Growing up as a child in New York, I learned that there were four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. While there were variations during the year, kids could pretty much depend on flowers blooming in the spring, taking trips to the beach in the summer, playing in the colorful leaves during autumn and freezing temperatures in the winter. Since moving to Southern California seven years ago I have watched the ‘truths’ of my youth transform. My reality has changed and with it the ‘laws of nature’ seem to have shifted.
What was unquestioned certainty for me as a child has been redefined. I now live in a place where maple leaves turn magnificent colors in November and roses pop out in full glory on the same day that there is a frost delay on the golf course. All four seasons coexist in the same 24-hour period and it is not uncommon to sweep leaves, cut roses, marvel at snow on the mountains and go to the beach all in the same afternoon.
This ‘redefinition’ of my childhood truth has led me to think about other beliefs and patterns of thought that we learned as children. I have come to realize that some of these beliefs no longer serve us well. I also acknowledge that some of the pain we carry around with us as adults is a result of the ‘truths’ we learned when we were young.
The following are some truths I am coming to redefine. They were handed down from past generations with the intention of helping us grow into ‘good people.’ The willingness to see beyond an entrenched system of beliefs can lead to incredible freedom and permission to enjoy life more fully. Once we integrate them into our own consciousness we can pass them on to our children and grandchildren:
Old Truth: Children need to be DISCIPLINED in order to grow up into responsible, empathetic, successful human beings.
For many generations discipline was defined as getting children to behave correctly and the strategies to accomplish the goal included spankings, yelling, threats, punishments, guilt and sarcasm.
New Truth: These strategies actually hurt children and we can no longer allow ourselves to be fooled into believing that using these methods actually raise happy, successful, emotionally healthy human beings.
All children deserve to be taught about life from adults who model wisdom, who give love unconditionally and who have the courage to get their own ‘acts’ together. If you are yelling, threatening, punishing or spanking, it probably means you need to find ways of taking better care of yourself as well as learning strategies that encourage kids to be cooperative. These strategies exist! Set your intentions to learn them! Your whole family will feel better by your courage to change.
Old Truth: What others think about you and your children is very important.
As a child it was clear to me that my family cared a great deal what other people thought of me. I just knew that I was expected to be good, polite, and do what was socially appropriate. If others thought well of me, I could relax. If I made my mom and grandma proud of me, all was well with the world. I have come to realize that there is a fine line between supporting a child to be a kind, caring, respectful person and encouraging them to give up their truths to please others. While some children easily acquiesce to the pressure of social expectations, others quietly or openly rebel. Actions taken from external pressure are emotionally unhealthy. There is another choice and that is to teach our children to follow their inner guide.
New Truth: It is none of our business what other people think about our children or us.
I say this over and over to myself because this is a hard one for me even though I believe it is a healthy way to live. While I was growing up, my family did a really effective job of convincing me that I could only feel safe and balanced when others approved of me. This conditioning takes away personal empowerment, disconnects us from our authentic selves and lets others set the bar for our standards of behavior.
Parents free themselves and their children when they ‘tune in’ to their inner guide. For many people this is a challenging concept. Our connection to internal wisdom encourages us to act in ways that are caring and loving and gives us the power to authentically choose between right and wrong. We do not have to coerce children into acts of kindness when they learn how to identify messages that come from a place of deeper purpose.
We begin to live this way by being conscious of that ‘fine line’ which I call our EGO. Many loving, caring parents lose themselves in their ego. It is the ego that makes us worry what others are thinking about us. It is the ego that wants compliments and fears judgments. It is the ego that demands children behave well so others will think we’re doing a fine job of parenting. We see our children as our extensions and the need for the approval of others can push us into behaviors that are inconsistent or coercive. When we make a conscious decision to live our own lives in non-judgment of others we model the freedom that comes with that style of living, which is tolerating our own imperfections and not needing the approval of others.
Old Truth: The way to be successful is to do well in school.
Sometimes I am shocked when I hear myself tell parents not to worry if their child is not bringing home A’s and B’s in school. I grew up with the mentality that if you do your homework and get good grades you will go to a good college, get a good job and be successful. Children hear this mantra from their parents over and over: “Do your homework. Study for your test. Clean your room.” These seem to be the 3 marks of future success. Can I, a teacher for decades, really be shifting my beliefs?
New Truth: Teach your children that anything is possible, dream big dreams, go with the flow of life, trust that you are here for a special purpose and enjoy the process of discovering your unique talents and gifts.
I look back on my teaching years and all of the children who came to class unprepared or who were not good test takers. There seemed to always be some children who knew how to ‘play the game’ of school and others who couldn’t or wouldn’t fit into the mold that was demanded by conventional education. I watched many of these children grow into adults and I have come to believe that their degree of success and happiness had little to do with the grades they accumulated during the course of their school years.
Children need to trust that they have unbounded potential and that nothing limits them but the beliefs they have about themselves. Children need to trust that they will figure out life as they go along and that their parent’s choices do not have to be their choices. When children learn to be sensitive choice makers and are encouraged to feel their spiritual and emotional connection to others, they learn that it is their attitude and openness to inspiration rather than a collection of grades that leads them into their greatness. A life of true success includes the ability to love and to have compassion, to feel joy and share it with others, to feel the passion of one’s unique purpose and to connect with the divine power of the Universe.
It may take a bit of willingness and courage to change old ways of thinking and behaving but once you feel the relief and freedom they bring, you may be willing to nourish these seeds of potential into joyful living.
* Discipline your children from your heart. Be honest with yourself about your own feelings and if your methods of discipline bring you discomfort search for more loving strategies.
* Become a role model of non-judgment of others. Encourage your children to embrace people who see the world differently as they embrace their own authentic individuality. Create a safe environment where family members are allowed to speak their truth respectfully, but without having to please each other.
* Let your children know they are here for a reason that will continue to expand and unfold for them. As you encourage their unique talents and abilities remind them that each one of us has the capacity to give and receive in great happiness, abundance, and ease.