The Art of Letting Go: Be Right or Be Kind

Little fawk petted by ... a dogI think the desire to be right is another survival mechanism that humans use in order to manage uncertainty. The belief that the truth is absolute and that our aim in life is to find it and live by it is false. Trying to make others live by our truth is even worse. This mindset brings lots of pain and misery to everybody and if we want happiness to come into our life, we need to let go of our desire to be right.

The desire to be right is always accompanied by the risk of losing the relationship, because the question who is right only appears when there is a conflict. Being right is another part of our identity, our emotional “skeleton”, and most people believe that letting go of it might make them unstable. In fact, people who have a high need to be right are trying to overcome a deep feeling inside of them that they are wrong. People who are secure trust that they are OK, that their beliefs are good for them and that they only need to follow what is right for them, so they do not need to “prove their points” to others.

The concept of being right is a relative concept and always stands opposite being wrong. When you have a high need to advertise your “rightness”, you are trying to force your surroundings to fit into your definition of right and wrong. This is the source of many conflicts in our society. In relationships between parents and children, the parents often think that they are “right” and their kids are, well, just too young to know what to do. This continues at school, where many teachers think that they hold the absolute truth about what and how kids must learn (and why). Sometimes, it leads all the way to relationship breakdown and, in extreme cases, even to war.

Read more about how to stop fighting

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Topsy Turvy World (4)

Happy toddler on an ice slideOur world is a weird and wonderful place, but sometimes, we act in weird ways that make it not so wonderful anymore. In many situations, there is a conflict between what is good for us personally and what is good for everybody. In others, the conflict is between what is good for us right now and what will be good in the future. Without considering the implications of our actions, they sometimes make the world just a little bit less pleasant.

Of course, when we do many of these things and lots of other people do them too, the decline accelerates. I often think of my kids and the kind of place I would like them to have when they grow up and it makes me worry.

No Running, No Jumping, No Playing

When Tsoof was 4 years old, his favorite activity was soccer, he loved to play drums and was a very energetic and talkative little boy. We wanted him to be with other kids, so we sent him to a nearby kindergarten that had great facilities and looked really nice.

Over time, we noticed our little boy was becoming sad and agitated, until he said he did not want to go to kindie anymore. When we ask him about it, he said, “They just want me to sit all the time. I can’t run and I can’t jump and I can’t climb anything. And they want me to be quiet all the time. If I sing or shout because I’m happy, they say ‘keep it down’. I heard something outside and I climbed the toy box to see what’s happening and the teacher pulled me down”, he said.

The next time we dropped him off, we went in with him and asked about all these restrictions. His teacher told us there had been some accidents and some children had gotten injured from climbing or bumping into each other while running, so their insurance company had told them they would not pay for these anymore and they should make sure the kids did not do anything dangerous.

“But this is what kids do”, we said, “They run and climb and experiment. It’s good for them”.

“Sorry”, said the teacher, “We can’t afford to lose our cover”.

Read more about our topsy turvy world

War and Peace are Personal

Captain AmericaPeople often wonder how a large-scale conflict, involving hundreds of thousands of people, causing numerous deaths and leaving countless people emotionally and/or physically maimed for life can occur. Yes, I am talking about war.

All around the world, no matter when you look, there is some war going on. Sometimes, they are obvious confrontations of armies. Other times, they are a wide spread collection of small events and often involve civilians, but they are wars nonetheless.

Wars are stupid. Wars are cruel. Wars are wasteful. Nobody truly wins in a war. Yet, they are always there. Worse, they mostly involve people who have no desire to fight whatsoever.

This week, Ronit and I watched two war movies: Letters from Iwo Jima and Captain America. That made me realize the extent to which everyday people can be mobilized to serve some external cause. The Japanese had their tradition, their emperor and their honor. The Americans had the propaganda that told them they were protecting their country and their freedom. In the end, many people fought on both sides, many people died, many were injured and many families suffered.

Watching a war movie, we do not count deaths. There are just too many. In reality, each dead soldier has a mother, a father, friends, maybe a partner and maybe even children. Each dead soldier has a future and then, nothing. A hole in the fabric of society.

Read more about how to live in peace

What Happens When You Fight

Couple arguingHave you ever wondered what happens to your kids when you fight with your partner? Have you ever asked them?

Well, I did today and I was surprised and it got me thinking.

My 15-year-old son Tsoof is now on holidays, so he and I go for a walk around the neighborhood together in the morning. He sometimes brings his guitar and we sing, much to the enjoyment of passersby, but other times, we talk. Today, he brought his guitar, but we talked anyway…

At first, I asked Tsoof, “When you and your friends talk about how annoying your parents are, what do you say?”

“Nothing”, he said, “I don’t think you’re annoying”.

“Isn’t there anything we do that bugs you in some way? After all, we’re not perfect”, I asked.

“Well, I really feel bad when you fight”, he admitted, “It makes me want to disappear”.

OK, OK, so the big secret is out. Life coaches or not, Ronit and I are sometimes under pressure too and when that happens, we argue, as we did recently, with our unfortunate kids being present. Being from a culture in which expressing how you feel might involve raising your voice and making theatrical gestures (to help emphasize your point), we dominated the family scene, which apparently troubled our kids.

Read more about how to avoid/end arguments

"Yes" parenting

Angry little girlParenting can be really challenging at times. Any parent will tell you that sometimes the challenge is so big they feel out of control – not control over your kids, but control over your reactions to what your kids do or do not do. After all, you are the “captain” and it is your job to run the “ship”.

The discussion about discipline covers many topics – the rights of the parents, the strictness of the discipline, the collaboration between parents (or lack thereof), the alignment of values between home and school (or lack thereof) – the list of philosophical discussions is very long. I have found out through my workshops that parents have only that much ability to discuss the philosophical issues of parenting and most of the time, they just ask, “Ronit, what can I actually do?”

In the first years of my work with parents, I worried about that. I said to myself that without understanding the philosophy behind things, they would not be able to manage the next challenge, but I was wrong, because parents can be awesome even if they cannot explain their theories and even if they do not have a deep understanding of the human mind. Some things just make sense to them and if they try them and they work, they just continue doing them successfully.

Today, I want to talk about a parenting technique that has worked for me like magic. It has helped me a lot not to get into arguments with my kids or with the kids I have coached.

I learned this technique from my dad – not from him being a role model of it, but from him being a role model of the opposite…

Read more about positive parenting