A few weeks ago, I was over at my brother’s house for dinner, and something happened between him and his son that triggered me. My nephew wanted to go into a tight corner in their living room to get something that had rolled in there, but my brother responded with a quick “no, don’t go in there” and no further explanation as to why.

This was something that I was all too familiar with growing up in a household with a controlling father who liked to play the role of the dictator of our family. The majority of my childhood, I heard the word “no” way more than “yes,” and a lot of the time, the reason was “because I said so” or “because I am the parent and you are the child and I know better.” This always triggered me as a kid, because I was extremely curious and I always questioned the way things should be done.

I am a big believer that we are all born with the natural ability to love, accept, respect, and value ourselves. When we are two or three years old, we have no issues looking at ourselves in the mirror and saying I love you,and we certainly do not worry about what other people think when we speak or act. But the more we hear the words “no,” “you’re wrong,” “don’t go there,” “do it this way”—especially without any kind of explanation why—we start to question our own ability to make decisions for ourselves. We start to give that power to the people in our lives who are telling us what we need to do.

As we approach the pre-teen and teenage years, we look to figure out who we are and why we are here on this planet. But, what we need the most in that process is our self-esteem and self-worth, and, unfortunately, by this time, we have given our power away to others and let them determine how we feel about ourselves. We then look to reclaim it externally without realizing that the only way it will ever rebuild is by looking within.

This has become a very dysfunctional cycle in our society that many, if not most, of us have followed for generations.

What’s even more unfortunate is that, as we get older, this habit stays with us, and it disintegrates our curiosity for life. When we lose our curiosity, we are more likely to follow the path that has been created for us, adopt the belief systems of others without questioning if they really ring true for us, and accept everything as it is.

These points bring me back to what I noticed at my brother’s home the other night. I believe one of the key missing ingredients in how a lot of adults and parents communicate to kids is the “why.” We sometimes dismiss justifying our responses by sharing our own experiences and, instead, settle for just dictating what we want, when we want it, and how it should look. A lot of the time, we are just communicating in the same way that our parents spoke to us when we were growing up, and this is totally understandable, as we tend only to do what we have been taught. But this way of operating and communicating is no longer working.

I believe that, in order to break this cycle, we need to shift the way we speak to and act around our youth.

The need for conscious, empowered communication, especially with our youth, is more imminent now than ever before!

The more we share and own our understanding and experiences without making it feel like our kids have to take it on as their own and the more we give an explanation for why instead of just telling how we think it is, the more we fuel their curiosity and give them the opportunity to truly learn from what they do and don’t do. We stop stripping them of their self-worth and self-esteem with the words we dictate and provide them opportunities to strengthen it on their own from within.

However, being able to consciously communicate to kids and young people in our lives requires the courage to be vulnerable. I believe that one of the main reasons we choose to dictate instead of educate is because we don’t have the “why” figured out ourselves! Before unconsciously dumping on our kids, we need to take a look within and question all of our own beliefs to see if they are still really serving us at the highest capacity. We need to ask ourselves if we are showing up in our lives the way we want our kids to. Are we fueling our own curiosity for life, or have we settled into our comfort zone and forgotten all about what it was like when we were kids?

I believe that the key to creating sustainable positive change on this planet is in how we educate our youth. If we raise and educate them from a place of empowerment, we have an opportunity to create a new generation of leaders that can create a new world based on new ideologies and principles.

In order for this to occur, it is our responsibility as adults to take a look at ourselves in the mirror and ask if we are playing our part!

Are you dictating when you speak to your kids or youth in your life, or do you take the time to share your experiences and educate them on your “why?” Are you showing up in your own life the way you would want your kids to?

Witnessing the interaction between my brother and his son has sparked me to get even clearer on how I want to show up myself!

I choose to educate instead of dictate, fuel my own curiosity instead of stifle it, question my beliefs instead of just accepting what I’ve been taught, and to show up as the most empowered version of myself that I can in each moment so I can set a positive example. What do you choose?

Michael Eisen

Michael Eisen is an inspirational speaker, author, and the founder of the Youth Wellness Network, an organization dedicated to inspiring and empowering youth across the globe to live happier and more positive lives. After positively transforming his own life at the age of nineteen, he is now on a lifelong crusade to share with other young people the principles, strategies, and practices that gave him the strength to start living a more joyful and healthier life. Michael’s first book (Empowered YOUth: A Father and Son’s Journey to Conscious Living) is now available everywhere books are sold. To learn more about Michael and the Youth Wellness Network, visit www.youthwellnessnetwork.ca, join him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.


*Photo Credit: Steve Koukoulas via Compfight cc