As parents we do pretty much anything to help our kids succeed. We give them a good education, food, clothing, iPods, a home, piano lessons, dance lessons, soccer lessons—and the list keeps going. We schlep our kids to endless practices and competitions. We get them through crises- big and small. We do our best to teach them to be good people, and we hope it sticks. Most of all, we love them no matter what.
Kids are complicated! Syndicated columnist Erma Bombeck once wrote, ―When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they’re finished, I climb out.‖ One of the tools I teach in The Success Principles is to start with the end in mind in all the areas of your life—to use the creative power of visualization—and I found it works for parenting too. As Albert Einstein said, "Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions."
If you created a powerful vision around your parenting, what would it look like? What kind of family life would you like to have? Are you relaxed and resourceful even when life gets demanding? Can you see yourself remaining calm when the toddler’s thrown spaghetti all over the walls, the older kids aren’t listening, and your spouse is watching TV?
It pays to visualize. Harvard University researchers found that students who visualized before they performed a task had nearly 100 percent accuracy. Students who didn’t visualize achieved only 55 percent accuracy. Almost all Olympic and professional athletes use visualization, including legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, who once said, "I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head. It’s like a color movie" So we know visualization works. And what parent doesn’t need tools that work?
Another proven approach that works is to learn from others. Great role models speed up the learning curve significantly. One book that gives great models for parents is the award- winning book called If I Were Your Daddy, This Is What You’d Learn, in which thirty-five extraordinary men tell you how they raised and inspired their children. The book looks at fathering in ways no one’s talking about—an in-the-trenches view. Instead of lecturing and theories, it tells true stories and with them, the shortcuts to great parenting. I loved the idea for this book so much that I wrote its foreword!
Having access to other perspectives and approaches on parenting is priceless! Without it, we limit what we can give our kids to the beliefs and behaviors we already know—the good and the not-so-good parts of our own childhood. Instead, If I Were Your Daddy... offers an insider’s look at some great dads did, and with it, you—whether you’re a mom or dad--can make up your mind to parent the same or to do things differently.
So in your devotion to your children—in the midst of doing it all—don’t forget the most obvious... learn from others and don’t reinvent the wheel. For certain, when you have great role models, it’s a whole lot easier to visualize yourself at your very best—as the very best parent possible.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve met students whose eyes are lit and whose spirits are aflame with meaning and purpose. And I’ve met others who seemed mired in an almost pathological level of boredom and cynicism. What are the dynamics at work that lead some to thrive, and others barely to survive? What can be done to nurture the potential in the next generation?
Is it possible that, like a walnut carries within it the DNA it needs to grow into a magnificent tree, we all have within us a particular calling? If we were to contemplate the role of education as being to ―educe‖, or to bring forth, the wisdom, the courage, the creativity and the brilliance that are within each child, then how might that inform our way of thinking about it? Are there ways that conventional education sees kids as needing to be shaped and stuffed with cookie-cutter information so that someday they can be people? What if we could recognize children as little people, whole and complete in who they are, and needing the right soil, the right sunshine, the right loving attention, to help them manifest their particular gifts?
I grew up with pretty loving soil. My parents were committed to nurturing my gifts and helping me to believe in myself. Twice, our family moved specifically to be near to a particular school that my parents wanted me to be able to attend. Then, when I was ten, I became a home-schooler. Believing with Mark Twain that ―you can’t let school interfere with your education‖, I got off to an early start in taking responsibility for my own learning journey. My parents supported me every step of the way, as I became an entrepreneur with the launch of my own Bakery, ―Ocean’s Bakery,‖ selling natural organic baked goods to more than 100 neighborhood customers door-to-door. As I grew a little older, I went on to facilitate two international youth summits in Moscow at age 14, and at 16 had founded YES!, an international youth leadership organization that I continue to direct now, 18 years later.
I believe that we all have a desire, in fact a need, to contribute to the world around us. As young people grow up, they come to realize that we are facing some fairly daunting challenges in the world. Typical schooling may teach about history and current events, but it often does little to help young people feel like they can be active participants in the world around them. More often, they tend to wind up feeling like cynical and passive victims. In a world with nuclear weapons, with a resource consumption overshoot that has us on a collision course with systemic environmental collapse, and with increasing numbers of people living in desperate poverty, there is little space for the most powerful generation in the history of the world to be schooled in a culture of apathy. A change in our culture of education is not only important to the well-being of the next generation, it may be fundamental to our survival as a species.
What, then, do I suggest?
Service learning, parental engagement, cultural education, engaging older kids in helping teach younger kids (thus making their own learning come to life), expanded use of the arts and creative expression, cross-cultural exchanges (where kids from different communities visit each other and learn from each other), cultivating an environment of honesty and trust in the school culture (making use of circle sharing and other formats to encourage kids to talk about what matters to them and listen to each other with respect), on-site environmental stewardship (such as trash clean-ups, recycling programs, school gardens, etc.), conflict resolution trainings and programs, and space for kids to share about their dreams for the future. In general, kids need to spend les time listening, and more time talking. Less time absorbing, and more time creating.
As they get older, kids need space to explore issues like gender roles, race, class and power. We all inherit a legacy that includes the work and dreams, as well as the bigotry and fears, of those who have gone before us. Teens need a space to explore these dynamics for themselves, and to consider what kind of values they hold and what kind of people they want to be as they grow up. In time, cultural exchanges and even citizen diplomacy can be extraordinarily valuable.
If it takes a village to raise a child, then perhaps it takes more than schools to educate children. Perhaps it takes all of us. When we treat children with respect, they learn to respect themselves. When we set an example of living with consciousness and purpose, we help them to find their place in the world.
Article by Ocean Robbins, Youth Activist
Ocean Robbins is director of YES! – ―Helping Visionary Young Leaders Build a Better World‖, which he founded at age 16 in 1990. YES! has held 100+ week-long gatherings for young leaders from 65+ nations, and spoken in person to more than 650,000 people. Ocean is a 2008 recipient of the national Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service. He speaks
widely at conferences and events. For more information about YES!, go to http://www.yesworld.org, and for more information about Ocean and his life and work, go to http://www.oceanrobbins.com
Part of my work has been to study, collect, and apply a portion of the inventory of human capacities as they have developed around the world under different environmental and social conditions. How Africans walk and think and celebrate spirit, how the Chinese teach and study and paint, how Inuit people experience vivid three dimensional inner imagery, how the Balinese learn to perform any manner of artistic endeavor so rapidly and with such high craft, how a tribe along the Amazon raises happy and non-neurotic children, why certain children in India raised amidst traditional music develop extraordinary skill in mathematics–these are capacities no longer limited to place and culture. In this new world of hybrid vigor, all these potentials once nurtured in separate societies are now available to the entire family of humankind.
In this time of much change and the compounding of complexity, we need to use capacities that we never knew we had–or ones rarely used or even lost, perhaps, since childhood or the childhood of the race. We might refer to these capacities as evolutionary accelerators. They serve to propel us from beneath the surface crust of sleepy consciousness and our own human nature and biology. They serve, too, to help us get beyond the shuttering of our local cultural trance so as to have the courage and capacity to nurture the forms of the possible human and the possible society. For there is no question but that we are patterned and coded with potentials few of which we ever learn to use. It is as if we had in our body and mind a vast orchestral range of a million keys, and we have learned to play but a small fraction. The journey to discover what these missing keys are and how they can be used is what my life is all about.
I have tried to bring this model to schools throughout the world with varying success. In Asian countries which were once part of the Raj, one must first lift the prison gates of nineteenth- century British education (which the Brits themselves have long abandoned). I have tried to convince both teachers and government administrators that the old medium is no longer adequate to the new messages beaming at us from the world and time. Now, in the new millennium, we can no longer be educated for the year 1926 or earlier. Yes, we must continue to learn to read and write and cipher, but we also need to embrace an education for liberating the ability to imagine, to dream, and to expand the limits of the possible. We require education at its edges, education that guides us through the munificence of our capacities and inspires us to become stewards of this most critical time in human history. My life has been a search for the education that would nurture this goal and make it happen. And the places where I learn the most about how to do this is in other cultures.
In studying culture, I discover that yes there are basic things you must look at for it is culture that probably defines our humanness, that defines who and what we are and what we care for. It is culture that mediates the cosmos to the community, that mediates the cosmos to the brain, to the soul, to the very depths of who and what we are. Culture–that is, art, religion, poetry, dance, cooking, education, myth, spirituality, games, styles of dress, rituals of passage, sexual preferences, rituals of passage, science, play, courtship, sports, music, language, ways of defining work, storytelling, gesture (as well as inner gesture), and recreation. It is all of these that mediate the great patterns of archetypal evolutionary charge to the human social grid of reality. Cultures are the organs and enzymes of the body of society.
Where there is a culture there is always an open moment, there is always the availability of ourselves to be coded and gifted from the Deep World. How often have you listened to a piece of music, done a dance, stood in awe before a sculpture, and felt the Deep World available to you? Without the grid of culture in society we would have no availability to the Depths, or very little. Where culture is trivialized or leveled, then little can come through unless we go beyond culture into absolute silence and deep listening to the cosmic culture and its music and messages.