For Kids

Alfie Gives a Hand, by Shirley Hughes (New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1983).When Alfie is invited to a birthday party without his mother or sister, he finds that he must put down his security blanket to be able to be helpful. Ages 3 to 7.

Au Revoir, Les Enfants (Orion, 1987).This video tells the true story of an eleven-year-old boy attending a Catholic boarding school in Nazi-occupied France who discovers that three classmates are Jews in hiding from the Nazis. Moving scenes describe the helpful compassion of those who risked their lives to shelter them.Ages 10 and older.

Helping Out, by George Acona (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985). Eloquent black-and-white photographs depict the special relationship between adults and children working together in many different settings.Ages 4 to 8.

The Kids Can Help Book, by Suzanne Logan (New York: Perigee Books, 1992).A wonderful compilation of ways kids can lend a hand to make a difference in the world. Ages 8 to 12.

Beyond the Crisis

The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind. —William James

Okay, you've targeted your kid's worst attitudes to work on, you've read the right chapters, you've designed a specific makeover plan, and you've even identified some of those same attitudes in yourself. You've realized change isn't going to be quick or easy, so you've committed yourself to be consistent, relentless, tenacious, and perseverant.

Many of you have kept up your Attitude Makeover Journal, and some of you may have met regularly with your parent support group.You may have even read a few of the extra resources. In fact, you're well on your way to making significant changes in your children's bad attitudes and can see that not too far down the road, there's a real possibility that you'll succeed in putting out the fire and moving out of crisis mode.

Congratulations! I knew you could do it.What you've achieved so far is commendable and no small piece of cake. You've made some crucial repairs, you've done a lot of important remodeling, and you may have even added a room or two. But now you need to take an even longer view to imagine the future shape and foundation of your entire family structure— the place where you dwell both literally and spiritually.You need to create a permanent new way of being together, of relating to one another in your personal, domestic, and community life.

Real change takes more than just reading a book and starting to walk the talk. Our ultimate goal is not only eliminating our kids' bad attitudes, but also giving them an entirely new worldview based on a solid foundation of strong values and good moral examples. And if we don't, there's a good chance that they will slip back to their old bad attitudes and aimless view of the world.

It's going to be just great when your kid turns the corner and gets rid of these bad attitudes you've been working on. But he won't know where to go from there unless you can provide him with a new view based on your own solid knowledge, experience, and moral beliefs. So let's move on. Let's get out of the reactive, emergency, crisis mode. Let's go forward to the place where we can prevent this epidemic from ever happening again. Let's begin to convey a positive, proactive view of how to live that our kids can adopt and enjoy for the rest of their lives.And the good news is that not only will this help our children, but it's the best hope we have for a world that is decent, sane, and humane.

So let us begin. There are a few basic tenets and solid life principles that have lasted through the ages. In some shape or form, these principles appear in all cultures, religions, and civilizations. And the main thing they all have in common is not just preventing bad attitudes from happening and that brat factor from taking hold, but they cultivate a society whose children are not spoiled, selfish, defiant, and insensitive but rather selfless, compassionate, respectful, and empathic. In the end, they are the kinds of kids that we all hope and dream for.

Different religions, cultures, and spiritual disciplines have their own unique language in expressing these life principles. But here is my version of the basic list. It's what we can do as parents and also convey into all the relationships and activities in our lives.

The Ultimate Principles for Inspiring Human Attitudes

1. Be loving. It's the greatest gift and greatest blessing. It's the basis of all relationships and morality. The more love and kindness you give, the more you receive. Remember that the best gift you can give your child is of yourself.

2. Be consistent. Regularity, structure, and clear boundaries create trust. It's what your child needs to feel safe and secure, so provide it.

3. Be a good example. Provide the kind of moral model you want your children to copy.Your child needs someone to look up to.

4. Be authentic. Never fake a feeling or act out a phony behavior.Your children need you to be sincere, genuine, and your real self at all times.

5. Be present. Be here now. Don't let work and other distractions interfere with remaining in the moment in direct contact and communication with your child and other loved ones.

6. Be positive. Things often turn out on the basis of your way of looking at it. If you're optimistic and hopeful about the future, it may turn out to be self-fulfilling.

7. Be patient. Slow down and get in sync with your kids. Life goes by all too quickly, so why speed things up? And don't forget, change takes time.

8. Be persistent. Life is a long-distance run. Perseverance pays off, so never give up, especially when it comes to helping your kids.

9. Be selfless. Get out of your shoes, put your energy into others, and take your kid along with you on the journey.

10. Be active. Don't just sit there.When you have a good idea or realize something is wrong, be proactive.Your actions will show your child that the only way to accomplish deeds large or small is by plunging full speed ahead.

11. Be simple. Your child doesn't need a whole lot to be happy; in fact, less really is better. It will help him develop appreciation and gratitude for the essential things in life.

12. Be believing. Every human being needs something to live by: a set of guiding principles, a sense of right and wrong.You need to be clear, conscious, and consistent with it, so your child knows where you stand and has the opportunity to follow.

13. Be open. Flexibility is strength. Learning new things, having new ideas, and allowing exposure to other points of views and ways of being are lessons you need to experience and pass on to your kids.

14. Be empathic. Above all else, the most important virtue humans can aspire to is the ability to understand and get inside another person's feelings. Empathy is the effective antidote to attitudes that are selfish, insensitive, and cruel.

And the best way our children can learn it is by experiencing our empathy for them.

This isn't such an easy world for parents and children alike.We're living in uncertain and dangerous times.The attitudes we see in our children to some extent not reflect only our family dynamics but also the influence of the world at large. The problem is acute, and the stakes are high. There are some things way out of our control, but the one thing we can do is be parents.

Everything we do now is going to have an impact on our children and their world to come. So stop the blaming, the excusing, the rescuing and compromising, and start putting all your energy into what really matters: helping your children make the journey from bad attitudes to solid character. Ultimately, when all is said and done, it's not how many goals they score, what academic degree they achieve, or how much money they'll make that matters. It's the kind of life they live and the world in which they live it.

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