Your children do not belong to you is not a lecture, but a loving reminder:
You are the earthly guardian of your kids. You are not their owner.
Treasure the 18 years or so that they are directly under your care, because if you pay attention, it is you who receives the gift of their innocent wisdom.
Look in their eyes, with love. They will feel lovable if your eyes are warm and caring. (And if you’re in need of love, you will receive a strong surge of love as you connect with the beauty and innocence in your child’s eyes.) This is the beginning of developing trust, a quality that will influence their capacity to be positive, welcoming, and optimistic for the rest of their lives.
Listen, with interest, when they speak. They will build confidence if you enjoy what they have to say. Ask a question, inviting them to more deeply explore their topic (no matter what it is!) and show you their level of expertise. This way, they will naturally develop leadership qualities.
Don’t boss your kids around. Include them in the family chores. Be patient and show them how to garden, cook, ride a bike, etc. Get them outside, turn off the video games, put down the phone.
Instill respect and cooperation between your kids. There’s nothing more disheartening than siblings at odds. If your kids get along, that builds the capacity for harmony. Growing up with relationships based on harmony and enjoyment is so rewarding — the family wins, and later, the community wins.
Hear what your kids do NOT say. You understood this intuitively when they were babies. Continue to watch your child’s body language as they mature. There is more to learn in their posture and movements than in the actual words they speak.
There is almost no excuse for not knowing what’s going on with your child emotionally.
You don’t have to read their social media, email, texts, or diary to be aware if something’s “off.” If you’ve been talking with them lovingly and respectfully since they were little, you have a better shot at finding out what’s going on.
YOUR CHILDREN DO NOT BELONG TO YOU. They came through you and are full of Wisdom Messages. Do not miss these messages due to some idea that you know better. You do not. There is some basic stuff parents are meant to do, including providing food, clothing, shelter … but most importantly providing nurture, love, and leading by example.
I know you’re trying. I know you’re doing the best you can. Still, could you be a better walking talking example of love? Could you practice leading by demonstration?
That’s what your kids are for! They are carrying Messages of pure love, appreciative wonder, humility and grace, for you. And you will greatly benefit your child if you receive the Message! The Message is guiding you to be your best self.
Begin now. It would have been ideal to start relating to your children as lovable, interesting individuals from the day they were born … infants feel whether you are present and attentive to their needs from Day 1. Even the fetus in the belly feels your loving attention — or not. But there’s no time like the present to begin again.
So start now. Look at your kids with fresh eyes. See the best in them. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Be humble and question yourself. (Unless you’re a chronic self-doubter, in which case get some help in developing confidence so you can exhibit benevolent authority at home — kids need firm (not rigid) boundaries.)
Fulfill your assignment as earthly guardians by supporting their development into people who feel competent and worthy. People who are loving and genuinely interested in others.
I’m asking a lot of you. Because I believe in you. There’s nothing more important than to love and be loved.
There’s no one better to love and be loved by than your children. Not to hold onto them. Not to guilt them into taking care of you in your old age. But to give them the courage and freedom you didn’t have; to prepare them to soar; to trust that giving generously to your children has to produce generous returns — from who or when is yet to be revealed … no need to focus on that now.
Quality over quantity. I know you have busy, demanding lives. I understand you may feel overwhelmed, irritable, and even despairing at times. I see that what I suggest is often easier said than done. Do it anyway.
Because a little love goes a long way.
CHOOSE TO LOVE. Say a prayer. Ask for help. Find a support group.Whatever it takes. Because your choice to love your children is also your choice to love yourself. When you love yourself, you don’t only give your kids a fighting chance in this crazy world … you also infuse the world with your loving energy. We need that.
P.S. Kahlil Gibran said it far better than me in his essay On Children:
You may also appreciate what Osho has to say about parenting. If you are open-hearted and willing to be brave, take a closer look at who you really are, beyond being a parent.