we guide our children to live by their own values?
Talk to your child about the purpose behind each of those little boring details in life. Help them understand why those things matter. Resiliency comes from these small boring moments. First by making us aware of how the little things connect with a bigger picture. Then by the moments that challenge and question the validity of our values. They add to our character in unseen but profound ways. Figure out your values. Understand the purpose of those values. Act on them.
Being a parent has changed the way I look at the world and made me more aware of what I am teaching my kids. It is not a job I take lightly and I am glad to do it.
To all who wear the mantel-Cheers!