Sunday, July 15, 2007

Teach the children well.....

I was blog-surfing again this morning and came across a post that got me thinking. Sometimes I wonder if I'd have a blog at all if it wasn't for the posts of others causing me to think about things.

What do you think are the most important lessons you can teach a child?

This is how I framed the post, even though it was a bit broader in its focus.

This might come as a surprise to some, but I believe I would have actually been a very strict parent, probably stricter than necessary in some ways.

I'll just start typing and see what happens.

Core lessons:

1) Actions have consequences. There are very few actions one can take that will not produce a similar or larger reaction. Simple dialectics ~ and it applies to all arenas of life.

2) There are things far more important than our own desires and wants ~ and even our feelings. Don't share your misery with the world. Do not seek sympathy. Be dignified.

3) Community matters. Harmony within community matters. Be harmonious. As Kukrit Promaj said, "let your name be as perfume".

4) Respect ~ respect others, respect the spirit world, respect the environment and respect for the self.

5) Nothing is permanent. Learn to be flexible to the process of life itself. Don't cling.

6) Life, other people, nature, thoughts and ideas are here to be enjoyed. Enjoy it as fully as possible.

7) Travel matters. Travel, see different things, different places and get to know different types of people. Learn from others, all sorts of others. They all have something valuable to teach, even if it's simply an example of how not to be.

8) Footprints: The footprints we leave in the world matter. Go gently. Go with kindness. Do no harm.

9) Do your part.

10) Do not make room in your lives for toxic, grasping, greedy, abusive people. Their journey need not be your journey. As Maya Angelou wisely said, believe what people tell you about themselves. If they say "I am not kind", take their word for it.

11) Live simply. Do not buy things you don't truly need. Recycle. Buy used. It doesn't take very long for the servant to become the master and too much "stuff" is a burden.

.. and finally ...

12) Have a home... wherever you find it. Make this choice consciously.

Okay, parents. Rip it apart. :)

Did I forget anything?



flutter said...

I think it goes along with community but manners are important, I think it goes with showing respect. Not just for your elders but for your peers and for yourself.

I really liked this, Chani

slouching mom said...

But...there's nothing to rip apart! Sound principles to live by, all. Only it might take years to teach them to children. I think we can judge how successful our parenting has been only after studying how our grown children behave, not just toward us, but toward everyone in their lives.

Emily said...

Laugh. Remember to laugh.

Nicely put.

liv said...

Oh, honey. I just giggle because the lessons in application never appear that noble. And I do disagree a little on #2. I do believe that so many of us are asked as children to set aside what is important to us. If my children are miserable, I want to know. If they need sympathy, and deserve it, they have a shoulder to cry on. Twentieth century culture has done enough damage to little boys by asking them to suck it up and "be dignified." I think we need to teach them that it's okay to express themselves as necessary. After all, a lot of great wisdom, art, and technology have come from very tormented minds.

Julie Pippert said...

They all sound good in theory.

What I actually find as a parent is that it's as much learning as it is teaching.

I also find that there needs to be so much flexibility. Be a willow or aspen, rather than an oak. It seems like you ought to be solid, implacable. But flexible serves best. As does creativity.

I love the underlying theory in your list. It's mostly about respect: of self, of others, of space around and in between us.

With 1, that's a tricky wicket. Actions that appear bad don't always appear to have consequences to the actor. I teach from the butterfly, and remind my kids that what you do makes who you are, as does what you eat. :0)

Hmm, 2. Sort of. Sometimes. Yes. Instead of "share," I might say "inflict."

I tell my kids all the time to share their feelings with me, but to never, ever think that feeling bad means you can act bad or hurtfully.

I also say it's okay sometimes to let people know you aren't top shape, but to let them know you are or will be okay.

I'd rather them learn wisdom in when and to whom they can share, KWIM?

Inflicting, though, is not okay.

3 & 4 are lovely, as is 6, 7, especially 8, 9, and 10.

5 is true, but some of us like the familiar and transition can be tough. The instinct is to cling. I think it's okay to understand this, be okay about it, and have a process to work through letting go.

I guess what I'm saying here overall is...I don't want to say or teach things that break their self-esteem.

All I've ever heard is that HOW I am, which means WHO I am, is not okay. I need to be otherwise, for example, lighten up, think less, be less moody, be more positive, cling less, etc.

So I might miss the actual intention of what you mean here in my defensiveness and caution based on my own life experience.

11 is crucial. We must first break ourselves of this habit, instilled into us so well by society and our parents. But perhaps watching us learn from our mistakes and do better is as good or maybe even better a lesson.

12...I think this is actually easy for my kids. But important nonetheless.

Good idea!

Is this from Peg's writing contest? I want to do that. Hope to find time tonight, but it's been a big working weekend.

KC said...

Believe in yourself.
Be generous with your love.
And faith, I would teach them about faith and strength.

Christine said...

I like this, but number 2 had me thinking a bit, and julie kind of said how I felt. I do want my children to be dignified, yet also open and able to share their feelings and sadness with those around them. I think this can be taken too far, of course, and then it becomes imposing, whiny, and self pitying.


heartinsanfrancisco said...

KC has added the two I would have, and I agree with Liv about wanting to know if my children are unhappy.

Most little boys of my generation were ridiculed by their fathers if they cried, and I was not allowed to cry either, despite not being a boy.

I think that is wrong. I agree with you that constant whining is not conducive to a rewarding life or relationships. Such people refuse to be helped, preferring to be conspicuously miserable, and eventually others avoid them.

But children should always be free to tell their parents when something is wrong in their life. You wouldn't want them to suck up sexual abuse, for instance, would you? That's what I thought.

I very much like your list otherwise because it emphasizes respect for self, others and the world.

I think I made it -- Paris Hilton is not one of my kids.

crazymumma said...

You have done so much writing while I have been away there is no way I can catch up...but this post piqued my most of your posts do. Anyhooooo

Many of the rules of life you wrote are quite right on in my opinion, sadly however, when in the midst of the chaos sometimes ones values do not shine thru into the day to day parenting. And that is when I say to myself, good enough for today, I will try harder tomorrow.

peace out Chani.

thailandchani said...

Flutter, thanks. Yes, I agree that manners are part of respect for community and even respect for ourselves. Who wants to be someone without manners? :)


SM, I'm guessing you're correct. Kids will often always behave toward their parents.. but how do they behave toward others? :)


Emily, that's a good point, too.


Liv (and all who raised this issue), I think you're correct and Julie's word "inflict" would be better. It's not that I believe we should all sit on our feelings.. but there is an appropriate time and place for them. Too many kids figure that if they feel it, it's valid.. and if it's valid, they should be able to act on it.

Courting sympathy is really something that should be done with close friends and family. I see too much of it out in the general community, too much of the time.


Julie, I can see what you are saying on some levels. I was also raised to believe that even my breathing was done wrong. No, I wouldn't want to impose that on anyone.

And people should be who they are.. absolutely.. but behavior has to be modulated. I guess that's what I was getting at.

Good point though! :)


KC, I like those things! I also believe faith is important.. faith in something larger than ourselves. I don't have a packaged religion but Whatever You Want To Call The Deity is very real to me and I'd definitely teach that.


Christine, that's really such a large part of my point on the sympathy seeking. Among close friends.. family.. that's one thing... but putting it out for general consumption is just kind of.. well.. it makes people uncomfortable.


Susan, good point, of course. No. I would want my children to speak up if something was seriously wrong. If, on the other hand, they were whining about not having the latest electronic gadget, they likely would be asked to find something else to think about.

If I'd been Paris Hilton's mother, well, I'd figure I had ten lifetimes of karma ahead of me. :)




Snoskred said...

It's funny, I've been trying to teach these lessons to my children, and they don't seem to get it.. ;) Maybe the fact that they are cats has something to do with the problem. Still, I will persevere. However I have not been able to get them to stop chasing each other around the house which I think breaks several of your core lessons there.. ;)

I actually meant to say it's funny you must have been reading my mind, because in the shower this morning I was thinking about my nephew and wondering what values he is forming.. it can't be easy for him. I hope this summer I might be able to spend some time with him and maybe teach him a few of these core lessons..


crazymumma said...

ps. who did the painting?

ellie bee said...

so much to think about!
there is a lot of wisdom here. I have to say I have mixed feelings about number 2. Having lived with a person with chronic depression for years, I have to say that keeping your misery to yourself would be a nice thing. I tell my kids that they cannot help their feelings, but they CAN choose their actions and behavior. Sometimes they choose poorly--so do I. One of the things I regret choosing was maintaining so much dignity in the face of a horrible marriage. My husband's behavior was NOT alright--but for years I pretended it was, and struggled to keep the peace.
I have tried, as best as I can, to not only teach, but to model these ideals, as well as some of my own, for my children. As much as you hate it, you teach kids how to behave by your own behavior. Not only what you do yourself, but what you tolerate for yourself. This is where single parents have the advantage--they are, for the most part, a one-man show.

It isn't easy, this parenting.
I once heard that a pilot is off course about 95% of the time--that he still gets there because he constantly recognizes where he is, and corrects his course (maybe a Stephen Covey story?) I think parenting is a lot like that--hopefully we all get to the right destination.
PS don't forget gratitude--for every day, every gift, every breath.

capacious said...

Kids mirror their parents behavior to a large extent (well, most kids do). I like to believe that my kids have learned kindness and tolerance from my husband and I. I hope that they haven't learned sloth and drunkenness. Just kidding. Sort of.

Stephen Newton said...

TG: I realized too late that I hadn't passed on my "knowledge" to my children. It never occurred to me for some reason. I don't remember ever giving them words of wisdom or advice. If I had to do it over again, I'd make a list a lot like yours.

Hel said...

I too have to disagree a little bit with point 2.

I would like my child to know that I love all of her even the not so nice bits.

I agree with you that a child should learn not to act on every emotion. But while they are still too small to distinguish between themselves and the world I believe a child should feel loved no matter what.

I remember so clearly how angry my mother would get and how much her anger would scare me. I did not learn not to feel sad I just learned to hide my feelings and get back at those who made me sad or angry in subtler ways.

And I still struggle to admit my feelings. Even to myself.

ALM said...

It's a great list! The only thing I might possibly disagree with is #2 - (or maybe I'm not understanding what you meant?) that there are things more important than our own desires, wants and feelings.

I think that children (now we're talking below 13 here) don't need to worry about that yet. Of course you teach them their place in the world - and how having a Pokemon card is not as important as having food... but they should feel comfortable voicing their needs, wants, desires -- and most importantly their feelings.

It's important to share feelings with others. To vent. To whine, even (not too much!) That goes along, in my mind, with community. Support. When you have feelings and you share them.. the disperse as part of being absorbed by the community.

I'm going through a bad week now - (and yikes! It's only Monday!) and don't you know I am whining and dumping on my friends all the time. I'm not being at all dignified. I am focusing on what *I* need to get myself through this. It's important to think of others. Very important. But you can't loose sight of yourself.

QT said...

Chani - I like this list, I have read your responses to #2, and I think that as everyone pointed out, that might be a concept that would be appropriate for an older child.

Also, in the heat of the moment, it is hard. My BF's nephew is such a spoiled brat, the BF and I visibly tense when he is around. I have never encountered a worse behaved child - his ever whim should be fulfilled immediately, or he resorts to fits of screaming & crying.

He is 7 years old.

Anonymous said...

Great list. After reading it through a couple of times, I feel pretty good about the job I'm doing, even if it will be decades before I see the results.

My daughter is unbelievably challenging. I'm just exhausted all the time and I'm sick of being "mean," but I don't feel I have a lot of options.

anyway, I think #5 is a toughie for younger kids, and I think #10 only comes with experience. But then again, I've been told that I have a hard time learning anything without experience, so maybe not for everyone.

Definitely worth thinking about some more for myself, although right now, I need to collapse into bed.

(Thanks for the beautiful, bucolic pictures of Thailand. I can't imagine being somewhere like that.)

painted maypole said...

I think the list is a great reminder that what we should be teaching our children is how to be responsible, loving and caring adults. No, we can't teach them all of these things when they are toddlers, but that this is our aim for them as human beings. And I think I get what you are saying about #2 - not that we shouldn't share our feelings, but that there are greater needs out there than that our every little want and desire is met. That we may need to sacrifice many of our wants for the greater good. And that ploys for sympathy lessen ourselves - not a heartfelt need being met by a friend, family, or kindly professional or stranger, but that we need to avoid an "oh, poor me" attitude that permeates so much of our culture these days.

Pam said...

Good basics, Chani, I agree but go with Liv on #2.

Children are a work in progress, ever changing. They need to know that your values are solid but that you are flexible.

mitzh said...

I love this post, Chani...

Specially #4 & 5.

Mary said...


I'm a parent and there's no need to rip this apart. Actually, it is suitable for artwork to be hung in one's home or bedroom.

Very good words to live by. I like #3.