Create the family you want to have

4 Rules parents can live by

Happy Children Playing Kids

Happy Children Playing Kids (Photo credit:

About 15 years ago I went to a talk given by Joan Borysenko.  During her talk, she said she was quoting from someone whose name she could not remember- I’ve tried to look it up since but I can’t figure out who said it either.  What she said is that there are four rules for life: 1. Show up, 2. Pay attention, 3. Give what you have to give, 4. Don’t be connected to the results.  I heard these words when I was still in college, before I became a therapist and a mother and they have resonated with me ever since, especially as a parent.  I believe that if we all incorporate some of the wisdom of these words into our daily lives as parents then we will all be happier, and we will have happier children.

1. Show up.  Turn off your cell phone and the television.  If you can ever volunteer at school, do it- even if it is only one time a year.  Be present with your child in the moment as much as possible.

2.  Pay attention.  Pay attention to what your child is trying to tell you.  Is your child asking you to read a book or watch a television show they really liked?  Maybe there is something in the book they really want to discuss with you.  Is your child telling you something about himself or herself that you have not been willing to hear?  Notice, this step does not say, “Pay attention and judge.” or “Pay attention and fix what you think is wrong.”  It says “Pay attention.”  Meditation is a good tool to help us(and our children) learn to be in the present moment.

3.  Give what you have to give.  Another way I think of this rule is “set boundaries.”  Again, notice it does not say “give of yourself until there is nothing left.”  I think we as parents can sometimes have a hard time with deciding what it is we have to give, whether it be money, time or attention to our children.  To me, giving what I have to give means giving something freely to my children or someone else so long as I will not feel resentful or remourseful later that I gave it.  This is a hard one but so important to model for our children.

4.  Don’t be connected to the results.  I would add that you cannot control them anyway and it is time for us all to stop pretending that we do.  Sorry folks, but in parenting there are so many aspects of a child’s life that are so far out of our control that we never had a chance anyway.  Oh sure we can pretend things are all our fault when they go right or wrong, but any parent with a child that was traumatized, or who grows up to be addicted to something will tell you that was never in their plan for their child.  Sure you can monitor what your child is doing but do they ever get into a vehicle with you or someone else?  Do you have a television, radio or computer in your home? Well, if you answered yes to any of these, you no longer control the results.  Accidents happen, good people can be hurt, children can conduct secret lives right under our noses with no small thanks to technology.  We can have the best of intentions and still things can go wrong.

Depressed yet?  Please allow me to help with that.  There are some things we can control.  We can control our own actions.  We can become aware of the ways in which we interact with our children and with others around us.  We can be a safe, loving, soft place to fall for our children.  We can model health and wellness for them in such a way that it would be difficult for them to ignore how wonderful it looks so they will be attracted to doing the same for themselves. Adding a spiritual practice is a good idea also if you believe in that kind of thing.  A spiritual practice reminds us that our relationship with our children is just one important relationship and their relationship to their higher power is another (and is none of our business). Doing all of those things brings us right back to the first four steps I mentioned and allows us to live them with grace and dignity for ourselves and for our children.

April 3, 2012 - Posted by | help for parents | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I think it also helps to remember that the period in which they are home and really, really needy is quite short over the course of a lifetime. In the middle of the night it may seem long, but really they are with us for such a fleeting period. Stepping back and remembering this, as hard as it is, seems to help in those deeply stressful times. Love your post.

    Comment by Grown and Flown | April 3, 2012 | Reply

    • Thank you reading and for your comment 🙂 I agree, remembering everything is time-limited is so important!

      Comment by help4yourfamily | April 3, 2012 | Reply

  2. So So true… I teach this to the parents I work with, but if you are ok with it I will print this out and be able to use it as a helpful handout insted of just using my short hand on a sticky note 😉 I love the section on what we can control… if you are familier with the Serenity prayer “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courgae to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference “. I enjoyed this post 🙂

    Comment by Seasonsgirl | April 3, 2012 | Reply

    • I love the serenity prayer. Please feel free to copy and use anything you find on my blog. I appreciate it when you give me credit for it though 🙂 I’m so glad you found it helpful. Thanks for your comment and for reading my posts. I got tired of sticky notes too- hence the blog lol

      Comment by help4yourfamily | April 3, 2012 | Reply

      • No problem I can credit you 🙂 Thanks again.

        Comment by Seasonsgirl | April 3, 2012

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