Kids learn everything faster than we do and learning about the way our thinking works seems to be no exception.
Sometimes the biggest obstacle for parents in sharing the principles is that they think they have to use words like principles and consciousness. Just like us, however, kids live in their own thinking all day long, and have plenty of moments when they have registered on the fact that it can be illusory and misleading, so they have their own first-hand experience and it doesn’t involve big academic terms. As a parent, I have found myself talking to my kids about the invisible forces that are happening inside of us, because I know it will help my kids make sense of life when they are having a hard time. Let me give an example that happened a few days ago with my daughter.
Here is the scenario: my seven-year-old got out of bed twice one night after I tucked her in, once to get a Band-Aid for a hangnail, and once because she remembered she’d left her coat on the playground. She never gets out of bed. My son, on the other hand, gets out of bed chronically, using one of a thousand random, almost entirely fictional reasons. Because I’m so used to hearing fictional excuses, I just automatically got impatient with her.
My daughter is sensitive and fell apart, and I wanted to make things right. I knew if she could see that people are living under the influence of their own thinking, it would help her see that my impatience was not personal. Here is how the conversation went: I said I was sorry for getting upset for no good reason and my grouchiness had nothing to do with her at all. It had to do with me. We talked about how sometimes her cousin comes over and only wants to play with her older brother. The last time her cousin came over, before he even walked in, she got upset thinking he was going to leave her out. She went off by herself and felt left out without every actually seeing him. Eventually she came around and things were fine. Her cousin was into playing with her, and she had just made the whole thing up in her head. Once she had made it up in her head that he was not going to play with her, she felt sad. Her mind tricked her and told her something that wasn’t true, and she believed it.
And that is exactly what I did. My mind tricked me and told me she had some made-up reason to get out of bed like her brother usually has and I got mad before I even heard the reason. That is what our minds do all day long. They make up stories and trick us and we don’t even know the stories are not real. Eventually, seemingly out of nowhere, things turn around in your head and you feel different – my daughter realized she was not actually being left out and I realized I had gotten mad without a valid reason.
I was trying to show her two things in our conversation:
1. The way you feel at any moment comes from the thinking you are having and not from whatever situation you’re in.
2. Your thinking changes all by itself and gives you a different set of feelings about the exact same situation.
These are the principles in plain language. My daughter was amused and comforted by the fact that I get tricked too, and did not feel bad anymore that I got mad at her. As our kids realize that their parents get tricked all the time, it becomes easier for us to talk to them about anything, big or small, and they will start to see how we all get lost. It is a sharing moment, not an educational moment. It is a ”Here is what happened to you, and that very same thing just happened to me” conversation.
Regardless of what you are trying to discuss with your kids, if you are like most parents (myself included), you have about 30 seconds before you lose your audience. Their eyes will glaze over if we lecture or teach at them. Since we are caught in the very same tricks they are, however, conversations about the principles have a much better chance of going somewhere because we are talking to them from one novice to another. As a result, you are much more likely to intrigue them. That is the point of the principles: to shine a light on the fact that life as you know it is coming from these forces inside you and we are all asleep to that fact a good percent of the time. The fact that these forces are invisible is the biggest challenge, and my job as a parent is to share what little I’ve learned about this unseen factor using any moment that I have been thrown by my own thinking. Fortunately for my kids, that happens daily.