Ten things to give your children (DRAFT)

  1. Children natively love both parents no matter what, as a force more powerful than just about any other they carry. This is the essence of what we destroy in children to make them into grumpy grownups like us -- it is what was destroyed in us, remember? (Oh child of the Cold War where everybody hated everybody or else the world would end.) Therefore be nice to their other parent -- even if they don't deserve it -- because your children do deserve it. No matter how angry or disappointed you may be at the other, always encourage a child's love for the other parent, especially when the child brings it up. In years to come, they will love and trust you more for understanding this about them.

  2. Be honest with them, telling them when you've made a mistake that affects them and how you're working to fix it when you do. What you say and do for them like this when they are children becomes the voice in their head when they must do the right thing as adults. Give them an ability to fix what they've broken, rather than avoiding their own mistakes forever, which many people inherit from their parents, which is what has gotten us into this mess we call adult life.

  3. Except when you're on the phone or doing some specific task like washing dishes, etc, stop what you're doing and get into their world for at least twenty minutes whenever they interrupt you. Know how to get into their world for reals, not in that fake sing songy purple dinosaur way. Note, they must know to give you peace when you're on the phone or your social life will dwindle to nothing because nobody wants to hear you scold your children to be quiet every time they call you -- and children will interrupt you on the phone at every opportunity if they haven't been getting enough attention lately, and sometimes even if they have. If you do not respond to them when they interrupt you, they'll learn to give you what you want, soon enough they'll stop interrupting you -- and also won't visit you in the nursing home when you're eleventy hundred and nine.

  4. Give them emotional literacy and empathy by taking time every now and then to ask in age-appropriate detail about their friends and relatives, how they feel about them, what they like, don't like, and so forth. Go into even more detail about the inner emotions of a few specific friends/relatives and what they like and don't like, and let your child lead (that is, you make suggestions because you have more vocabulary, but let their opinions stand rather than argue with them if you disagree -- they'll figure out the big picture stuff if you validate the little picture insights properly). Given time, they'll reflect this understanding back at you, and tell you more about your own emotional state than you may be comfortable with, if you're doing it right.

  5. Bravely accept any more-honesty-than-you-prefer observation they make about you or others. In other words, do not slap or scold your child when they reach the age of loudly observing how enormously fat the person in the motorized scooter is. Instead, teach them how to come close and whisper honest things that ought not be spoken aloud, rather than teaching them to completely suppress such things. Allow such observations to change you (i.e. wash your stinky feet when a child points it out) so they know they're being heard.

  6. Say please and thank you when you are telling them to do things. Done properly, it takes years to teach a child to clean an entire room, one step at a time. Punishing them for not knowing how to do something which you haven't taught them to do is typical grownup meanness -- ease up already or they'll really turn out to be just like you. Say I love you often, often, often. Ensure that they understand the difference between loving someone and liking someone. We always love everyone -- even if we really don't like someone, we're still going to treat them with basic dignity required by love. (Love can be neutral, and it can wax and wane, but is always there. Like, on the other hand, can be withdrawn completely if someone is being horrible.).

  7. Be a dictator when needed, but laugh about the comedy of yourself being such a grumpy grownup at other times, so they're not afraid the dictator is lurking beneath the surface always, and thus they can feel free to approach you about the authority paradoxes you sometimes present in their life without realizing it. When they do, practice ho'oponopono, one of the coolest things ever for breaking down the wall between grownups and children, and between anyone and anything for that matter.

  8. Practice difficult situations before they happen, or immediately after. For example, practice how to deal with bullies. Practice how to deal with being honest "even when you can hide the evidence." Practice how to properly run into a room and interrupt someone with astounding news. Set up ethically challenging situations, define roles, and play-act through them. Turn a broom into a bully if you don't have enough actors. Children absolutely love this approach, and once is more effective than a dozen I-told-you-so mini-lectures on morals and ethics. It gives them tangible models/body memories for braveness when needed.

  9. Hold them often, throughout their whole childhood, telling them tiny stories that you make up on the spot, brush their hair, trim their nails, have quiet moments where you groom them intimately like you're a monkey without shame, and remember -- you can tell a child they are beautiful endlessly, but telling them they are smart will cause them to stop growing intellectually, according to science. Along these lines, allow no one to tell them that they are good or bad (or smart) in any way. Actions, behaviors, attitudes are good and bad (or smart) -- people are neither good nor bad. In other words "You did a great job cleaning that window!" instead of "You are a wonderful child for cleaning that window!" Think about it. Try it. You'll see.

  10. Redirect to good behavior rather than stop bad behavior. "No is an abstract concept and children are concrete thinkers til 8." Children do not understand "NO" and "STOP" and "DON'T" until after a lot of exposure to the idea from grownups. They natively perceive the world as a continual flow forward, and have no idea what to stop when you tell them to stop, unless you are very specific. It is better to simply give them something else to do than to tell them to stop doing something. Much better, because that requires you to think a little more about what you're doing also.

Uh, that's ten already? Wait, I haven't even said anything about reading books, and singing songs, and dancing... well, I did say it's a draft...

Posted in Everything on Jun 21, 2015