We send our kids to the best schools we can afford. We send them to immersion courses during the summer in other countries to perfect their foreign language skills. We make sure their food is nutritious, we organize tennis lessons, piano lessons, private tutors and if they need it, we send them to expensive dermatologists to help with their acne. We buy over-priced school and sports uniforms; we give in to their pleas for the latest fashion or technology craze, and it is abundantly clear that we love them very much and want the very best for them.
Today I want to discuss other aspects of helping them grow up well. And all of these have to do with us. Not with them.
What does your own happiness depend on? Do you need your external circumstances to be just so in order to be happy? Or have you found the way to being happy no matter what the external circumstances? In other words, have you worked on yourself enough to depend on yourself for your happiness? What a wonderful gift to give your children! Can you do this?
How self aware are you? How well do you really know yourself? What are the buttons that trigger your reactions? Do you then act on those blind reactions or are you so self-aware that you are able to choose to remain conscious? If you do not remain conscious when your buttons are pushed, and you become reactive (you react blindly), you are teaching something as harmful to your children as you would be if you were giving them drugs.
Making Choices and Self Responsibility
What kind of choices do you make? How much responsibility do you take for resolving your own issues? When you make your choices - every day - during your entire life, do you remember to be aware in order to recognize that at each step of the way you always have alternatives? Do you remember that you are responsible for everything you feel, think, say, and do?
In other words, you need not yell, you need not cry, you need not despair, you need not fear, you need not resort to anger, because you always have another alternative. Do you know how to live in such a way that the alternative you choose is the one that creates most well-being for you, and hence - by ripple effect - for those that live with you? If you do this - and consistently show it to your children - you are giving them a great gift.
Healthy Boundaries and Loving the Self
Are you free of codependence, manipulation, and enmeshment? No? I really did not expect you to say yes, you know. But it is very important that you recognize that some or all of these continue to form part of your life. That's called being aware. Then, deciding to do something about them is called making choices and being responsible for the self.
Here's how it works: you fall into some of your old traps, like noting codependent behavior with your spouse, sibling, parent, or anyone else, or like realizing you have once again attempted to manipulate someone - perhaps your child - in order to create the behavior you desire in a specific situation. If you are doing this, and if you are aware of it, recognize also that you are teaching your child behavior that will fetter him to self-destructive and negative ways of dealing with life. You can change this by giving your child the gift of your change. Working on yourself will bring this about.
Blaming Others and Being A Victim
Do you tend to blame others? Are you a victim of events or people in your life? Can you forgive? What you show your child by one or the other mode of behavior, will, in some ways, determine his/her chance at happiness now and in the future. Learn not to blame, no matter what - stop being a victim, no matter what - and begin to forgive, no matter what - in order to teach all of this to your child by virtue of your own example!
Walking Your Talk
Do you walk your talk? Do you say one thing and do another? Are you authentic? Are you really the way you portray yourself to be? Do you actually know who that is? This goes back to self awareness. It goes to meaning. It is implicit in happiness. Discover yourself because only if you do that, can you really walk your talk and in the process show your child what it means to be authentic.
Is There a Meaning In Your Life?
What is the central meaning of your life? Is there passion in your life, in that which gives meaning to it? Does your energy soar (not only your physical energy, but in particular, you inner energy, your psycho-emotional energy, the way you feel yourself vibrate inside) when you involve yourself with whatever it is that gives meaning to your life? Having this; finding this, implementing this, and then truly living it is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child as a role model he or she can follow.
Living in the Now
Are you always reliving past glories? Or past hurts? Or are you always counting the time until something special will happen - that raise at work, your vacation, the weekend, etc.? In other words, are you always living at any time other than the present? If so, recognize what you are teaching your child. This is the cause of much unhappiness in the lives of so many. Don't let your child be one of them. Teach him/her something different by learning to remain in the present yourself. Become aware of all the now moments you are losing and begin to systematically change this in order to make your life so much better and in the process give your child the gift of the now.
Be open with your children! Show them that you can make mistakes, or that you can learn from them. Show them that you are open to being open, and that you invite openness from them, no matter what they want to confide in you! Doing this is both easy and hard. It's easy because it is really just a question of choosing to be like this, but it's hard because in order to be like this, you must also choose to become self-aware and conscious at all times, choose to make yourself responsible for all that you feel, think, say, and do, and hence choose to work on all the those aspects that complicate this as discussed in previous sections of this article.
Love Has the Greatest Priority in Your Relationships
Remember this: the love you have for your child (newborn, toddler, teenager or adult child) must come before all other considerations. When there is a problem, in particular, an ego problem, for example, where one of you insists on being right, and as long as the other does not acquiesce to the rightness of that one, the relationship is on hold, you must remember that the love you have for each other - or even just the love you have for your child (in the event that at this particular moment your child has forgotten he loves you) - must be greater than the need to be right, or than the need for the problem to be resolved the way you think it ought to be.
Putting It All Together
Look within, work on yourself, become congruent, love yourself and realize that every positive thing you do in order to improve yourself will have a ripple effect on the lives of all those you touch.
You have so many gifts to give your child. No one expects you to be perfect. But you can start the road towards the goal of growth, self awareness, and loving yourself by beginning today with the first step. That first step is simply remembering to be conscious, and when you forget, forgiving yourself for forgetting, but praising yourself for at least having remembered that you forgot to remember to be conscious. And then doing it all over again...
The more time you spend being conscious, the more quickly you will reach the goal of your own inner freedom, and the more quickly you will reach the goal of being able to offer your child the gift of your example with all of this.