When we bring our children into this world, we do well to remember:
Children who live with criticism learn to condemn others and be cynical.
And those who live with hostility accept fighting and arguing as normality.
If they are ridiculed they learn to be shy, and shameful, and lack confidence.
If, however, the child lives with tolerance, he shall learn to be patient and through encouragement, learn confidence, and produce fine work.
With praise he shall appreciate life.
With security and approval, he shall learn to believe in faith.
With acceptance, he shall love.
~ Thai Meditations – an introduction to Buddhism and Mindfulness, James Alexander
In other words, and simply put, lead by example.
If we shout at our children, they will shout at one another. If we are patient, they will better tolerate one another. If we are mindful in our communications with them, they will learn to be mindful in their communications with one another. And this will spread from the home to the world beyond it, permeate their encounters with others.
There are plenty of more negative influences out in their everyday world: in the school playground, with other less careful adults or children, out and about in their local environment. But with consistent love and gentleness at home, they are given a powerful, long-lasting message. Of course, any parent knows that boundaries are a healthy necessity in upbringing, but they can be reinforced with love, rather than force or anger: tell them what they’re doing well, rather than always pointing out what they are doing badly. As they mimic that behaviour in the wider community, so the mutual respect will spread.
To quote Wayne Dyer again (one of my firm favourites just now):
In your family, particularly with your children, it’s important to always have this little thought in mind: Catch them doing things right. Remind them often of their inherent brilliance, their capacity for being responsible, their innate talents and their fantastic abilities. Treat them as if they’re already responsible, bright, attractive and honorable…
When you… point out their greatness rather than their goofiness, it is their greatness that you will see.
There are two points I would like to make about that last excerpt:
1) “Treat them as if they’re already responsible…” also known as the power of manifestation! Along the same lines as my all-time-favourite ‘fake it till you make it’ mantra, if you treat your children as though they are responsible, they will become responsible. If you treat them as though they are failing, then that too will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When put that simply, it becomes essential, doesn’t it, that we pay very close attention to the way we interact with our children?
2) We are only human. We all have bad days. And when we do, we haven’t failed. We have simply fallen off the wagon and need only to climb back onto it. It is never too late, too awful, too sad, too desperate, too… anything. It is always the work of moments to start again. After all, if you choked whilst breathing, you wouldn’t say to yourself “I’m rubbish at breathing. I just can’t do it. I’m not going to try any more…”, would you?! If your children see you get straight back on the horse after falling off, then that is also a powerful lesson, isn’t it?
Ultimately, regardless of any other circumstances in our lives, it is our responsibility to be there for our children, to lead the way without dictating it, to support without directing, to love without condition. It serves us all well to remember:
It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.