Humanizing Yourself to Your Kids

For the past five or six years, I’ve made a point of telling my kids stories about what happened to me on my mission. I did this as part of a conscious effort to make sure they know what a mission is like, and to encourage them to want to go on one themselves. My mission did so much for me. It was challenging (felt impossible at times), but stretched me in so many ways, and it came at a key time in my life. Nothing quite like learning compassion by being forced to go out and talk to people on the street or in their homes. You see so many different points of view. Yes, it’s possible to ignore them all and return unchanged, but that’s not what happened to me.


Earlier this week, I felt like something was missing with my kids. TRC had said a few things that led me to believe he thought I was great at everything, and that I never had problems doing anything. (Nice to have him look up to me, but this is a mindset that can cause an awful lot of problems down the road.) So I’d been contemplating ways to get around that. I think the natural instinct is to sit your kid down and say, “I’m not perfect. I’ve struggled with a lot of things over the years. I was once a kid just like you.” But the problem with that approach is it violates the fundamental rule of “show don’t tell.”

I’ve outlined this rule on the blog before. It’s typically used in writing, but I lobby for its universal application. Tell a group of people that you’re really smart, and their first instinct is to argue that claim. We can’t help it. We’ve been conditioned by modern society to be skeptical. “Smart, huh?” we say. “Prove it.” On the other hand, if you go out and show your smarts by doing smart things, then people come to the conclusion on their own. “He’s really smart.”

It’s a much better approach to actually convincing people of something. (An approach I wish politicians would take note of.)

Simply telling my kids that I was once just like they were is going to bring out the skeptic in them. It’ll just be a line they ignore. Showing them I was once just like they were . . .

So yesterday, after talking the idea over with Denisa, I instituted a new set of stories: stories about Mom and Dad when they were kids. I didn’t preface it with a “this is to prove to you we were once just like you are now” talk. Just said that I realized we’d been missing out on a whole bunch of stories. DC and TRC were really excited. We started off by telling some stories about how we chose which instruments to play in school, and the conversation just sort of rambled on from there. It helped that I digitized all the home videos my mom has of me growing up, and so after the stories, we could adjourn to the living room and watch some of those movies together.

All in all, it was a great success. The kids loved it, even commenting afterwards how much fun it had been, and how they want to do it again soon. I’m not looking for any overnight changes, but I can’t help but think that if we sustain this, it will give Denisa and me some street cred when the time comes to answer other questions. Harder questions like “How do you deal with mean people at school?” or “How do you talk to girls.”

Always planning ahead, am I . . .

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