Monday, 31 January 2011
What should you teach your child?
There’s a different dynamic in the house when Adrian’s away. James came into my room and said he had a suggestion for the problem of the Arctic Cryochamber Breakfast Room.
‘Wear your dressing gown,’ he opined. ‘Over your clothes.’
I had to laugh. He was standing, in school uniform with a long dressing gown knotted round his waist; trousers tucked into thick socks and a pair of ankle-high furry slippers.
So I followed suit and we had breakfast looking like a rum old pair of Noel Cowards.
James switched the radio from Adrian’s beloved Radio 4 to Radio One and we danced with the dogs to the Black Eyed Peas and shook with laughter and lost track of time and nearly missed the bus.
Careful walking. Walking as thoughtfulness. Thinking, thinking. Mainly about my son, my lovely son – and the man he will become. It made me ponder the principles I hope I have offered him.
I don’t believe we should inflict our ideas, our beliefs on our children. But I do think we can offer up suggestions, thoughts, possibilities. When I thought about what I would like James to take through life with him, I came down to these...
1. To your own self be true. The stormy search for the self starts young and it can be a hard path. I like to think James has enough self-esteem and self-belief that he does not need to follow the herd. That he can make his own decisions; be his own person; be happy in his skin.
2. Be independent. It’s not just practical, this one (although James is learning to cook, to clean, to wash clothes and iron them; to have responsibility for animals and his own stuff – why, oh why, do people not teach their boys this stuff?). It’s about being self-sufficient; about taking responsibility for oneself.
3. Be honest but also kind. This is about discrimination and it’s a fine line for children to learn. If your self-esteem is strong enough, there is no need to put other people down. Yes, some people are hugely irritating; bombastic; stupid; plain revolting. But hey...who are we to tell them? And that leads on to...
4. Stand up to bullies and stick up for the underdog. People who bully do so from fear, from lack of self-esteem. This chimed with James and now he stands his ground. He also stands between the bully and the bullied, even when it means going against the crowd – and for that, I am so proud of my young knight.
5. Communicate. Honestly, this is so fundamental – not just to children but to everyone. Nearly every question I answer (in my dubious role of agony aunt) comes down to this. Talk. Say what you mean. Don’t expect another person to intuit your meaning. I go over this time and again with James. He – like so many of us - imagines slights that probably aren’t there; is over-sensitive; gets the wrong end of the stick.
7. Question your thoughts. Thought can deceive. Thought can lie. Thought jumps to conclusions; turns simple dilemmas into catastrophe. ‘I got a C for English. I’m rubbish.’ ‘He looked at me funny; he hates me.’ Negative thoughts are your ego acting out of fear. Okay, so you don't need to go into that with your child but, well, you get my drift...
8. Open your heart. Ah, this is a tough one to teach a child on the verge of teenagedom as you know it will bring heartache as well as joy. But, truly, hearts are made to love. I have no doubt James’s will be broken, probably many times. But, the heart is a muscle, a spiritual as well as a physical muscle – and without breaking, it does not grow. There is huge healing and transformation in unconditional love - yes, even to those you consider enemies. I would point out that James isn’t totally convinced on this one yet
9. Have a sense of humour. Truly, the world hates a sourpuss.
10. Know when to shut up. :-)
Sorry. Longer post than intended.
What have I missed?
What do you hope to impart to your children?
How much should we impose our thoughts and beliefs on our children?
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