A small red book I purchased last year holds a lot of wise parenting advice. Shmuley Boteach in his book, 10 Conversations You Need To Have With Your Children, tells us about essential and ongoing chats we should have with our children.
Boteach, a rabbi, host of The Learning Channel's Shalom in the Home and father to eight children, recommends these conversations as vehicles to help our children see the critical decisions that they unconsciously make everyday with their actions and words.
Boteach urges parents to find creative ways to communicate with children who may be increasingly unwilling to engage in conversation. Boteach says our job as parents is not to impose our will on the child, but to help our child listen to his or her own inner voice. Our job is to inspire.
These conversations are designed to challenge and invigorate our children to think about who they are and who they want to be. Boteach's well-framed questions can help us show our children the moral choices they make with their behavior. With this awareness of moral choice, a child gains courage to follow a path that he or she knows is the right one.
Boteach sees childhood as the critical foundation of a person's life. He tells us why our children must fully live as children: ''A person who was truly a child first, a person who experienced life as something wonderful and awe-inspiring, takes that with him into adulthood.''
Seeing life as an adventuresome miracle is the gift of a happy childhood. Boteach believes every child has a right to a happy childhood in order to create a healthy adult.
In addition, Boteach asks us to be more concerned with our children's intellectual curiosity than with grades. Intellectual curiosity is the essence of a good life. Boredom is a curse. A long-term conversation we must have with our children centers around the question, ''Do you want to know?''
In each of the ten chapters of his book, Rabbi Boteach distills a powerful question for us to think about and to use to engage our children in a life-affirming discussion.
Bestowing dignity on others. Honoring the feminine. Why forgiveness is essential. The significance of family relationships and traditions. Love as the most powerful force in the universe. The destructive ability of fear. The place of God in our lives, no matter what our faith. Deciding who you want to be. The might of knowledge and inspiration. Internalizing the magic of childhood.
We need to be prepared to start these discussions at any time and at any place the opportunity may arise because these ten topics organize the thoughts that make us human. These are the chats that help our children chart the way to a life well-lived.
A little red book. Ten conversations. A book I might keep on my nightstand for years. Because the conversations should never stop.
Next week: Santa: Making the Invisible Visible
Kids Talk™ is a column dealing with early childhood development issues written by Maren Stark Schmidt. Mrs. Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland.
She has over 25 years experience working with young children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. She is also Creative Director for a video-based reading series for children ages three to six, The Shining Light Reading Series. Contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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