A few weeks ago, I suggested to my children that we take a trip over the holidays, rather than stay at home. To my surprise, they unanimously shot down the idea, because “Christmas is all about traditions and that means being at home with family.” Given how hard I’ve been working to instill in my children the importance of family traditions, hearing them put that into words was a gift (well, after I got over my initial disappointment). That conversation made me reflect on some of the other values that I hope my children will take away from their time with me. Here are my gifts to you, kids:

  1. Be considerate. Strive to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. How would you like to be treated? That’s how you should treat others. Notice when and where your behavior may have an impact on someone else and adjust accordingly.
  2. Be respectful. Not just towards elders or authority figures. Respect your peers, your friends, but especially the people who work to make your life easier or more comfortable. No one is here to serve you; ask instead how you can serve others. By respecting others, you respect yourself.
  3. Be helpful. This should be your default mode, your mindset. Always think how you can help, don’t wait to be asked. When in doubt, ask “What can I do to be helpful?” It’s ok to occasionally clean up after someone else or to make right something you didn’t cause; I do it all the time for you guys 🙂
  4. Ask for and accept assistance. You don’t have to face most of life’s challenges alone. Knowing when and who to ask for help is smart and shows strength, not weakness. When in doubt, think of how you feel when helping someone who needs you; good, right? That’s how they will feel when helping you.
  5. Be kind. Give people the benefit of the doubt, even when they are not as nice to you. Ponder what their stories might be. Maybe they’ve just had a sleepless night, a fight with their boss or have a sick child at home. Cut yourself some slack too, especially when things get tough (this might seem pretty obvious right now, but you’ll need it later on). Take breaks. And celebrate your wins, even the small ones.
  6. Don’t be entitled. No one owes you anything and you’re no better than anyone else. When you really want something, earn it. Always be proud of who you are – but that’s different than being entitled.
  7. Know what’s important. Understand your values and live by them. Make sure you honor your core beliefs as much as possible in your life. When you don’t, be aware of that – and ask why.
  8. Take responsibility. It’s rarely someone else’s fault, so don’t immediately go there. If you’re not happy with something, look first at how you might have contributed to that. That’s all you can control anyway.
  9. Have a vision. Know where you want to go, but more important, know who you want to be. Sit down and actually think about that. Use it as your life compass.
  10. Focus on the positive. You attract what you focus on. If you focus on the negative stuff – for example, everything that can go wrong – you’ll get the results to match that. Concentrate instead on what you want. Be able to describe that so well that you can see it, feel it, taste it. I promise, you’ll get there faster that way.
  11. Always look for the choice. Even when it seems like you don’t have a choice, don’t fall into a victim mindset. Don’t be resentful; instead, look for the choices that you do have. They’re everywhere, but you have to be able to see them. And to see them, you need a mindset of possibility and empowerment.
  12. Be present. Last but not least, give the gift of your presence to your family, your friends, and yourself. When you can’t be there physically, find ways to be present nevertheless. You don’t know how long any of the people you care about will be around.

I love you,


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