10 Conversations You Need To Have With Your Children: Chapters 2 & 3

By Sheikh Idris Watts

Chapter 2: Childhood and Happiness

The virtues of being an adult are many: you’re responsible, you’re capable, you’re strong, you learn a little something from the vicissitudes of life, and you gain wisdom from experience. But the shortcomings are plentiful, too: in the process of becoming an adult, you’ve been hurt, you’re more cynical, you’re scarred, you’re not sensitive, you’re not as tender, you’re less trusting, you’re more ambitious and aggressive, and – perhaps most tragic – you find out that people aren’t always as kind and good as you had hoped, and you tend to lose interest in “playing with others.” Children are the opposite.

Don’t force your children to be in such a hurry to grow up. In life there are two paths: One, to focus always on the destination, to live with anxiety and nervousness, always worried about when you’re going to get there. The person who focuses on his destination never derives any real satisfaction from his achievement because he always lives in permanent anticipation. He is always waiting for the next big thing, so he doesn’t enjoy the journey, and when he reaches his goal he feels empty because the race is over.  He must now set for himself yet another goal, which – once attained – will likewise fail to provide him with a sense of satisfaction.

The other path, the wiser and nobler one, is to focus on the journey. To enjoy the road with all its scenery; to be means-oriented as opposed to goal-oriented. A good life is measured by the distance we have travelled, not by the mountains we have climbed. The means-oriented man really enjoys the journey. He is not worried about where it’s going to lead. He’s not wearing blinders, not focussed on the goal alone, but is open to the world around him. His life is filled with beauty and wonder, and he learns to enjoy it fully.

It is very important to communicate this to your kids, to teach them to be in the moment. One of the reasons so many adults are empty is because they never learned this. They don’t know how to enjoy the present. They live and die with dreams, and – being immersed in dreams – are never sufficiently awake to enjoy reality. They want to achieve this or that by such and such an age. The locus of their happiness is always outside them. “If I get to be vice president by this age, I’ll be happy.” “If I can afford that big house, my dream will have been realized and I will be a happy man.”

But they aren’t happy. Not really. The job will never be good enough; there’s a better job on the floor upstairs. The house will never be large enough; look at that double lot at the end of the block. When the future arrives, it is always less than they expected. All in all they still don’t learn.

A young child on the other hand approaches life in a different way. He doesn’t think ahead and enjoys the moment. He focuses on his immediate goals.

When children reach teens they want to be free from their parents who they see as lecturing them. However, true freedom comes from within. You have to inspire them without lecturing.

Many people believe that happiness is the organic outcome of a happy disposition or depends on any given day. If you act happy, you will feel happy. The emotions do not dictate your actions; your actions dictate your emotions. You can’t wait around for happy emotions. Most people are as happy as they make their minds to be.

Choose joy. And it is a choice. If you resort to medication it will deal with the problem but you will begin a cycle of dependency from which you might never break free.

Don’t let other people determine your self-worth. Don’t give someone that power. You are a valuable person and no-one can take that away from you. Never put the locus of your self esteem outside of yourself. It’s in your hands.

Friendship is not a necessity. The right friendship is. If you were living in a place of wicked people, you would be forced to forgo the whole notion of friendship. If your friends are cold, try to warm them up. And if that does not work, find people who reciprocate your love and joy.

When you are unhappy do something joyous with that unhappiness. You know what it feels like to be left out, so make sure no one else feels the same way.

Happiness is a critical component of childhood.

Chapter 3: Knowledge and Inspiration

As children grow up, they tend to act as if they know everything. They exaggerate facts and invent stories. Interestingly enough, very young children know that they don’t know. But as they move towards adulthood, they become self-conscious about their lack of knowledge, and their fear of appearing ignorant often makes them stop asking questions. This is tragic. A child must never close himself off to advice and direction. We always need direction and inspiration. There are plenty of good sources – moral, ethical, spiritual – but nothing can replace a parent. If a child thinks he knows a lot about a topic, try to find out something that he does not know and that you can share with him. The object is not to humiliate him. The reason is to show him that you are interested in his interests and to impress on him that one should not stop learning.

Children do not like to be tested and put on the spot. We put too much stock on academics and schools should have a more holistic approach. We shouldn’t stress grades too much. The more important thing is that they be intellectually curious and want to know. Intellectual indolence can be deadly – both figuratively and literally.  Intellectual curiosity is one of the great blessings but boredom is the biggest curse. People who aren’t curious; people who don’t hunger for life, are dulled by their lack of interest and lack of appetite. Why would anyone choose that dull path when the world has so much to offer?

People lose interest in people, too, and the results are tragic. Curiosity is the soul of every relationship. The desire to know is the foundation of every interaction we have in life.

People create problems in their relationships to break up the routine and monotony. Their lives are so predictable, so routine, that the drama becomes a source of thrills and excitement and before long they have killed that relationship. If you are intellectually curious that is less likely to happen.

The author prefers his children not to read or watch action and science fiction or fantasy. Life itself is much more interesting. He doesn’t want them to lose their appreciation for everyday magic. The most intelligent films are those about normal life. Children have lost the capacity to be intrigued by life because they are over stimulated by the make-believe. How can a child be more interested in an Xbox than his grandfather who has lived through world wars and has so much to share about real life?

At home, have pop quizzes at the dinner table. Talk about something you read today regarding history, geography or politics. You can use them on family walks. Stimulate their minds. Families have stopped talking to each other and when they do talk the conversations remain at the surface level. Your children will develop an appetite for life and mix with those who stimulate them in their lives later on.

We need to distinguish ourselves as parents first and not at the office. Being a zero at the office and a hero at home is much better than vice-versa. Don’t neglect the child so that he seeks the wrong attention later in his teens. Are you really a success in life if the people who mean the most to you think the least of you?

Don’t let the moment pass you by. Most families tend to rush through dinner. The children can’t wait to get back to their computers and cell phones. They will stick around if the conversation is interesting. The biggest determinant is you. If you see yourself as a bore, your children will see the same thing. Discuss humanity with them, human strengths and weaknesses, interpreting motivation, and it’s all interesting.

Take a normal conversation and transform it into a great deal more. For example, take a conversation about sport and bring to their attention how many sportsmen would risk their whole career to gain recognition for a moment like taking steroids. Why do we do that as humans? People risk their lives for recognition. Some seek it out at any cost even if it will lead to eventual failure.

Include your children in your life and discuss topics with them. Parents complain that their children don’t want to speak to them but who is running the show? For example, don’t ask closed questions to your child on his return from school by saying: “How was your day?” or say: “What did you do?” but rather bring some interest to the table. Say, “Guess what? I heard about… and you’re never guess what they did! Why did they do that? What made them do that?”

Children shouldn’t run away from adult company and conversation. They should be fascinated to learn from a guest. When you no longer find other people interesting, your life becomes diminished, and you are touched by less. If you let this happen to your children, they will begin to live their lives vicariously, through the fantasy mediums of movies, television, and videogames, and they will lose their connection with people.

We need to disconnect from our cell phones, iPods, Blackberries, Palm pilots and reconnect with humanity. If you are interested in the world around you, there is no waiting.

This entry was posted in 10 Conversations You Need To Have with Your Children, Articles, Sheikh Idris Watts. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s