Rarely have I had the chance to quote Jimi Hendrix, especially when it comes to something that doesn’t have to do with rock n’roll or drugs…So imagine my surprise when I found this quote on wisdom by him:
Knowledge talks, wisdom listens.
Such a lovely way to distill all that encompasses the mental machinations of being wise.
Now, listen. I’ve got to tell you that I’m intentionally not going to wax philosophical about wisdom in relation to religion. The Bible, the Koran, Confucius, Buddha, Hindu religion – all good places to find a wealth of teachings on wisdom.
If you have a spiritual practice then there is your go-to place to start. In fact, you might have a few great teaching ideas yourself, and if so, please share them. I’d love to hear many different perspectives.
After doing my research, however, I can say that wisdom is a gumbo of good judgement: knowledge, open mindedness, creativity, curiosity, perspective, love of learning and listening.
Raising wise children
1. Read books. Lots of books. A good place to start is Barefoot Books Tales of Wisdom and Wonder. It’s a compilation of stories gathered from around the world and retold for little ears.
2. Grandparents. If wisdom comes with age, than what better place to learn than at the feet of our elders. Plus, grandparents and grandchildren can have an incredibly strong bond – if for no other reason that they share a common enemy: the parents. At least that’s what my mother tells me (he he).
3. Mother Nature. Aside from getting kids outside, which is always a good thing, traipsing about in nature rewards wise decisions. Balancing on a downed tree? The wise child goes slowly and makes it safely to the other side. The tree will be the teacher. And gravity.
It only takes one fall to get kids to start making better, wiser decisions. Nature is a wonderful place to test out our instincts, ultimately teaching wisdom.
4. Ask good questions. This isn’t for silly time or just bantering back and forth. When you feel that teachable moment upon you, ask your child provoking questions that get him thinking. Contemplation leads to knowing oneself, and that leads to wisdom.
Being wise adults
As with all of the other character traits, you can’t teach what you don’t have. The old axiom ‘Do as I say and not as I do’ is a bunch of hooey. Only, as a parent, sometimes it’s easier to lecture than to act. Seriously, whenever I hear myself lecturing my girls I think of Charlie Brown’s teacher. Urgh. Actions speak louder than words.
1. Think before you act or decide. Let your child see you thinking. Taking a moment teaches patience and decision making.
2. Consider the long term goal. If you get stuck making short term decisions: a ‘shut up treat’ at the grocery store, one more book at bed time and then another book and then another. You see where I’m going…the long tern goals keep things in perspective.
3. Make exceptions to the rule. Barry Schwartz has an interesting TED talk on the loss of our wisdom. Like Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone‘. There are rules, even ones that you’ve made yourself. But rules should be broken sometimes, or at least altered.
Wisdom always points you in the right direction. Schwartz’s take away sound bite: “the good news is you don’t need to be brilliant to be wise. The bad news is that without wisdom, brilliance isn’t enough.”
I could put together a check list. In fact, you could put together a check list. But, seriously, that’s like the whole No Child Left Behind debacle. It assures mediocrity (to paraphrase Schwartz on rules and incentives). It stops people from actually thinking for themselves and it’s the thinking, the listening, the weighing of right and wrong that leads to wisdom.
So teach that: thinking, listening, weighing of right and wrong. You’ll be golden. And so will your kids.
photo credit: Modern Home Modern Baby