Give Your Kids One of the Greatest Gifts of All: Their Own Voice

This holiday season, many of us are facing tough economic times. With little or no “spending” money for holiday gifts, what’s a dad (or mom) to do?

Fortunately, you can give your kids one of the greatest gifts of all. It doesn’t cost a dime, but it lasts a lifetime. And its positive effects are immeasurable.

You don’t even have to wait for Christmas! You can give this gift on a daily basis (hopefully many of you already do)…

Give your kids one of the greatest gifts in the world: their own voice.

No, I’m not talking about a lovely singing voice. I’m talking about something far more important. Every time our kids’ share a thought, opinion or feeling with us, it’s a moment filled with potential — the potential to support their voice or to undermine it. If we’re able listen, we show them respect — acknowledging that what they say (and who they are) is important.

This gift is as simple (and as difficult) as taking the time to really listen to what our children have to say. They might be telling us something that seems completely trivial, insignificant and unimportant. But it’s important to them. If we disregard what they’re expressing to us as unimportant (either verbally or non-verbally), what are we really saying to them? The situation becomes ripe for feelings of rejection and disapproval.

This is not to say that we always need to agree with our kids. It means that we need to hear them out. Not when they reach a certain age, but now.

I firmly believe that honoring our children as human beings is one of the major ways we can help them fulfill their potential in life. I do not want my boys to become “cookie-cutter kids” that fall onto the conveyor belt of life. My job is to support, nurture & love them for who they truly are, and do my part in giving them the tools to discover just who that really is.

Just because someone’s little, doesn’t mean his or her opinion is any less significant than ours. We all deserve the right to be heard. Kids deserve the same basic human rights as us.

Like it or not, we are the ones who play the largest part (at least while they’re little) in bestowing these rights upon them. In doing so we’re shaping our kids’ sense of self worth & self esteem. We are responsible for making sure they don’t grow up to be directionless, opinionless lost adults who are always seeking approval from others because they lack it for themselves.

If we teach them to believe in themselves now, empower our little buggers and let them know they are worthwhile people, I’m hoping this will make them more resilient to the unyielding grind of life. Hey, maybe it won’t even feel like a grind if we do our job right.

Our children are superstars. It’s our business to help them shine.

And remember, you are not alone…

Join Daddy Brain on the Radio!

Join me today @ 5pm (CST) on Wisconsin Public Radio, for an hour-long discussion on giving your kids one of the greatest gifts of all. It doesn’t cost a dime, but it lasts a lifetime. What is it? Their own voice. 

You can listen in from anywhere in the world by clicking here and adding Wisconsin Public Radio’s Ideas Network to your iTunes, Windows Media Player or RealPlayer. It takes about 30 seconds to download the station. Then, just double click the icon on your desktop to automatically add to your playlist.

The show gives listeners opportunity to call in, be heard and be part of the conversation. Just dial (800) 486-8655.

If you’re local to Wisconsin, you can also listen in on any of the following stations:

– WHA-AM 970 Madison
– WERN-FM 88.7 Madison
– KUWS-FM 91.3 Superior
– WHRM-FM 90.9 Wausau
– WHAD-FM 90.7 Delafield/Milwaukee
– WPNE-FM 89.3 Green Bay
– WLSU-FM 88.9 La Crosse

I hope you get a chance to tune in!

And remember, you are not alone…

Great Gift Ideas: Give Your Kids Your Guts

Alright, I’m not speaking literally about your actual guts. Or am I?

Your kids may not agree with you, but it’s not about the toys you buy.

It’s not about what you do with the kids, how much money you spend or where you go. It’s about the quality of the time you spend together — being present and embracing the gift of each moment — even when it might seem mundane on the surface.

It’s about giving them your love, your attention and your respect.

But it’s more than that — it goes beyond words or individual pieces of yourself. It’s giving them your “guts.” And it takes guts to be open enough to give your guts. To lay it all on the table, so to speak.

Your legacy as a dad, the positive impact you make on your children’s lives, has little to do with things like presents, fancy vacations, the size of your TV and other possessions or “outward” things. These are trivial, they’re just things.

What’s important is who you are as a dad, and the improvements you make within your self along the way  how you “upgrade.”

When all is said and done, when your kids are your age, they might vaguely remember the X-Box 360-Version2-Millennium-Titanium-Edition, and how cool the games were. But if we do it right, they’ll look back and clearly remember that we took more than good care of them. They’ll remember that we empowered them. They’ll realize that some of those times we denied them something (like a toy — NEVER deny hugs or love), or held them responsible for their actions, we actually gave them something far greater in return.

And if we do our job really, really right they’ll be better (and happier) human beings for it.

And remember, you are not alone…

Equal Rights for Kids: Let Your Kids Decide

The following excerpt is from the book Stories of the Spirit, by Jack Kornfield & Christina Feldman.

A family went out to a restaurant for dinner. When the waitress arrived, the parents gave their orders. Immediately, their five-year-old daughter piped up with her own: “I’ll have a hot dog, French fries an a Coke.”

“Oh no you won’t,” interjected the dad, and turning to the waitress he said, “She’ll have meatloaf, mashed potatoes, milk.” Looking at the child with a smile, the waitress said, “So, hon, what do you want on that hot dog?”

When she left, the family sat stunned and silent. A few moments later the little girl, eyes shining, said, “She thinks I’m real.”
– – – –
I find this story incredibly powerful. It got me wondering: am I treating my boys in a way that is beneficial to them — both for the short term AND the long term? Do I respect their opinions, and foster their independence and decision-making ability? Or am I TELLING them what’s best for them?

Am I helping them build self worth, or am I deconstructing it?

Overall, I think I’m doing a pretty good job of building their sense of self worth. Most of the time.

Sometimes I falter and slip into “telling mode.” This usually happens when I hit the dreaded wall of exhaustion (which is always lurking nearby these days). When I feel completely burnt out, I just want them to stop and listen. I’m not really hearing them. This always feels wrong — and I always regret it.

Like the dad in the story, there are times when I try to “help” my boys because it appears beneficial to them, at least in the short-term. But what about the long term? When something seems so important NOW, I don’t always consider the long-term benefit, or the potential damage I might be causing — damage that might completely outweigh any short-term benefit.

(Taking a look at the long term, or long view, is something I wrote about in The Magic Quarter — Creating your own reality. It’s a topic I wish I’d thought more about when I was younger.)

I have relatives and friends who believe kids should be told what to do and when to do it. There’s no explanation needed, because they’re kids. These people seem to think that because a child has only existed on this earth for a short time, somehow this invalidates their right to have an opinion.

I beg to differ.

My kids were picking their own breakfasts when they were 6 months old! Healthy choices of course. I’d give them two options and they’d point (and occasionally grunt) towards what they preferred. I believe letting my kids make decisions will help them become adults that are able to fulfill their potential. They’re learning to trust themselves, and to be decisive.

Otherwise, what happens? What kind of adults are created if a child is never given a choice? If they grow up feeling like they have no voice and their opinion doesn’t count?

I’m not saying to let our kids run rampant, or control the household (more than they already do). Far from it. They need rules and boundaries. They need guidance. But their opinion counts and we need to let them know that by respecting them. It’s a matter of finding a balance, which is an ongoing challenge.

And remember, you are not alone…

Related links:
Equal Rights for Kids. Part 2: Don’t Hit!