1. They are innately loved, loveable and loving. Our children need to feel that they matter to us, that they're needed, and that they contribute to the quality of our lives. They need to feel useful.
When I was a single parent, our toilet seat broke and I had to replace it. So I bought a new one and then struggled to get the old one off. Eventually, my son got involved. We worked together for the longest time, squished into the tight space between the tub and the toilet, wrenching and hammering and banging and fussing, until it finally came off. We felt jubilant! And he got it that I need him in zillions of ways!
Our kids need to feel that they have purpose. And their purpose is to receive and give love. More important than getting them to make good grades, or to learn good manners, or to follow our orders is to cause them to feel that they're loved every moment.
And even better and more powerful than convincing them that we love them, because they know we're biased, is to keep reminding them that their natural state is to be loved, loving and loveable. Then they have something to give to the world, they won't need others to convince them that they're worthwhile, and they'll feel more stable when facing challenges.
2. They are inherently good. Our children are born believing in themselves, and they naturally approach life with gusto and joy. And if they're not taught to question their value, they won't turn fearful.
I walk my granddaughter to school, and I often see a mother walking her young son while carrying her toddler on her back, half a mile uphill. Admirable! Each time I see her though, she's berating her son for walking too slowly, not being responsible for his stuff, making them late every day. Just chipping away at his self-esteem.
Our lives are full and fast. And our kids' curiosity and pace can easily get in the way. And in those moments, it's still our job to help them feel good about themselves.
When we keep reminding kids that they're inherently good, they won't condemn themselves when they make mistakes. And they'll learn to trust their own decisions.
My son canceled his engagement two months before his wedding. Our family didn't see it coming, so we were all surprised. And there was a tendency, almost a kneejerk reaction, to judge and criticize him. Instead, I paid for the dress and stayed supportive of both of them.
He told me that he just knew it wasn't going to work out and that they would end up divorcing. Talking together, and exploring his motivations with him, helped me support him unconditionally. And I ended up feeling a lot of respect for his courage.
When we focus on causing our kids to feel appreciated, they won't forget their value. And their expectations of life will be high, they'll attract people who treat them well, and the quality of their lives will be rich.
3. They deserve the best from life. We sometimes withhold our attention and approval from our kids when they don't do what we tell them to do, believing that making them feel guilty will make them better people. It's not true.
Instead, it makes them fearful of not being able to get what they need. And three things happen. They feel compelled to replace what they want with what others want, in order to get the attention and approval they need. They make others' opinions more important than what they think and feel about themselves. And they develop fear-based self-talk that says: "I'm not good enough. I don't deserve all the good stuff that others have. I'm afraid."
That's why it's important, when we discipline our children, to not withdraw our energy from them. They need to trust that life will treat them well. And they learn that from us treating them well.
My son participated in a Mastermind Group, and his first assignment was to successfully precipitate something within a week. So he decided to precipitate $5. Toward the end of the week, the money hadn't shown up. So Ron said to him, "Let's take a walk." And as they walked down our street, my son found a $5 bill on the ground. But only after Ron got him to walk past it four times!
One of the best gifts we can give our children is a belief that "Life is good and loves me," and that "I'm worthy and I deserve the best."
One fall, my son put a new surfboard on layaway, certain that he would have it in time for Christmas. He spent months raising money and making payments, growing more and more excited with every dollar he earned.
Late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, he got a phone call from the surf shop. They wanted to know: "Aren't you coming down to pick up the board so you'll have it on Christmas morning?" He reminded them that he still owed quite a bit, but he was sure he'd be able to get it soon. Then they told him that the balance was zero. A secret-Santa had come in and paid it off for him! And our whole family had a moment of real magic!
Our kids have the right to live a happy, prosperous life simply because they're alive - more than because of something they'll struggle to accomplish. And our role is to keep sending them a message that they deserve a good life, no matter what.
4. They have a source of guidance within. Our children have their own paths, and we'll need to accept that they may not strive for what society believes is important, or even what we believe is important. And other adults may judge us even more than they judge our kids by whether they follow accepted standards. Then we'll need to ask ourselves, "Do I want a well-behaved child or a happy child?"
Kids who are independent and even rebellious, who are joyous freethinkers, are usually creatively resourceful later in life. So what source of guidance should we advise our kids to listen to?
We all have an innate capacity to know what's good for us. Especially children, before adults begin telling them to look for external answers rather than listen to their intuition and imagination.
My son suffered with a herniated disc for several months, which was hard on his whole family. Everything fell on my daughter-in-law's shoulders, and my granddaughter worried whether her daddy would get well. While they waited for his surgery, my granddaughter found a way to soothe herself. She constantly carried around his copy of a book on holistic health, even sleeping with it at night.
She told me that holding the book kept her daddy safe and helped her to not be afraid. And when his surgery was successful, she put it away on his bookshelf.
Inner guidance comes in many forms, including ideas, feelings, hunches, impressions, insights and dreams. And it's a wise person who knows how to consciously listen inside for guidance in how to relate, what action to take and what words to say.
If we'll encourage our kids to go inside for their answers, they'll discover for themselves what choices are effective, and what works in life. Sure, they may suffer some tough consequences along the way. But our kids don't learn from our words. They learn from their experiences how to make wise decisions next time.
Albert Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited, while imagination encircles the world. Logic will get you from A to Z, while imagination will get you everywhere."
So the skill we need to help our kids learn is how to listen inside for their intuitive intelligence, and how to interpret the information in ways that are useful. To do that, we may need to let go of a belief that we must figure everything out through logical thinking, so that we can open to the natural intelligence inside ourselves.
It means helping our kids to trust their intuition, to heed their first spontaneous response instead of being afraid of making a mistake. So they'll need to make a decision ahead of time that it's OK to make mistakes, and that whatever happens will be all right. It means taking responsibility for our decisions, which results in confidence.
My son spent one summer raising money to make a cross-country trip to visit friends. He worked odd jobs, including cutting lawns in our neighborhood. One day he cut a lawn on our street, but it was the wrong yard. The owner believed that my son should learn a lesson, so he wouldn't pay for the cut grass. Plus, the right lawn still had to be cut. It was a pretty lousy day in the grass-cutting business. But he managed to not beat himself up, and we laughed about it later.
Being willing to take a risk and have an experience gives us the ability to transcend any power that that experience has to hurt us. Not being afraid to make mistakes robs a mistake of its power to have control over us. It's a great tool to help our kids develop: the ability to go through life without a fear of living.
So it can be helpful to conduct an experiment with our kids: to request information by asking a relevant Yes or No question inside, to expect an answer to reveal itself soon, and to watch for it.
Through practice, our kids can learn to ask inner questions and immediately receive answers, by building a functioning bridge between their conscious awareness and their intuitive intelligence.
5. Their bodies are amazing and beautiful. From the time that my sons were infants, I put their photos at eye level for them, right in their cribs. And I always kept mirrors in their rooms. I wanted them to become familiar and comfortable and even adoring of their images before society could begin to tell them that they were unacceptable in any way.
We need to teach our kids to respect their bodies without shame. They'll need a strong sense of confidence, self worth, self-respect and self-love to have the inner strength to be a leader in a peer group, rather than a victim of peer pressure.
So of course, we'll need to live it ourselves, since our kids are listening to our self-beliefs more than our words. We all have bodies that need love. We need to look at ourselves and say, "Wow! You're fascinating and beautiful! And you're doing such a good job for me! Thank you!"
The human body comes in unique and assorted sizes, shapes and colors. And every one is a living, functioning miracle. We need to feel good about the miracle we're walking around in, without comparing it to anyone else's, which leads to negative self-talk. And when we feel positive about our bodies, our kids will, too.
It doesn't mean that we should just accept what we are without concern for good health. Improvement works best when combined with self-acceptance.
So we need to accept our bodies exactly as they are and give them the attention, love and affection they need. It's the first step in a positive lifestyle. Drop disapproval and send our kids a message that they're beautiful exactly as they are.
6. They can feel happy and safe, no matter what. Before we can do a good job of parenting our kids, we first need to parent ourselves well. And for many of us, that means adopting new ways of thinking.
We can't believe that the world is a frightening, threatening place without teaching that to our kids. We can't have emotional turmoil in our homes without giving them that pattern for what adults are like.
Every day, we're making a statement, "This is what the adult world is." And they'll grow into adulthood thinking, "This is how it is, and this is how I'm supposed to react." So it won't work to let our kids see us worrying about money and security and the future.
If we want them to feel stable and peaceful, we'll need to demonstrate that we can choose to feel OK even when life is messy. If we can enjoy life all the time, even when things don't go the way we want, we're parenting well. If we're not afraid of the world and we're not looking at it through a negative lens, our kids have a good foundation for an enjoyable life. So it's important to not take life too seriously and to make it fun.
When my guys were young, I practiced "applied kinesiology" on them, including muscle testing and "zipping up their auras." I asked them to extend their arms parallel to the floor, placed my index finger on their wrists, asked them to think of something they felt happy about, and then pressed down on their arms to see how strong they were. Then I did it a second time, asking them to think of something that caused them to have a bad feeling, and their arms were always weaker. When they were back to happy thoughts and their arms were strong again, I grabbed an imaginary zipper at their toes and pulled it up to the top of their heads, sealing a protective bubble around them. And then I sent him out the door.
Maybe goofy, but definitely fun. My granddaughter does a similar thing now when she instinctively puts her favorite books and stuffed animals in a "magic circle" around her on the bed and then sleeps soundly.
Worrying about things results in more to worry about, including negative thought patterns, stressed minds, unhealthy bodies and diminished lives. So whatever it takes to cause them to trust life and feel secure is a good thing. It's the difference between being afraid and feeling confident.
My son went through a difficult period as a teenager, and I refused to be afraid of what might happen. I held onto an image of him I'd experienced when he was being born, as a young man, coming toward me over the horizon, joyous, enthusiastic, confident and capable. And for more than a year, I wore a "medicine bag" around my neck, always against my skin, with written prayers and a lock of his hair inside. I never stopped seeing him as wonderful and protected, knowing that nothing could endanger that.
I refused to choose fear. I knew without a doubt that everything would be OK and he would turn out all right. And it worked. Today, he's fine and wonderful.
Everything in our lives has as much power as we give it. And we can give our kids the power to always feel safe.
7. Knowing how to learn works better than storing information. None of my sons was a perfect match to the one-size-fits-all aspect of the public school system. One of them dropped out of our city's gifted education program because he was bored, and then he quit the ninth grade twice. Another got in trouble because he didn't like to go to school on Mondays.
In both cases, it was tempting to freak out, but I refused to go there. I wouldn't be swayed to negative thinking about my sons. And I wouldn't stop telling a prosperity story about them.
As they moved out of their teen years, they all went on quests. One climbed through the night to the top of the Giza Pyramid in Cairo. One spent an intense night alone, sitting out a lightning storm on the edge of Stromboli's volcano. And one volunteered with a relief agency, digging water wells in Ethiopia. And today, they're all rich in authenticity, integrity and self-knowledge. Plus, they have careers that they enjoy, and they make good money.
More important than telling our kids what they should learn is to constantly support their curiosity and their confidence in finding the resources to create a valuable life. And one of the best ways we can help our kids get along in school is to not hassle them about school, and to be a continually curious person ourselves in their presence. That way, we teach them to be curious, and to want to know and understand. If we can impart that to our kids, we won't need to worry about their grades.
When my granddaughter was three, she was watching a Disney film on the family iPad, and the battery ran out. So she switched over to her dad's iPhone and set it to stream the film from where it had left off on the iPad. I just watched in awe, wondering how I could keep up. I want to go wherever she's going, so I'll need to keep upgrading my thinking.
Einstein said, "The world that we have created is a product of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking."
Evolving our thinking about old-school education is going to be important. And we're going to need a system geared toward teaching kids how to learn.
8. Play is their purpose. Children are fortunate when their parents play a lot. If parents are having fun, children are going to have fun with them. And it can make a difference later in whether the kids rebel, get into trouble, go their own ways, etc.
When we set aside the mature, concerned, serious responsibilities of "being an adult," and we get down on the floor to wrestle or we get out a board game as a family, then we're making a life.
When my sons were old enough to stay home alone together, I would go out for the evening and then arrive home after bedtime, pull up in the driveway, and through the windows I could see bodies flying in every direction, racing to the bedrooms. Inside, I'd feel the back of the TV to see whether it was still warm, and of course it was.
These were not the battles I chose though. That stuff made me laugh most of the time. Along with the many glassless picture frames hanging on our walls, in spite of the "no playing ball in the house" rule. And the many cracked louver windows, in spite of the "no skateboarding in the house" rule. My sons were all about play. And fortunately for them, most of the time, so was I.
For our kids, it's more important to have fun than to accomplish tasks or get proof of approval. For them, it doesn't matter whether we have a lot of money, or a great reputation, or whether we succeed at our goals. It does matter whether we're having a good time.
And I agreed with them. I always believed that the better we felt, the better we would do at anything we tried, and that learning happens best when we're having fun.
My nine-year-old asked to join an adult art class for PLWA's, people living with AIDS. Everyone in the class had the HIV virus, which was a death sentence back then, and they were hoping to channel their fear into a creative outlet. For them, my son was a joyous, wisecracking, unaffected symbol of Life, always telling jokes and making them laugh. He wasn't afraid, and he didn't judge or condemn them. He just wanted to have a good time, and maybe lighten their burdens.
We have a lot to gain from having fun, and we all need regular playtime.
9. They can choose joy every moment. I was fortunate to have a mom whose nature was to be happy and to laugh a lot. And she wasn't afraid to be different and to do unusual things.
She took up piano at age fifty, attending recitals alongside seven-year-olds. At seventy, she began ballroom dance lessons. At ninety, she learned to email. She never assumed that she was too old. And she had an innate knowing that she had worth, that it didn't matter what others thought, and that she would be able to figure things out.
For most of my childhood, we lived in a log cabin in the middle of a forest. The driveway out was a mile long, the acreage was fenced, and we had a horse that had full run of the area. My mom felt sorry for him when he had to stay home alone. So to keep him happy, she left the kitchen radio playing, and he would stand by the open window to listen to the music.
One of the best gifts we can give our kids is joy of life, to be happy in spite of outward conditions. But we can't give it if we don't have it. If we need one single person to change one iota in order for us to feel better, we've given away our power.
We may be thinking, "But what about my bank account? I don't have enough money to be happy," and that will result in poverty consciousness. We may be thinking, "But what about my partner? She's terrible, so I can't feel good," and that will result in marriage problems.
Our fears and negative thoughts are creating our conditions. And when we let go of negativity, it's as if we move to a higher vantage point, where we can see a more beautiful world. Then we stop competing, worrying and scraping for survival. And we get to live a richer life.
Most important is that we show our kids that it's possible to choose to feel good. They need to see us demonstrating every day that we can decide whether to enjoy life.
When we have a ball and enjoy life, our kids are affected because joy is contagious. And when they're happy, they won't feel a need to compete to be better than their peers and they won't feel tempted to wallow in hurt, selfishness, anger, hate or jealousy. And best of all, they won't judge or condemn themselves.
It's not possible to hold onto negative thoughts when we're choosing happiness and enjoying life. And in all of these points, whatever we decide to teach our children is less important than who we are in front of them, because that's what they'll take into adulthood. So let's give them the best that we are.