-When evaluating, use constructive praise followed by a criticism, followed by more praise or encouragement. This is known as a “criticism sandwich.” You don’t always have to balance criticism with praise, but be sure to instill a sense of faith in them. This is paramount to a child’s individual success.
-Don’t let your emotional/intellectual stimuli affect your kid’s. This is a hard one. But if you've had a bad day and you come home to an excited kid, BE EXCITED. Be as happy as he or she is to see you. BE that happy to see them. It’s one thing to tell your child you love them, and it’s another to show it. Don’t be critical or hard on them because of something you had to put up with or experience. Don’t make your own misery something that they have to share when you’re around. WE ARE THE GIVERs, so be aware of what you ‘pass on’ to your kids.
-Be honest! Always tell the truth. If you lie to your kid ONCE—ONE TIME—that’s all it takes for them to justify it. “Daddy did it…” Lying is the acid that will destroy your bond with your child. Refrain from lying, and not just to your kids!
-Patience is the best way to get your criticism or “growth moments” across. If you’re frustrated, the kid will be obstinate. If you’re chill, the child can be chill. Your child will absorb the attitudes you portray and the energy you give off. Be the light for them. Be the comfort. Be the trust. Be the love.
-Challenge your child to grow; inspire them to learn. Be someone your kid will want to grow up to be like. Keep their interest engaged, even in simple conversation. Test them. Make it a loving and enriching experience to be with you. Make it so they have something to gain by interacting with you—every time!
-Be honest. Don’t dumb it down if you don’t have to. Your kid is going to learn it no matter what—because he’s curious. If you are real with your kid, they’ll respect you and appreciate their relationship with you. BECAUSE THEY CAN TRUST YOU. The more you deceive your child, the harder it will be to foster a meaningful relationship. Be honest, answer all the questions you can, and don’t dumb it down! Use advanced vocabulary, and tell them what it means! SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE! Don’t short-change your kid because you don’t feel like explaining something. They know it when you do, and it’ll only make them feel like they’re not important or “good enough” to know. That’s obviously not the case, but avoid making them feel like that at all costs. Make your kid feel confident, handsome and smart, and they will be. Letting your kids see you be confident and uninhibited will allow them to feel the same. That’s a priceless thing to do for a kid. Let them see you be yourself, your REAL self. And don’t be ashamed; never make a kid feel ashamed. Don’t ever be “too cool” or “not in the mood.” Kids don’t get breaks from being kids, so adults don’t get breaks from being an influence. It’s a role into which you have to put a ton of energy, time and thought. You can’t go through the motions and expect to be a good parent…or have a decent kid! You have to want to. And you have to like it! Kids know when your heart’s not in it, and they don’t like to be patronized. You have to be creative, fun, engaging, patient and ACCEPTING. Kids should never doubt or misunderstand your bond with them. As far as they’re concerned, we exist for them; our knowledge and experience is for their sake. We have lived so that they may live.
-Explore every single curiosity! If you don’t know something, figure it out together! Kids love discovery and learning. It is the nature of being a child with a mind fascinated by all things. Think about all the things a child doesn't know or understand yet! Love this about children! Cherish this hunger for stimulation, growth and knowledge—it’s built-in EVOLUTION! Give them the tools you've been given and the ones you've made for yourself; teach what little you can. As for the rest, you have to hope that you've inspired them by being true to yourself and the best self you can be.
-If kids learn to be themselves, consciously CHOOSE who that person is, and learn to accept others for whom they have chosen to be—those kids will make it. I am unsure of what it is about adult life that makes people feel like they have to pretend, or deny impulses. Underneath the pretensions and egos, we’re still kids. We get older and complicate our lives; we forget how fun it is to be young. We desensitize, lose our patience, lose our curiosity (the last one puzzles me most). Kids ask questions constantly, and they should! We should always want to learn more about ourselves and our experience of Life. You haven’t been bored until you’re dead—no way of physicalizing will, just being. ‘Is’-ing; existing, but not really. As a kid, your body is new and it’s growing all the time. Kids are physical because they want to ‘feel.’ They learn by touching, tasting, seeing, hearing, smelling—you can’t deny their senses! Use them to your advantage and capture their attention! Appeal to the fact that they are human; they’re young super-computers constantly processing information and learning. Teach them to use their super-computing minds as a tool to navigate life. Solve problems, think critically, reflect and self-regulate. The mind is powerful, and it often overpowers a child’s will to resist it. Teach them to master their minds.
THAT’S WHAT BEING A PARENT IS ALL ABOUT: SHARING YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND BEING A LOVING PART OF YOUR CHILD’S LIFE.
-Don’t forget that everything is an experience, especially to kids. “Do you wanna make some cinnamon rolls? OR DO YOU WANNA MAKE SOME CIN-NOM-NOM ROLLZ?!” Instead of eating cinnamon rolls normally, you eat them crudely and grunt loudly. Ritualize it. Make it fun. Make it INTERACTIVE. Perhaps you get messy…messes are great! Making messes and cleaning up after them is what life is all about. Being able to navigate life and its messes with clarity and positivity is graceful. Not all kids are graceful, but you can show them what grace feels like—that’s good inspiration.
-Delegate responsibility: this might belong in the AUTONOMY section, but I mean this in an entertaining sense. Kids love being your partner in crime, and they always appreciate a good plan. NEVER underestimate the power of a good plan. That being said, there should be tunes. If you’re doing something monotonous or anything that can be enhanced by background music and silly dancing, in the words of Big L, “PUT IT ON.” Everyone needs to know how to shred the air instruments and rock out. I don’t know why, but kids love THE FUNK. Maybe it’s the rhythm, the boogie guitar--perhaps the nonsensical dance moves it seems to conjure… All I know is, they love to move and they love to groove. GROOVEMOVES!
-If there is a conflict, let the kids be the ones to resolve it. Have conflict resolution pow-wows. Create the space for them to reach a mutual agreement. Teach them to work together, and to understand how each other feels. Every human being has a conscious need to express herself. Expressing oneself and one’s feelings allows us to let go of them. Helping each other understand how we feel allows us to better relate and enjoy life together. Kids don’t know not to do what they want. This makes it difficult to learn to share, play and get along with others, etc. If you teach them that they can share and depend on each other to keep themselves happy, they’ll resolve conflicts on their own. Help them to relate more personally to each other, and challenge them to reach a peaceful agreement. They’ll do all the work!
-Let your child decide. Don’t push any one choice or path on them. Instead, present them with the information, the raw data, and let them make the choice on their own. This helps them learn to REASON. It’s fine if you want to point them in a direction, especially if the decision is a big learning opportunity, but don’t be surprised or upset when they don’t take your advice. Let them suffer some consequences. This is THEIR choice and it teaches them that only THEY are responsible for themselves. THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO YOUR CHILD’S SUCCESS. If you allow their minds to process an important decision, chances are they’ll come to the next one and treat it with the same thought and respect. They’ll choose ‘incorrectly’ more often if they have to rely on you to tell them what to do. Instead, let them learn it.
-Let them grow and learn. Don’t ever get tired of your kid asking questions. THEY WANT TO KNOW! Kids have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Inspire your child to question and reason, and think critically about those questions and reasoning. If your kid learns how to learn, and can enjoy learning and respect knowledge, your kid will be UNSTOPPABLE.
-Let them be themselves. Your kids are more themselves than you will ever be (maybe). They are children on the playground of life and it’s exciting! It’s new! So much is to be experienced! LET YOUR KID DO WHAT HE OR SHE WANTS. If your son wants to dance, let him. If your daughter wants to wrestle, let her! Let them be their own explorers, with you as their guide. As a parent, there is only so much that you can teach. The rest, children learn from each other, themselves and through experiencing life. The successful children, the ones who grow up to lead meaningful lives and benefit the world, get to be who they are and who they want to be. Your child will flourish if you nurture and love the individual inside them for Who He Is. Let her express her true self in whatever constructive ways possible. And let them learn that the destructive behaviors are destructive. Let them know the difference for themselves. And no matter what, be supportive.
- Don’t forget about responsibility. It’s great if you’re going to let your child create his or her own experience, and make his or her own choices. But in doing that, you must make sure your child understands that with “great power comes great responsibility.” It’s important for them to learn to think things through—how will this behavior or action affect those who receive it and their environment? And even if the response is negative, teaching them to own up to it is important. It teaches them to respect consequences and the way their lives directly affect the lives of others.
-Show them the value of honesty and empathy. Show kids how to accept others as they are, and as they have chosen to be.
-Kids are tiny scientists. They're adults, they just don't know it yet. Guide them, but allow them to find their own path of least resistance. Let them feel it, choose it. It will be different from yours or anyone else’s. That is the nature of our evolution.
I think the first and foremost way to establish a conscious, spiritual connection with the world is to spend time in nature. Our way of life diminishes and disrespects many beautiful and helpful things our planet has to offer us. If we can teach kids to cherish and respect nature, there’s a better chance they’ll take some responsibility for it. And not only that—they’ll have a deeper connection to and understanding of their world. It is paramount that you share nature with your children. Nothing is more wondrous or beautiful than the universe in which we live. We must be good stewards and raise good stewards.
-Teach your child to self-regulate. This is an idea that Pat Haley (director of Camp Kum-Ba-Yah) and I discussed one day while philosophizing about camp. Kids need to learn at an early age that they can regulate their emotions, feelings and the way they relate to their environment and others. If you can teach a child that he or she is in charge of the way they relate to the world around them, you can make it easier for them to isolate and make sense of their experiences, both good and bad. This helps them to think objectively, and react more rationally to obstacles/problems/stimuli. If you help your child to discover and understand the healing and wisdom found in meditation, reflection, peace, independence, and respect for one’s surroundings, they will have an easier time “fitting in” to the world. Use different methods and techniques to navigate feelings of frustration or sadness. It’s ok for them to feel sad or frustrated! But when they realize it’s a choice that they’re making, and they can choose to make it feel different, they’ll be more aware of their feelings. Whether or not a child lets them get in their way is his or her choice.
Ideas for accomplishing these feats:
1. Don’t get frustrated or irritated with what your child does or does not know. Remember what it’s like to be a kid, fascinated with all things, and curious! BE A KID WITH YOUR KID. Having a child means YOU GET TO BE A CHILD! I can’t imagine a better excuse to behave like a child, and use your imagination—your spontaneous creativity—your FUN SIDE. We've learned so well how to be adults; let’s not forget how to be children. Our children depend on it. Remember your happy thought, Peter!
2. Don’t be too cool for your kids. This kind of goes with the first one, but it’s different. Be weird. Be a girl. Be a fairy if you’re a dad. Be a formidable soldier if you’re a mom. Play along. Be silly. Let your kids be smarter than you, let them ‘direct’ their entertainment. Help them to discover their own creativity, and foster it! Be quirky! Create personalities or characters to help out in day-to-day activities, or to warrant some kind of action (i.e. “The Claw” from the movie LIAR LIAR).
3. Use unconventional means to accomplish conventional tasks. This helps a lot in teaching anything. For example, if you’re teaching a group of eight-year-olds how to swim forward-crawl, don’t tell them the steps. Get their attention by using funny or weird ways of explaining things, and then go into detail. If I want to tell a kid that he has to breathe on the same side as the arm that’s coming up out of the water, I won’t tell him that. I’ll ask him a question: “What happens if you breathe on the wrong side?” Answer: the kid will inhale water and choke and you’ll have to save them. True. But instead of saying that, give them a kid-engaging explanation: “IF YOU BREATHE ON THE WRONG SIDE, YOU’LL SMELL YOUR ARMPIT AND PASS OUT IN THE POOL, PROMPTING ME TO SAVE YOU…” – You have to breathe on the same side as the arm that’s coming out of the water. But it’s funnier and easier to remember if you say, “You’ll smell your own armpit and pass out from the stench.” And say words like ‘stench.’ Kids love good vocabulary and new jargon. They LOVE IT.
4. Be concise. I know this is hard to do, especially for me, but it will help. If you can come up with creative ways of remembering instructions, techniques, anagrams, you name it—stuff like that helps kids remember, and makes what they’re learning more accessible and fun. When I’m asking kids to remember the parts of forward crawl, I usually group into threes: “Flutter kick, ‘slice the butter’ (arm movement), and breathing (“no smelly armpits,” or breathing on the wrong side).”
5. If being concise isn't your thing, explain it to them well, and then ASK QUESTIONS. If I’m unsure about whether or not something I said was understood, I’ll ask a question. KIDS LOVE ANSWERING QUESTIONS AND IT REQUIRES THEIR ATTENTION (most of the time). Ask them questions and get them to ask their own questions. Questions questions questions!
6. Sharing and materialism—explain that through sharing, time together is more enjoyable. Humans experience more joy in sharing than in keeping something from others. Shared mutual experience is more meaningful (or fun, for a kid) than individual experience or selfishness. Secondly, don’t let them get caught up in materialism. Let them experience the unpleasantness of shopping, losing or breaking toys; let them witness the impermanence of matter. Teach them that connections to physical objects don’t last. Help them to learn the value of experiences rather than material possessions, nature rather than video games, and CURIOSITY as opposed to boredom or apathy.