10 Ways to Inspire Your Children
How to Open Your Child's Heart and Mind
Posted February 26, 2020
Children are the precious bridge between the past and the future. We have them with us for several years and during that time have the opportunity to teach, support, nurture, and inspire them as they mature and set out upon life on their own terms. Being a parent is an honor and a sacred duty. Sometimes, in the course of daily living, and sometimes because life challenges us personally, our parenting mindfulness slips and we just let things go. But we need to come back to what our goal is with our children—to raise healthy, happy, independent children to become healthy, happy, independent adults.
I particularly like the word “inspire”. The word inspire means to encourage or motivate. But inspire also means to “breathe life into” and this is especially apropos when it comes to children. We give them life but we need to constantly breathe meaning into their lives. Anything you teach or show a child has the ability to breathe new meaning into their existence, to open their eyes to new possibilities and new ways of thinking and feeling.
There are so many ways we can show our children what life can be at its best and what they can aspire to become at their best. Here are but a few that will get you thinking about what you can do any day, every day to help your child feel inspired and excited as they embark on their own journey of a lifetime.
Be a good role model.
It’s essential that we as parents, and individuals, understand who we are to some degree— what makes us tick, what our beliefs are, how we excel and are our weaknesses. Having some insight into ourselves can help us deal with life and all of its ups and downs. If your life is a mess and you haven’t learned coping skills to get through it, then dealing with children will inevitably become a much larger task. In fact, you may find yourself competing with your child for your time and effort— who comes first, your problems and challenges, or your child’s?
Lead by example. Show your children you respect yourself, that you care about what happens to you and your wellbeing. They will learn from seeing how you live your life, how you treat yourself. Don’t think for a minute that because your child is very young, they can’t see what’s happening around them. They’re taking it all in. They’re watching you very carefully.
Love your children as the separate unique individuals they are.
Kahlil Gibran wrote, “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”
Often, parents see their children as extensions of themselves, as a mini-me, not as the separate individuals they are. Some parents feel that they “own” their children and that a child owes the parents for their lives. Some parents feel that they have the right to influence and mold children in their exact image. And this is frequently a problem when a child wants to do, think, feel differently than their parents. This can be taken so personally that the child is seen as being ungrateful, difficult to deal with, disrespectful, and conflict between parent and child may become a regular thing.
It’s essential to accept that your children may hold pieces of you within themselves but they are not you, and never should be seen in that way. Because a child is very different from you does not mean that you are not obligated to recognize this difference and make a special effort to encourage what is special about your child.
Being touched is essential to humans and animals. Being hugged, held, kissed is something most of us crave throughout our lives. For children especially, touching is a way to feel comforted, calmed, and cared for. In our very busy lives, trying to handle the many things that we have to deal with each day, we may forget to take the time to give undivided attention and affection to our children, if only for a few moments. Even small gestures toward your child may be enough to show them you are present for them. Showing affection to others—your spouse, parents, friends—sends a message to your children about how to communicate with others you care for in your life.
Show your child they are loved through your actions and your words. Say, “I love you” frequently.
Be mindful of your interactions.
Think before you say anything you may later regret. Lashing out with harsh words, criticism, and judgment may be what you feel like doing, but don’t. There will be many times and circumstances when your child will frustrate, anger, and disappoint you. That’s a given. Take the time to be patient and practice restraint. You may feel the need to discipline your child but it should never be because you are frustrated and angry in your own life and your child is just an easy target. Words hurt as badly as actions and sometimes more. There is no place for physical abuse. Period.
Praise your child.
Tell your child whenever he/she shows effort, consideration, and practices positive action. Taking responsibility for their own well being, showing care and concern for others, doing well in school, helping around the house, undertaking a new project, etc. need to be recognized, acknowledged, and encouraged.
A child’s special gift, talent, interest, or passion should be encouraged and praised, especially when there is ongoing effort and progress being made. Children need to be given the tools to help them creatively pursue the things that grab their interest and let their personality shine through. Give your child the opportunity to do what they enjoy. Likewise, praising your child for their unique inherent qualities is essential. All of us are born with something special about us but unfortunately, these qualities unrecognized and unacknowledged, will slowly die on the vine.
As a person and as a parent we will inevitably make mistakes. Openly acknowledge that you can be wrong, that you jumped to an incorrect conclusion, that you had a bad day, that you have weaknesses and flaws. We all do—it’s simply part of being human. When you show your children who you are, not only as a parent, but as a human being, it gives them the ability to be who they are and to learn to practice compassion toward others. Being a parent is not the same as superhero. Don’t let your child think you are perfect and nothing can go wrong. It sets the bar impossibly high and gives them the false notion that they must strive for perfection.
Give children the opportunity to be responsible for themselves.
Hovering parents don’t allow their children to do for themselves, to learn skills and new tasks. They try to prevent their children from making mistakes, or even failing at a task. This may be because falling on your face is too painful a prospect for some parents personally. Also, seeing your child as an extension of yourself means you’ve invested far too much in your child and take what they say and do as a reflection on you.
You build confidence, encourage the ability to try anything, and help make your child live outside of fear when you give them the opportunity to take responsibility for themselves and their decisions. You give them the tools to eventually feel and act like a competent adult ready to confidently take on the world.
Create opportunities to work side-by-side with your child.
Take the time and make the effort to create projects that allow you to spend quality time with your child. This is your sacred time together that involves nobody else. It allows a child to see how something gets done by example. Watching how a task is accomplished step-by-step gives a child a framework to help them accomplish tasks in the future. Allowing them to do things for themselves with your presence guiding them is invaluable in helping them feel that they can do things on their own, but ask for your help if needed.
Say “please”, “thank you”, and “I’m sorry”.
Show consideration and compassion for anyone you meet. You’ll make someone’s day. Also, show people you appreciate them through the course of your day. Anyone who has provided a service or has helped you deserves to be acknowledged. It only takes seconds. And it allows your child to see that even strangers have a part in your life, if even for a brief moment. It teaches appreciation for everyone’s life.
Open your child’s mind to things beyond their comfort zone.
Expand the small world of their everyday life. Explore different perspectives, different ways of living, and encourage diversity and tolerance. A huge part of life is learning to live with people who do, think, and feel very differently than you do. Teaching your child that different is not “less than”, wrong, or bad is basic to living in this world. A wise teacher said, “Not instead of but in addition to.”
Practice makes perfect, or at least, better. As with anything you want to master, the more time and effort you spend inspiring your child will reap great rewards for your child as well as for you.