Cultivating Good Human Qualities: The Power of Teaching, Parenting, and Open-Heartedness

I am a life long learner and devoted practitioner of Harmony Meditation. I am a mom of twin teenage daughters and an education leader in a high school setting. When my children were young, I began to explore how teaching, parenting, and having an open heart and mind can shape individuals with good human qualities. Through the exceptional guidance at the center I attend, in Westfield, NJ, I have learned that I must first apply all strategies or methods on myself and within myself, thoroughly. There are many wonderful examples of extraordinary figures throughout history who have shown that the richest wisdom comes through self-exploration and through my own healing journey, I continue to seek a vastly open heart and mind.

In the school environment educators attitudes and implemented structures within a lesson, can heavily influence the student experience. Character development is often reinforced and taught directly in elementary schools throughout the country, for example. The teacher’s impact relies on the power behind the messages. Children of all ages are sensitive to tone and to body language. Often, they are the best truth tellers. Later in high school, they still have this strong innate ability and adults can seem even more complex to them as they try to maneuver differences in rules from one teacher versus another, for example. Teaching good human qualities through role play, conversation or a textbook summary of traits, does not have the same effect as leading by example usually does. When our words, actions and intention match, consistently, that’s when youngsters really take note.

Character education is taught at home within the immediate and extended family unit. However, we know that outside the home and even in music on the radio, for example, sometimes the lines can get blurred for youngsters. I remember my favorite high school math teacher had such a profound influence on me. I still think of her often, especially when I think of why I went into education in the first place. She was so calm, always. She smirked softly, spoke softly and never remarked on anyone or anything in a sarcastic or judgmental tone. She was very motherly and yet commanded respect with her silence and warm gaze. I remember her charm bracelet jingle jangled as she walked around our desks returning graded papers and when she wrote on the board. She somehow made everyone else calm. I think if someone had walked in playing loud rock music in her presence, I would bet that we would all still have behaved as though we were entranced by her calmness, within the rock music. She was a force. We were happy and safe there. It was palpable enough and thick enough not to be easily disturbed. She moved me more than I realized at the time.

How exactly a teacher inspires empathy, curiosity, and critical thinking is like chemistry from within. It’s not really a secret, but man, when that person gets it right, I become witness to greatness. I also become that same young mind in my favorite teacher’s high school math class enjoying the air without even really knowing it. It takes me back to how the particular calculus equations she had us experiment with were particularly tricky and I was wide eyed and filled with hope. It was her silence. It touched me profoundly. In my city, in my school, there were many loud and demanding attention getters. She however, was just there. Ever-present with her quizzical math problems and jingly jewlerly. It may not have been as beautiful in real life as I am feeling it now reliving it in my memory, but these mental images I stored come with the feelings I am feeling now.

Teachers can be mentors in this way. Parents, maybe not so much. Having had years in education prior to having my own children to parent, I thought that I could somehow teach them well. I have learned quite harshly, many times over, and still to this day, again and again, that my children have no interest in being my students. Their personal growth has relied very heavily on others. I have relied on the village, as they say. Who’s included in that village is a very important parent’s decision.

Nurturing good human qualities comes most profoundly through example, too. Children will decide on their own whether a certain way is the way they want to be, or if a way is the best way for themselves not to go. That for me, as a parent, is by far is the hardest thing to allow my children to do. I’m not saying I actually intervene, but the internal dialogue inside myself becomes the loudest when it comes to my children. Whereas, as an educator, I can respect a child’s choice whole-heartedly and I can intentionally cultivate that precious learning and self-
actualizing space.

Parenting styles have shifted over time, however. Parenting influences a child’s character, undoubtably. I try to nurture empathy in my children and we can discuss values and enjoy much more open communication in parenting in this 21st century. I have read books and articles on how to foster kindness and responsibility. According to Psychology Today, when looking to be a good parent, “Parents may find the Four C’s to be a helpful acronym: care (showing acceptance and affection), consistency (maintaining a stable environment), choices (allowing the child to develop autonomy), and consequences (applying repercussions of choices, whether positive or negative).” I agree that acronyms and the concepts they represent are useful when I am reading them and exercising the theory in my head. However, in action and off the cuff while juggling several tasks during my day, I can’t seem to find such helpful acronyms anywhere. They just don’t come to mind then. I still firmly believe that it is my example, my self-actualization and my representation of kindness and responsibility that will ring true for my students and my children, regardless of their own choices. It has a nostalgic smell, doesn’t it? Somehow it remains. PBS listed, “Model Kindness” as their first tip in Tips for Teaching Kindness in the Classroom. So maybe they agree with me? I remember the relationship I had and continue to enjoy with my own mother, is nothing in comparison to her example. I don’t know what I did to deserve such an undeniable example.

More so than any other influences on me and my life, the example remained. What I did and do with it is up to me. I can’t say how strong my values are but definitely I have reaped some rewards that were not of my own doing.

How lucky I am. How grateful I am. I wonder if all others have been this lucky, too. With this gratefulness I have the power of an open heart and mind. Open-mindedness, empathy and compassion are my tools for relationship building at work, too. When I feel the openness I am calm, there is air enough to breathe and I’m no longer all in my own head. It’s like I can sense my place. It feels right. The significance of that is that when I’m with others, I’m no longer me only. I’m the living embodiment of what I’ve always wanted to be. It was so close I could taste it in my high school math class and I always had it surrounding me growing up in my mother’s love.

How much empathy and understanding can this bring? It’s abundant. Beyond my past life as a daughter and a high-school math student, I have my practice now. There’s a grandmaster I am blessed to learn from. In his classes and even in some of his podcasts on Spotify, he tells us that there is no greater mother than Mother Earth. He reminds us that Mother Earth herself is interacting with us. I don’t know exactly what it can be like to a mother such as Mother Earth but I do imagine she is also giving us the best example of benevolence, open heart, and open mind. It feels like she is always providing as mothers do, often silently. I don’t compare myself to Mother Earth. No way. But I do love her and I hope that I can reciprocate something meaningful to her, my teachers, and my own mother.

In many ways parenting is similar to teaching. I have a refined nose for when things are off in one area because of my experience in the other. Above all however, open-heartedness bring about a humanity for me personally, that is easily accessible and sharable with others. If you don’t believe it, I challenge you to try it for yourself. The synergy of teaching, parenting and openness is fulfilling and challenging for me. Rushworth Moulton Kidder was an American author, ethicist, and professor. When addressing educators about the seven qualities of successful character education programs he, “urged educators to have faith that they, as individuals, really can make a difference. Many people who have survived horrific childhood experiences to become successful, happy adults cite one person — often a teacher — whose moral example had a profound impact on their lives.” He also said, “The power of a single example is phenomenal.”

The Earth’s Family Values, if you will, are here before you, within you and all around you, too. The grandmaster says it’s nature and it’s natural, when he describes energy and our connection to it. I believe him thoroughly. What do you feel? More profound than the effective collaboration between a teacher and a parent of a child, is the connection between me, nature and myself as a life-long learner. I think education is terrific and it opens many doors. I without the collaboration between the school and the family a successful opportunity to raise a well-rounded child, could be missed. To encourage those relationships and all that growth however, requires open-hearted individuals. Open-hearted individuals are more effective in leading, teaching and parenting. How do we measure the success of humanity? Adrienne Bankert is a national journalist with ABC News, and author of Your Hidden Superpower, a book on kindness. She has been quoted as saying, “Kindness cancels cutthroat culture.”

Open-heartedness does not come without challenges. Teaching, parenting and remaining open- hearted can become difficult when facing obstacles. There are many parenting challenges to overcome, there are teaching difficulties, too. Organizational strategies, tips for improved communication and tips on how to face a generation of over-scheduled and potentially over- burdened young people today is widely available online and on social media platforms. With all of that advice and information readily available, one would think that we would be much more centered and capable as a whole, in any realm of our choosing. In my experience, that’s not what’s happening as an overall trend. In the Forbes article, Why It’s Crucial To Lead With An Open Heart, Peter Koestenbaum expresses that, “Leadership requires attention to depth, to feelings, to inner struggles. A leader must wrestle with inward issues. They are expected to have great aspirations, confront great frustrations, achieve great self-control, suffer great betrayals, and manifest great compassion.” The centeredness can be lost when opening ourselves to something that is not centered in human nature to begin with. There is great power in openness rooted in great humanity, however. Can you feel it?

I have laughed and I have cried, especially in learning things for myself, in teaching myself things about myself and in widening my openness in heart and mind. I’m always astonished in how much more I have to go and how much I have conquered up to here. In your own life, where is the center? My teacher has taught me that we are actually a leader, a teacher, a parent, and a child to ourselves. My open heart and mind are necessary to shape good qualities in myself and others. It’s my hope that those of us who agree can join together to share and apply these principles without fear or doubt. Come see for yourself what it can be like here. Call the center to join a class or listen to one of the Master’s podcast episodes.

1 thought on “Cultivating Good Human Qualities: The Power of Teaching, Parenting, and Open-Heartedness”

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top