A letter to my sons:
I know you guys are only 10 and 13, thinking more about Legos and video games than having your own families some day.
But here’s the thing.
Kids are like pickles.
Without knowing it, you’re marinating in the way we do things here at home and it’s what your brain thinks of as “normal.” It’s what your intuition will tell you to do if and when you become fathers.
So, we should probably try to get it right, more often than not, right?
You know I do a lot of research to help the families I counsel and our family too. As a result of the research, I want to share 10 ideas with you for a good life.
This is essentially our pickle marinade – our special sauce for having the best family we possibly can and equipping you guys with the skills you need for a long, healthy, and satisfying life.
Some of it we do really well, and in some areas we have plenty of room to grow.
It’s all based on science. Here we go!
- Be warm and kind: People need love, warmth and kindness in their life as much as they need food or water. It’s in the little details of how we do things, like welcoming each other home with a hug or kind word, catching up on each other’s day, great conversations in the car, really listening when someone has a problem, eating dinner together, tucking in at bedtime and doing fun stuff together like playing cards and bike riding.
- Structure your world: Our brains have a lot of really hard stuff to think about so the more structure we have in place, the more we can free up our brains to work on more challenging things. What is structure? It’s having rules in place so you know what’s ok and what’s not ok, especially when we say, “Do the right thing.” It means having a predictable routine every day, for getting ready in the morning, getting homework done, and going to bed without a hassle at night.
- Develop strong character: We want you to be good and decent people. When you are a person of strong character, it builds trust and opens doors to new opportunities, giving you freedom to do many things in the world and connect with amazing people. We commit to you that we will communicate and model our values to you, like being kind, loving, helpful, persistent, thoughtful, dependable and resourceful.
- Be useful: In your lives, you will be part of many teams, collaborating with people to get amazing things accomplished. Always be useful and do your part. In time, as you identify your passions and what gives you meaning in life, our hope for you is that you will contribute your unique talents in ways you deeply enjoy, that are also helpful to other people. Along with that, we value your help in keeping our family and home running.
- Work smart and work hard: People who live long, happy and successful lives have one thing in common. It’s conscientiousness. Conscientiousness means having lots of little healthy habits that add up to a big healthy life. It’s a lot of work being conscientious all the time, so we need to form little habits so we don’t have to think about it, like doing homework before screen time and writing assignments in your planner.
- Energize your body: If you’re going to play big in the world, you need plenty of sleep, healthy food, and regular exercise. We need to make “lights out” happen on time, eat treats in moderation and get some physical activity every day. We’re constantly on the lookout for finding healthy foods you enjoy, like a big juicy peach in summer, and activities you enjoy, like swimming and baseball. We have no expectations of you becoming pro athletes. Just do your best, have fun, and be active.
- Listen with your eyes, ears and heart: It’s really amazing that there’s a whole world of communication that isn’t even made of words. It’s made of emotions and signs. When we feel an emotion like joy, anger or sadness, our bodies feel a certain energy that causes us to react in a certain way. Pay attention to your own emotions and those of other people, by listening with your eyes, ears, and heart. You will get a deep understanding of people this way, in our family, with friends, and later in your work.
- Be part of the solution: What’s been most helpful to us when things get off track at home is to remember that your brains will be under construction until you’re about 25 years old. Usually it works best to involve you in problem solving and ask what you would do differently next time. Mistakes will be made. We know we also misstep as parents sometimes, and we do our best to repair it with you when it happens.
- Hunt the positive: People usually wait for something good to happen to be happy. In reality, you will have a happier life if you develop an attitude, a certain way of viewing the world, that is grateful and appreciative of all the abundance we get to enjoy – healthy bodies, ample food, a warm and safe home, loving family and friends. A grateful attitude attracts good things. Pursue your passions and enjoy your life. Try to say 3 things you’re grateful for each day to train your brain to hunt the positive.
- Progress not perfection: Ok, so it’s a long list. And it’s easier said than done. Good thing we have around 18 years of runway to practice. All we can ask, of you and ourselves, is to take little steps everyday toward the kind of family life we want to have and the kind of people we all strive to become.
I hope you find this list helpful, a window into why we do what we do. I love being your tour guide and, more and more, fellow traveler in your journey to adulthood.
Love you guys,