It's easier than ever to spoil children. I've seen toddlers with their own iPhones. Parents tell me it's great because the kid can watch movies or play games on it to entertain them.
We live in a world where we can have a relationship with someone we've never met on the other side of the world while we are starved for love, connection, and intimacy right in the same room with our loved ones.
There is excess wherever we look, and in a world where most parents have to work outside the home, it's really understandable that we want to give our kids things that make them happy and entertain them. We even give our children leeway with manners, no longer teaching them basic rules of respect.
The problem I see most often is that we want our kids to like us. We want to be their friend. We want to be cool. And as such, our credibility goes right out the window.
Children want boundaries. They need them. They may not like them outwardly, but inwardly, the world only makes sense to them when they know how to predict cause and effect. Kids long for the safety of limits. They love consistency.
What children need from their parents is for them to be parents. Parents are the moral guides for a child. Parents are a child's first experience of God, love, and connection. We are where they learn how to communicate and what the role of love is in the world.
When a family is experiencing a time of transition - a birth, a death, a divorce, a move - these are the times when they need the strongest boundaries, the most consistency, and the greatest loving connection.
Fill their time with you. Teach them to think and to reason. Teach them that life gives back in direct relationship to what is put in. Model the behavior you want them to repeat, and set the bar high.
Kids will most often do exactly as you expect. What you expect is up to you.
Spoiled kids hate their parents. Even worse, they hate themselves. They don't know how not to, because they don't know how to be in control of themselves. They don't know how not to manipulate or how to not be entitled.
Spoiling children sets them up for a lifetime of misery in learning that the world beyond Mom & Dad's house doesn't work the same way.
Respect your children, and they will respect you, even if they don't always like you. You are a big deal in their lives.
Parent first, friendly relationship second.
You will always need to be a parent first, when they need it. That is a lifetime commitment. You never have the luxury of being just a friend.
Be someone your kid respects, from deep down in their heart, and you will find yourself with the relationships you've always wanted with them.
Where do your kids learn how to behave? Have you ever thought about that? Babies and children absorb everything that is happening around them. They don't have any choice at that age but to adopt the beliefs and values and behaviors of those closest to them, and the communities around them.
Watch a group of kids at a playground and you will see them acting like an amalgamation of their parents and caregivers. Those patterns, if not changed in the parents and caregivers, will only deepen in the children as time goes on. This, as you can imagine, can be both wonderful and horrifying.
A dear friend recently spent time with me and my daughters. She hadn't seen my girls in several years. As she watched us interact with other people in the room, she started giggling and said she was amazed to see how much alike our mannerisms and speech patterns were.
Yep, they are mini-me, at least in part.
Here is the most shocking wake-up call I can give to parents:
Every thought you think, whether you are conscious of the thought, or if it is a tape playing in your subconscious, creates a spark of light in your brain. This spark of light travels through a neural network, and when it reaches the end of the neuron, the synapses fire out a squirt of chemicals that carry the message of the thought through the physical body via the nervous system at speeds up to 500 feet per second (that's about 340 miles per hour).
Think about all the negative thoughts you have about yourself in a day, and just take that in. I'll wait...
Okay, now think about ALL the negative thoughts you have in a day- negative self-talk, judgements about self and others, complaining, griping, pissing and moaning, gossiping- and think about the onslaught of chemical messages being unleashed in your body.
No wonder we are so addicted to our behaviors! Luckily it works the same for our positive thoughts and positive behaviors. That's why it feels so good to feel so good.
Here's where it gets juicy for parents: Every thought you thunk from the moment of your child's conception bathed that growing physiology in the chemical messengers of your thoughts.
Think that influence ended at birth? Think again. One of the many types of neurons in our brains is called "mirror neurons", or "empathy neurons". These amazing cells transmit feelings and thoughts from person to person. This is why it's so easy to cry when we see someone else crying with great emotion. This is why we cry at movies, even though we know it's pretend. This is why we crave the ice cream someone else is eating. This is why someone else's crappy mood can seem to rub off on us- or why their good mood can. In short, mirror neurons are cells that read minds.
In every way, we influence our children to be like us by how we behave and how we think.
It's about survival. If the behavior of our caretakers has worked to keep them alive, then it will likely work for the offspring too.
But hey, this is great news! If you want your children to change, all you have to do is change yourself,and allow mirror neurons and your strong example to do the rest.
Fixing our children begins with fixing ourselves. Fixing ourselves begins with acknowledging that we have something we want to change. To get there, we must accept ourselves where we are.
Don't judge yourself.
Love yourself right where you are, then make conscious choices. Be proud of your mini-me, and love the parts of them that frustrate you the most, because most likely, those are the parts that came from you.
With applied consciousness, we can be more and more the person we want to be, and leave a legacy that really makes us proud.
Relationships have a lot of spark in their beginnings, and most of us love falling in love.
And then. Something. Happens.
Suddenly the you-are-so-cute-I-even-love-your-farts phase makes way for the I'm-going-to-duct-tape-your-butt-shut-if-you-fart-one-more-time phase.
If you think I'm being ridiculous, think about a new baby and how cute everything they do is, then think about that same baby as a teenager, and you don't think it's cute anymore.
Am I right?
I can't tell you how to handle delicate situations such as these, but I can help you rekindle the memory of the love you have for them, even when you feel angry at them.
This might sound crazy, but the answer is to cultivate gratitude for them, even in the midst of irritation.
I had a past relationship that used to trigger the heck out of me, but I wanted to be in the relationship. I created a gratitude journal just for this relationship.
Whenever I would get mad enough to spit nails, I would retreat to my room with my journal, and I would write down reasons why I was grateful for this person until I actually was. I wouldn't stop until I had tears of grateful joy flowing down my face. And it didn't take long, either!
I would never repeat reasons, and the first entries each time would feel forced - and they were - but I would keep going. I kept digging deeper and deeper until I felt overwhelmed with love.
The thing that makes you mad might still be an issue, but it's a whole lot easier to talk about it and work it out with an open heart full of love.
It only takes one person to completely change a relationship. The other person doesn't even have to know.
I remember when I was in my early teens, maybe 13, I was having trouble with a girl at school who wanted to hurt me bodily, and another who just didn't like me and said mean things to me.
I'm not a big fan of either of those scenarios.
I confided in my spiritual mentor one day, and she gave me some advice: Say "I love you" silently in your head every time you see either of these girls.
I was dubious, but she asked me just to try it and see. I didn't love these girls. I didn't even like these girls, but my mentor said it didn't matter. Do it anyway.
I was terrified, because I was sure I was going to get beaten to a pulp, but when I saw my tormentor between classes, I thought at her, "I love you" before I averted my eyes to the ground and raced away. I did the same with the other girl. Every time I saw them, I repeated I love you in my head.
In a short time, maybe a week or a week and a half, the bully had moved on and was friendly toward me, and the girl who didn't like me struck up a short conversation to tell me I was pretty.
It worked! I was really excited. I mean really, really excited about this discovery. I mean the I-didn't-get-beat-up kind of excited.
Throughout my life, I've used this same idea in all situations, for good reason, and for no reason at all. I like to test ideas, and this one is going on 30 years in my life. I still find new ways to use this idea. It never fails me.
Nowadays when I hug people - and I hug people a lot! - I say from my heart to their heart, "Thank you, I love you." And I mean it, even if I don't know the person personally.
I love you just because you exist.
Thank you for existing.
I know people feel it. I get spontaneous feedback that I am a great hugger, or people asking me what was in that hug or having tears for "no reason" (it's the love). One time, a woman even fell to her knees and wept after I hugged her. She thought it was me, but it was love moving in her heart. Me? No, I was bright red and trying to help her to her feet.
Love is a force. It is incredibly powerful. And love is impersonal. That's why this works. The love in me knows the love in you. The love I am knows the love you are.
Fondness is personal. We can like or dislike personalities. That is personal. We can be attracted or repulsed. That is personal. But love, love is what we are.
So before you say your relationship (any relationship) is hopeless because the other person isn't into personal growth and talking about their feelings, think again.
You've got the power of love in your corner, and no one else even has to know about it.
When I ask people what they would do if they could do anything, they usually give me deer-in-the-headlights look. That, or a list of things like paying off the bills, quitting a job, and buying a new car -- things that would feel good for a minute, but aren't really fulfilling.
In a realm of unlimited possibility, some of us freeze up. Some of us don't ever think that big because we feel trapped in a small life and we don't want to feel even worse by thinking about something better.
But some of us know exactly what makes our hearts sing yet we are terrified to admit to even having a dream at all. We are afraid of failure, of being judged.
We are afraid we aren't good enough.
And some of us have a feeling there is something more to life, but we can't put our finger on it just yet.
“The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it. “ ~William James
Imagine something more...
Over the next few weeks, we will cover all those dynamics and then some, but today we are going to talk about that magical, mystical, and often elusive 'something more'.
Here's the real scoop: All you need to know to begin making your life amazing is how you want to make the world feel. You do not have to know the plan to live the dream.
I'm talking about the expressions of feeling we all innately long for, such as:
These are expressions which are born within you, rather than reliant on what happens outside of you.
Once you know which one you resound with, then you just become that expression little by little yourself, and before you know it -- POOF! -- you are changing the world because everyone you interact with is getting a little slice of heaven just by being around you while you hold that expression.
Choose an expression, and practice BEing it.
For example, if you choose peace, then look for the ways you can be in greater alignment with your own peaceful nature. If you are angry, take compassionate action anyway. Drive gently. Stop the war of negative self-talk inside your own mind. Smile at people.
If you choose love, then drop your judgement and passive-aggressive tendencies. Practice having better boundaries. Be in the present moment more often.
If you choose gratitude, then be grateful even for the things that you don't understand, simply because you are learning something about yourself in those experiences, if for no other reason.
This practice alone will change your life.
What expression makes your heart sing? Let me know in the comments, and what steps you’re thinking about taking to become it!
"Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes." ~Carl Jung
Last week we talked about having a global vision for yourself, choosing a single expression to practice embodying more fully - love, peace, joy, etc. - something you long deep down to bring to the world.
This week, as we continue to practice our global visions, we are going to add in some self-compassion.
The idea this week is this: Be enough for yourself.
Recently my daughter was watching an episode of Glee, and popular girl Quinn realized her long-time dream of being voted Prom Queen. She said, "You know it's funny, but I've wanted this more than anything for the past 3 years, and I don't feel any different." In the show, she gave up her votes to make someone else's dream come true, and in doing so, she found what she was looking for inside herself all along.
Radical transformation begins the moment you acknowledge and accept yourself right where you are. You can't change when you are in denial or judgement of the current facts.
I remember being a teenager and thinking when a boy loved me, then I would be happy.
Then a boy loved me and I was not happy.
So I said to myself, when a boy wants to marry me, then I will be happy.
Guess what? No dice.
Maybe if I was skinny...maybe if I had babies (who would always worship the ground I walk on, and never ever be mad at me or make me feel judged, by the way)...if I had a car, a house, more money, more friends, a better job- surely I would feel better. Surely I would finally love myself then.
The more I had, the more acutely I realized the hole inside me was a bottomless pit. And yet I STILL couldn't face the fact that wherever I go, there I am. I was the problem. Or rather, the problem was me.
It took a lot of time and gnashing of teeth for me to admit to myself that I didn't feel deserving of love. So even when I got the love I so desperately desired, I couldn't accept it, because then, I rationalized, it would leave (when the giver of the love also inevitably realized I didn't deserve it), and I would be worse off for having hoped.
Ugh. What a mess! I have so much compassion for the people who tried to love me, who I wouldn't ever let within arm's length of me emotionally. In my own pain, I was hurting other people and didn't even know it.
The lesson I finally realized was that what I wanted to feel had to come from within me. No amount of external adoration was going to do it for me.
I began to listen to my own thoughts, and the tapes that played in my head all the time. They sounded like this for me:
These kinds of thoughts were just going on constantly and unchecked in my mind. If someone else spoke this way to me I'd be indignant and hurt at the least, but I spoke to myself this way all the time. And I mean ALL the time.
Although it feels awkward and untrue at first, make an effort to catch these thoughts, and deny them and replace them with something you want to be true for you instead.
Tell yourself in the mirror that you are awesome, that you are beautiful, that you have a good heart.
You'll be embarrassed even though you are alone. That's okay. You are stepping out of your comfort zone, and that is a very good thing. You will get used to it eventually, and then you will even start to believe it.
Deepening the work:
Next week we will talk about living on purpose, and we will take this work and this list to a deeper place.
Meanwhile, if you are feeling brave, leave a comment and share a story about a time when you allowed your inner critic to stop you, or when you didn't...
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
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