Several times a month I get an email from someone asking about how to encourage their kids to be bold, to take more chances, to strike out and experience, to have their daughter be more like my daughter. And my answer is nearly always the same until today ...
Today I said this.
Your daughter shouldn't try and be more like my daughter, she should be more of herself that she first discovered with you and then on her own.
This issue is not that your child doesn't want to do any of those things, the issue is you. Your primary relationship is with your phone or your technology (I admit I sometimes fall prey to this too). You are committed to being connected to everything except your environment, your experiences, your opportunities. You are too busy watching what other people do in hopes it will rub off on you.
And you wonder why you child (or spouse) talks to you (if at all) over or through a screen.
Here's the bottom line:
It isn't up to you to find a magic bullet that you can give your kids that will suddenly give them super powers. You already own it, you are it.
You go first, today, not yesterday "I've already done that, I want them to do it," Today, now, this moment. You. Go. First.
If you want your kids to experience wanderlust, be a wanderer then wander with them.
If you want your kids to be bold, be bold then be bold with them
If you want your kids to take chances, take chances then take chances with them
If you want your kids to develop a thirst for learning, be a learner then discover opportunities to learn new things with them
If you want your kids to do hard things, do hard things then do hard things with with them
If you want them to value money, value money first and help them understand the value of money (and let them make mistakes with it)
If you want them to be independent, be independent and then support them in doing things that build independence
If you want them to be an entrepreneur, be entrepreneurial and then start a business with them
If you want your kids to be charitable, be charitable, then do charitable things with them
If you want your kids to stand up to wrongs, to bullies, stand up, then stand up with them and back them up when they stand up
If you want your kids to get off the phone, get off the phone, then get off the phone with them
Showing up in the ways that you hope for them to be is the only way they'll really know this is a value you share and that it is important. You may admire things in other people and that is ok. You may even want those people to train your kids in that skill and that's ok. But you do it first. You learn and embrace the idea and demonstrate it, then do it with them. Getting up and getting them to soccer practice, the chorale practice, the gym, those things matter. But doing them with them means getting off the phone, getting engaged, and letting them know you are in it with them ... Because it matters.
Then let them go and do all the things on their own. Trust them and their experience and their learning process. It won't be easy. You'll be scared. You'll want to be in control.
Yes, they'll break things. Yes, they'll destroy the designer pants you paid too much for and screw up their brand new $200 sneakers. Yes, they'll abandon things quickly. Yes, they'll take things apart that neither of you can ever put back together. Yes, they will make a million mistakes. Yes, they'll do things that scare the living crap out of you. But they'll win at life. They'll discover. They'll grow. They'll develop texture and complexity. They'll become interested and interesting.
You'll be too tired, you won't have time, you won't have enough money, you won't want to do what fascinates them because it doesn't interest you.
Tough shit. Get over yourself. Do it anyway, find a way. I don't care what your parents did or didn't do. What challenges you had and what baggage you carry because of it. You are fully grown, take some responsibility and take action. Because either you want your child to experience what you value most and help them develop some values of their own or you just want another way to live vicariously through another person, this time one you can control, sort of, for a moment in time.
Be the value you want to see in them. Do it daily. Do it visibly. Do it with them. Life is not a manifesto or creed you read, it is living every second of every day as fully as you can.
And when you've done it enough and when they understand what matters and when they know you've been there too, that you've got their back, they'll take the lead. They'll do the things you hope they'll do. Then, you get out of the way, you let them take the lead, you give them the space to do it on their own, their way, not yours.
They will get banged up, bleed, cry, hurt in all kinds of ways emotionally and physically and if they are really pushing the edges, they may even die. They'll get lost intellectually, in time and in space. They will explore ideas you never would (let them lead you, let them show you what is fascinating and why, don't judge, experience first) They will disconnect from you and connect more deeply with themselves and others as they explore the world in their own way. But if you've done it with them they will always come back to you. Because you were where they learned this in the first place and there is nobody...nobody they'd rather share what they've learned, experienced, failed at, won or loved than the person that led them there first.
That is what being alive and being a parent is all about.