Archive for the ‘Child rearing’ Category

Homeschooling with an Iron Fist

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NC Wyeth - By Unidentified photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

NC Wyeth – By Unidentified photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Why are you homeschooling – really? Be very honest with yourself.

I have the utmost admiration for the hard work and dedication of the homeschooling parents I have met, and despite all of our different methods, the one thing we share in common is a passion to do what is best for our kids. This is not to say that non-homeschooling parents are less dedicated – of course they are. But I will be the first to admit that homeschooling parents tend to have strong opinions about how things ought to be – and this is also one of our weaknesses.

I recently read a fine article by Josh Harris called “Homeschool Blindspots,” which is a very honest appraisal of what went wrong in his own family’s homeschooling experience. He shares very important insights about how his own high expectations and need for control really only served to alienate his son. As a pastor, he related his vision of an ideal upbringing for his children, based on Biblical values, but realized later that he was more concerned with outward appearances than with building genuine loving relationships. His children had become “projects;” a reflection of his own worth as a fatherly role model.

Many parents are guilty of this, myself included. We have visions of our perfect family, of our perfect kids, and how the outside world will perceive us. It’s understandable really, when you think about all the work you do everyday: what do you have to show for it? Your only “result” is your children, and what will people say about you if they turn out badly? We want to be proud of our kids – to hold them up and say “Look what I did!” The temptation to tweak and mold our children to fit our preconceived notions is always there, like an artist working on a sculpture.

N.C. Wyeth, the famous American illustrator and father of painter Andrew Wyeth, homeschooled his children with an iron fist. He was not motivated by religious ideology, but rather a romantic Renaissance vision of perfect childhood. He controlled everything his children did, yet his aim was to make them more creative and original than the other children in public schools. Only the “best” books, poetry, music, toys, art and art supplies were allowed. He even controlled their play, much to the annoyance of all the children. Andrew later wrote, “Pa kept me almost in a jail, just kept me to himself in my own world, and he wouldn’t let anybody in on it. I was almost made to stay in Sherwood Forest with Maid Marion and the rebels.” Fortunately, since Andrew was the youngest child, his father had either given up or grown tired of controlling everything, so Andrew had a bit more freedom than his harassed siblings.

The point is, it doesn’t matter what your reason is for homeschooling, if the reason is getting in the way of building genuine loving relationships with your kids. And genuine relationships are based on trust, not control. Now, I’m not saying that parents shouldn’t have any control, because kids actually like to have some structure. Sometimes it is comforting to have boundaries – and different kids will crave different levels of freedom. But here are some clues to let you know when your personal vision has taken over, at the expense of all else:

  • Do your kids feel comfortable talking to you? Are they ready to share their feelings with you?     (If so, that means they are not afraid of your judgement.)
  • Do you have a vision of what your child could be? Can you let it go?      (If so, that means that whatever your child becomes is up to her, and that is OK)
  • Do you have any hobbies or interests, or a life that does not revolve around your kids?    (If so, that means you are not living your life through them)
  • When was the last time you really laughed?    (It’s best not to take ourselves too seriously – a light heart loves best!)

Probably the best way to tell if you are over-controlling is if your kids are rebelling, and then it is time to do some serious soul-searching. Try to understand your motivations. How much are you influenced by other people’s opinions? By your own upbringing? By idealized visions of perfection? The thing is, it never works to try to “fix” someone else. We can only fix ourselves, or try, and spend the rest of our time loving our fellow imperfect beings the best we can. Unconditional love* for our children is more powerful than any form of discipline or training program, because it will help them stand on their own, with full faith and confidence in their own worth – not forever looking to us for approval.

*Side Note: Lest I forget to mention it, unconditional love is not the same as “smothering,” because those parents that smother their kids are really living through them, in an attempt to fulfill their own complicated needs. This is a good way to raise military leaders or dictators though, such as Hitler, Stalin, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, FDR, Nietzsche, and others. The authors of Cradles of Eminence, a study of the childhoods of more than 700 famous men and women, found that “When the mother-dominated and mother-smothered are considered as one unit, they include 64 percent of the military men, adventurers, and dictators . . . These children described their parents variously as adamant, bossy, strong-willed, overanxious, overprotective, overpossessive, interfering, and especially as dominating.” (p. 131 of 2nd Edition)

 

Getting Things Done When Everything Keeps Getting Undone

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Photo from Photopin, Creative Commons License

Photo from Photopin, Creative Commons License

Here we are in 2013. This is the time of year when we all look back to take stock of what we have accomplished and renew our plans for the future, right? Does this make you feel giddy or defeated?

Does it feel like you got anything done last year?

This is particularly hard to answer when you have children, no maid, and forgo a fulfilling career to be a homeschooling parent. Life seems to move forward in a blur of activity from morning till night, but it’s hard to pinpoint any one thing to say “Here’s What I Did!”

Let me help you with that.

Here are my top 5 antidotes for homemakers frustrated with perpetual lack of accomplishment:

Reframe your noble purpose

One of the things that really stuck in my memory back in physics class was the concept of entropy, or the way that nature tends to move from order to disorder in an isolated system. I’ve always thought this concept applied spectacularly well to a household, particularly one with children in it. As a “home maker,” it was always hard to really say what I did or accomplished during the day, other than hold back the forces of entropy. This sounds much more majestic than: washing dishes, folding clothes, cleaning up messes, pulling weeds, changing diapers, cooking meals that are immediately eaten, or any of the other things homemakers routinely do. The problem with housework is that you spend a lot of time re-doing things that keep getting undone. It’s demoralizing.

That’s why you have to reframe the idea of housework in your mind. It is not an exercise in futility – but a vital force weaving order from the void of chaos! How’s THAT for purpose? Looking at it this way helps to put your work in perspective. What you do is valuable and would certainly be noticed if you stopped doing it. Nature depends on us to keep humanity humming along.  I write more about this here.

Do something every day that cannot be undone.

I heard this tip a long time ago and it is so true. Of course, everything will become undone in time, but some things last longer. Create one scrapbook page, organize a drawer, write a page in your journal, draw a picture, purge your children’s outgrown clothes, read a book, plant a tree . . . you get the idea. Give yourself the gift of progress, however small it may be.

Never underestimate the value of 10 minutes.

One of the most enduring principles of learning, time management, and eating elephants is to break something big into little parts. You may not have time to clean out your whole refrigerator, but perhaps you can just manage the produce drawers. Maybe the next day you’ll have time for one shelf. Don’t keep putting off a job until you have time to do the whole thing, just break it into chunks that fit the time you have. [Note: I do not condone eating elephants – it’s just a metaphor.]

Keep a journal.

You do way more than you think, even if it seems mundane. There are moments of beauty and grace sprinkled throughout your days, and keeping a journal will force you to notice them. You may be driving your kids to baseball practice for the 100th time but today the kids invented a new game in the car of telling stories backwards. Or maybe you struck up a conversation with someone new at the playground or rescued a stray cat or made four jars of sauerkraut. These little things add up to a full life, but if you don’t add them up, you’ll forget where they all went.

Keep learning.

Washing dishes is repetitive, but learning is cumulative. It builds upon itself, broadens your perspective, and engages your curiosity all at the same time. You may be wondering how on earth you would have time to learn anything when you have so much else to do, but this falls under the same category of “Never underestimate the value of 10 minutes.” Pick something that interests you, but is challenging – something that will make you grow. If it is a book, read a few pages a day. If it is a musical instrument, practice for 10 minutes a day. If it is a foreign language CD, listen for 10 minutes on the way to the grocery store. Then, make a note of what you learned in your journal each day. At the end of the year, you really will have the satisfaction of a particular accomplishment.

These years when your kids are at home will be gone sooner than you can imagine, and then you will have time to accomplish some of the other goals lingering in the back of your mind. But right now you are doing a very important job. Don’t beat yourself up over days lost to seemingly meaningless logistics. And don’t beat yourself up if your house is a mess either. You are in the midst of a long-term project, nurturing people that will change the world . . . and THAT is an accomplishment to be proud of!

 

photo credit: Bill Stickers -c via photopin cc

Even Schools are Recognizing the Value of Personalized Learning

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Photo by WBUR Flickr Photostream/Creative Commons

Photo by WBUR Flickr Photostream/Creative Commons

I heard a report on my local public radio station about the finalists for the federally funded “Race to the Top” competition. According to the Department of Education website, the sixteen winning “districts will share nearly $400 million to support locally developed plans to personalize and deepen student learning, directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps, and prepare every student to succeed in college and their careers.”

The report I heard focused on the three small California districts that won, beating out several bigger districts. What are these school districts doing that won them the cash prize?

They are personalizing their students’ curriculum.

New Haven United has an aggressive plan to provide each student in grades 6 through 12 with their own digital tablet, along with hiring extra math, literacy and assessment coaches to help teachers personalize instruction. Lindsay Unified is shifting all their students to performance-based learning, which allows students to work at their own pace through all the material required for ultimate graduation. Galt Elementary District is implementing StrengthsExplorer to create a blend of individualized online learning with classroom instruction for each student. Apparently, the students in these districts have responded very well to the changes. Teachers at Lindsay Unified describe a new excitement for learning when the kids realize they really can move ahead whenever they’re ready, even if that means the kids move up to the next grade level’s material.

I think this news is very encouraging. Could it be that educational authorities are recognizing the value of self-directed learning? I mean for real – not just warm fuzzy platitudes. It would seem so, at least in part. These Districts are still controlling what their students learn, but at least they’re giving the kids some latitude with how and when to learn.

Not everyone can homeschool, and I’ve often wondered how public schools might implement the advantages that homeschooling offers. Hiring enough teachers to create a student to teacher ratio of 6 to 1 would be amazing, but prohibitively expensive. Perhaps the next best solution is technology. Why should all kids have to sit through the same lecture when some kids already know the material, some kids have no clue what is going on, and other kids are simply more visual or kinesthetic learners? Providing every child with a digital tablet or some other regular access to a the Internet would allow access to the information students need to know, whenever they are ready to learn it.

Just this one innovation, if it was really used, would give kids some sense of control over their own education. Of course, it would be even better to let kids have more of a say in the content of their curriculum, besides just picking a few electives in high school. But I don’t see that happening anytime soon. That’s the ultimate control isn’t it? Controlling what kids learn, and in autocratic countries, controlling what adults learn, too. I’m not insinuating that this is done with evil intent. On the contrary, I think authorities generally have noble intentions of doing what is best for their students. They truly want kids to succeed.

My argument is simply that top-down curriculum is not as effective as passion inspired curriculum. It would be lovely if our kids readily absorbed all those carefully chosen textbooks we give them, but if they’re not interested, very little of that information is going to stick with them. Why waste everyone’s time (teachers included), when kids could be investigating things they are really curious about? I would also argue, that even with the best of intentions, we can’t know best what anyone else should learn. We can share what we know, but every child will grow up to do things that we cannot foresee. The best we can do for them is to avoid squashing their natural impulse to learn, and give them the tools and resources to find what they need, when they need it.

Oh well, these winning school districts are off to a good start. Other districts will be watching to see if these innovations produce results. In the future, hopefully more schools will be leveraging technology to give kids more control over the delivery of their curriculum and at least some customization based on learning styles and strengths.

Bollywood Dancer or Dentist?

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Photo Credit: Naeeme Brahimjee

I was chatting the other day with one of my daughter’s dearest friends from school – I’ll call her Padma. She was telling me how much she wished she could be a Bollywood dancer when she grows up, but her parents don’t approve. They want her to be a dentist.

This is perhaps understandable. If breaking into the dance industry in Bollywood is anything like it is in the United States, she’ll have tremendous competition and very few career opportunities. Her parents also don’t approve of the skimpy outfits. Again, I can understand that.

But as I watched Padma at the table with her friends, she could  barely stop moving to the beat in her head. Her hands danced of their own accord. My daughter tells me that she goes home from school everyday, turns on her music and dances for hours before doing her homework. She has had Bollywood dance lessons for three years, and reportedly, she is very good. I couldn’t help thinking to myself that this girl would not be a happy dentist.

Of course, her parents know her better than anyone, and maybe they are aware of some underlying fascination she has with teeth, but I suspect the real reason is that dentistry is a respectable career with a decent chance for earning a good living. Padma’s brilliant older sister is already attending an elite university majoring in engineering. My understanding is that the main reason the parents live here in the United States is so that their children can have the best education. Eventually, they hope to return to India. Having a daughter set her sights on Bollywood probably wasn’t what they had envisioned.

This conundrum reminds me of the opening story in Sir Ken Robinson’s book, The Element. He describes the 1930s childhood of dancer Gillian Lynne, whose teachers despaired of her slow progress and inability to hold still in class. Her mother took her to a psychologist, dreading what the diagnosis might be. After spending some time with the child, the psychologist informed the mother: “You know, Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn’t sick. She’s a dancer. Take her to a dance school.”  This was the beginning of a wonderful joyful career for Gillian. She became a prima ballerina with the Royal Ballet Company and later, started her own musical theatre company, working with Andrew Lloyd Webber to create shows such as Cats and The Phantom of the Opera.

This is a great story, but I know that not every aspiring dancer finds success. Many never make it. Dreams crushed, they have to start over again with something else – perhaps dentistry. But does this mean they shouldn’t try?

When my kids were little, I didn’t stop them from climbing trees, but I had two rules. One was that they shouldn’t climb higher than they were willing to fall. The other was that I would not help them climb any tree, no matter how much they begged for a boost. I figured if they weren’t able to climb the tree by themselves, then they shouldn’t be climbing it. Of course, this meant that they kept trying until they figured it out or grew bigger (and therefore better at climbing).

If Padma really wants to become a dancer, it will be up to her to make it happen. She will have to work very hard, find mentors, do the research to find out what she needs to do, and take the fall if it doesn’t work out. If she isn’t willing to do those things, then chances are she wouldn’t have the determination to become a professional dancer anyway, no matter how much she loves it.

It would be great if her parents got behind her, but they only need to give her a chance. Dreams are always worth pursuing, no matter how crazy. Who knows what amazing things Padma might accomplish? Very often, following one passion can lead to something quite unexpected in another field. But if she lets the dream go, settling for something sensible, she may spend the rest of her life looking for the thing that was lost.  Even if Padma tries it, and later changes her mind, she still will have learned a lot about her self and had a chance to grow stronger – ready for the next passion to pursue.

What about your kids? Do they have any dreams that seem impractical? Do you have the courage to let them try?

 

Source: (page 1-3) Robinson, Ken, Ph.D. The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. Viking, 2009.
Photo credit: naeem.ebrahimjee via photopin cc

Halloween Rant

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You know what drives me crazy? Super short, sexy, “flirty,” nurse/nun/pirate/prisoner/cop/whatever costumes for women. I have nothing against a little glamour, but those costumes are just too obvious. Everybody likes to get attention, and showing off a lot of skin is a guaranteed way to get attention, but in a superficial, fleeting way. It’s like swearing. Some people swear excessively to get attention, like novice comedians and insecure teenagers. Other people swear with restraint and imagination, like Shakespeare and Mark Twain.

It especially pains me to see teenage girls dressing in skimpy outfits. Last weekend, I was in charge of picking up my daughter and a friend from the Homecoming Dance, and while waiting outside with all the other parents, I watched the steady stream of exuberant kids funneling out of the gym doors. The standard dress that probably 80% of the girls wore was a skin-tight, strapless, sequined tube dress that barely covered them. Worst of all was their obvious discomfort, as they kept tugging the top up and the bottom down as they walked. I can’t imagine how they danced in those dresses – or in the 3 inch spike heels they wore. Why on earth would they wear these outfits? The usual teenage girl Halloween costumes are just as bad. I recently saw a costumed group of girls hurry in to the grocery store to grab some snacks. One of the girls was in a sparkly bikini with white high-heeled boots and a giant pink wig, despite the fact that it was only 60 degrees outside. I’m not even sure what she was supposed to be – maybe a pop star?

WHY are moms buying these blatantly sexy outfits for their girls? I just don’t get it. With young kids, it seems that Halloween is a great excuse to dress up as a favorite character or take on a new persona – something funny or spooky or powerful. Maybe as girls get older, the new persona they want to try on is sexy. With boys, it just seems to move on to more funny/spooky/powerful. Maybe this is a natural progression, but this doesn’t mean girls (or boys) should just blindly follow along with media stereotypes. With no other guidance or role models, how else will kids know what it means to be sexy or powerful? How else will they know that the secret of both is really self-confidence? As with so many facets of growing up, mentors make a huge difference. The adults (including those in the media) in a child’s life are always teaching, whether they know it or not.

It is very important to have real people in your life who are strong, confident, compassionate, and self-aware. These are the people who will show your kids what is possible and the true way to achieve it. Even if you are already a great role model, it’s always helpful to have more great friends and family because you know that teens don’t necessarily aspire to be just like mom or dad.

My kids have known a variety of teachers, coaches, and other inspiring adults throughout their lives. Our family is also blessed with the great friends we have met through the Coast Guard and rock climbing. They have been a terrific influence on all of us. And let me tell you, women rock climbers are no push-overs. The strength, courage and focus they have developed over years of climbing carries through into everything else they do. I’m so glad that my kids have had a chance to see a different feminine ideal than the one portrayed in music videos.

Needless to say, my daughter won’t be dressing up in hardly anything this Halloween. I think she’s planning some kind of Steampunk Hogwarts combination. I’ll be dressing up as a rock climber.

 

Ten Great Things to Do with Kids Outside

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Autumn is really the perfect time of year to spend outside. It’s not too hot, not too cold, and the air smells crisp and inviting. Don’t waste these days sitting inside. Your kids NEED to be outside!

Here’s a list of ten fun things for younger kids to do outside:

1. Make fairy houses. Use sticks, stones, leaves and other natural materials to create miniature dwellings at the base of trees or other inviting nooks.

2. Play “Pooh Sticks.” Borrow from Winnie the Pooh’s idea to simultaneously drop sticks on one side of a bridge and look on the other side to see whose stick comes out first.

3. Micro hike. Lay three 3-5 ft long strings around an area to study. Flop down on your bellies to observe the tiny details.

4. Go on a night hike. Pick a night when the moon is bright and don’t use flashlights. Try to identify sounds.

5. Find the rock. This was my Dad’s favorite way of keeping us kids busy on camping trips. Have your kids find a small distinctive looking rock. Throw it about 20 ft away (make sure the area is clear and safe first) and let the kids race to find it.

6. Meet the neighbors. Spend time getting to know the individual birds, insects, and other animals around your  home. Find out where they live, how they eat, social habits, etc. Maybe draw pictures of them. Maybe name them so that your family can differentiate between one squirrel and another.

7. Scavenger hunt. Prepare a hunt in advance by creating a sheet of things to look for on an outing. Consider what trees, insects, animals, feathers, droppings, rocks, plants, or other features your kids might actually see in the intended area. Here’s a website with lovely ideas/photos.

8. Miniature hide and seek. Choose a small area (say 15 X 15′) and take turns hiding a small 1 inch tall toy. The others try to find the toy. Your children might discover that other things are already hiding in certain places, or they might decide that the game needs to be moved to a bushier area with more hiding spots.

9. Build easy tree forts. Rather than hauling out the ladder and toolbox, use fallen branches and sticks to prop up and around the base of trees. With the right materials, you might even be able to weave sticks and grasses in and around each other. Blankets and beach towels are always useful for tenting materials.

10. Imagination games. The best games are the ones your kids invent on the spot. Give them plenty of unstructured, kid-directed time to do this. While you’re gardening, reading a book, or working on your own project, let them have time to just play.

If your kids want to learn more about the things they see outside, but you are not an expert, I highly recommend the “Crinkleroot’s Guide to . . .” books by Jim Arnosky. Unfortunately, I think most of them are out of print, but you might be able to find them in your library. My kids loved Crinkleroot!

Getting Older Kids Outside:

If your kids are already teenagers and have no interest in the above activities, there’s still plenty of ways to get them outside. First consider their personalities. If your kids love to socialize, then find opportunities for group outings, classes, or volunteer work. If they are athletic, give them a challenge. They might enjoy classes in mountain biking, kayaking, climbing, backpacking, fishing, etc. If they are more the quiet type, they might prefer time alone outside, keeping a nature journal, or learning from a local naturalist.

Another thing to look for is a kid’s outdoor program in your area. My daughter did a year of a program called “Homeschool Dirt Time” which changed her life. She had so much fun and grew to appreciate the outdoors in new ways. She would have loved to do more, but school and gymnastics got in the way (for now). She hopes to go back as a counselor in the future.

 

 

Photo Credits:

Fairy house is from http://www.creativeworksforchildren.com/how-to-build-fairy-houses-with-children.htm

Pooh Sticks is originally from “The House at Pooh Corner” by A. A. Milne, but I found it at this website: http://www.quirkbooks.com/post/ten-things-winnie-pooh-taught-me-about-life

Searching for Wild

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Every night in my little neighborhood tucked between a wetland and a hay field, our resident pack of coyotes comes out to throw a party. I never get tired of listening to them, and wonder at the huge variety of yips and yowls they exchange. My beagle doesn’t seem at all interested in them though. I would think that though she doesn’t speak their language, she ought to at least pay attention to her distant canine relatives. But no, she only barks at other dogs. Sometimes we scoff at her for not wanting to get her feet wet, or for curling up on top of a pile of pillows to take her nap, but she has her moments of wildness. Squirrels usually do the trick. When she catches the fresh scent of rodent, it drives her mad!  She strains at the leash, alternating between frantic snuffles along the ground and baying her heart out. If we let her off the leash, she would charge into the underbrush and never stop. It’s hard to resist the call of the wild.

I think humans are like that too. We may not feel the urge to chase squirrels, but we are always chasing something, always looking for that thing we lost. Maybe it’s the adrenaline rush of fast cars, mountain climbing, or skydiving. Maybe it’s the peace of quiet forests, desert landscapes, or rolling meadows. We crave excitement, escape, beauty, mystery, and all the other things that represent wildness.

Children are closer to it than we adults. For them, the whole world already is exciting. Have you ever taken a walk with a toddler and had to stop every few feet while she stooped to investigate a snail or flower or lichen or funny clicking sound? Small children live through their senses. Any abstract thoughts are expressed in their imagination and play. It’s a joy to watch them at this stage. Why then, do so many adults rush children to grow up? Or keep them sheltered away in romper rooms cleansed of dirt, germs, stickers, bugs, or any other semblance of nature?

I am one of those who thinks it is because we distrust nature. If we don’t force children to stop playing and do their work, how will they ever learn it? If we don’t protect them from nature, they might get hurt. Dirt is just something that must be removed. And so it goes. And so children forget where there wonder began, and spend the rest of their lives looking for it.

Perhaps that is why we have art. Poets can sense the truth of something just out of reach and try to capture it in words. Artists don’t just paint likenesses of people and fruit bowls, they compose visions of pattern and light and emotion that help other people see what they see. Musicians play, dancers twirl, actors cry, and writers struggle because they are grasping for that wild world outside of ordinary reality. One could argue that the best artists have found it. They channel wildness to the rest of us. It is really the source of all creativity.

As parents, the best thing we can do to help our kids develop creativity is not to squash it in the first place. Let them be children as long as it lasts, because it won’t last forever. They will move on when it is time. Let them be outside as much as possible, using their senses, playing, and getting dirty. Hopefully when they do grow up, they’ll keep a little spark of wildness inside them, like a bit of wolf inside the heart of a pup, and the world will always be a wondrous place.

Dashing Expectations

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My dad wanted me to be a lawyer. I got good grades and seemed predisposed to a sensible occupation, but I just couldn’t get excited about law. What I really would have liked to do was “commercial art,” as it was called in those days, but my dad convinced me that art was a risky career choice, so I decided to go to a military academy instead. I don’t regret that decision, because it broadened my horizons, and led to great adventures and friendships. But here I am again, reading typography books for fun and pining over those “Where Women Create” magazines. The trouble is, I feel like I lost my creativity somewhere back at the Academy, and I have to get it back.

In 2006, I started taking “New Media Arts” courses from my local community college and it was wonderful – like coming alive again. I took drawing, graphic design, digital art, art history, and some other courses before my schedule imploded. It’s hard to go back to school while homeschooling three kids! The kids felt like I had abandoned them, and my husband couldn’t understand why anyone would ever want to take typography. That’s OK, because I believe there is a time for everything, and they needed me then.

Our lives are full of expectations, from ourselves and others. We all push and pull on each other, unconsciously sharing our fears, hopes, disappointments and habits. I’ve tried very hard not to impose expectations on my kids, but I know I do anyway. Whenever I give advice, I’m influencing them to do something the way I would do it, or the way I think would work best for them. Is it possible to not give advice to children? I doubt it, but I do believe that less advice is best.

Have you ever known someone who not only gave you unsolicited advice, but had a firm conviction you should follow that advice? It’s very uncomfortable, because if you don’t agree, the other person may be insulted or angry or put up an argument. It won’t take long before you avoid that person’s advice at all costs, or perhaps instinctively rebel from it. That’s even more uncomfortable. Have you ever found yourself doing the same thing though – perhaps with your kids?

What if we never offered unsolicited advice? And if someone did ask for our opinion, we simply offered it with no expectations attached? This takes a lot of trust, and self-awareness. We have to believe that our kids are inherently capable, though they will make mistakes (just like we do). We have to know that our kids do not belong to us, and the fact that they choose differently doesn’t make our choices wrong. This might be a hard switch to make, especially if we are used to other people laying expectations on us. We have to undo all the phony connections that are based on ego (the thinking self), and simply be ourselves.

I still struggle with how much to give in to my family and how much to hold my own. I try not to expect anything in particular from my kids, but I cannot shake the expectation that they will always be wonderful. My dad does the same for me, even though I never became a lawyer.