Portrait of smart schoolchildren looking at camera in classroom

I have raised two kids, and I think I have done a pretty decent job at it too. While neither me nor my kids are perfect, I am proud of both of them and myself for a job well done. There is a lot of talk of “free range kids” and “unschooling” these days. While I am sympathetic to these ideas, I have to confess I don’t have a fancy name for how I raised my kids. I just winged it — to the best of my abilities — with a wonderful partner, of course.

Reflecting on it, though, I did accomplish something with my kids that I am generally opposed to: I told them how to live their lives, based on my morality. Someone recently told me that they didn’t “want to be yet another person telling people how to live their lives.” I don’t want to tell people how to live their lives — most of us don’t. However, I do expect certain conduct. I expect certain morality. I expect common decency. And I taught my kids the same.

So how did I achieve it? I think that there are two keys to this: how you look at the “telling” and how you look at the person being “told.” Let me explain.

When I was raising my children, I told them what to do and what not to do, but everything was within reason. Both hubby and I were always open for discussions, and there was never a “because I told you so” moment. There were also very clear and a small set of rules, with no ambiguity in the consequences of the rules being broken. And we taught by example. The kids, when young, revered us, and later respected us enough to learn from our example. In other words, teaching is best by example and best when clear and unambiguous. It never felt like I was “telling them how to live their lives” and my children concur.

The second is the person you are telling. Teaching is best when you have some relationship with the person. In the case of my kids, it was easy: I was vested in their well being as their mother. When you put a statement out there that “telling people how to live their lives” – there is no relationship. There is no love. I wrote a thread on why people don’t exist in my world. Teaching is best when there is a vested interest. If you are starting from a “them vs. us” context, “teaching” easily turns into “telling.” When the teacher and the student have a vested interest in each other, the teacher is less telling and more inspiring.

True, I don’t want to tell people how to live their lives. I would love individuals to be inspired to live great live, though.

I write here because I am inspired by a lot of you, and I think I inspire a few. I do the same with my non-profit.