I’m not a parent, but I imagine it seems impossible to know which of the countless lessons you teach will stick with your kids. Much the same as an adult, it’s amazing to see which lessons stuck with you from childhood while so many others didn’t.
I often find myself tracing my thought habits back to figure out how or why I started them, mainly out of curiosity. I recently noticed the first example listed below, and now I’m noticing them everywhere.
Don’t obsess about the number on the scale
Health is essential to my mom. She’s worked hard over the decades to reverse what she was taught growing up, some of which are her eating habits. She gained a lot of weight due to outdated beliefs and a habit of stress eating. The number on the scale made her feel even more like a failure which fed into her habits and continued the cycle. Her biggest fear was I’d end up the same way.
As a result, I’ve been active for as long as I can remember. She taught me it’s okay if I didn’t finish my food. But so not to waste food, to take smaller portions, and to remember I can always ask for more.
I’m not sure if our household ever had a scale because my mom didn’t want her, or me, to obsess about the number it showed. She taught me not to let a scale dictate my self-worth. I’d know I gained weight if my clothes started feeling tight. The opposite is true when I lose weight. It’s a system I still use today. I’ve never owned a scale and my eating and exercise habits have maintained too.
Life isn’t fair
For the majority of my childhood, I hated this answer. Anytime I didn’t get my way, my parents would shrug their shoulders and tell me that Life isn’t always fair. Looking back, I have to applaud their arguing skills because this statement always ended the debate.
And it’s true — Life isn’t fair. Despite how much I wish it otherwise. I don’t always get my way, I can’t negotiate with Life, and fairness doesn’t equal entitlement. Anytime things don’t go my way, I still hear their voices in my head reminding me that I am not the center of the universe. Sometimes it’s someone else’s turn to have it their way.
Always assume everyone is doing their best
This one is a struggle still. Some days I’m much better than others. Admittedly, I’m still working at remembering this wisdom in the moment of my irritations instead of after the fact.
It’s hard to remember when watching people behave in ways I can’t understand and don’t agree with, especially when it’s someone in the news and I’ve never met them. Then I remember, everyone is doing their best with the tools they have.
No one has lived the same life experiences as me — just like no one has had the same life experiences as you. Yours and my definitions of “common sense” aren’t the same. At the end of the day, we’re both doing our best we can with the tools and knowledge we have.
Try everything you’re interested in
As a kid with a ton of energy, I did everything from tumbling gymnastics to running track to taekwondo. But my favorite sports were soccer and basketball, which I then gave up in favor of joining my high school dance team Freshman year.
Sports aren’t the only extra-curricular activities though. I had piano lessons, art classes, and joined a choir too — even though I cried during my audition from stage fright.
I’m still finding new things to try. I’ve lived a life filled with an abundance of experiences and have met a variety of people. Heck, the words you’re reading right now wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t decided to try my hand at writing professionally.
Once you commit to something, see it through
I should preface this by noting I was allowed to quit anything at the end of a time frame. For instance, if I wanted to play soccer then I had to commit to the season — not commit for life.
Learning something new is exciting, yes, but it’s also overwhelming. I desperately wanted to be a natural at something. After all, finding my natural gifts seemed like the logical path to follow. Not only would it surely bring me fame and glory like the people I saw on Tv, but being a natural must also mean I won’t have to exert any effort in being good at it — right? I decided if I wasn’t a natural, it just wasn’t my thing.
Without this rule, I would have quit everything when things got hard. I would have wound up feeling like a failure at anything I tried, including life itself. Instead, I learned how to push past the hard part because once I got the hang of it, I’d understand it better. Only then would I really know if I enjoyed it or not and if it was something I wanted to sign up for again.
I honestly can’t tell you who I’d be without these simple rules. Each one has proved invaluable in shaping my ideas of respect, both for myself and others. None of these lessons were one time comments. My parents were consistent in these lessons, which probably helped them stick.
Do you ever wonder where your habits came from? Do you remember when or why you started them? See if you can trace back some of your most automatic thinking patterns and see if you can remember what started them. How have they shaped you?