Around the time I was 17, I came across a book by Louise Hay that opened my mind up to just how powerful beliefs can be. Since that time, I have come to understand even more so that our thoughts shape our actions which determine lives in many ways. That is why I am so happy to have Vishen Lakhiani share with us today a guest post on how to raise children with healthy beliefs.
Vishen Lakhiani is a father of two, and is the Founder and CEO of Mindvalley, a company that specializes in learning experience design, creating digital platforms and apps that power online academies in personal growth, mindfulness, wellbeing, productivity, relationships and more. He recently published a book called, The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: 10 Unconventional Laws To Redefine Your Life and Succeed on Your Own Terms. (Affiliate link below.) I think you will really enjoy Lakhiani’s practices to raise children with healthy beliefs. I found these practices to be really interesting and mind opening. Some were things I do already and some made me think, “Do I do that?”
5 Practices To Raise Children With Healthy Beliefs
by Vishen Lakhiani
As a 40-year-old dad to an eight-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter, I’m part of the generation that’s learning to how to raise kids who were born into a completely new era of an interconnected world – from the worldwide predicament of how to get a toddler to put down daddy’s iPhone, to how long do I let my son play Minecraft on his iPad.
While there are many things I still haven’t figured out, there are some really important valuable and timeless lessons that I’ve learned about parenting from many of the experts that I’ve been able to connect with for my book, The Code of the Extraordinary Mind.
Here are five practices that I personally find incredibly important in ensuring that – as a parent – I try to raise happy and healthy human beings. Here is how to raise children with healthy beliefs.
1. Remember the first rule of parenting
Remember that your number one job as a parent is to keep your children safe. That’s the only thing you’re meant to do, really. But many parents become overprotective, which is natural, except that they go too far and enforce all sorts of restrictive rules and ideas that are actually limiting their kids.
2. Ease up on the rules
Some of you might be thinking, kids are kids. They don’t know any better. But what happens is parents might end up indoctrinating their child on how to do just about everything by the book.
A study that compared the families of creative adolescents with those who were not unusually creative found that the parents of the creative children had an average of one rule in their household, while the parents of the less creative children had an average of six rules.
In The New York Times article titled How To Raise A Creative Child. Step One: Back Off, columnist Adam Grant reported another study by psychologist Benjamin Bloom on the early roots of world-class musicians, artists, athletes and scientists. Bloom found that their parents were not rule enforcers or “drill sergeants”. Instead the parents played a more supportive role and responded mostly to the children’s own enthusiasm.
For example, if my son Hayden has a bedtime for 9:30pm and he asks for 10 minutes more to read a book, I let him have that extra 10 minutes. It’s not going to cause any long-term damage to him, and it makes him feel like I also trust him to make his own decisions, which is important to his growth.
So before you set a rule that you believe is necessary, ask yourself: Why do I need this rule in the first place? Do I not trust my child to make his or her own decision? Also…
3. Ask yourself, “What will my child take away from this interaction?”
I learned this from my dear friend Shelly Lefkoe, parenting expert and co-founder of The Lefkoe Institute.
Here’s a classic example. Imagine a family having dinner at home. David, the five-year-old son drops his spoon. The mother goes, “David, why did you drop that? Don’t drop your spoon.” Next, David drops his fork. The mother now goes “David, I told you not to drop your cutlery,” and sends David to stand in a corner as time-out.
Now the mother probably thinks she’s just disciplining her child mildly, but here’s the problem: she didn’t try to understand what was going on in David’s mind. What if he had accidentally dropped his spoon, and only dropped his fork to understand why what he did was wrong? Children, even from a very young age, try to make meaning of the world. By being punished David is likely thinking: “Mom doesn’t trust me. She won’t listen to me.”
And so this belief is instilled in David’s mind, as understood by what I call the “meaning-making machine”, a constantly running engine that creates meaning about the events that we observe in our lives from childhood till adulthood—particularly when they involve people we are seeking love or attention from.
So the first practice is in every interaction with your child, ask yourself: What will my child take away from this interaction?
4. Do reason with them
But do reason with them. Say if my son asked to stay up 30 minutes past his bedtime instead to read his book – what do I do? I reason with him with logical reason– never with spooky old wives tales’ or personal conviction.
I’d tell him, “Hayden, we know the recommended sleep allowance for a child your age is 10 hours. You can choose to go to bed later, but know that you might be groggy and grumpy at school tomorrow because you didn’t get enough sleep. So you decide – is it worth it?”
Often he would think about it and go, “All right. Maybe not 30 minutes, but just 10 minutes so I can finish this chapter.” And then ten minutes later he’d then go to bed entirely on his own without issue.
By teaching your kids to evaluate with logical reason and consider the consequences of their own decisions, you’re teaching them to take responsibility for their own actions.
5. Practice Gratitude
One of the ways I do this is to ask Hayden at bedtime: “What are you grateful for today?” That’s a beautiful question to ask your child, because it helps the child remember the happier moments about the day. This is a great way to teach children gratitude and positive beliefs about the world.
I also ask my son: “What do you love about yourself today?” That also is a great question, because it helps my son reinforce positive, self-affirming beliefs about his own self. He might say “I like my hair today” or “I ran faster than usual during PE today”.
Sometimes he’d just say “Dad, just let me sleep”, in which case I’d tell him what I love about him.
Many believe that over-complimenting a child encourages narcissism, but this isn’t true. The problem today isn’t that people “love themselves too much”. It’s that people walk around with self-esteem gaps, finding often unhealthy ways to validate and define them. So the greatest gift we can give the next generation is children who grow up to love themselves. In this way, they can be truly happy and contribute positively to society.
What do you think about these best practices to raise children with healthy beliefs? Did it open your mind up to new thoughts about how to raise a child?