We are spiritual beings living a human existence.
Faith, religion, and spirituality—wow, that sounds deep! Deep? Maybe so—but faith, religion, and spirituality are absolutely critical to being “successful” in life. That is why this subject was chosen as the 10th Kidmandment. This is the CORNERSTONE of a worthwhile and happy life, and we must get it right. Therefore, let’s start out with some definitions.
Faith is a belief and trust in a Higher Power, even when there is no empirical proof. Faith is the belief in something bigger governing the universe; something more than our own existence in this human dimension. When we have faith, we feel there is a force greater than ourselves to whom we can turn for help at any time for guidance and strength, especially during times of crisis.
It is not necessary to go to church to have faith. Faith is something we carry within our hearts and souls at all times—not just on Sundays.
True faith is believing in things we cannot perceive through the five senses, but which can be felt through the sixth sense: intuition.
If we are in touch with our intuition, we can see, touch, feel and hear signs of our faith around us; whether in the sound of rain dropping, the splendor of a rainbow, on our children’s faces or in the feeling of sand beneath our feet. Reasons for faith are all around us—if we open our hearts and souls to its messages.
Religion is fairly straightforward. This is probably why more people are comfortable with religion than pure spirituality. According to religioustolerance. org, religion may be defined as, “Any system of belief about a deity, often involving rituals, a code of ethics, a philosophy of life, and a worldview.” This means we are given beliefs or a specific code by the community or religious body we adhere to.
The problem with religion is there are more than 4,000 options, with 22 major religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Within each religion there are untold numbers of denominations. According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, Christianity alone has 33,820 denominations to choose among. How’s that for confusing?
Spirituality is much harder to define, but clearly is different from religion. Unfortunately, these two words are often used interchangeably, which makes a complicated subject matter even more complex and confusing.
Spirituality is what brings purpose and meaning to life. It is our connection with our Creator and that innate desire to figure out life’s big questions, like, “Who am I?” “What happens to me when I die?” and “What is my purpose?”
Being in touch with our own spirituality helps us understand our purpose in the world, appreciate the lives we have been given and feel a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves.
But as great as spirituality is, without religion, spirituality alone easily separates people when everyone makes God into their own image. As you can imagine, this may cause as many problems as it solves. The goal is to celebrate the way in which God has made Himself known to us without being overly restrictive in how we teach our children to believe.
One more definition before we go: We’ve all heard the expression, “Higher Power.” Some of us may wonder, “What is a Higher Power? Is it the same thing as God?”
The term Higher Power allows people of all belief systems to associate with the God, Goddess or Supreme Being of their choice. F
or many Americans, the Christian or Jewish God is our personal deity. For others, as in Native American religions, nature, animal totems, ancestors and the Universe itself are perceived as the Great Spirit.
It is only our belief in a Higher Power that provides us with hope that He will see us through our lives, and deliver us into Heaven, the Other Side, Nirvana, or the Holy Realms. Through our belief in a Higher Power we consider that our actions may have consequences in an afterlife.
Okay, enough textbook learning. Let’s just say it’s no wonder that more and more people are turning away from formal places of worship. With so many options and so much information, religion itself is turning people away from God.
Prior to the invention of the printing press, we basically had the choice between one or two religions. That was it. In the old days, hardly anyone had access to a bible. You were told what you needed to know by family, friends and spiritual leaders, and you either accepted it as truth or rejected it.
But today we are living in such different times! Yet often we are teaching our children about religion the same way. The problem is, we are getting totally different results—and those results are disastrous.
The good news is that there is something we can do. Good Parents teach their children about religion. Great Parents teach their children the differences among faith, religion and spirituality (FRS).
Sure, in the beginning, most children will start out practicing their parents’ religion. But at some point they’ll feel a need to validate it for themselves. Some become so disenchanted with the whole religion thing they opt out of believing altogether. They reject the message based on their judgments of the messengers. Some choose to keep practicing their parents’ religion, just to keep peace and harmony in the family. Others actively seek out a religion they feel is right for them, one in which they have a relationship with God that works for them. It is options one and two that should concern us parents enough to really evaluate what we are teaching and how we are teaching it, to make sure this doesn’t happen to our children.
Not to oversimplify this subject, but if we teach our kids the differences associated with FRS, we greatly decrease our chances of having them give up on religion. We can’t take a chance on having children who get disheartened with religion and toss God out in their frustration. Understanding the differences among these concepts is what helps them understand that religion is manmade, while spirituality is something much deeper.
We can’t afford to take a chance on letting our kids’ FRS be confusing. There are way too many advantages to having FRS in our lives.
Many of us were not raised with a deeply rooted spirituality; as a result, we grew up empty, without faith, like our parents. If that describes your family, or someone you love, and you don’t want to perpetuate that lifestyle on your children, now is the time to teach them about FRS.
One of the many wonderful things that come from FRS is the ability to instill morals, ethics and values. Certainly parents may teach these concepts without FRS; but the difference is that when Mom and Dad say something, well, that’s it, Mom and Dad said it. However, when a third party says something, it must be true—especially when that third party is God! The point is, FRS provides a structure to teach and instill morals, ethics and values into your kids. While we could debate whether or not you need FRS to teach these behaviors, what is not debatable is that it’s impossible to raise a “successful” child without morals, ethics and values that resonate from within.
There are so many benefits of FRS, this chapter could go on and on. Let’s just say that FRS is needed now and in the future and, who knows, establishing and maintaining a relationship with a Higher Power might even save your soul!
Make money your god and it will plague you like the devil.
Ohh, the magic of money. If only I had more, I would be so happy! Do you ever feel that way? If so, you are not alone. Many people spend their whole lives trying to make more money and ultimately find they can never make enough to become happy. Studies prove that happiness is found within, in the pursuit of doing something you love rather than in having money itself. Unfortunately, way too many of us were never taught this little nugget and, when we finally figured it out on our own, it was too late in life to be much help.
Wanting money for the right reasons is natural and something that should not be demonized. Money is neither good nor bad; it is simply a tool. Money is nothing more than an amplifier; if you are a rotten person and you win the lottery, you will be even more rotten.
Supporting our families, putting a roof over their heads, having cars, making our lives easier—are all valid reasons for wanting more money.
Unfortunately, American culture has got it backwards. Today we work more for money and the accumulation of material possessions, rather than finding something we truly enjoy doing. When we pursue money for the wrong reasons, it can be harmful to an adult’s psyche. For example, charging a new pair of shoes you can’t afford to your credit card in the hopes that you will “feel good” about yourself is a dangerous way to learn to love yourself and/or life. Teaching our children about Kidmandment #9 should be one of every parent’s top responsibilities.
Understanding WHY we need to teach our kids about money is easy; all we have to do is look around. Some people never seem to struggle with money, while others seem to be drowning in negative energy about money their whole lives, destroying their chances for happiness in their worry over money.
Needless to say, teaching our children how to avoid life’s potential potholes is a fundamental responsibility of parenting. That includes showing them—by example—the importance of doing something we love. They need to see us wake up every day pursuing our passions, instead of dragging ourselves to work just to collect a paycheck to survive.
Great Parents teach their children to respect money at a very early age. They do this by teaching them that money doesn’t grow on trees—and reinforcing that they don’t get everything they want. It also means they don’t deserve money simply for being born or living in their house. Not-so-great parents give their kids everything they want, and unintentionally deprive them of the joy (and the experience) of earning money.
Please, don’t get tricked into believing you are doing your children any favors by giving them everything they want. It sets a horrible example and teaches them no values. Instead, allow them the experience of working hard; then, once the job is over, celebrate the achievement by rewarding them with money. Take that connection away and you have done a disservice to your children.
The good news is this can all be avoided. While it seems old fashioned to expect our children to “produce” and “to earn their keep,” this is one old fashioned piece of parental knowledge that simply cannot be ignored.
Once children are old enough to start asking for things, they are old enough to start doing small tasks for which they are financially rewarded. Once compensated, they should be taught the importance of saving a portion, giving away a portion and keeping the balance to spend as they please.
Kids who learn the correlation between work and money grow up appreciating what they have and possess a sense of pride that can only come from earning money.
It’s up to us to see that they are given this opportunity and it is not stolen from them under the false pretense of doing them a favor. Sheryl Crow has a song “Soak up the Sun” with a great lyric, “It’s not having what you want; it’s wanting what you’ve got.” Wow, great advice from a great songwriter!
Children who have always been given what they want are more inclined to struggle with money in the real world. Once they get older, it doesn’t take long to find out that money earned is a direct reflection of their efforts—and they are shocked. While still reeling from that little doozie, they get a double whammy when they find out how much everything costs! This is the same stuff that not long ago was free and easily provided for them. This reality can cause people to become angry, depressed and maybe even feel a little cheated—because they are used to getting a free lunch, which no longer exists. Should we blame the kids? No. The blame belongs squarely on the shoulders of the parents who “spoiled” their children, gave them everything they wanted—and then expected them to magically know how to be responsible once they became adults. And yet, it’s hard to blame the parents who just want their children “to have it easier than we had it.” This is natural and, yet, families who follow this path typically have disastrous results for both parent and child.
If all this isn’t enough to make you lose sleep, there is one more thing to worry about when it comes to money: Some people grow up believing that the more money they have equates to them being more of a person. Somehow, they associate who they are with their material possessions. Unfortunately this causes them to worry about how others perceive them. How they are seen by others turns into how they view themselves—and round and round we go. No matter what they have or what they accumulate, it is never enough. They will always need more and want something else, believing that when they get it… then they will be happy.
Material possessions are not bad, in and of themselves; it’s only when people define themselves, or when they think they are better or worse than others, based upon what they have or don’t have. When we allow the Ego to drive our emotions and actions, we falsely believe we must “be someone” to be someone. This is a slippery slope that is quite difficult to get off.
Now is the time to teach our children about money and materialism, so they don’t spend years learning it the hard way as adults. One day, they will grow up, be on their own and have to earn everything for themselves. If we are lucky, they will find paths they love that pay them what they want/need. However, if they are not so fortunate, at least they will have learned that money itself is not the key to happiness.
True happiness is found within, in the giving and in the receiving from the heart.
Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
Native American wisdom offers us the concept of the Wellness Circle. It describes the four most important aspects of life: the physical (what we do) the mental (what we think) the emotional (what we feel) and the spiritual (what we believe).
It is believed that when these four elements work together in proper balance, a person is well.
Wellness is more than just the absence of disease or enjoyment of good health. Kidmandment #8 is designed to create awareness that good health should consider our minds, bodies, and spirits working together. Surely, nothing is more important than our health. Mahatma Gandhi said, “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” Most people would agree with that statement—but how many of us make health a priority in our lives?
As we know by now, if we’re not good role models by living healthy lives, and having healthy bodies, we have little right to expect our kids to become healthy adults. These are concepts that we need to teach. If they see us consistently making efforts to be healthy, that will stick with them for the rest of their lives. This is not to say that parents who are not specimens of health cannot have healthy children; obviously, that is not the case. However, if we are out of whack and making poor health choices, it is highly likely our children will, too. After all, we can hardly expect to indulge in bags of potato chips and beer and think they won’t do the same once they are making nutritional decisions for themselves.
How do we instill good eating habits in our kids? The answer seems simple since we have total control over their diet while they are very young. During these years, make sure to serve them healthful, age-appropriate foods, limiting sweets and sodas. Make sure they get adequate amounts of protein and low-fat carbohydrates (fruits and vegetables). Please, for the sake of your children, don’t be weak! Don’t cave in and give them what they want. A couple of missed meals as a toddler are far better than a lifetime of bad eating habits.
Sure, it sounds good, if we can do it. But the problem is, not all of us want to do it—or even feel we could live a life without chicken nuggets and fast-food burgers. What then?
All of us can make some gradual changes, for our own sake as well as our children’s. If we are aware of the potential harm we are doing to our children, are passionate about their success, and make it a priority, we will do better.
Even those of us who don’t want to embrace a full-out healthy-eating lifestyle can make some minor positive changes in our lives. And believe me, even small changes add up!
If you’re carrying extra weight and having trouble eating healthfully, admit this to your kids—especially if you use it as a learning experience and explain to them that you will do your best to keep them from making the same mistakes you have made. Good parents tell the kids what they should do. Great parents admit their problems to their children and demonstrate that parents are just as much subject to human frailty as anyone else. This isn’t as effective as setting a good example, but it’s far better than denying what we are doing. Good Parents support children who are struggling with their weight. Great parents do everything in their power to keep bad habits from forming.
Making strict family laws (e.g., “This family is never allowed to eat fast food.”) is usually a mistake. Whenever we outright prohibit something, we make it far more interesting and attractive to our kids. It’s better to teach them that a steady diet of McDonalds is unhealthful, but there’s nothing wrong with an occasional burger and fries. If you don’t make a big deal out of it, your child gets the message: Everything is better in moderation. The point is, we are in control over our diet. I love Zig Ziglar’s quote, “I never accidentally ate anything! “
Some of us are born wanting to play sports and exercise, while others have no interest whatsoever in sports. Much of this, as well as our eating habits and body shape, comes from our genetics.
Knowing this, we can do something about it. For some of us, working out is just that: work. Once again, the answer is moderation. We don’t have to be great athletes to make exercise a priority and stress how important it is to our kids
Living a healthful lifestyle is not a complicated concept. We need to burn more calories than we eat—period. We choose what we eat and, based upon our caloric intake, we choose how much we will need to burn. Every 3,500 extra calories not burned turns into a pound of extra weight. The key is awareness and education. Once you understand how many calories and grams of fat are in the things we eat every day, you can find a form of exercise you will tolerate, if not enjoy. If you don’t, you will add weight every year.
As long as we get ourselves out there and move, we’re on the right path; and if our kids are on the path with us, so much the better. The two biggest health problems we face as parents today are obesity and eating disorders. Both are at epidemic levels in our country—and both are within our control.
One caution; We must be very careful that in trying to teach our children to “eat right,” we don’t push or even intimidate them so much that we end up with children who are afraid to eat even a green bean without being looked at funny, or who throw up their lunch for fear of gaining extra weight. These are the real dangers if we push our children too hard to be “fit and healthy,” instead of teaching them healthful eating habits.
It’s far better to stick with a long-term healthy lifestyle than to ever use the term “diet” in our homes. Though there is an obsession with dieting in our country, diets fail. Having children “diet” is degrading and sets them up for failure when they put the weight back on again—which, unfortunately, is the ultimate result for nearly all diet programs.
If we want our children to grow up happy, healthy, and wise, then teaching them to eat right and exercise must be a priority. The emotional and physical benefits are gifts that will last them well into adulthood—and into parenthood, so they may pass them on to the next generation.
The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity.
When did words like rules, respect and repercussions (the 3 Rs) become bad words? It seems as the 1900s came to an end, fewer and fewer parents embraced the importance of these concepts.
I am not exactly sure why the 3 Rs went out of style; we all know that once our little babies grow up, leave the nest and get into the “real world,” they are quickly going to learn that the “real world” does indeed have spoken and unspoken rules, respect and repercussions.
Truth be told, these are NOT negative words. In fact, teaching Kidmandment #7 is actually positive—and crucial if we expect to have a happy and healthy family life.
Families who do not consistently practice the 3 Rs are more likely to experience problems with things like drugs, teen pregnancy, skipping school, poor grades and disrespectful attitudes. And when these problems rear their ugly heads, we only have one person to blame.
That’s right, it’s not the kids, it’s us. Okay, maybe not 100%, but certainly a big part of the problem falls squarely on our shoulders.
Sure, you can debate the “nature vs. nurture” argument; but they are living in our home, following our rules and dealing with the consequences we have established. When it comes to raising respectful children, chances are we all have at least a little room to improve.
We might as well attempt to get better since, not surprisingly, most of us will experience these types of challenges to some degree. Awareness of an opportunity to do better (often commonly referred to as a ‘problem’) and accepting responsibility for it is a big part of what is needed to improve any situation.
In order to create as much positive energy as we can, it is important that we communicate what is expected—early and often. When rules are vague and/or not communicated clearly, we create confusion and unnecessary negative energy in the home. Plainly defining rules eliminates any chance for mutual mystification. Kids want to please their parents. Clearly knowing what is expected helps them anticipate consequences and strategize success. The good thing is that we don’t need to have advanced psychology degrees to know what is right and wrong for our families; we just need to be consistent.
One of the rules we need to teach our children concerns manners. Novelist Laurence Sterne once said, “Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners.”
Teaching good manners is not complicated. It is as simple as teaching things like saying “yes sir,” “no sir,” or addressing their elders as Mr. and Mrs. If parents don’t pass down these basic concepts from to the next generation—like looking someone in the eye when talking to them—who will?
Respect for authority is a natural outcome of following rules like this. Although some might disagree, having respect is not a “nice to have” it is a “must have.” This is vitally important because children who have respect for themselves, for the gifts they have been given in life and for others are typically people who are more apt to grow up appreciating what they have. It doesn’t matter if our children are brilliant, talented and incredibly good looking; if they do not appreciate what they have, respect themselves and others, it will be almost impossible for them to achieve “success.”
Unfortunately, when our household doesn’t practice the 3 Rs, we create a breeding ground for a dysfunctional family. Simply put, a dysfunctional family is in a constant state of chaos. None of us wants this for our family, but this is what comes when we have unclear rules, no respect for authority and inconsistent consequences. Just because we kiss our children goodnight, send them to private schools, buy them Prada sunglasses and tell them we love them does not make up for the damage we are doing to them by not teaching the 3 Rs.
So, how do we keep this from happening? Simple. Communicate what is expected and establish boundaries. Just as it is hard to feel safe driving on the highway when you don’t know where your lane ends and the oncoming traffic begins, so it is at home.
When the rules are broken, allow your children to experience the “pain” of going outside the boundaries. Once the rules have been communicated, there must be consequences if they are not followed. You might think you are doing your kids a favor by “being nice”; but you are not! You are teaching them habits that will do nothing but harm them and the family now and in the future. So do your kids a favor and hold them accountable to the boundaries you have established with them. Whatever you do, do not create consequences you cannot or do not intend to follow through with. This perpetuates the dysfunctional family and is something you are 100% in control over. That means if you threatened to punish them, punish them, making it clear that your intent is to protect them and help them to be more effective in fulfilling their needs. Both parents must hold each other accountable for not making empty promises. And somebody in the family must be the “enforcer.” But the enforcer must act in a calm and rational manner.
By removing all anger and negative emotions from the punishment, you will be teaching with love rather than simply reacting to events. If you see discipline as something difficult, then you might have “head trash” that may be harming your family dynamics. Discipline should be seen as a learning opportunity, not something done simply to punish someone.
Remember, when it comes to communication, frequency is always better than intensity. That means communicating often is much better than waiting until you are so mad you blow up and scream. Instead, calmly and without negative emotions (i.e., screaming, yelling, wild threats etc.), tell your children what you want and why you want it. Good Parents tell. Great Parents teach. When people understand why a rule is in place, they are more likely to accept it because they understand the philosophy behind it. It doesn’t mean we necessarily have to agree with it; but without understanding why, we are forced to participate blindly in someone else’s game.
Let’s face it, chances are people reading this book love their children and want to be better parents. The question is, What are we going to do to get better? Having the courage to consistently practice the 3 Rs will help you and your family have the success you want for generations to come.
I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.
There are so many wonderful gifts we can give our children, yet so little time to make it happen. Inspiring another to love to learn and seeing the impact it has on living a truly fulfilled life has got to be one of those gifts—and is why it is the Sixth Kidmandment.
Finding sustainable joy in life is so much easier when we live a life of ongoing learning. The term “learning” encompasses so many arenas of life—far more than just scholastics. Learning has the power to transform us mentally, spiritually, psychologically and physically. Learning allows us to explore new adventures, experience new opportunities, meet new challenges, develop new skills, stimulate our brains, solve new problems, change our attitudes—the list goes on and on.
As human beings, we are uniquely adapted to learn. Our brains thrive on stimulation, and our talents lie dormant if we don’t constantly challenge ourselves. Without growth and new experiences, it is easy to get bored and live an apathetic life.
Raising “successful” children is a very personal thing, and it may mean significantly different things to different people. However, no matter what your definition of “success,” it will be hard to accomplish it without fostering a love for lifelong learning.
By encouraging others to learn, we help them find the internal motivation they seek and the knowledge required to succeed in just about anything they set their minds to. Learning makes us alive!
But if this is true, why do so many of us stop learning so early in life? Perhaps because some were never challenged; and others never found anything worth exploring. Both of these scenarios are preventable when children have passionate parents. However, inspiring others is not an easy task, especially if we are living unfulfilled lives ourselves. It’s difficult to pass along the joy of learning to our children if we have found no joy in it ourselves. But great parents always find ways to break this vicious cycle and give their children something money could never buy.
The good news is this doesn’t mean we need to go back to school in order to be positive role models. Far from it! Whatever you’re passionate about is good enough—as long as you are still learning and growing yourself! If you love to tinker with old cars, or work out rigorously, this will inspire your children to find something they are equally passionate about.
When it comes to being a good role model, there are basically two extremes: teach by example and the choice is up to you. At one extreme, we have those who sit around and complain about how “life isn’t fair,” while doing little to change it. At the other are those who are conscious creators of their own reality. These people are the consummate ongoing learners, those who take the time to dream and plan their own lives
Unfortunately, dreaming and planning is not something that you typically learn about in fourth grade—or any grade, for that matter. This is something people usually learn on their own. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We need to teach our children to take charge of their lives by setting goals and taking action to achieve them.
Goal setting and lifelong learning go hand in hand. Goals provide us the direction in which we want to move our lives. They allow us to relearn new skills, evolve as people and adapt to new challenges. Physics tells us that an object in motion stays in motion; it could also be said that someone with no goals will have no motion. Can you say “Boring”?
What is important is that you are aware of your own skill sets in the area of goal setting, so you may decide if you want to or need to improve for yourself and your family.
Please remember, learning is not just for economic or career success. Learning new skills is necessary to handle our ever-changing lives. If we, or our children, hope to thrive in this complex world, we must be able to obtain, assimilate and apply knowledge effectively. Bernard Iddings Bell once said, “A good education is not so much one which prepares a man to succeed in the world, as one which enables him to sustain a failure.”
Failure is a part of life. Children who are comfortable in their ability to gain and assimilate knowledge will be more confident and better prepared to deal with the challenges that are ahead of them.
The key is for our children to want to learn for the joy of learning for its own sake. The hard part is teaching our children how to truly enjoying learning. Typically, it starts with children who have success early on in life. So anything we can do to help our children identify the subjects, sports, musical and creative outlets that might interest them and consequently lead them to victory will greatly benefit them later in life.
Try to understand what they are most passionate about, then facilitate opportunities for them to experience success in those areas. Focus on the positive, and make it fun every step of the way. Remind them that life is about the journey, not the destination. Doing so reinforces the importance of personal growth and self improvement, not necessarily the end result.
When it comes to textbook learning, parents need to understand how their child learns best. Not all kids learn alike. We learn through all our senses; some learn better visually, some through auditory instruction and others through hands-on learning. Some require more than one style to be fully able to absorb information.
Also, different children need different environments in which to concentrate. Find out where your child does best and provide it. Once you have a good grasp on what they are interested in, how and where they learn best, you will have a much better chance of raising children who love to learn.
Good Parents teach their children to read and do their homework. Great Parents teach their children to love to learn. How are you doing? In the end, a child who has a desire to serve others, and learn new skills, will never live a boring, lonely, unfulfilling life—all of us should be so lucky!
Some of the biggest challenges in relationships come from the fact that most people enter a relationship in order to get something. They’re trying to find someone who’s going to make them feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.
Have you ever noticed how almost every problem you have ever had can be traced back to relationships, or the lack thereof? Often, our inability to communicate effectively hinders us most.
Almost all arguments, intimacy problems or challenges (personal and professional) are related to relationship and communication problems. This affects our health, our minds and our energy level and is why Kidmandment #5 focuses on improving these skills.
One key fact about communication is that we cannot NOT communicate. We communicate by our presence or our absence, our silence or our words, our gestures and our attitudes. Whether we realize it or not, we are always communicating. The way we communicate may not necessarily be effective or constructive; but we are communicating, nonetheless.
Of course, there are many different types of relationships: lovers, friends, co-workers and family members, just to name a few. Everyone’s definition of a great relationship is somewhat different, but we can all agree that life may be experienced and defined by our relationships. Unless we live out our lives in a vacuum, the quality of our relationships dictates the quality of our lives.
Chances are that anyone reading this book already knows the importance of having quality relationships. Whether at home, school or work, relationships matter. They make a difference in our hearts and souls, and affect not only how we feel about life in general, but also how we feel about ourselves.
The challenge is not in convincing our children that relationships are important. The challenge is teaching them HOW to build wonderful, lasting relationships with the people they love.
One of the best ways to teach these skills to our kids is to focus on integrity and character—and the importance of choosing friends based upon these traits. Unfortunately, children and adults often base their relationships on someone else’s personality and popularity rather than their true character and worth. The foundation of any relationship should be a person’s morals, values and ethics. These are the elements necessary for a lasting relationship.
Trust is built upon experience. It comes from seeing people do what they say they are going to do over and over again, and “coming through” on their promises.
For this reason, it makes sense to hold off calling someone “a true friend” until we’ve known them for quite some time and have developed respect and real trust for them.
Trust is not easily earned. Heck, most of us are challenged by communicating honestly with ourselves, let alone with others. Just look at all the people who appear happy on the outside, but are miserable on the inside. We see this every day in politicians, preachers and movie stars who have a hard time having relationships with themselves, let alone forging committed relationships with other people.
Good communication skills don’t always come naturally; this is something we all need to work on developing. Perhaps we don’t have these skills because we were never taught by our parents or our teachers. The good news is you get to choose what you want to do for your children. Good Parents teach their kids how to talk. Great Parents spend years teaching their children how to be great listeners and communicators.
But, as we now know, there is so much more to communication than just talking. Nonverbal communication is perhaps more important than verbal communication. Our tone of voice, our body posture, our facial expressions, our ability to make direct eye contact, our ability to listen, as well as physical contact—these are all vital communication skills.
As parent-teachers, these are skills we need to teach our kids while they’re young. It is as simple as teaching them to look someone else in their eyes and give them a warm smile to brighten their day. If this is a priority for you and your family, you will find they may learn good communication skills with just a little effort.
In addition to being a good communicator, there are many things we can do to enhance our relationships with others. Validation may be the most important “non spoken-about” skill that should be taught in every household and school. When we validate people, we acknowledge and accept them for who they are, for their individuality. We let them know that they matter; they are important to us and we care about them. Children need to know you believe they are the greatest so they may believe the same. Validation not only helps our relationships but it helps elevate others’ self esteem and self confidence. In a world where self confidence is often a direct reflection on one’s appearance or bank-account size, anything we can do to make someone feel good about himself or herself is another gift we can give our friends and family. Remember, how you treat and talk about others and how you treat and talk to your children is how they will likely treat and talk about others. Validate others and you give them the approval to believe in themselves.
So, if we think about it, Kidmandment #5 isn’t just about becoming a good listener and communicator, or how to be in a great relationship; it is about understanding the importance of others and our impact on them and them on us.
Nothing great can be accomplished without the help of others. If we hope to have any chance of achieving our life’s purpose, our path, our spirituality, our love of learning or any of the other Kidmandments, we need to embrace and cherish the opportunity to be with and interact with others. Teach your children these skills and you teach them lessons that will exponentially affect their lives.
Having spent the better part of my life trying either to relive the past or experience the future before it arrives, I have come to understand that in between these two extremes is the place to be.
Living your life in the present is absolutely necessary in order to get the most out of life. It sounds like a cliché to say ‘live in the present’; but, in reality, many of us live everywhere except the present moment. Living our lives in the present is a struggle we all face from time to time; that is why this was chosen as the Fourth Kidmandment.
In order for us to teach our children about this concept, we need to understand WHY living in the present is so important, and what the CONSEQUENCES are if we spend too much time either dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
In order to live a life filled with excitement, we must be conscious creators of our own lives. Living in the present helps us be aware of who we are and what we are feeling, by being in touch with our natural energy force. Being conscious of what we are doing in the present—without being influenced by past experiences, fears or emotions—is the doorway to experiencing a natural state of peace. Learning the joy of just “being” is the only way true happiness may be found. The fact of the matter is that the only thing that is real is the present moment. The past is gone; the future is not yet here. So living in the present is our only opportunity to fulfill our hopes and dreams.
Good Parents quote sayings like, “Don’t cry over spilled milk!” Simple, trite sayings like this are nice, but they are superficial. Great Parents go deeper and teach their children about living in the present. By doing so, they arm their children with the tools they need to let go of negative words and negative energy from the past and just enjoy the moment at hand—so they may choose how to positively perceive this present moment.
It is a simple concept, yet a tremendously difficult one to achieve. There are many reasons for this; one of which is that most of us were never taught this concept ourselves.
Let’s not make this mistake for our children. If we introduce this concept at a young age, before they have already learned bad habits, it will be much easier for them to embrace.
It’s never too early to instill these important beliefs in our kids. Of course, it’s never too late, either. Even teens can and will follow our lead, given the opportunity. After all, teens want to be happy too—no matter how hard they may try to hide it.
All of us have been insulted—called “dopey,” “fat” or “ugly”—sometimes, and most painfully, by people we love. Often, we hold on to this “old baggage,” these painful memories and hurt, the rest of our lives.
The scary part is, the more we repeat these insults in our thoughts, the longer we continue to live in the past. And the longer we live in the past, the more baggage we carry. Unfortunately, the more baggage we carry, the more we associate ourselves with negative events and name calling; ultimately, we may define ourselves by those events or insults. Events become stories; stories become labels. Labels begin to stick and dramatically limit our creativity.
Our self esteem can only handle so much negative talk! Before long, we start believing all that crap! People who live in the past suffer because of the pain associated with these negative labels; they allow themselves to get trapped in negative images of themselves.
Instead, what we want for our children (and for ourselves) is to learn from the past, grow stronger and move on.
Living in the past isn’t our only problem. It’s just as destructive for us to live in the future! Some of us fall into the dangerous “I will be happy when…” syndrome.
The problem with living in the future is that it implies that we are not—or cannot be—happy in the present.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t set long-term goals; far from it. We should think ahead, plan for the future and look forward to it, yes. But planning for and eagerly anticipating the future is vastly different from simply believing that “when the future comes,” then we will be happy.
So, how can we teach our kids to keep from living in the past, live happily in the present and help them look forward to a great future?
Actually, this, too, is pretty easy to do: by our actions, of course. If we live in the past—complaining about things that happened to us when we were kids or our spouse’s actions from years ago—this is what our children will learn. If we live in the past, our children will learn to live in the past, no matter what we tell them.
If we live in the future—always talking about how great things will be once we retire, or once we get remarried or when we build the dream house we hope to end up in—we’re unintentionally teaching them that happiness does not come from within, here and now, but only from tomorrow and years to come.
Therefore, we should live our own lives in the present and “model” to our kids that nothing is more rewarding than a good workout, reading a good book or hanging out with friends—today. Our actions will teach them that a Jaguar, a Rolex or a seaside cottage with its own private lagoon will not make them happy, but that happiness comes from within— living in the present moment.
Try to remember that people in general will only listen to half of what we say, but twice of what we do! So I challenge you: Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 on how well you are doing at living your life in the present.
Living your life in the present will not only be doing yourself a favor, but will tech your kids one of the 10 most important skills.
What the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.
Great coaches motivate others to want to be better. As parents, we are our children’s first and most important coaches. Kidmandment #3 is all about motivating our children HOW to live the lives of their dreams by having great attitudes.
Children who grow up with positive mental attitudes (commonly referred to as PMAs) are those who radiate contagious positive energy, believe anything is possible and are appreciative of all of the gifts they have been given.
One of the greatest gifts our Creator gave us (only us, as it is also what separates us from the animal kingdom) was the ability to choose our thoughts. One of the greatest gifts parents can give their children is to teach them HOW.
Charles Swindoll said, “I am convinced that life is ten percent what happens to me and ninety percent how I react to it” and, “The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace from that day.”
Another way of thinking about this is that people of average intelligence and great attitudes will almost always be more successful than brilliant people with negative, self-doubting beliefs. Nothing is more destructive in life than negative, self-doubting beliefs. It is up to us, the parents, to make our children’s home a positive environment. Teach children to deposit the good thoughts into their brains (as if they were bank accounts) while discarding the rest. Praise them publicly when you catch them with the right attitude and gently remind them privately when they are being negative. Remember, whatever you focus more of your energy on is what you will get more of. The choice is yours.
When our children embrace the power of PMA, they grow up with the ability to love and respect themselves, to give to others and to be in healthy relationships. They will be happier, healthier and more likely to be surrounded by winners.
Those without PMA—or those who feel that life is against them—will find it difficult to achieve peace and happiness. Their negative thoughts and beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies and may unintentionally create a downward spiral, resulting in more of what they think about and focus on. Living with negative energy and thoughts may lead people into feeling sorry for themselves and make them more likely to use drugs and alcohol to cope with their unhappiness. Once someone loses self confidence, that person becomes a follower rather than a leader and is less likely to feel hopeful. This is destructive for anyone but especially for parents, because they often end up passing their own negativity on to their children.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. As parents, if we can help people change their thoughts from negative to positive, we can give them hope. Hope provides us with the energy to keep going during the toughest times in life. Hope gives us a reason to live—and PMA is what leads to hope.
Still, just having hope is not enough. Positive thinking needs to be followed by positive doing. Someone who is not achieving what he desires in life is probably struggling with controlling his thoughts, feelings and/ or actions.
For example, if we allow our negative thoughts to dictate our feelings, we are more apt to believe we don’t deserve any better. We take no action to get out because we accept having a less-than-amazing life. Victims allow themselves to be bullied and abused and they participate in relationships that perpetuate the negativity. These people set extremely low goals for themselves (if they set any at all) because they don’t believe they are deserving of anything good.
This is in stark contrast to those who love and respect themselves, feel empowered and seek out healthy relationships. These people believe they are called to help others and themselves, and they are free to pursue their personal goals and dreams. People with PMA expect something special from their lives and they possess the confidence to set and achieve goals that make them “successful.” They realize that, like all people, they have flaws. And they have learned to accept their flaws as well as respect themselves for their best qualities, or who they are in their totality.
Wow! That sounds great. Just one problem: Since we, as parents, can’t control our children’s thoughts, we must rely on the tremendous amount of influence we have while they are young.
Henry Ford said, “If you think you can or if you think you can’t… you are right.” In other words, if you have decided you cannot influence your children and/or believe you are not a major part of the results of your family’s attitude and results … then you are right! However, those who believe they can make a difference will make a difference!
Yes, we can make a difference in our children’s lives. For example, next time you want to influence someone’s attitude by giving a compliment, listen to how you deliver the message. In order for compliments to be effective, it is crucial that we be truthful, specific and positive (TSP). If you were Suzy, which compliment would you rather receive?
“Suzy, I am so proud of you for the way you helped your sister feel better about herself by taking the time to listen to her today. Turning your phone off and asking good questions really showed her that you care.”
“Suzy, I love you so much and am so proud of you! Thanks for being such a good kid.”
Notice the difference? The first is TSP; the second is nice to hear, but it comes across as vague and shallow.
If giving compliments isn’t your style, ask your children what they like about themselves and encourage them to answer being TSP. Remember, coachable moments with our children are always more effective when the “student” is talking and the “teacher” is listening. Good Parents talk more and listen less. Great Parents talk less, ask great questions and listen more.
EMOTIONAL CONTROL (EC) is another concept you need to teach your children to improve their chances of having positive mental attitudes (PMAs). EC is your ability to control your emotions, as opposed to your emotions controlling you. We all know of people who are so emotional that they become irrational. Some people are born with this predisposition; others learn it from their parents. These people have a difficult time having long-term positive relationships.
Here is the tough part. If you don’t love yourself unconditionally it will be difficult, if not impossible to expect anyone—including your children—to love themselves unconditionally. If you don’t have a PMA, now is the time to start working on it for yourself and for your family. Without having a PMA yourself, it is much harder to implant a positive sense of self within your children. However, when you do, you will feel great about the fact that you have given them a wonderful gift that will last a lifetime. You will know when the world knocks your child down a little, they’ll know how to take a fall, and get back on their feet on their own, with a smile and say “That’s it!? That’s all you’ve got?” The point is, happy, positive, goal setting parents are more likely to raise happy, positive, goal setting children. So lead by example and become the person you want your children to be.
The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created—created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them, changes both the maker and the destination.
PATHS are how we achieve our PURPOSE. PATHS are those roles we play in life to achieve “success.” Roles like being a parent, a sibling, a son/daughter, an entrepreneur, an employee and/or a coach. Sometimes we have just one, sometimes we have many. Sometimes we choose our roles and sometimes they are imposed upon. No matter what, they constantly change over time.
Teaching our kids how PATHS help them achieve their PURPOSE is Kidmandment #2 because it is a necessary step for them to develop their independence and feel like they are in control of their own lives. Although you might not be ready to relinquish your power and control, the sooner you teach your children about defining their own PURPOSE and PATHS in life, the better off the family will be. Sooner is better than later because we don’t know whether our kids will philosophize on these issues as teenagers going through tough times or wait until they are adults doing some serious soul searching. What we do know is that at some point they will try to answer questions like, “Why am I here?” or “Where am I going?” or even “How can I get to where I want to go?” The more proactive we are in teaching them about having a PUROSE and a PATH, the better chance we have of making a positive impact on their lives.
Just as with PURPOSE… Good Parents will say it is best to let their children figure this stuff out on their own; often times, this is how they figured it out themselves. Great Parents will see the value in accepting responsibility for teaching these concepts and will take action.
The decision is obviously yours, but children who understand this is their life—and their time to explore and discover—are in a much better position to make good choices. Granted, our children’s most important choices about life PATHS won’t begin until they are older. But don’t wait! Now is the time to teach them the skills they need to be “successful.” Those who grasp these concepts will have more confidence in life, because they know they are in control. They realize they have the ability to choose PATHS that help them accomplish their dreams. Confidence is one of the foundational blocks needed to be “successful” in life. Once we understand that we can—and indeed, must—choose our own PATHS, we feel more alive, empowered and happy. Isn’t that what we all want from life? We want to feel like we are in control over our own destinies.
We want to feel the excitement, the fun and even the liberation of being the master of our own domain.
Accepting the responsibility of being in control creates awareness that life offers so many wonderful options; all we have to do is find the ones we’re passionate about!
We need to encourage our children to explore as many PATHS as they can to help them achieve their PURPOSE. Whatever profession our children choose should make no difference to us, as long as they benefit society in some way. We should be focused on helping them find something they love to do and have the potential skills to do it well.
Sometimes, our children have a calling to a certain profession early in life, and stick with it; but this is rare. More typically, young adults will find PATHS that are right for them based on trial and error. This is the wonderful journey of life we all have the opportunity to go through, if properly encouraged by our parents.
Unfortunately, not everyone is that lucky. Sometimes, people go through their whole lives waiting for someone to “tell them” what their PURPOSE is and what PATH they should choose to achieve that PURPOSE. Chances are no one ever will and these hapless individuals go through their non-rewarding lives feeling frustrated and disenchanted. Other times, parents actually dictate roles for their children. These kids ultimately grow up feeling paralyzed and victimized because they are not in control of their own lives. If they finally do “break free,” the damage is already done and they struggle the rest of their lives trying to decide what is right for them.
These concepts aren’t difficult; they just take a little time to discuss. Without understanding how PATHS can help us achieve our life’s PURPOSE, we are like rudderless ships, following the PATH of least resistance. Anyone on this PATH is going to struggle needlessly to achieve sustainable happiness when they enter the real world. As parents, it is up to us to keep this from happening.
In order to maximize our children’s chances for success, we must lead by example. Even when our kids are very young, they watch what we do. They see —and sense—whether we’re happy or not. If we’re not happy in our own lives, it’s almost impossible to disguise this from our kids. If we hope to be a good example for our children, we must first find peace and happiness in our own lives. So I ask you: Are you doing something you love?
If you personally are not passionate about what you are doing, now is the time to change. Show your children you are not afraid to change. Teach them that the reason many people continue doing something they don’t love is because they fear doing something new. If more people understood the difference between their “real” selves and their “role” selves, they would have the courage to try something new.
Our “real” selves are who we are as human beings: just plain old good people with tremendous intrinsic value.
Our “role” selves are the different layers that make up who we are by the roles we play during our lives.
Those of us who understand the difference between the two will always have higher self esteem and have better chances of being “successful.” Why? Because we realize that when we “fail,” we are only failing in one aspect, or one role, of our lives. We have the knowledge to separate our “role” selves from our “real” selves. Adults who grasp this concept understand that it is okay to fail in a role, because we never fail as people. Those of us who do not understand the difference between these two “selves” are at tremendous emotional risk because they spend their whole lives suffering by mistakenly combining the two. They will find it virtually impossible to differentiate between receiving negative personal feedback and failing in a role. Do yourself and your kids a favor. Help them find a PATH they love and learn how to separate their real selves from their role selves—and watch them flourish in life.
Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them."
One of the toughest questions we'll ever ask ourselves is, "What is our PURPOSE in life?"
Thousands of books have been written on this topic alone. Philosophers in every generation have tried to shed some light on this question. Those who are at peace with their answer live life to the fullest; while those who never get it end up living unfulfilled, never knowing the greatness life has to offer.
In order for us to have any chance of teaching our children about this concept, we first need to understand it ourselves. The example we set early on with our kids has a tremendous impact upon the kind of people they will grow up to be.
Understanding our own PURPOSE is not an easy task! And yet, there’s nothing more important for us to confront than this question, especially if we hope to raise kids who are “successful.”
Teaching our children about PURPOSE, while inspiring them to live the life of their dreams, must be a high priority for any parent. As important as it is, this is not a topic they’ll learn about in school, through the media or from their friends. The importance of living a purposeful life is something we, as parents, must instill in our children.
The expression, “life’s PURPOSE,” may sound like one specific thing; but it is not. There are, of course, many layers of PURPOSE. Our lives can, and should, be meaningful in many ways. Our sense of PURPOSE or wholeness comes from our family, our friends, the groups we associate with, our spiritual affiliations and many, many more.
Good Parents just hope their kids figure it out on their own.
Great Parents understand what makes their lives rich and complete and teach these skills to their children. The question is, if that is your strategy, what happens if they never discover their life’s PURPOSE? Then what?
We all know people who just go through life lost and confused, while others feel whole and satisfied. Could lack of PURPOSE be the reason for this sense of loss and confusion?
Our children’s lives are far different from how ours were at their age. Things are moving so much faster now. Communicating with our children is more imperative than ever, because of the complexity of the world they are living in.
In addition to the speed at which our children grow up, the negative media, the devaluation of God in our society and the pervasiveness of pornography, we are also dealing with a society that no longer has a need to fight for survival. Unlike the vast majority of generations before us, almost all of our survival needs are met.
We live in a civilized country in the 21st century with running water and food readily available for the masses. We have warm clothing and housing for the masses. Sure, life can still be quite a struggle for many; but, overall, this generation in America lives better than any other generation in the world at any other time in history. We used to live to survive; now we survive trying to find meaningful purpose in our lives.
This creates new challenges for the age-old question regarding the PURPOSE of life. If it is no longer just to survive and procreate, then what is it?
Unfortunately, we often get WHAT our PURPOSE in life is confused with HOW we expect to accomplish it. This makes a complicated issue even more complicated. So, let’s start out by establishing that they are two totally different subjects. The fact of the matter is there is no one PURPOSE in life; every person must find the answer to this question on his or her own. If you want to raise “successful” children, a common denominator of anyone’s PURPOSE should be “to provide meaning for ourselves, in our own lives. This means that having purpose, meaning and/or fulfillment—whatever you want to call it—in life is not something that comes from others or from the outside; it is something that comes from within. For some, that means serving others; for some that means accumulating power and wealth; and for others it is something altogether different. If you don’t know what creates meaning in your life, then figuring it out should be your primary responsibility. Because until you know what you want to accomplish in life (PURPOSE) you will never be able to figure out how you can do it (PATH).
If we clearly define our own purpose and actively pursue it, we will inspire our children to live lives that are more fulfilling than just accumulating fast cars, fancy clothes and big houses. Showing our children how we live a life of service to others will open their eyes to living meaningful lives. They will see the endless benefits of living life this way and will want to go out and accomplish something wonderful on their own. Watching you live your real life experiences will provide them the internal motivation they need to guide them long after you are gone. Without a clear, focused purpose, they are more likely to sit around and complain about how life isn’t fair. This attitude creates victims, depression, resentment and the sense that they have lost control of their own lives.
The good news is that all of this can be avoided by helping them discover their own life’s PURPOSE.
We all have an instinctive need to fit in and feel like part of something bigger than ourselves. Understanding our PURPOSE and living it helps us realize we are part of a bigger plan. This provides us with a sense of unity, fulfillment and hope.
Lucky for us, it is as simple as teaching our children to be of service to others. But let’s not be confused. Of course, serving others includes providing help to the sick, the elderly and the needy; but make no mistake about it: Service to others is not limited to what people would call the “less fortunate.”
Service to others includes serving our Lord, ourselves, our families, our friends, our community and our country, as well as the environment.
When we serve others, we learn both humility and gratitude. We can focus more on the blessings we have than on what we don’t have. We feel happier and recognize more meaning in our lives.
Kidmandment One is about understanding, teaching and living a life with purpose and meaning. What a great gift to give and receive! Identify your PURPOSE in life and see the impact it has on you, your family and your friends.