Kids learn everything faster than we do, and learning about the way our thinking works seems to be no exception. Sometimes the biggest obstacle for parents in sharing the principles is that they think they have to use words like ‘principles’ and ‘consciousness.’ But just like us, kids live in their own thinking all day long too, and have plenty of moments when they’ve registered on the fact that it can be illusory and misleading, so they have their own first-hand experience and it doesn’t involve big academic terms. If we can have a conversation that’s human and down-to-earth, kids seem to appreciate someone connecting the dots. As a parent, I’ve found myself pointing to the invisible forces that are happening inside of us because there’s times when I know it will help my kids make sense of life when they’re having a hard time. I’ll give an example that happened a few days ago with my daughter.
Here’s the scenario: my 7-year-old got out of bed twice one night after I tucked her in – once to get a Band-aid for a hangnail, and once because she remembered she’d left her coat on the playground. She never gets out of bed. My son, on the other hand, gets out of bed chronically, using one of a thousand random, almost entirely fictional reasons. Having lost track of which kid I was dealing with, I just automatically got impatient with her.
She’s sensitive and fell apart, and I wanted to make things right. I knew if she could see that people are living “under the influence” of their own thinking, it would help her see that my impatience wasn’t personal. Here’s how it went: I said I was sorry for getting upset for no good reason, and that even though I grouched at her, my grouchiness had nothing to do with her at all. It had to do with me. We talked about how sometimes her cousin comes over and only wants to play with her brother, who’s older (and therefore “cooler”). The next time this cousin came over, before he even walked in, she got upset that he was going to leave her out. She went off by herself and felt left out without actually having seen him. Eventually she came around and things were fine – he was into playing with her, and she had just made the whole thing up in her head. And once she had made it up in her head that he wasn’t going to play with her, she felt sad. Her mind tricked her and told her something that wasn’t true, and she believed it. And that’s what I did. My mind tricked me and told me she had some bogus, made-up reason to get out of bed and I got mad before I even heard the reason. That’s what our heads do all day long – they make up stories and trick us and we don’t even know the stories aren’t real. And then pretty soon, out of nowhere things turn around in your head and you feel different, and it seems like you’re not actually being left out.
I was basically trying to show her two things:
- The way you feel at any moment comes from the thinking you’re having and not from whatever situation you’re in
- Your thinking changes all by itself and gives you a different set of feelings about the exact same situation
These are the principles in plain language. She was amused and comforted by the fact that I get tricked too, and didn’t feel bad anymore that I grouched at her. As our kids realize that their parents get tricked all the time, it becomes easier for us to talk to them about anything, big or small, and they’ll start to see how we all get lost. It’s a sharing moment, not an educational moment. It’s a “here’s what happened to you, and that very same thing just happened to me” conversation.
Regardless of what you’re trying to discuss with your kids, if you’re like most parents (myself included), you have about 30 seconds before you lose your audience. Their eyes will glaze over if we lecture or teach at them. But since we’re caught in the very same tricks they are, conversations about the principles have a much better chance of going somewhere because we’re talking to them from one novice to another, so we’re much more likely to intrigue them. And that’s the point of the principles – to shine a light on the fact that life as you know it is coming from these forces inside you and we’re all asleep to that fact at least half the time. The fact that they’re invisible is the biggest challenge, and my job as a parent is to share what little I’ve learned about this invisible factor using any moment in which I was thrown by my own thinking. Fortunately for my kids, that happens daily.