A few days ago I presented a workshop to a group of 40 children about how to turn their future dreams into a reality. What came to light for me (and the other trainers) was the unnerving effect that our media/celebrity culture is having on children.
A large section of the boys wanted to grow up to be professional footballers with “model girlfriends” like Cheryl Cole. When it came to drawing out their dreams, they wanted to draw these model girlfriends naked – mirroring the vital statistics of “Jordon” aka Katie Price.
Many of the girls wanted to be pop princesses or dancers, but if not, then pregnant at 22 was fine.
These kids are about 11 years old. Starved of healthy role models, their vibrant, juicy little minds are sucking up everything they can find in the Sun newspaper and Heat magazines that burst off our cultural shelves. And as the adults creating this culture, we are allowing it to happen.
The culture we live in – and perpetuate – is as powerful as any parent. It’s sculpts our families and our communities. It exerts a huge influence over the way we think and the way we act.
In recent years the massive leaps in technology and media communication have groomed many people to the point where they can no longer discern their own life styles or values from the lifestyle and values imposed by their cultural influences. And while many aspects of our culture are incredibly advanced, some – like the gun culture, celebrity culture, the blame culture, Size-0 culture and the consumer culture – are imbalanced, misguided and at worse, destructive.
As a parent and as part of humanity, I find this pretty scary. But there is something that we can do …
The best way to start making a difference to the world and help to build a more balanced, positive culture, is by starting on your own doorstep. By taking response-ability, identifying your beliefs and values then focusing on what does work, what you like about each other and how you can create more happiness in your life, your family culture will be lifted.
Problems and challenges won’t vanish, but by learning from your mistakes and focusing on what you want, your family can become a little pocket of positive culture that acts as one building block towards a better world.
Below are some of the steps I took last summer to begin building the sort of world culture that I would like my family to be part of.
1 Switch Off The Telly-Culture And Take A Magical Trip Instead
Every family already has its own unique culture. Influenced by parent’s backgrounds, family traditions and the wider community, families naturally develop their own set of rules, habits, activities and attitudes. To identify your family’s heartfelt values, gather everyone together and imagine you are setting sail to a tropical island where your family will build a brand new township . . .
*How will people to treat each other in this new town – lovingly, respectfully?
*What qualities do people display?
*How do people communicate? How do they listen?
*What do people do for fun?
*Is the island treated in ways to ensure that it stays beautiful and healthy?
Instead of telling your children your ideas, listen to what they come up with and discuss their thoughts with them afterwards. Not only will this help them to develop their own thinking skills, but it also creates partnership and gives them ownership over the new, positive culture they are helping to create.
2. Borrow Everyone Else’s Best Bits
Explore the cuisines, music, life styles, attitudes and beliefs of other cultures. It’s through the sharing of knowledge and the development of ideas that humankind has evolved to where it is today. Relevant attitudes and pearls of wisdom that are lacking in our own culture can be found across the globe. For example, in most third world countries nothing is wasted and everything is reused, remade and recycled – the sort of behaviour we are now striving to display in the West. In France families see meal times a precious opportunities to bond, communicate, listen and laugh.
3. Rename A Weekday Celebration Day
When you and your family are celebrating you know that things are going well. And the more things are going well in your family, the better everyone will feel about themselves and each other. The happier people are in themselves, the more they respect, give to and support each other. Change the name of one of the weekdays to Celebration Day and use this day for each family member to choose something feel grateful for. Teaching your children to feel grateful and celebrate what they have in their lives will help them to establish the habit of focusing on what they want . . . which will naturally steer them towards finding more things to celebrate and feeling even better about themselves.
4. Ditch The Blame-Culture And Get Response-Able
Whether the coffee was too hot, the pavement too uneven or your glasses blurred your vision so you didn’t see the step, we can always find someone (or something) to blame. Not limited to the outside world, families are quite established in their finger-pointing careers too!
There is a moment in between something causing you stress and your knee jerk reaction to it that, if captured, can be your biggest gift. This moment is where you can learn to practise the art of response-ability. Your choice in that moment, how you decide to handle the situation, is what will turn it from being another “telling off” or row into a magical opportunity to live your highest qualities. By taking response-ability for ourselves as adults and parents, we create a powerful role model for our children to do the same.
5. Throw Away The Consumer-Culture And Give The Gift That Matters
We all want our children kitted out with roller blades, nice clothes, bikes, toys and entertainment but are these things really going to guarantee them a successful, happy life? Some parents seem to think that buying their child everything and anything demonstrates their love, but in today’s consumer-culture children quickly move from one gadget to the next and before long those material gifts have lost their appeal and the “love” has been stuffed into the wardrobe.
The real foundation of a happy, successful life, both in the home and beyond, are the qualities of character and state of mind that you teach your family. By demonstrating those qualities and creating a home culture in which everyone can thrive, you will gift your family more joy and happiness and you will in turn gift our world with happier, more joyful people.
Switch Off The TV-Culture And Take A Magical Trip
Borrow Everyone Else’s Best Bits
Rename A Weekday Celebration Day
Ditch The Blame-Culture And Get Response-Able
Throw Away The Consumer Culture And Give The Gift That Matters