10 Conversations You Need To Have With Your Children: Prologue & Chapter 1

By Sheikh Idris Watts

The next book on parenting I’d like to share my notes about is called ‘10 Conversations You Need to Have With Your Children’, by Shmuley Boteach.  I will share my notes on this blog and I hope you find them beneficial.  I would love to hear your thoughts so please feel free to leave a comment insha Allah.


This book is based on two fundamental ideas:

i)                    There are no bad children and no deliberately bad parents but that despite the best of intentions on both sides, there can be really bad relationships between the both.
ii)                  We must do everything we can to save those relationships, to reach out and communicate with our children.

The purpose: To inspire parents to find creative ways to communicate with their increasingly uncommunicative children.

Parents’ role: To be a source of knowledge, guidance, and inspiration, to help craft, shape, and mould their children’s own characters – yet it remains the most neglected aspect of parenting. The extent of communication between parent and child today is usually limited to set-piece conversations about the birds and the bees, say, or about the perils of drug abuse.

The job of the parent is not to impose his or her will on the child, but to get the child to listen to their inner voice. Inspiration, not just prescription.

Idleness breeds sinfulness.

When you have nothing to do, you do what you ought not to do.

The parent who inspires their child is the most successful.

How do I motivate my child?

Do not be reactive parents i.e. he is drawing on the wall, so you take the crayon from his hand and leave it at that. If you just lecture your children, you are moulding them, and not allowing them to think for themselves. They will grow up trying to think how to please Mom and Dad and do what they think they want them to be and not what they want to be themselves or worse they will become rebellious youth. You have to be proactive and not reactive. The child has to find his own inner voice.

What kind of person do I want to be?
Do I want to be a good person or a bad person?
Do I want to be selfish or selfless?
Will I bring light into the world or will I compound darkness?
Will I live life in the shallows, or will I engage its mysteries and plumb its depths?

This book is about becoming a person.
When children need to be corrected, use it as a time to initiate conversation. Bad behaviour invites discipline but is also calls for an attempt to inspire.

Whenever something happens in your day, no matter how insignificant it seems, look for that special moment, “There it is! That’s the beginning of this evening’s conversation with my family.”

Words that emanate from the heart penetrate the heart.

Chapter 1: On Becoming a Person

What do you want to be? The choice speaks to character and not career and the issue is the same for all of us: Do you want to be a good person, or do you want to be a bad person?

You need to teach your child that every choice in life is subordinate to the moral choice. All children want to be good. From time immemorial, civilization has focussed much of its energy on preserving the innocence of the child – the innocence that is his birthright. Then Sigmund Freud came along, and everything he said about human development undermined the very notion of childhood innocence. Children were narcissistic and uncivilized, he suggested. They were sexual by birth. They had to be controlled. Suddenly parents were bent on purging their children of all these unseemly qualities, and protecting them from corrosive, external qualities. But nothing could be more absurd! Children are neither good nor bad. They are a blank slate on which we parents will do the writing.

Children know right from wrong. They have an innate sense of justice. What you hear from them most often is, “That’s not fair! She got a bigger piece of chocolate than me!”

Telling a child to behave is not nearly as effective as inspiring him with a sense of what he want to be. Not do, but be. A child who is asked to think about the type of person he wants to be will begin changing on his own, without nagging and prodding. But you have to inspire him to do so.

Guilt is a terrible and unreliable motivator. It gets us to do things, but we do them without joy.

They need to want to do it. External will is what we want as a result of social pressure. Internal will is what we want as individuals, regardless of any kind of external influence. And this, too, speaks directly to the notion of who we want to be. Do we want to respond to outside influence, or do we want to develop our own inner voice?

The child may only stop his bad behaviour because you shouted at him. You may only shout at him because the child is showing you up in public. He hasn’t learned any manners; he has only learned to respond to your anger. That’s external will, and it teaches him nothing. The child understands you don’t care whether he messes around but you are only doing so because he is embarrassing you. Shouting works, but it never lasts because the child is not taught to internalize it. He is not attuned to his own inner voice.

Children know all about goodness. When they hurt someone, they know to regret it. The problem arises if the child is allowed to behave in contradiction to his deepest self, because he becomes progressively more alienated from the forces of good and in time they will have no influence on him, Real, effective parenting – which is also the most humane form of parenting – is all about helping the child reconnect with essence, all about putting him in touch with innermost self.

Rules don’t address character and in the long term they add up to very little. You have to develop his internal will. Teach them that a human is someone who has dignity and they have to respect themselves. It might not work at first but when you have the conversation more than three times you will start to get through. That’s internal will. You are reaching out with your heart because you really care for them and they will feel that. Words that emanate from the heart penetrate the heart. This is the longer, shorter way and not the shorter, longer way. If you look for immediate glory, you may well find it – but it will not last. The easy choice is seldom the right choice. It is easier to yell at your child but he won’t internalize anything. He’ll think that dad must have had a lousy day at work and it will teach him to watch himself when you are around but that does nothing for him. He has learned nothing.

Realize that people tire to have their own flaws pointed out to them. Admonishing must be done sparingly to have any effect, and must not be overdone. Give your child a break from time to time, but never stop nourishing that inner voice. Open their eyes to the world around them. Make them truly see. And look for opportunities to do so.

People not only want to be good they want to be thought of as good and that is why they go to great lengths to clear their names and protect their reputations.

A child should be made to feel he has betrayed himself and not his parents.

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1 Response to 10 Conversations You Need To Have With Your Children: Prologue & Chapter 1

  1. click here says:

    This website has a lot of really helpful stuff on it. Thank you for helping me.

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