As we’ve said before, William Stafford set a strong example for his children. He was a conscientious objector who went to jail for his beliefs. He was a hard working poet (his most beautiful poem is about his son). He taught his children well—as the beautiful eulogy he was able to hear proved (see our email about that here).
His son, Kim, would later explain that his father had provided a simple framework for each his children
“In our family, there were two unspoken rules: 1) don’t do the wrong thing and 2) don’t live the wrong life. The wrong things could be itemized—little acts of selfishness that disregard the needs of others. But the wrong life was the absence of the right life, and this was a mystery. The right life had to do with generosity, I gathered, and friendship, celebration, art. But there was more, for the right life was beyond service to others. The source of that service—the seed of generosity and the source of creation—was internal, well-hidden.”
It’s hard to put it better than that…although perhaps the only improvement we might offer would be putting it like that. Unwritten rules are great but it can be helpful for children to make them explicit too. We lead and teach by example, sure, but for something as important as rules for life, why not go ahead and make them explicit?
So do that. Put it up somewhere. Put it out there frequently. Don’t do the wrong thing. Live the right kind of life. And define what that means. Define what the wrong life is. Be very clear about it. It’s as simple as that.