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  • Writer's pictureHank Jacobs

10 Rules for Living To Teach Your Kids


Parenting in any age is a challenge. We don’t get a rule book, best practices really vary by situation, and as parents we are constantly reminded that kids are small humans, with all the craziness and intensity that entails.

Add in the ubiquity of smartphones, YouTube, 24/7 television, video games, and a universe of outside influence, and the degree of difficulty goes up exponentially.

Most of us love our children and are trying our best to bring them up “properly” in this mad world. What that means is up to you.

So I offer you these 10 rules, or guidelines, that might inspire, give insight, or provide a way in to important conversations with your children and other challenging people in your life.

These are not all original ideas, just my personal best practices, and if I got the rule from elsewhere, I will credit where possible. Wisdom is universal.

And oh by the way, these are really for you, whether you have kids or not.

If you like them, use them. If you love them, please share this post.

1. Don’t panic.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. It is, of course, what’s printed on the front cover of the Guide in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, one of my all time favorite books. But that doesn’t make it any less important! In fact, this is the most important. All success stems from this. Nothing good comes from panic.

When we let fear overtake us, we may freeze, over-react, stop listening, or in general flail in such a way as to create greater problems than whatever caused the panic in the first place. Success comes from keeping a cool head. You always have a choice.

The repetition of “Don’t Panic!” into the consciousness creates a break in the thinking that allows for positive thinking and action to take over.

It not only can get you out of trouble, but the awareness that comes when we’re calm enables us to notice things that we may not have otherwise been aware of, and utilize them to our benefit to get out of trouble. Present awareness creates positive luck.

2. If you want something, ask for it.

Being passive aggressive sucks, for you and everyone around you. We all want things, there is no shame in it. So just ask. Don’t make us read your mind! When you ask for precisely what you want, it gives you power.

When you are clear with me about what you want, it gives me the power to give it to you. Or to say no. But at least I have the choice to help.

You’d be amazed how few people do this very simple thing. And as a result, they rarely get what they want, and end up feeling betrayed by the world.

Don’t be greedy; but by all means, take care of what you need in this life- you are your best advocate. Don’t be afraid to speak out.

3. It never hurts to say you’re sorry.

There’s layers to this one. Sometimes, when dealing with someone who is in a rage, saying you’re sorry, even if you don’t mean it, can diffuse the situation. But you have to at least act like you mean it for it to work. Often, you are actually at fault, so own it. Seriously. Don’t be a weasel. Take responsibility for your actions. It’s way easier to act in integrity, then apologize when you slip up, and we all slip up.

The deeper level is the power of forgiveness. We forgive because, in holding on to anger, we hurt ourselves the most.

Anger burns us up inside, leads to cancer, obesity, depression, and body pain. Anger twists us up, mind, body, and soul. We forgive to free ourselves from the burden of our fury. We forgive ourselves for getting hurt so badly in the first place, for the weakness we feel having loved and then gotten burned.

Don’t worry about how that forgiveness is received– we forgive to heal ourselves first and foremost. Those who truly want our forgiveness are less likely to do something terrible in the first place, and are less likely to repeat the offense. Those most in need of our forgiveness are the ones least likely to appreciate it, and least likely to change. So begin by letting yourself off the hook, it stops them from stealing your time. Time that is better doing stuff you like to do.

A caveat: saying sorry all the time without meaning is not saying sorry at all. It is actually violating rule number two, apologizing for wanting things and then not saying what those things are. Seriously annoying. Save your apology for when it will help. Own your stuff.

4. You don’t have to be nice, but you should always be kind.

We’re often told to “be nice.” That’s okay, when you’re dealing with other nice people. But in this aggressive, capitalist society we live in, being nice tends to mean that you will get trampled on. This is not a lesson everyone is learning; as a result, those who are “nice” tend to be those who get taken advantage of. Also, it takes the pressure off of you to have to make a decision. In my house, being passive-aggressive is a cardinal sin. Say what you want, don’t apologize for yourself, and don’t agree to things that you don’t want to do under the guise of being “nice.”

Be kind. A wise man once said: Don’t be cruel. Kindness is about taking someone’s perspective and needs into account and balancing them against what your needs and desires are. “Kindness,” as the poet David Schulman says, “has teeth.” Sometimes the kindest thing you can do for a person is to not be nice. Let them know where you stand, and where they stand in relation to you. People operate better when they know where they stand.

You don’t have to be a jerk about it. In fact, even when you’re saying things someone may not want to hear, be polite. Say please, thank you, and you’re welcome. Yes sir, yes ma’am, no sir, no ma’am. A spoonful of sugar, as they say…

5. Do not fear anyone.

Predators fear on prey. They smell fear. If you don’t panic, you won’t be afraid. You’ll figure out what you can do, and how to get it done.

That doesn’t mean you should be stupid: be aware of what someone is capable of, and plan accordingly.

Find out as much as you can about the person you are afraid of, and you’ll see them in a whole new light. Everyone has weakness. Everyone was born from mother, everyone is going to die someday. Be sure of yourself. Be aware. Be careful. But don’t be afraid.

6. Work hard, play hard.

You’re going to have to do a lot of things in life. Some you will love, some you’ll hate. Most things you’ll just do cause you have to, or it’s the next thing that’s happening. Whatever you decide to do, commit to it fully and taste whatever flavors it has, learn the lessons it has to teach you. If it sucks, don’t do it again.

Be present in everything and give it a chance, cause every day is a blessing. Whatever you do, do your best.

7- There’s always a way.

No situation is hopeless. This one is really all about faith. Faith that you can find a way to grow, to escape, to earn, to love, to win, to understand, to get back up, to breathe. This goes back to rule #1 (as most of these do): don’t panic, pay attention, see what’s at hand, and make use of it. Real magic is being able to see the things around you that no one else can see and utilize them. All the ones who are not aware will think you just pulled it out of thin air. And most people are simply not aware.

8- Vulnerability is more powerful than force.

The being who relies too much on strength is unstable. Force is not nimble, and dominance creates illness- it can not heal the world. Only through sharing will we survive. Let yourself be known, and you won’t be alone.

Let people in, and let them know what you consent to, put them at ease that you don’t plan to harm them. Listen to what they offer. If they have good intentions, find out what they have. If they have bad intentions, politely but firmly send them on their way.

A brilliant woman I once knew told me, “I don’t wear armor. I am aware.”

Rabbi Yehuda Berg says, “Love is the weapon of the future.”

You don’t have to stand there and take the blows. You can move out of the way.

9- Love as much as you can.

To love and to be loved is what it’s all about. The connection we are capable of having to one another is what makes life worth living. Even when it hurts, never be ashamed to love. Love is the connective tissue that binds the world. When you love powerfully, you have access to this connection, and it will hold you up when you can not stand on your own.

10- Learn to recognize bullshit.

From the Ascended Master Lou Reed, by way of Laurie Anderson: Get a really good bullshit detector and learn how to use it.”

Bullshit is everywhere. Its smell gets into everything. It is the coin of the realm of those who would dominate you, who would bend your life to their gain, bend your soul to their vanity. They tell a bullshit story, one where you are not good enough, smart enough, strong enough, worth enough.

When you buy into a bad story, your every day can be hell. And you are the one making it that way, because you are buying into and repeating that terrible narrative of your own life. That’s what makes bullshit so insidious: you become its unwitting accomplice.

When faced with bullshit, notice that detector going off. Listen to it. And then say “no thank you!” And don’t worry if you miss some, no one’s shoes are clean. Keep it moving, you’ll get better at seeing it next time. That’s the blessing of experience.

I hope you find this little guide handy and helpful. I share it because I love you. We are made of the same stuff. And I want you to enjoy your life a little more. Cause when your life is better, all of our lives are better.

Now go out there, and make your world a better place!

The Refrigerator Version:


by Hank Jacobs

1- DON’T PANIC. This is the most important. All success stems from this.

2- IF YOU WANT SOMETHING, ASK FOR IT. Don’t make us read your mind.

3- IT NEVER HURTS TO SAY YOU’RE SORRY. It helps to forgive.

4- YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE NICE, BUT YOU SHOULD ALWAYS BE KIND. And try, as much as possible, to be polite.

5- DO NOT FEAR ANYONE. But be aware of what they’re capable of and plan accordingly.

6- WORK HARD, PLAY HARD. Whatever you do, do your best.

7- THERE’S ALWAYS A WAY. No situation is hopeless.

8- VULNERABILITY IS MORE POWERFUL THAN FORCE. Let yourself be known, and you won’t be alone.

9- LOVE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. It makes life worth it.

10- LEARN TO RECOGNIZE BULLSHIT. It’s everywhere. Don’t get caught up in a bad story.

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