The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: a new Interpretation: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents

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The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: A New Interpretation:

Ancient Advice for Modern Parents

by William Martin

1. Words of Life
You can speak to your children of life, but your words are not life itself.

You can show them what you see, but your showing and their seeing are forever different things.

You cannot speak to them of Divinity Itself.

But you can share with them the millions of manifestations of this Reality arrayed before them every moment.

Since these manifestations have their origin in the Tao, the visible will reveal the invisible to them.
Don’t mistake your desire to talk for their readiness to listen.

Far more important are the wordless truths they learn from you.

If you take delight in the ordinary wonders of life,

they will feel the depth of you pleasure and learn to experience joy.

If you walk with them in the darkness of life’s mysteries you will open the gate of understanding.

They will learn to see in the darkness and not be afraid.

Go for a slow mindful walk.

Show them every little thing that catches your eye.

Notice every little thing that catches theirs.

Don’t look for lessons or seek to teach great things.

Just notice.

The lesson will teach itself.

2. Take Care with Labels
When you teach your children that certain things are good,

they are likely to call all different things bad.

If you teach them that certain things are beautiful,

they may see all other things as ugly.

Call difficult things, “difficult,” and easy things, “easy,” without avoiding one and seeking the other,

and your children will learn self-confidence.

Call results, “results,” without labeling one as a success and another as failure,

and your children will learn freedom from fear.

Call birth, “birth,” and death, “death,” without seeing one as good and the other as evil,

and your children will be at home with life.

Notice today how your children label things.

“This stinks.”

“That’s stupid.”

Don’t correct them.

Just notice and consider how they learned.

Start today to teach a different lesson.

3. Happiness is Contagious
If you always compare your children’s abilities to those of great athletes, entertainers, and celebrities,

they will lose their own power.

If you urge them to acquire and achieve, they will learn to cheat and steal to meet your expectations.
Encourage your children’s deepest joys, not their superficial desires.

Praise their patience, not their ambition.

Do not value the distractions and diversions that masquerade as success.

They will learn to hear their own voice instead of the noise of the crowd.

If you teach them to achieve they will never be content.

If you teach them contentment, they will naturally achieve everything.

We all want our children to be happy.

Somehow, some way today show them something that makes you happy, something you truly enjoy.

Your own happiness is contagious.

They learn the art from you.

4. Infinite Possibilities
You do not know the true origin of your children.

You call them yours but they belong to a greater Mystery.

You do not know the name of this Mystery, but it is the true Mother and Father of your children.
At birth your children are filled with possibilities.

It is not your job to limit these possibilities.

Do not say, “This and that are possible for you. These other things are not.”

They will discover on their own what is and is not possible.

It is your job to help them stay open to the marvelous mysteries of life.
It may be interesting to ask,

“What limitations have I, unthinking, taken upon myself?”

It is very difficult for your child’s horizon to be greater than your own.

Do something today that pushes against your own preconceptions.

Then take your child’s hand and gently encourage her to do the same.

5. Seeing to the Heart
Some behavior in your children will seem “good” to you.

Other behavior will seem unequivocally “bad.”

Notice both in your children without being overly impressed by one nor overly dismayed by the other.

In doing so you will be imitating the Tao which sees our behavior as a mask,

and sees immediately beneath it to the good within our heart.
Above all, do not attack your child’s behavior and attempt to change it by endless talking and scolding.

Stay at your center and look beneath the behavior to the heart of the child.

There you will find only good.

When you see the heart you will know what to do.

Of course some behavior is dangerous to the child and to others.

Express your concern with the behavior.

Do not attack the child.

Consider now a particular behavior that concerns you.

Meditate carefully and see through to the heart of your child.

What does it tell you?

6. Relax Your Grip
The Tao is continually giving birth to your children and to you.

You are not their source.

The Tao is the Great Mother and the Source of all that is.

Her resources are inexhaustible.

If you empty yourself of you own expectations,

you will see that your children will never be outside Her love.

Your parental responsibilities seem overwhelming and beyond all reasonable expectation.

You must keep them in school, off drugs and out of trouble.

You must get them into college, through college and home on time.

You will never have a moment’s peace for no matter how well you and they have done until now,

something could always go wrong.

Consider your current concerns.

If God has spaciousness enough to encompass any difficulty they may have,

can you not relax your grip a bit?

7. Present for All
How is the Tao able to be present for all beings?

Because it has no desires for itself and can therefore accept you however you may struggle, however you may fail.

There is always room for you.
Detach yourself from the seeming successes and failures of your children.

By doing so you become able to be one with them at all times.

You do not live your life through your children.

Therefore, they are free to fund their own true fulfillment.

Can you encourage your children without attaching too much importance on the outcome?

Can you attend your child’s game or contest,

and cheer for every good play and every good effort of all players on both sides?

Can you encourage anyone, on either side, who makes a mistake?

Does this seem unnatural? Impossible?

Try it.

You will thoroughly enjoy the game and teach your child a wonderful truth.
8. Model Contentment
To be a wise parent, you must first become like water.

It is content to nourish all it touches without discrimination.

While people struggle to move up, water flows joyfully down, filling the low places.
As you care for your children keep their environment uncluttered, free of useless gadgets and distractions.

Keep your conversation honest and straightforward, free of punishment and shame.

As you conduct your life, be serene and joyful, content and at peace.

This will be your greatest legacy.

Nothing nurtures a child like a parent who takes great pleasure from a simple activity,

and is content with the present moment.

Are you modeling contentment or always wanting “more?”
9. Can You Make Room
If you fill every waking moment of your children’s lives they will have no room to be themselves.

If you push them constantly they will break.

If you burden them with an abundance of material toys their hearts will contract in possessiveness.

If you always try to please them you will be their prisoner, not their parent.

Don’t strive or strain.

Do you work, then rest.

Your children will learn serenity.
Are your children “problems to be solved,” or people to be loved?

Consider current problems with your children.

Can you create a space, free from your own anxieties, in which they are able to find their own way,

feeling your love, but not your expectations?

10. As They Are
When you are with your children be one with them.

Let every part of your body relax and become as supple as your child’s.

Allow all expectations and anxieties to melt away so that you can see clearly.

Love them as they are in this very moment, without needing to change a thing.

When their lives are filled with trouble allow events to unfold without pushing or straining,

and you will understand clearly what your role should be.

You nourish them without possessing them.

You guide them without controlling them.

You help them without worrying.
Being with your child can be like meditating.

When you are with your child next, forget the past, forget the future,

and let your mind and heart come to be where your body is.

11. The Still Point
A wheel spins in a circle.

The still point at the center gives it direction.

Be still.

And your children will see the way ahead.

A pot has beautiful sides.

The emptiness inside makes it useful.

Empty yourself of agenda and you will be available for your children.
A good house has strong walls.

The space within the walls makes it a home.

Create space within your heart and your children will always rest secure.
Suggesting, guiding, teaching, and lecturing, although well intentioned, often creates confusion rather than clarity.

Are you filling the air with good advice and helpful strategies when you should be still, empty and spacious?

12. A Quiet Place
Constant stimulation of your children’s senses creates insensitivity.

They see so much they become blind.

They hear so much they become deaf.

They taste so much they become nauseated.

They desire so much they become forever unsatisfied.
They do not come to know that which truly satisfies.
It will be hard to create a quiet place where your children can find their souls.

You must first quiet your own world and then approach theirs.

They are accustomed to the barrage of noise and will complain loudly in its absence.

But you can find a quiet way.

What can you do today?

A walk?

A book?

A simple game?

13. Fear of Failure
Beware of teaching your children to climb the ladder of success.
Ladders lead down as well as up.
If you overly protect your children they will fear failure and avoid pain.

But failure and pain are twin teachers of important lessons.

Unless your children fully experience both how will they know they have nothing to fear?
Your children do not learn from their successes.

They learn from their failures.

They must have complete permission to try and fail, and discover that they are still OK.

What has your child failed at recently?

How did they react?

How did that make you feel?

How can you each learn from this?

14. Their Mysterious Origin
Did your children really begin with the union of your bodies?

Or is their origin more mysterious?


means no time,

no beginning,

no end.
Do your children,

who visit you in time,

really reside in eternity?

If you try to grasp them, they slip away.

They are more than what you see and hear and feel.

They belong somewhere else and only visit here.

So why do you worry?

If the Tao is good, it is completely good and your children are safe regardless of appearances.

I believed that when my son was struggling with problems.

I believe it now when he is a handsome, content, adult.

I will believe it if future trouble visits his life.

I believe it.
15. Be Alert and Mindful
If you would be a wise parent be careful in all you do and say.

Know that each action, each word has its effect.

Be alert and mindful, living fully in each present moment.

Treat your children with courtesy as you would treat a guest.

Be ready in a moment to let go of one plan and embark on another if your inner voice so urges.

Have room within your heart to hear the voice of both your children and your own spirit.

Do not expect fulfillment from events or people outside yourself.

Welcome and accept things as they are.

Welcome and accept children as they are.
Treat yourself with gentle care.

These qualities emerge naturally, not by force of will.

16. Empty Yourself of Worries
To survive as a parent you must empty yourself of your constant thinking, planning and worrying.
You and your children were born in the Tao, live in the Tao, and will return to that same Tao.

If you don’t realize this, you will mistake the sorrow you see in life for the final word,

and you will become hardened with fear.
But, knowing how things really are, you gain true confidence.

Being confident, your mind opens to see your children as they really are.

Seeing them as they really are, your heart fills with genuine love for them.

Truly loving them, you realize your own divine nature.

Realizing your true nature, you enter eternal life.
These truths lie behind all religious traditions.

Believe them.

17. No Need for Threats
You can control your children through threats and punishments,

and they will learn to fear.

You can control their behavior by praise and reward,

and they will learn to look outside themselves for approval and worth.

You can watch over their every movement, every action, every decision, making sure they do it “right,”

and they will learn always to doubt themselves.

Or you can love and guide without controlling or interfering,

and they will learn to trust themselves.

If your child fails at something merely express your confidence in their ability to handle the consequences.

If they behave irresponsibly, merely point out the consequences to themselves and others,

and again express your trust that they will learn.

As soon as possible give them another opportunity to be appropriately responsible.

Do not slip into the downward spiral of blame, shame, and control.

It doesn’t work.

18. Natural Virtues
All young children naturally love God.

As they grow they are trained by others and turn instead to piety and religion.

All young children are naturally at ease with their bodies.

As they grow, they are shamed by others and become self-conscious and filled with tension.

All young children naturally relate to other people well.

As they grow they see conflict and become fearful and guarded.

All virtues arise naturally until fear and training interfere.

Then virtues disappear and rules take their place.

Look for the natural virtues of your children.

You may have to pay careful attention.

We are trained to not notice them, or distrust them.

But they are the real thing.

They don’t have to be taught, only nurtured.

What natural virtues can you notice in your child today?

19. Recognize the Inner Realities
If you try to make your children good, you will make them, and yourself, miserable.

Instead show them you believe in their natural goodness and all will be blessed.

If you try to make them honor you, you will create instead resentment and dishonesty.

Instead honor yourself and them and all will be happy.

If you try to make them successful you will perpetuate their misery of endless desires.

Instead enjoy the simple life and all will find contentment.

You do not have to teach the outward niceties.

You have to recognize the inward realities.

You do not have to make things turn out well.

You have to recognize that all is well.

20. Be a Model of Honesty
If you want to become a wise parent, you must be prepared to appear foolish.

You must be willing to say,

“Why should I chase this way and that, always grasping, always running? Nuts!”

Unless you stop following the crowd, how can you teach your children to be free?

To teach your children strength you must be willing to appear weak.

You must renounce ambition and struggle and embrace serenity and peace.

You must confess your faults and embrace your failures.

You must face yourself with honesty and find the truth of your nature.

Your children need a model of honesty.

If you pretend you have no weaknesses, and cover them under masks and facades,

your children will learn to do the same and the game will go on.

Begin today to see, and accept, the real you beneath the role.

21. The Hidden Mystery of Their Being
Although you give your children names, their reality is nameless and mysterious.

Their mystery is hidden, yet plain to see.

It disappears when you stare at it.

It hides when you seek it.

To find it you must look into yourself.

If you can discover the secret of your own life, you will glimpse the mystery of your children.

Though this mystery cannot be described, it can be trusted.

You can trust it in yourself.

You can trust it in your children.

How do I know this?

I see it everywhere.
Imagine yourself as a child.

There was someone present there your parents never knew, a mystery they could not fathom.

Look at your children closely.

You will never know the mystery of their being.

Can you love them still?

22. Your Greatest Legacy
If you want your children to succeed, show them how to fail.

If you want them to be happy, show them how to be sad.

If you want them to be healthy, show them how to be sick.

If you want them to have much, show them how to enjoy little.

Parents who hide failure, deny loss, and berate themselves for weakness, have nothing to teach their children.

But parents who reveal themselves, in all their humanness, become heroes.

For children look to these parents and learn to love themselves.
Parenting need not be a burden, one more thing you have to do and don’t do well enough.

Instead, consider your failures, your sorrows, your illnesses,

and your difficulties as your primary teaching opportunities.

23. No Mixed Messages
Natural parents do not vie mixed messages.

When they are angry, their children see their anger and learn it is not to be feared.

When they are sad, their children see their sadness and learn it can be borne.

When the difficult feelings pass there is no residue.

Their relationship with their children remains pure and uncontaminated.
It is terribly difficult to parent naturally.

We have learned to repress, modify, and distrust our natural responses until we can barely recognize them.

Of course you should not “dump” your repressed feelings upon your children.

But you can begin to feel them yourself and become a friend of your own nature.

This will enable you to express yourself, appropriately and mindfully, to your children.

There will be less and less hidden agenda and the fresh air will cleanse everyone.

24. Agendas – Yours or Theirs?
If you push your children, they will lose their balance.

If you are always running them here and there, they will get nowhere.

If you put them in the spotlight, they will be unable to see their own light.

If you seek to impose upon them your own ideas of who they should be, they will become nothing.

If you want them to thrive, do what you can for their safety, then let go.
Do you have agendas for your children that are more important that the children themselves?

Lost in the shuffle of uniforms, practices, games, recitals, and performances,

can be the creative and joyful soul of your child.

Watch and listen carefully.

Do they have time to daydream?

From their dreams will emerge the practices and activities that will make self-discipline as natural as breathing.

Encourage these.
25. Clouds of Light

They look so small and frail but they are so great and magnificent.

They are born of the same womb that birthed the cosmos and knitted together the galaxies.
If you could see them as they truly are, you would be astounded.

You would see not little children, but dancing clouds of light, energy in motion, swimming in an ocean of love.

They are so much more than what you see.

As are you.

Life can seem mundane.

But it is not.

Children can seem ordinary, and troublesome, and fragile.

But they are not.

You may feel alone, and separated, and powerless.

But you are not.

26. Become the Student
Children are fascinated by the ordinary and can spend timeless moments watching sunlight play with dust.

Their restlessness they learn from you.

It is you who are thinking of there when you are here.

It is you who thinks of then instead of now.


Let your children become the teachers, and you become the student.

Your children may frequently change the focus of their attention.

But this is not restlessness.

It is curiosity.

When they are doing something they are doing only that until they move on to the next thing.

Watch them.

Let them set the pace.

See what you can learn.
27. Fan the Spark
Your children plan their own education, like it or not.

You must learn to cooperate with that plan.

If they are drawing, they become artists.

If they are reading, they become students.

If they are investigating something, they become scientists.

If they are helping prepare a meal, they become chefs.

Whatever they are doing, they are learning.

And it is, for them, pure joy.

Can you refrain from judging their interests?

Can you give them room to explore?

Schools do not often do this.

You may be the only one who can fan the spark of their creativity into a flame of joy.

28. Transforming the World
The world insists on achievement and progress and it is full of enmity and strife.

Can you see all this and still help your children maintain their trust and hope and peace?

Can you accept the world as it is, yet live according to a different standard?

Can you let your children see a way of living that transforms, heals, nurtures, and loves?

If you complain about politics, and gripe about taxes, and stew about the sorry state of things,

your children will learn to whine instead of laugh.

If you can see in every moment a chance to live, and to accept, and to appreciate,

your children will transform the world.

29. The Very Energy of the Universe
Your children are not mere lumps of clay waiting for your expert hands.

They are the very energy of the universe and will become what they will become.

They are sacred beings.

If you tamper with them you will make everyone miserable.

They will find success and failure.

They will be happy, and sad.

They will delight you, and disappoint you.

They will be safe, and at great risk.

They will live, and they will die.
Stay at the center of your own soul.

There is nothing else you can do.

My son almost lost his life as a teenager.

There was nothing I could do.

I remember accepting that he might die.

I cried for hours.

I got up and returned to my life and to my loves.

Years later, he is a happy, strong, wonderful young man – all because of his choices, not mine.

30. Good Behavior
There are many ways to get children to behave as you wish.

You can force, plead, and bribe.

You can manipulate, trick, and persuade.

You can use shame, guilt, and reason.

These will all rebound upon you.

You will be in constant conflict.

Attend instead to your own actions.

Develop contentment within yourself.

Find peace and love in all you do.

This will keep you busy enough.

There is no need to control others.
If you are able to release even some small part of your persistent need to control,

you will discover an amazing paradox.

The things you attempted to force now begin to occur naturally.

People around you begin to change.

Your children find appropriate behavior emerging from within themselves and are delighted.

Laughter returns to all.

31. Your Children Are Not Your Enemies
You children are not your enemies.

You need not fear them.

Differences with them are not battles that you must win or lose.

If you lock yourself into seeming warfare, all perspective becomes lost.

Terrible and hurtful things are said.

The whole family suffers and the wounds are slow to heal.

Win and lose are words a family does not need.
You do not have to battle for your authority.

Authority is something you have within yourself.

If your children do not see it, that is a sorrow, but you cannot force their seeing.

If you keep this in mind, many of your battles will disappear.

Difficult times may remain, but weapons of mass destruction are no longer needed.
32. Rules Do Not Give Life
Rules do not give life.

The Tao gives life.

And the Tao is seen in butterflies and in galaxies.

If children were trusted to discover God in the center of their own hearts the world would be at peace.

But we have made systems of rules and institutions of control.

Accept this as the way things are but always recognize the limitations of rules, and the dangers of institutions.

Rules can guide a child but cannot define that child.

Institutions can nurture a child but cannot bring that child to maturity.

For a short while, when your children are young, you may be able to coerce good behavior.

But goodness of the heart can never be coerced.

It can only be encouraged or discouraged.

Consider your family’s rules, spoken and unspoken.

Who benefits from them, and how?

Do they encourage of discourage your children?

33. There Are Few Things You Must Know
There are few things you must know to become a wise parent.

You must know that you are going to die, for then you will be able to truly live.

You must know when you have enough, for then you will be content.

You must know how to laugh, for then you will find healing.

There are many things you need not know.

You need not know everything your children think or do.

You need not know their secret dreams and hopes.

You need not know how life will unfold for them, or for yourself.

Live your own life, with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your soul.

There is no need to live theirs.

They will do that wonderfully by themselves.

34. Be as the Tao
In many ways the good parent must be like the Tao.

But not in ways that you might think.

The Tao loves all of creation, but does not seek to control.

The Tao nourishes all life everywhere, but does not judge that life.

The Tao cherishes every person, but does not grasp or cling.
Can you love without control?

Can you nourish without judgment?

Can you cherish without grasping?

Of course you can, for the Tao flows through you.

Despite what you may have heard, God does not control, judge, or grasp.

All of your “God” words will not teach your children as much as will your nurture,

and your love, and your cherishing.

35. Make the Ordinary Come Alive
Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives.

Such striving may seem admirable, but it is a way of foolishness.

Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life.

Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears.

Show them how to cry when pets and people die.

Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand.

And make the ordinary come alive for them.

The extraordinary will take care of itself.

You will have to constantly contend with the pressure for ever more, and ever bigger,

that culture seeks to impose on your children and you.

It takes courage and discipline to go slow, live simply, and see clearly.

But the rewards are great.

What ordinary thing can you do together today?
36. Opposites are Necessary
If you want your children to be generous, you must first allow them to be selfish.

If you want them to be disciplined, you must first allow them to be spontaneous.

If you want them to be hard-working, you must first allow them to be lazy.

This is a subtle distinction, and hard to explain to those who criticize you.

A quality cannot be fully learned without understanding its opposite.
All of your friends (especially the grandparents) will tell you this is nonsense.

But look carefully inside of yourself.

Only the child with a strong sense of self can be truly generous.

Only the child who discovers his or her bliss will truly work hard.

Most of what passes as discipline and hard work is an overlay of coerced behavior.

It has no authentic power or joy.

Only the lazy, undisciplined dreamer can discover within the source of true discipline that will bring great success.

37. Encourage Natural Desires
Don’t be misled.

God has no desires.

How could that which contains All, want for anything else?

Yet all true desires have their fulfillment in God.

Your children will face natural and unnatural desires.

All natural desires are naturally fulfilled.

Those who chase unnatural desires will never find rest.

If you can help your children distinguish between these two, they will live contented, happy lives.

We all naturally desire to love and be loved, to belong, to dance and sing,

to find and to live our bliss.

Show your children that these desires will find their satisfaction in the natural unfolding of things.

This is a difficult task for those of us who have been trained to support the economy,

by remaining continually unsatisfied.

Our children hear far more advertising hours each and every week than they hear our own voice in a month.

Can you show them by your own actions how true happiness can be found in loving, living, and dancing?

38. No Force Needed
Strong parents have no need to bully and coerce their children.

Weak parents push and shove, yell and hit, and still have no power at all.

If good behavior is demanded of children, without a reservoir of goodness for supply, nothing is gained.

If religion is preached to children as external forms and dogmatic beliefs, emptiness results.

Wise parents know that deep within their children is a free spirit and a goodness that need not be forced,

only watered and encouraged.

Don’t be deceived when your children’s behavior seems bad and immoral.

This is not their true nature.

You will not change them by the force of your will.

Force on your part will only cloud the issue.

If you were to let go of expectations, and let yourself be at peace, what would your children see?

39. Are You in the Way?
Wise parents let things unfold with as little interference as possible.

They remain out of the way, not calling attention to themselves.

Their children discover the natural harmony of things,

and work out their conflicts in ways that establish true peace.

When parents interfere, and constantly meddle in their children’s lives, the natural order is forgotten.

Conflicts are escalated, learning is curtailed, and confusion reigns.

There are certainly times when we should guide.

We naturally want to protect our children, and teach them what we have learned.

But it is best when we let that guidance be as unobtrusive and gentle as possible.

Forcing lessons on our children may get the immediate results we want.

But our children may be left without discernment, unable to build internal strength of character.

What are your children in the midst of learning now?

Are you in the way?

40. Quiet the Mind
Our bodies produce the bodies of our children.

Our noisy minds produce the fears of our children.

But the Tao produces the spirit of our children.
Still the body.

Quiet the mind.

Discover the spirit.
Meditation is not complicated nor esoteric.

It is a natural skill, practiced in many variations.

Breathe in and think, “Be…”

Breathe out and think, “… still.”

Once you learn, teach your children.

You don’t have to call it meditation.

Call it, “being still like a mountain.”

Bring forth their natural ability to remain quiet and at rest.

(Yes, they can, even if for brief periods. Can you?)
41. Finding Balance
There are so many paradoxes in parenting that it is difficult to find balance.

Some don’t even try.

They just plunge ahead, ignoring the subtle whispers of wisdom.

Others try half-heartedly, but resort to old methods when they get confused.

But some hear wisdom’s quiet voice and make it their own.
They find strength in softness,

power in flexibility,

perfection in mistakes,

success in failure,

clarity in confusion,

and love in letting go.

Parenting paradoxes abound.

Don’t let appearances deceive you.

Things may not be at all as they seem.

What’s going on with your children right now?

Are you sure?

Or are you just making assumptions?

Buried in the most difficult of times are polished gems.

Lurking beneath serene surfaces lie turbulent waters.

Stay balanced.

42. Befriend Solitude
Learning to handle the many moods and activities of life requires solitude.
Do not let the demands of an overly active world rob your children of their peace.

Constant stimulation without the balance of quietness creates chaos.

The child who early befriends solitude becomes one with all that is and inherits everything.
First you must embrace solitude in your own life.

It is more difficult that you think.

Distractions are everywhere.

Even the mind is noisy.

Give your children time to play without agenda,

to read without purpose, to daydream without limits, and to discover without fear.

All yourself the same.
43. Doing Nothing
Doing nothing while your child fails requires great courage and is the way of wisdom.

Gentleness when your child misbehaves requires great self-control and is the way of power.

Do not succumb to berating, scolding, interfering, interrupting, lecturing, or controlling your child.

Let your gentle presence teach all that is necessary.

My father tried to teach me responsibility by scrutinizing my very action,

to make sure it was done right.

I did really learn responsibility until I discovered the consequences of doing it wrong.

Every mistake your child makes is another step forward on the long road to wholeness.

Every time you interfere you both step backwards.

44. Find Your Own Meaning
If you look to your children to find meaning in your life, your life will be meaningless.

If you need them to be successful to feel successful yourself, you will always fail.

Your children were not born to complete your life.

They were born to complete their own.

When you look inside and discover that you have everything you need, you will find your freedom.
As long as you perceive that your life lacks something you are in danger of using your children to satisfy that lack.

This is far too great a burden for them to bear.

Are you looking to them when you need to be looking to yourself?
45. Perfection
If you expect to have perfect children you will be constantly disappointed and your children constantly frustrated.

If you realize that your children are perfectly themselves in every moment, you and your children will be at peace.

Step back and watch.

You will see that Life naturally perfects itself.

Your child’s behavior may displease you.

It may even be destructive.

But it is what it is.

It is up to you to understand it and to use it for good for your child and you.

46. Each Day is a Dance
When parents step outside the Way, they begin to feel vulnerable.

They become afraid of, and afraid for, their children.

They lie awake at night, afraid to confront, to correct, to love, or to hold their children.

Each day they prepare for battle.

But when parents remain in the Way, they face each day as a dance.

They have nothing to fear, therefore they produce joy.

I remember many nights of worry.

I remember many days of tiptoeing around issues, not wanting to have a confrontation,

hoping I could avoid unpleasantness.

At times I even felt these lovely persons were my enemies, hindering me and making my life unhappy.

How foolish I was.

There was nothing to fear.

47. Providing For
Your children will make many demands upon your time and energy.

“Do this for us.

Buy this for us.”

They believe that these things are what they want from you.

And you may begin to believe it too.
But what they really want is your innermost heart, given in vulnerable, honest love.

This is not given by doing or buying.

The more you do, the less gets done.

The more you buy, the less you have.

But if you reveal your true nature, you provide them with everything.
Of course there are times, when I do for my children.

It is often my great pleasure.

But the things remembered, the treasured moments of sacred time,

have occurred in the quiet of gentle conversation, and honest sharing.

48. Less Is More
Your children do not need more.

Each day adds more facts, more gadgets, more activities, more desires,

and more confusion to their lives.
Your task is to subtract.

Each day seek to remove, to clarify, to simplify.

Society’s wisdom adds, and confusion grows.

The wisdom of the Tao subtracts and serenity flourishes.

If each day one minute less was spent doing something.

And one minute more was spent being present, in simple pleasures, with your children.

In two months you would transform your life, and theirs.

One minute less.

49. Giving Respect
When your children behave, give them respect and kindness.

When your children misbehave, give them respect and kindness.

When they are hateful, love them.

When they betray your trust, trust them.

The River of Life nurtures everything it touches, without asking for anything.

You will be happy and content if you do the same.

Believe this difficult truth.

Showing respect in the face of disrespect, love in the face of hate,

trust in the face of betrayal, and serenity in the face of turmoil,

will teach your children more that all the moral lectures by all the preachers since the dawn of time.

50. Letting Go
If you are always worried about your children’s safety, you will blind yourself and them, in cords of tension.

If you try to hold them always close to you, you will bring yourself, and them, only pain.

If you release them to live their life fully, and face their death serenely, your nights will be filled with restful sleep.
The more I grasped my children and my own desires for life, the more dangerous life appeared.

As I gradually let go plots and plans and welcomed whatever came, the safer life became for all of us.

51. Children Naturally Love Life
Your children naturally love life.

Their love of life is spontaneous and unconscious.

It delights in every nuance of light and color.

It wonders at every shape and form.

It dances in their bodies without self-consciousness.

They are not taught this love.

It cannot be taught, only lived.
If you live this love for your children you will guide them, but never demand a certain response.

You will welcome them, but never smother them.

You will give birth to them, but never possess them.

You will nurture their dreams and guard their self-respect.

They will honor you naturally, not because of who you are, but because of who they are.
Don’t worry about how your children treat you.

Concentrate on how you treat yourself.

If your children see in you a sincere celebration of who you are,

they will return eventually to their natural joy, in themselves and in you.

52. All Is Well
All beings belong to the Tao always.

Sorrow begins when parents forget this.

Forgetting that you belong, you cast about for security and cannot find it.

You look to your children to bring you meaning and they cannot do it.

Seeing your pain, they forget as well and everyone is in darkness.
But if you can remember that all is, has been, and will be well…

You will bring light to yourself and your children.

My father always worried about the future.

I learned his lesson well.

It has taken me years to unlearn, and still I forget.

What will your children have to unlearn?

How can you begin now to help them?
53. Don’t Make It Harder Than It Needs to Be
Everyone wants to be a wise parent but few choose this path.

This is unfortunate for it is an easy path, filled with joy and with many rewards.

But it is easy to become sidetracked.

Distractions are everywhere.

As the external pressures mount be sure to notice what occurs.
Do you pursue career advancement while your children choose harmful paths?

Do you expensive toys to medicate your feelings while your children become lost in the clutter?

Do you sink into depression while your children hunger for joy?
Don’t make parenting harder than it needs to be.

It only requires focus.

Worry is not focus.

Attempting to control is not focus.

Distracting yourself is not focus.

Relaxed, non-fretful, attention to what is right in front of you right now, is focus.

What is in front of you right now?

No, not your worries or frets, what is right here, right now?

54. Create Clarity and Encourage Freedom
Virtue comes from within your children.

It is a natural part of their being.

It can never be taken from them.

It follows them wherever they travel.

It guides them in all circumstances.

It will cause their life to flourish and be filled with joy.

Amidst the hundreds of voices clamoring for their attention saying,

“This way. No, that way,” your children will learn to trust their own hearts.

Thus they will act wisely.

You need not worry.

How can you keep from worry?

Look inside yourself.

We don’t trust natural goodness.

We think it must be imposed from without.

But all foolish decisions and choices grow from confusion and fear.

And confusion and fear are amplified by constant pushing and preaching.

Is there a way you can help create clarity and encourage freedom?
55. Your Children Have Lessons to Teach
Your children have important lessons to learn, but even more important ones to teach.
What can they teach?

How to pay complete attention.

How to play all day without tiring.

How to le one thing go, and move on to another with no backward glances.

How to move and sit with no tension in the muscles, no stress in the bones.
Thus the wise parent learns, and grows younger every day.
How happy would your life become if every time you taught your children a new idea or skill from your world,

you stopped and watched until they taught you one from theirs?

What will you learn from them today?
56. You Have Lessons to Learn
The lessons we most want to teach our children are the ones we have not yet learned ourselves.

So we continually try to teach what we do not know.

This is futile.

Try instead to refrain from talking.

Look carefully at the situation.

Listen attentively.

Let your mind be open to new understandings.

You will learn what you need to know.

And you will thus teach your children how to learn their own lessons.
Nothing teaches children more than a parent who is willing to learn.

What behavior in your children makes you anxious?

What does that tell you about yourself?
57. Reward and Punishment
Be careful of rules for your children.

Rules diminish responsibility.

Be careful of rewards for your children.

Rewards diminish self-esteem.

Be careful of punishments for your children.

Punishments diminish trust.

Let lessons be imposed by the nature of things, not by your own agendas or your own needs.

Integrity will replace rules.

Contentment will replace striving.

Spirituality will replace religion.

Songs will replace arguments.

Dances will replace battles.

Don’t tell me this is overly simple.

Perhaps the most courageous act of any parent’s life will be that moment when, even though it breaks your heart,

you stand aside and let your children take the natural consequences of their actions.
58. You Can Only Demonstrate
If you carry great expectations for your children, they will carry great burdens.

If you try to make them good, you will create instead their vices.

Let your teaching be subtle.

Let your strength reside in your flexibility.

Let your virtues be natural and not affected.
If your children are treated with modesty, grace, forgiveness and joy, what are they likely to learn?
There is nothing more important than the integrity of your life.

You cannot teach, impose, control, coerce, or force any virtue.

You can only demonstrate.

Put your best effort forth on your own actions, not those of your children.

59. Be Ambitious for Joy
To experience joy as a parent you must be free of ambition, for yourself and for your children.

Ambition stiffens the muscles and makes the spirit brittle.

You cannot move with ease in the winds of change.
But if you release ambition you can use all of life, good and bad, as fuel for the fires of joy.

Because you demand nothing you have everything, as do your children.

Do you have ambitions, hidden or not so hidden, for yourself and for your children?

Are they reasonable?

What will happen if they are not achieved?

The adolescent years are filled with discouragement.

Children often compare themselves to impossible standards of achievement, beauty, and popularity.

Don’t encourage these comparisons.

Encourage joy.
60. Growing a Garden
Dealing with difficult children is like watching a garden grow.

Resist the temptation to pull up the plants to check on the roots.

In difficult times children may thrive on conflict.

If you take the bait the battle rages.

Instead step back, breathe deeply, relax, and stay at your center.

Battle requires two parties.

One fighting alone soon tires.
Are there times when, despite all efforts, you must impose your will?

Of course.

But remember, those times are far fewer than you can imagine.

Is this current battle really necessary?

61. Self Acceptance
How do children learn to correct their mistakes?

By watching how you correct yours.

How do children learn to overcome their failures?

By watching how you overcome yours.

How do children learn to treat themselves with forgiveness?

By watching you forgive yourself.

Therefore your mistakes, and your failures are blessings, opportunities for the best in parenting.

And those who point out your mistakes are not your enemies but the most valuable of friends.

Your children will surely notice the way you can handle criticism.

If you get defensive and launch a counterattack, they will learn to cover up and deny their own faults.

Is there something you’re covering up now, with either depression, self-punishment, or hostility?

Lighten up.

Accept and forgive yourself and your children will be blessed.
62. Be Happy
If you have vast wealth, it will be useless in teaching your children.

If you have great power, it will be of no avail in securing their happiness.

If you have succeeded admirably in life, it will not help you keep your children safe.
Remember that you cannot teach by preaching.

Try to live wit peace, contentment, love and compassion.

This will be your lecture.

This will be your lesson.

The happier I have allowed myself to be, the happier my children have become.

The more I have become myself, the more they have don the same.

This has occurred later in my life.

Don’t wait.

63. Face Your Problems
Face your problems with your children while the problems are still small.

If you give your full attention, without resentment, your problems will become no problem.

A problem is not an interruption to a serene and happy life.

A problem is an ordinary part of such a life.

Effort is not required.

If you pay calm attention, solutions appear naturally.

For years I was afraid of my children’s problems.

I had enough of my own.

I tried to solve their problems by decree and pronouncement from on high.

So their problems grew and grew.

I was not present to myself.

How could I be present to them?

As I have grown older, problems are no longer problems, just life.

They needn’t separate us from our children.

Don’t be afraid.
64. The Only Step Necessary
You do not have to make your children into wonderful people.

You only have to remind that they are wonderful people.

If you do this consistently from the day they are born they will believe it easily.
You cannot force your will upon other human beings.

You can not hurry children along the road to maturity.

And the only step necessary on their long journey of life is the next small one.
I designed and printed a bumper sticker when my son was a teenager.

It said, “My child is an ordinary student, and a wonderful person.”

My son loved it.

Both of my children are, always have been, and always will be, wonderful people.

The same is true of your children.

No matter what.

65. Knowledge or Wisdom?
If you try to teach your children all the facts and answers you think they need to know,

they will end up knowing nothing.

If instead you help them look deep within themselves,

you will have led them to the source, from where all answers flow.

Don’t look to schools to teach your children wisdom.

Being “Student of the Month” will not insure happiness.

Your children will have to learn the Way from other sources, perhaps from you.
66. Lead by Example
If you want your children to follow along a certain path,

you must lead the way the ocean leads a river home, by remaining below it.

If you manipulate, coerce, and bully your children, you will have no power at all.

If you lead with humility, gentleness, and by example, you will need no power at all.

Power over your children is the great illusion.

By the time they are six years old, they will do what they want.

You can bully them so that they think they want what you want.

Is that what you want?

67. Compassion, Patience, and Simplicity
There are only three qualities you must teach your children.

Compassion, patience, and simplicity.

Some would say this is absurd.

They would teach instead ambition, drive and consumption, and say it is the way of success.

But if they learn patience, they see the world as it truly is.

If they learn simplicity, they see themselves as they truly are.

And if they learn compassion, they heal themselves and the world.
Following the Tao as a parent will often seem opposed to conventional parenting wisdom.

The confusion lies in ourselves as parents.

We don’t know what we truly want, or who we truly are.

Compassion, patience and simplicity cannot be taught until they are experienced.

And when we experience them, we lose the need to teach them.

We live them instead.

And then our children learn.
68. Fun and Games
Before your children learn to win or lose, they play at fames for fun.

But then they come to believe that they must win at games, at business, and at war.

They even learn to win or lose at love.
But the Tao teaches that games are for fun,

that business is for the common good,

that no one wins at war,

and that love endures for all.

Do you play your games for fun?

Do you work for the common good?

Do you divide the world into friends and enemies?

Do you love selectively?

Can you really “lose” at love?

Examine all of these with honesty.

The answers will reveal what your children are truly learning.
69. Martial Arts
The martial master understands how to yield and triumph.

When his opponent’s blow arrives, he is not there.

He moves, yet maintains position, bends, but stays balanced.
As a parent you must do the same.

When your children oppose you, do not meet their opposition with force.

Bend and they will topple.

You will win your point without harming them.

Thus in yielding, you will truly triumph.
I wish all parents could know the art of Tai Chi Ch’uan.

In this graceful marital art,

balance, softness, flexibility, and grace are the means by which the goal is always reached.

Remember that this does not imply yor children always get their way.

Quite the opposite.

You give them unwavering guidance, but without violence, tension and grief.

It is a difficult practice, but filled with great reward.
70. Trust the Tao
The teachings of the parent’s Tao are simple and natural.

Yet when you try to practice them you will meet with great resistance.

Children have been raised contrary to the Tao for countless thousands of years.

No one will support you.

But look around at the effects of these countless thousands of years.

Then look inside your heart.

The Way of the Tao has always been here.

Some parents have found it.

Few talk about it.

It seems to them only natural.

They don’t call it the Tao.

They just enjoy it.

But for many of us parenting has been filled with struggle.

There is a better way.

You don’t have to learn it.

You already know it.

You only have to trust it.
71. Have Confidence
The confident parent is not the one who knows how to parent in every situation.

The confident parent is the one who know that knowledge will emerge in the midst of the situation.

This parent’s mind is free of complications, ready to respond without preconceptions.

This parent will always act rightly.

My confidence in the future for my children and for me, exists because I know we are all part of the Tao.

Come good and bad, life and death, that will always be true.

Somehow I will know, when the time comes, exactly what to do.
72. Natural Spirituality
Do not try to teach religion to your children.

Teach them instead to marvel at the wonder of life in all its manifestations.

A natural spirituality will be born and grow within their hearts.

Trying to teach religion creates dependence upon the words of others.

If your children depend upon their own experience, they will never go astray.
I served as a clergyman for two decades of my life.

I know for certain that religion is as different from natural spirituality as night is from the light of day.

Never worry about your children’s souls.

Your child’s soul belongs to the Tao and is the one reality in life that is beyond all danger, always.

73. Open Your Arms Wide
Wise parents do not strive, yet their purposes never fail.

They are available, but never interfere.

They communicate, but never lecture.

They let their children go, but never lose them.

These parents are like the Tao.

They open wide their hearts and hands, yet never lose a thing.

If I grasp my children and my other treasures, I will have only what my arms can hold.

And even that slips through my grasp.

But the wider I have opened my arms, the more and more I find.

If I can ever open wide, I will have everything.

74. River of Change
The child you see today will not be here tomorrow.

The child arriving home from school, is different from the one who left from home this morning.

Every moment is a death of all that has gone before, and a birth of all that is to come.

You must jump into the river and let it carry you on its journey.

If you try to stop it you will drown.
Neither we, nor our children, will avoid change, loss, and death.

But our children will interpret these things through the vision we give them.

If you can manage to see through your fear of these three things, your children will have the greatest vision.
75. Space and Time
If parents are always intruding into the world of their children,

the children will lose their independent spirit.

If parents impose rule after rule on the behavior of their children,

the children will lose their self-confidence.

Keep your children safe,

but do no be afraid to leave them alone.

I once heard a child counselor say, “You can never spend too much time with your children.”

Yes you can.

Children need, of course, the assurance of your presence.

But they also need, at every age, plenty of space to play the games, to imagine the futures,

and to dream the dreams of childhood.

Too much time spent together may be serving your needs, not theirs.

76. Hold Tight Only to Compassion
It has been said by experts,

“You must be consistent, or your children will be confused.”


Who among us is consistent.?

Circumstances are always changing.
Children become confused when parents become rigid, holding rules above love.

Be consistently flexible.

Hold tight only to compassion.
As people age they become either soft and supple, or hard and brittle, both in mind and body.

I have seen profound examples of each type, so have you.

Which are you becoming?
Children are flexible in body and in spirit.

The greatest gift we can give them is to become the same.

77. Never Seek to Triumph Over Your Children
Parents who follow the Tao, never seek to triumph over their children.
They have no need of winning to protect their position.

Their position is secure.

Nor do they let their children triumph over them.

This would harm their children.

Winning and losing have no meaning to such parents.

They always find the balance between too much and too little.

No one is afraid of them.

They are afraid of no one.

There are times, especially when they are young, that we must impose our will upon our children.

But do so only for their safety.

It is all too easy to use our size and power to intimidate our children and get our way.

This does not teach the Tao.

78. Difficulties Are Overcome by Yielding
Parents facing hardship and sorrow must become like water.

They must embrace the hardest things of life and enfold them with their heart.

Death and loss are overcome with gentleness and serenity.
We all want to protect our children from the sorrow and loss of life.

We cannot.

But the way we behave when faced with these things will give our children all they need to remain at peace.

Remember water.

Nothing hard can stop it.

What hardships are you facing?

What are your children learning as they watch you?

79. Refuse to Level Blame
Parents of the Tao refuse to level blame.

They watch the evening new without complaining.

They observe the failures of others and never gloat.

When their children let them down they remain serene.

They fulfill their own duties and never worry about others.
There is never a need to blame our children for anything.

We can, of course, correct them.

We can guide them gently and with wisdom.

But blaming our children for their faults is not the only problem.

Monitor your conversations for a seven day period.

Make a note each time you complain or blame concerning anything.

Your children listen.

Are they learning to blame others, or to take constructive action.

80. Empty Nest
If parents follow wisdom, their children remain happy.

They content themselves with simple pleasures and don’t look to constant stimulation to keep themselves amused.

They love being at home and don’t have to go elsewhere for approval and acceptance.

When they leave home to continue with their own adventure, they carry with them confidence, contentment, and joy.

And their parents watch them leave, with satisfaction, peace, and happiness.
The “empty nest syndrome” should never bother parents of the Tao.

Of course we’ll miss our children.

But all their lives we have helped them embrace life and welcome change.

We have learned to do the same.

New moments await us.

Our nest, and theirs, is never empty.

81. Within the Stream
Words will never bring our children to a knowledge of the Tao.
We don’t need to argue.

We don’t need to teach.

We don’t need to push.

We don’t need to strive.

We only need to live content within the Stream.
My words are over.

I wrote them for myself, that I might hear them often enough to being to understand them.

And as I begin to understand them, may I begin to live them.

If looking over my shoulder has brought to your some pleasure, I am content.

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