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.