This post by Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist highlights something I struggle with, which you probably struggle with, too.
It got me thinking about the difficulties that come with managing myself in my role as a parent; that position of undisputed tyranny, that position of power that most people elect themselves to regardless of the viability of their particular platform or any voter consensus.
I challenge myself each day to manage the considerable power that I wield over my children’s lives with an attitude of thoughtfulness and loving intention. I challenge myself each day to make critical parenting choices and make them selflessly.
When I succeed, I feel gratified that I have taken a step toward becoming a better parent.
When I fail, it’s most often because I’ve ignored one of these 3 tips.
1. Learn, Then Live Your True Intentions
The holiday season can amount to nothing much more than a thoughtless exercise in ego and selfishness if you let it.
I believe that during this time of year more than any other I need to inspire myself to a quiet session of meditation each day. There are dozens of decisions I must make for myself and for my family. I don’t want to decide anything without a clear grasp of my own true intentions.
Decisions include gift giving, travel, family interactions, where my time is spent and with whom, balancing my work with social commitments, what tangible opportunities to pursue with my kids, which aspects of the holidays to highlight for my kids, all of the financial considerations, health considerations, how the holiday will fit into the full scope of the year, where the holiday fits into my spiritual journey, what opportunities to pursue to give back to others, etc.
Seeing through the clutter to your own true intentions is always a valuable insight to have as a parent, especially amid the added noise of the holidays.
2. Is it True, Kind and Necessary?
There are ten thousand more things that your kids shouldn’t hear come out of your mouth than things they should.
Moderate the way you live your true intentions by asking yourself this question before any words actually leave your mouth; is what I am about to say or do True, Kind and Necessary?
You’ll notice an “and,” not an “or.”
Satisfying just one or two of these criteria is insufficient, make your words and your deeds satisfy all three, or if you can’t, fold your hands in your lap, zip your lip, count silently to 20 and start over.
It’s unkind to call your son ‘lazy’ after a bad showing in a soccer game, despite a pang of embarrassment you might have felt in front of the other parents.
It’s untrue to threaten a punishment or offer a reward to your daughter without following through.
It’s unnecessary for your 4-year old to be aware of the civil unrest in Ferguson.
This rule isn’t just great for parenting; it’s a great rule to live by in every interaction in your life.
You’ll find it difficult to remember to use this rule with your children if you don’t use it with everybody else because…
3. Be Consistent
Your habits are just the actions, words and thoughts you engage in each day.
The net impact you have on your kid for good or ill just amounts to the gradual accumulation of your experiences together.
You can’t shipwreck your kid’s life with one angry outburst, any more than you can erase that angry outburst in their memory by managing your emotions the next time your kid spills hot tea on your laptop.
Nobody becomes obese overnight; it is the gradual accumulation of sodas at lunch time each day.
Take time to identify your true intentions consistently. Ask yourself if what you are going to say or do is True, Kind and Necessary consistently.
To me, ‘consistently’ means that when I fail I will try again next time and it means that when in doubt, I will err on the side of these rules.
Live your true intentions, never say or do anything that isn’t True, Kind and Necessary and do so with consistency.
Sounds simple, but in practice the struggle is real. As parents, we have enormous power and responsibility in our children’s lives.
For more on the struggle to manage your influence responsibly, see the post that inspired me at Joshua Becker’s essential blog, Becoming Minimalist.