Every morning when the kids get up (yup, sometimes at 3am), I get them out of bed and we read a sign by their beds,”Be Awesome,” and I have them say it aloud too. Then I’ll ask them, “Are you going to be awesome today?” It sets the tone for the day for them, and for me. It has created a routine for us all in the morning to start the day with positivity, gratitude, and it gets us into conversation about what we’re going to do today to be awesome!
With Father’s Day coming up this Sunday, I wanted to pay a little homage to my amazing children, Sienna (4) and Asher (2), with another on the way! Being a Dad is an indescribable experience. I know that they are watching every move I make and listening to everything I say. To be a great Father, I must choose my words carefully and walk the walk. To be a great Father, I must allow them the freedom to discover who they are, and be their teacher, not their friend. Above all, to be a great Father, I must give love, show love, and be love in their eyes.
“[He] didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and he let me watch him do it.”
– Clarence Budington Kelland
It is an honor to be Sienna, Asher, and Baby H’s Dad. I strive every day to teach them what it means to be a loving and giving individual and how to be an individual, their own unique brand of awesome.
Here are the 5 Things I Teach My Kids Everyday:
I’m not talking about cars, planes, and yachts here. I teach my kids to be grateful for their health, the wind on their face, laughing, and nature. After we read our “Be Awesome” sign, I ask them if they said good morning to nature. I have them look at their gratitude rocks and have them each share something that they are grateful for. I bring them outside and ask them to take some deep breaths and ask them how it feels. Every step of the way I consciously engage them and have them reflect on how they are feeling in the moment. With so much to know, to do, and to have, it is important to ground ourselves in the basic elements of life: gratitude and nature.
- Never Give Up
When Sienna and Asher were just babies, I would push them in a jogger while I ran and I would constantly tell them to keep pushing, not to give up, to push through the resistance in life, all while we were racing on the bike path along the lake so they could feel the wind and viscerally feel what it’s like to push through and not give up. (Consequently, Sienna’s first words were “never give up.”) As they grow, there are plenty of opportunities to continue to teach this lesson, whether that’s a coloring project, a game of hide and seek, or a friend they want to invite over. Whatever the activity may be, make sure you take the opportunity to allow them to feel what it’s like to not give up. But, and here’s the kicker, YOU must have the patience to not give up on them as they are struggling with tying their shoe for the 347th time in a row and just do it for them. By not giving up and encouraging resilience, you can see this habit forming in their life and their language starts to reflect this attitude. Such a cool thing to watch!
- Be Brave and Have No Regrets
In order to achieve a breakthrough, you must go through the chemistry of transformation: Satiation (tired of a relationship, tired of a job, or having the same meal 5 times a day), Dissatisfaction (feeling of missing one of the 6 Human Needs – Certainty/Comfort, Uncertainty/Variety, Significance, Connection/Love, Growth, Contribution), Threshold (change becomes a MUST and causes you to have a moment of insight), Insight (that Aha moment when you know you are meant to do and give more, but it won’t last unless you jump through the opening), Opening (the place where you find your real self and have a breakthrough and will never go back to your former level of consciousness).
Why did I just break down Tony’s Chemistry of Transformation? Because if there is anything I want my kids to learn, it’s to jump through the opening! No matter how scary or how uncommon the road, if they are passionate about it and willing to give their dreams their all – then jump! Life is to short to settle for mediocrity and live someone else’s life. I want them to know that it is okay to take risks in order to live a life with no regrets. And in order to do this, they must know themselves, trust their own minds, be brave, lead themselves and step up!
- Always Be Growing
Success is hard and my kids will need to practice their emotional fitness every day in order to push through. And let me tell you a little secret – life is not fair. Shocker, right? You wouldn’t really know though since our society believes every kid should get a trophy just for showing up. Well, just showing up is just not going to cut it. Coffee is for closers. Sometimes my kids are going to win, and sometimes they are going to lose, and that’s okay. I want my children to know that they should follow their dreams and goals no matter what and to trust themselves and trust that the dots will connect when they look back. But in the meantime, keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep growing. On their journey they will find a tremendous amount of failure, but that doesn’t mean they are a failure, it just means that they are growing spiritually. I teach my kids to get right back up after they fall down. If they are able to overcome their failures, then they are growing. The largest “failures” or resistance in life brings about the greatest amount of change for you and those around you. These moments of resistance are gifts that shape who we become on our spiritual journey in this world.
- Your Health is #1
My kids know how important health is to me and I involve them in as many of my activities as possible. When they were babies, I ran with them in the jogger. As they are getting older, they do yoga with me and my wife, snowboard, swim, go to the market with us and help us cook healthy meals. In a world that is changing faster than we can comprehend and where we will be able to have virtually anything at a touch of a button, my children need to understand that without their health, none of these other things matter. If you don’t put your health as your #1 priority, it will slip away and you will regret not being able to live life to the fullest. Most people take their health for granted until they experience a health crisis. Like oxygen, we take our health for granted until we are drowning, and then at that moment, nothing else matters except that next breath. I never want my children to get to that point (I was there when I was 16 and I don’t wish that on anyone). I’m front loading my kids as much as possible by teaching them how to live an active and healthy lifestyle now to fortify them against all the challenges and demands in the future.
Everything I teach my kids can be boiled down to one simple lesson – self mastery. Self mastery is overcoming that voice inside your head that says, “No.” No, you don’t have to work hard for that trophy. No, you don’t have to share and be kind because you’re having a bad day. No, you can keep sleeping and be late for school. If my kids can learn to overcome this voice at a young age, and say no to the things that aren’t important to their dreams, then they will have a jump start on success. This self-mastery will leak into every aspect of their lives and allow them to live the biggest life they can imagine. And that’s all I want for them – to achieve everything in life they want.
Life is about truly living every moment as an experience, not getting stuck in your head. Feeling each experience that life provides you with the depth of your being is how to live life. I want my children to understand that life doesn’t give us things, life allows us to experience things. Life is but a journey of spiritual growth. Growth means teaching others. Teaching our kids, our parents, our co-workers, and friends. Life is all about sharing and growing together. Enjoy the journey.