Character Corner: Mindfulness — musings, quotes, and parenting tips from WisdomCommons.org

Before she had children, Lucy used to start the day with a half-hour of yoga and meditation.  For years, it felt like her centering point, she felt more able to be calm and present in her work.  Then came Katie, who is up with the birds—doing her own chirping before Lucy can even crack an eyelid.

 

 

 

Lucy’s old meditation routine, in fact all of her old routines, vanished in a single day.  At first it was fine—Lucy was so in love with Katie that she didn’t mind.  Her husband John seemed unruffleable, and three months of maternity leave let Lucy nap when Katie did.  But now she’s juggling work and parenting—and feeling overwhelmingly scattered.  At work half of her mind is on Katie; at home, unfinished work nags at her when she just wants to nurse her sweet girl or go to sleep.

 

What is mindfulness?

 

Mindfulness is focused awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness lets us be fully conscious of a simple sensation like the warmth of sunlight or of the complex interplay between our thoughts and feelings.

 

By tuning in to mental processes, we are able to recognize that our thoughts are just thoughts; they don’t necessarily represent reality. We can observe them rather than being subject to them.

 

Mindfulness lets us absorb the richness of the moment instead of going through life with half of our attention on the past or future or our own mental chatter. The self-knowledge that comes from mindfulness lets us be more intentional in choosing priorities and actions that fit our life mission.

 

Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.

 

What if the universe were whispering in my ear at every moment?
–Steve Roberts

 

We should notice that we are already supported at every moment. There is the earth below our feet and there is the air, filling our lungs and emptying them. We should begin from this when we need support.
—Natalie Goldberg

 

All this hurrying soon will be over. Only when we tarry do we touch the holy.
–Rainer Maria Rilke

 

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.
–Eleanora Duse

 

But peace, too, is a living thing and like all life it must wax and wane, accommodate, withstand trials, and undergo changes.
–Herman Hesse

 

Bringing it home to your kids

 

1.  Take time to breathe.  Literally.  Focused breathing is one way to pull yourself into the present no matter what you are doing.

 

2.     Walk–with or without children, with or without a destination.  For all or part of the walk focus on the movement of your legs, the plants around you, the cool or warm touch air.  Give yourself permission to simply be in your body.

 

3.  Scale down expectations.  You can’t be present if you’re always thinking about what you haven’t done or what you should have done.

 

4.  Avoid “hurried child syndrome.”  A hurried child is a harried child.  Make time for your child to get lost in the moment.

 

5.  Sample simple pleasures together.  Take the time to open a seed pod with your child, or to sit in the bath, or to share an ice cream.

 

Photo by Rik_C

 

Character Corner: Kindness– musings, quotes, and parenting tips from WisdomCommons.org

When Janet was a child she used to visit her grandfather in Greece.  Each morning he set a fresh bowl of water in front of his small grocery store for the neighborhood cats and dogs.  “They get thirsty, just like us,” he said.  As he walked home each day, he stopped to crumble old bread for the pigeons that over-ran the square between the grocery and the house.  “They get hungry, just like us.”

Janet never forgot his simple words.  She gives her grandfather credit in her own decision to become a social worker.  Janet shops at Safeway after work and hurries home in her car instead of walking past a square full of pigeons.   But she wishes for her children to have a powerful experience of repeated kindnesses like the ones engraved in her memory.

What is kindness?
Kindness means that we recognize that others are fragile–that we have the power to hurt or heal them–and we choose to be healers. When we are kind, we don’t take advantage of our power or of other people’s vulnerabilities. Instead, we seek to comfort, encourage and strengthen those around us.

To be kind requires empathy: we must consciously attune ourselves to the life experience of another being to know what will feel good for them. Kindness builds confidence, because it lets us see others in all of their complicated, needy humanity, rather than putting them on pedestals.

Kindness does not ask whether it will be repaid. Even so, our kindness often ripples through the world around us; it invites others to be kind in turn.

Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.
Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver. –Barbara de Angelis
I seek great wisdoms, and then find the small ones, unbidden, more profound. Like kindness.–Carol Carpenter
Practice random acts of kindness and senseless beauty.–Unknown
Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough. –Franklin D. Roosevelt
Nice guys may appear to finish last, but usually they are running a different race. –Ken Blanchard

Bringing it home to your children:

1.  Every once in a while, plan a random act of kindness with your child—like planning mischief.  Scheme together!
2.  When your child is spontaneously kind, let them know with a wordless kiss or hug.  Over time, they’ll internalize how much kindness matters to you.
3.  Have a family policy of zero tolerance for bullying.  It’s ok for your kid to see sometimes that mean behavior makes you angry.
4.  Teach your child about vulnerability—that animals can’t tell us what they need so we have to pay attention, that young and old people may be physically fragile, that some people live at the edge of hunger or despair, that any of us can feel emotionally fragile at times.  Tuning in to how robust or fragile other people are at any given time is a powerful social skill.
5.   Be kind to your spouse (or even your ex).  We get so caught up in the tasks and frustrations of everyday life that it’s easy to forget.  Kindness between parents has the double benefits of ripple down effects and modeling.

Photo by Furryscaly

Character Corner: Intention/Purposefulness– musings, quotes, and parenting tips from WisdomCommons.org

Helene feels like she’s been out of sorts lately.  As she sat talking with her friend Francis over coffee she was finally able to put it into words.  Dani, her youngest is in kindergarten, and even though the four hours seem to disappear, Helene doesn’t feel like she’s doing anything substantial—just frittering the time away.

 

Being present as a parent has been very important to her—important enough that she quit her job as a sales manager to be home full time for the past seven years.  Now what?

What is purposefulness?

When we are purposeful, we use our time and other resources thoughtfully.  Since we have limited energy, money and power, we treat these as precious gifts, not to be squandered carelessly but to be spent in ways that bring healing and happiness into the world. We direct our energy toward the things that mean the most to us and those we serve.

Intention is living day to day, even moment to moment, with a sense of choice and purpose. It means being continuously conscious of how the present moment relates to our values and goals–and where there are the greatest opportunities to cultivate love, beauty and delight.

Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.

Nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose – a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.
–Mary W. Shelley

Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.
–Helen Keller

Remember this always: The living of your own life writes the book of your most sacred truth, and offers evidence of it.
–Neale Donald Walsch

Each of us can become a blessed channel of peace for the healing of Earth’s wounds: We can awaken from apathy and find creative, non-violent ways to transform the abuses rampant in today’s world.
–Nan Merrill with Barb Taylor

A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.”
–Victor Frankl, concentration camp survivor

Bringing it home to your kids

1.  Cultivate a habit of asking “why” questions, not with a tone of second guessing but with a tone of exploring –Why do one thing instead of another?  Why buy one thing instead of another?  What is the desired outcome or goal?  What are the values being expressed?

2.  Think out loud, so your child can learn what drives your own decisions, small and large.

3.  Write a family mission statement.  Have a “review” every six months to see how your day-to-day fits the mission.

4.  Get clear on your own personal sense of purpose.  Is it something given by a deity?  Is it something you create for yourself?  Are you doing the things that matter to you?

5.   Expose your kids to purpose-driven people.

photo by Molly_darling

Character Corner: Independence– musings, quotes, and parenting tips from WisdomCommons.org

“You’re overprotective,” Harry scolds his wife, Gena. “Quit being a hovercraft!”  Gena knows that she needs to pull back, but it’s pure instinct for her to leap into action when she senses any threat to their four-year-old twins.  She stands under the climbing structure when they go to the park, and rushes into a room at the first sound of distress.  She knows where her anxiety comes from.

 

Her younger brother had a head injury as a child and learning problems afterwards.  Over time she comes to realize that her vigilance is out of proportion and that it is making the twins themselves anxious and clingy.  She joins a preschool parenting group to help her get a more balanced perspective.

What is independence?

Independence means that our lives are shaped by personal priorities rather than external constraints or social pressures. It means we are able to follow our own deepest values and exercise our judgment even when others disagree or disapprove.

To maintain independence, we must recognize our natural human tendency to assimilate–to gradually conform our ideas to those of groups or leaders that we like or authority figures.

Because group dynamics encourage conformity, independence can create situations that are uncomfortable. Though sometimes awkward, the presence of independent thinkers is a gift to all because it keeps a group from falling into shared illusion or error.

Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.

Follow your own weird.
–Big Joy Project

A civilized society is one which tolerates eccentricity to the point of doubtful sanity.
–Robert Frost

Have the courage of your knowledge and experience. If you have formed a conclusion from the facts and if you know your judgment is sound, act on it – even though others may hesitate or differ. You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you. You are right because your data and reasoning are right.
–Benjamin Graham

Blind obedience is itself an abuse of human morality. It is a misuse of the human soul in the name of religious commitment. It is a sin against individual conscience. It makes moral children of the adults from whom moral agency is required. It makes a vow, which is meant to require religious figures to listen always to the law of God, beholden first to the laws of very human organizations in the person of very human authorities. It is a law that isn’t even working in the military and can never substitute for personal morality.
–Sister Joan Chittister

Without deviation from the norm, ‘progress’ is not possible.
–Frank Zappa

Bringing it home to your kids

1.  Nurturing independence means allowing your kids outside your comfort zone.  Because they are constantly changing, their growth edge lies just outside of what they (and you) have already mastered.  Just when you breathe a sigh of relief, they are ready to stretch again.  A little discomfort is a good thing.

2.  As much as possible, be a consultant rather than a problem solver.  Offer suggestions instead of solutions.

3.  Structure your lives so that your child can get places on kid power.  Cultivate neighborhood friendships.  Bicycle together so that one day your child will know how to bicycle safely alone.  Teach your teen to use transit.  Remember, despite the scary stories, urban teens are actually safer than suburban teens because they drive less.

4.  Resist the temptation to engage in counterpoint, countering your children’s opinions with your own. You have more experience and will often be able to out argue them, but at a price.  Instead, ask questions that help them to understand their own opinions more deeply.  Offer complicating information judiciously.  When you want to say “I disagree,” do it respectfully like you would with someone who isn’t your child.

5.   Give your child the scary responsibility for decisions that affect others, choosing a family activity, planning a vacation day, allocating jobs during spring cleaning – and then roll with it! The key is choosing something just a little beyond their experience and then coaching without taking back the power and authority.

Photo by Lance Shields

Character Corner: Idealism — musings, quotes, and parenting tips from WisdomCommons.org

“When I grow up I’ve decided to be president,” Hanna (a bookish ten year old) announced to her father George as they were walking home from the park.

“Then I’ll make laws and nobody will be able to run over manatees or kill sea turtles in nets.”  From behind them, her elder sister responded, “Then you’ll have to make everyone like to so they vote for you!”

“You mean it’s a popularity contest?” asked Hanna in disgust.

“You don’t have to be president to help manatees and turtles,” interjected her father.   “If that’s what you care about most, you can find a way to make a difference.”

George loves Hanna’s big dreams and her fierce passion for defending wild animals.  But he also knows that her idealism is more likely to last if it is realistic and includes an array of possible futures.

What is idealism?

Idealism means seeing the underlying goodness, beauty or promise in the world and then allowing this to shape our moods and actions. It is a deliberate choice to focus on the possible and to trust that these possibilities can become the dominant reality.

When we cultivate idealism, we focus on what is lovely and loveable in other people. Their imperfections and rough edges remind us simply that their lives are works in progress. Our idealism helps them to see their good qualities and to grow them.

When idealism guides our lives, it melts away cynicism and despair, replacing them with light and hope.

 

Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.
–Louisa May Alcott

Our ideals are our better selves.
–Amos Bronson Alcott

To live is to choose. But to choose, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go, and why you want to get there.
–Kofi Anan

I visualize therefore I become.
–Claude Pelletier

Ideals are like stars: you will not succeed in touching them with your hands, but like the seafarer on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you reach your destiny.
–Carl Schurz

 

Bringing it home to your kids

1.  Children start out idealistic.  The trick is helping them to sustain it as they gain a greater sense of real world complexities.  When they discover closed doors, help them see the ones that are still open.

2. Consider–What are your dreams?  What do you hope to change or create during your time on earth?  How are your dreams visible to your child?

3.  Expose your child to stories of people who have made a difference.  Read biographies aloud, watch historical movies together, take them to visit nonprofits when they are old enough.  Parents who have moved outside of religion may need to be particularly conscious of building in these life experiences, since religious institutions traditionally provide some of this.   Consider picking up a copy of Parenting Beyond Belief.

4.  Support your child’s idealism.  If he or she adopts a cause, play a supporting role.  You might help to plan a birthday party in which your child asks for wild animal donations, or books for poor children, for example, instead of toys. It’s much more satisfying to be idealistic with others who share your passion.

5.   Have conversations about ideals:  character virtues like those showcased at WisdomCommons.org, humanity’s longstanding dreams of peace and prosperity for all, the family values you try to live by even though you often may fall short.

Photo by xJasonRogersx

Character Corner: Humility — musings, quotes, and parenting tips from WisdomCommons.org

Georgia worries that her son, Frankie, is becoming arrogant at age six.  He brags about how much better he is than the other kids on his soccer team, and he is quick to point out the clumsiness of his little brother, Ethan.  Lately he has taken to rolling his eyes when Ethan offers an opinion or expresses a wish.

 

Georgia felt belittled as a child, and from the time Frankie was born she has showered him with praise.  Now she wonders if things are out of balance in the other direction.  She knows his behavior is developmentally normal, but she wants to make sure she is helping him to outgrow it.

What is humility?

Humility means understanding that the delights, pains and needs of others are as important as our own, even though they don’t feel so. When we are humble, we can laugh at our self importance and sometimes, even, set it aside. We can see our own faults and the strengths of others, and we recognize how much we have been given, unearned.

Humility makes us aware of our personal limitations and the limitations of humanity more broadly. We acknowledge that there is much we do not know, that certainty is impossible, and that our understandings of the world are provisional at best. Humility opens us to growth and love.

Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.

I want to realize brotherhood or identity not merely with the beings called human, but I want to realize identity with all life, even with such things as crawl upon earth.
–Mohandas Gandhi

Sometimes the only way you can take a really good look at yourself is through someone else’s eyes.
–Katherine Triandafilou

Most of the greatest evils that man has inflicted upon man have come through people feeling quite certain about something which, in fact, was false.
–Bertrand Russell

What children don’t understand, and can’t understand until they grow up some, is how much the whole fabric and process of human society depends on everybody agreeing to ignore, most of the time, the fact that all of us are, most of the time, inadequate, incompetent, pitiful, and, in fact, naked to our enemies. None of us really has very much in the way of spiritual, moral clothing. We dress ourselves in rags. And we agree to say nothing about it. To a very large extent, it is human charity that clothes us.
–Ursula LeGuin

Humans think they are smarter than dolphins because we build cars and buildings and start wars etc., and all that dolphins do is swim in the water, eat fish and play around. Dolphins believe that they are smarter for exactly the same reasons.
–Douglas Adams

Bringing it home to your kids

1.  Life will point out when your child has an unrealistic self concept, if you don’t get in the way.  Not every picture they paint will be beautiful; not every paper worthy of an “A.”  A coach or team mate will let your superstar know there’s still work to be done.  Don’t rush to cover up reality.

2. Judiciously talk about your own mix of faults and strengths in front of your children.  Owning both is an important part of a healthy self concept.

3. “We all make mistakes and have to set things right” is a valuable two-part mantra for your child to hear repeatedly both after they botch things and after other people do.  Ironically, one enemy of humility is the fear (and so denial) of imperfection.

4.  Cultivate empathy and service.  Children who can imagine the life experience of another person or animal are more likely to develop a healthy sense of humility.

5.  Ask your children to participate in chores and service, even if you don’t have to.  It’s ok to be bluntly matter of fact:  Anybody who walks on the carpet should sweep it sometimes.  Nobody who uses the toilet is above cleaning it.

6. Point out humility when you see it in others:  the ability to be generous but genuine with praise, the ability to celebrate other people’s success, the ability to laugh at oneself.  Your child is surrounded by good role models and you can help him or her to notice them.

Photo by Interplast

Character Corner: Helpfulness — musings, quotes, and parenting tips from WisdomCommons.org

As Darcy was growing up, she often helped her mother to cook or clean while her brother, Peter, was off in his room.   She feels like Peter has paid the price since, that his tendency to opt out rather than pitching in has cost him in his relationships with housemates and women.

 

She is determined that her own son and daughter will both learn to help.  But her son, Danny is only four.  It’s so much easier to leave him playing and just recruit seven year old Alicia when chores need to be done!  Recently Alicia has started to complain, “How come Danny doesn’t have to help?!”  Darcy has good answers but finds herself feeling conflicted.  She wonders if she is falling into her own mother’s pattern and whether it’s time push both herself and Danny a little more.

What is helpfulness?

Helpfulness means trying to make life a little easier for other people. If we are paying attention, we notice when someone else is struggling –to open a door, to complete a task, or even to go through the dying process with grace and dignity. We move instinctively to ease the struggle – lending ourselves whether for a moment or a lifetime to serve their purpose.

If we look around us, we become aware how much of the substance and beauty people are able to create depends on helping hands. Like generosity, helping is a gift that gives to the giver. Sometimes we receive help in turn from those we assisted; even more often our helpfulness ripples through the world as other people spontaneously pay it forward.

Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.

It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

The greatest pleasure I know is to do a good action by stealth, and to have it found out by accident.
–Charles Lamb

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm… As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping others.
–Audrey Hepburn

If you’re too busy to give your neighbor a helping hand, then you’re just too darned busy.
–Marie T.  Freeman

To the world you may be just somebody, but to somebody you just may be the world.  
–Unknown

Bringing it home to your kids

1.  Asking children to help often takes more effort than simply doing something yourself.  Think of it as an investment in the future—yours and theirs!

2.  Point out when other people need help—an elderly relative, a younger sibling– and ask your child to assist rather than reflexively lending your own helping hand.

3.  Teach your kids the concept of “Pay it forward.”  (You can’t always help the people who help you, but if you watch someone else will come along who needs your assistance).

4. Watch for situations when help from your child really would make a difference for you.  Being needed is an important part of self esteem.

5. As your child gets older engage them in more formal helping roles:  tutoring, “mother’s helper” for a neighbor with a newborn and an older child, assistant coach.  Any of these can help develop the helping instinct and ability to read other people’s needs.

Photo by Sean Dreilinger

Character Corner: Gentleness — musings, quotes, and parenting tips from WisdomCommons.org

Five-year-old Tommy is a bit of a bulldozer.  A high energy guy, he rushes through life full of curiosity and eager for the next new experience.  But he also can leave a swath of destruction in his wake:  a toy broken by accident, a glass of milk bumped to floor by a careless elbow, classmates who are literally knocked over when Tommy joins their play or who are put off by his intensity.

 

Tommy’s mother is pregnant and anxious about how Tommy will interact with the baby.  She knows how important it is for him to feel included but worries about safety.

Last week, Tommy came home begging to get a rabbit from a neighbor who had several.   After some closed door discussions about teaching gentleness, his parents agreed to “borrow” one for a week.  The deal was that Tommy could hold the bunny for five minutes at a time. As soon as he got antsy or rough, the rabbit went back in the cage.  Over time Tommy would work toward increasing the time and finally getting a pet of his own.

What is gentleness?

Gentleness means recognizing that the world around us is fragile, especially other people. It is recognizing our own capacity to do harm and choosing instead to be tender, soft-spoken, soft-hearted, and careful. When we are gentle we touch the world in ways that protect and preserve it.

Being gentle doesn’t mean being weak; gentleness can be firm, even powerful. To behave in a gentle manner requires that we stay centered in our own values and strength — that we are active rather than reactive. Coming from this center, a gentle word or touch can channel our energy into healing or making peace.

Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.

Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short-lived.
–Abraham Lincoln

Softness overcomes hardness.
–Zuo Qiuming

I place a high moral value on the way people behave. I find it repellent to have a lot, and to behave with anything other than courtesy in the old sense of the word – politeness of the heart, a gentleness of the spirit.
–Fran Lebowitz

I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men.
–Lao Tze

The way to overcome the angry man is with gentleness, the evil man with goodness, the miser with generosity and the liar with truth.
–Indian Proverb

Bringing it home to your kids

1.  Rev down when your kids rev up.  Try lowering your voice so they have to quiet down to hear you.  Gentleness is remarkably contagious.

2. Seek out opportunities for your children to interact with smaller creatures and younger children at times when you can be fully present as a model and coach.

3. Engage your children in assisting grandparents or elderly neighbors or community members.  Kids often instinctively subdue themselves in the presence of elders..

4. Make time for snuggles, hair stroking or little back rubs.  Children who get lots of gentle comfortable touching will have a better sense of what feels good for others.

5. Entrust your child early to handle delicate objects with supervision.  Like any virtue, gentleness is acquiredthrough practice—and through mistakes.

Photo by Calilily

Character Corner: Ethics — musings, quotes, and parenting tips from WisdomCommons.org

Alicia was raised Christian but now considers herself nonreligious.  Her parents are worried about her two daughters, Adrianna and Connie.  They don’t see how she can raise good kids without taking them to church.  Alicia admits that she learned morality as a child through religious activities and conversations, so she is at a bit of a loss when she tries to respond to their concerns.

 

She realizes that she has no role model for how to teach her kids ethics in a different way.  Finally by accident she runs across a book about moral development in childhood. It talks about how moral reasoning and emotions develop across a variety of cultures and religions.  This gives her a vocabulary for responding to her parents. Now the question she faces is which rules and values she most wants to nurture.

What is ethics?

Ethics is a systematic approach to questions of right and wrong. Throughout human history, people have wrestled with how best to approach ethical questions–how to balance the happiness of an individual against the wellbeing of other individuals or the collective. Each ethical philosophy or religion expresses some attempt to find this balance.

Although ethics is a field of rational, scholarly discourse, the beginnings of ethics are built into our very bodies. They are rooted in moral emotions such as empathy, shame, and guilt. Moral intuition and reasoning emerge similarly in children across cultures, and they are nurtured by adults. We build on these moral emotions and instincts by making agreements with each other, weigh costs and benefits of different courses of action, looking to ethical scholars, and drawing on the wisdom of our ancestors.

Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.

Ethics: The indispensable interface between my desire to be happy and yours.
–14th Dalai Lama

If you simply try to “do unto other as you would like them to do unto you” then you could wind up doing things to others they might not enjoy as much as you do. . . . An even more “finely tuned” rule might be what some call “The Platinum Rule,” namely, “Do Unto Others as They Would Have You Do Unto Them.” In other words, take time to learn about your neighbor’s tastes, their mood, their nature, and their temperment, before you start “doing” things “unto them.” Treat others the way they want to be treated.
–Edward T. Babinski

Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But, conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right.
–Martin Luther King, Jr.

Every age has its massive moral blind spots. We might not see them, but our children will.
–Bono

New occasions teach new duties, Time makes ancient good uncouth.
–James Russell Lowell

Bringing it home to your kids

  1. Even if you are nonreligious, don’t be afraid to use words like right and wrong.  If you look at yourself, you will realize that you hold certain values sacred, and that these values guide how you try to live.
  2. Talk to your kid about why, not just what.  Most moral values are rooted ultimately in non-harm or promoting well-being.  Help your children understand what gets harmed when we behave badly.  A person?  An object?  Another being?  A relationship?  Trust?
  3. Take a developmental perspective.  Although empathy emerges very early, young children are oriented toward rewards and punishment.  That doesn’t mean they are shallow people.  Deeper, more abstract ethical reasoning comes later.
  4. Sometimes your child will respond to your praise and disappointment.  Sometimes they will need concrete rewards or consequences.  Sometimes when temptation is overwhelming, you will simply need to remove it.  This goes for teens as well as toddlers.  Tuning into your child (and your co-parent) can let you know what they need when.
  5. Who do you look up to?  Tell stories about them.  Quote them.  Find simple biographies.  Type quotes into the Wisdom Commons and print them out as posters.  Let your child know that your family is part of a human community with an ethical heritage.

Photo by PermanentTraveller