Jun

18

Dear Victor,

After reading your nice letter to your son, I have decided to give it a try and let my girls know what I feel. It is an interesting exercise that allows you for a moment to stop running your frenetic daily routines and think of longer term aims and values.

Dear Carla and Livia,

I write this letter when you have just turned seven. It is a great age for kids. You ask so many varied and challenging questions. You come up with surprising ideas and your creativity is beyond imagination. You are full of potential. You can achieve whatever you want in life provided that you have the talent, the right tools and that you will be willing to work hard. There are no free meals. As you grow up, options will progressively decrease and your life will follow a narrower and narrower path defined partly by pure chance and partially by your will and determination. It is true that it is the unexpected that counts the most, but I would like to focus on what is in your power to exploit and realize your potential and talent to the maximum extent. There is a lot you can do about it and I will try to help you in your endeavours as much as I can.

RANDOMNESS (try to make it work for you) My father was a great person. He was a hard worker with sound family values, incredible integrity and sense of responsibility. He transmitted these characteristics to me and my brother. He had also a clear understanding of risk. He walked his life slowly and solidly step by step rather than running and jumping. Eventually he did well, but not as much as he could have done. The way I have based my life is similar, however, I have identified an important lesson (although I have not fully implemented it): live your life so as to develop the preconditions for opportunities to arise.

You can achieve a lot as human beings. You have natural talents and gifts. In addition to them, while you grow up you are surrounded and supported by the environment friends, the place you live, school, hobbies, sports, travels and so forth). Opportunities occur randomly. If the environment is favorable there is a great chance that these opportunities will be favorable. If you do not find yourselves in such an environment: change, be flexible and adaptable. Be demanding. If you do well in this regard, randomness will work on your side.

MY PAST — YOUR FUTURE As a father, I wish I were able to give you the best of myself. I will tell about my childhood dreams and what has become of them now. Many dreams were like waves breaking on rocks, they have vanished into thin air. Even very recently. Some of them are still alive and I struggle with them. I will tell you about my mistakes and what you can learn from them. I will discuss with you what I see right for your future, but I will always let you be free to make your choices. I often go back to my past and run mentally different scenarios, "what if…what if". I am wrong when I try to find responsibilities for choices made and events occurred. Look ahead. Look at the future. Don't waste too much time and energy looking back. You do not know what remorse and regret mean. The later you learn these words the better.

DREAMS You have incredible dreams. The bedtime stories we invent make us laugh and dream of a world where anything is possible. Your favorite story is about the princess with the pink dress, her brave knight and their fights against the wicked queen and her magic spells. Continue to have dreams in your life. Last week C. told me: "Gatto, the princess is sad and I would like to give her a present. It is a magic ring. With that she can transform into anything she wants, get whatever she likes and go wherever she likes". L. added: "I will give her a magic wand to help children". The princess is not real unfortunately although sometimes you ask me where she lives. As Randy Pausch wrote in the Last Lecture, it is not about how to achieve your dreams it is about how to lead your life: searching and experimenting with the mind of a child. Adults often make things more difficult than they are.

OPPORTUNITIES TODAY — VISION TOMORROW Your mindset has to be ready to see and exploit opportunities, and always be willing to explore them. Don't be afraid to make mistakes: be ready to accept failure, as a natural component of your life. If you do this, you will live a happy life. Ayn Rand wrote: "Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision". When you look at the clouds, their shape looks like crocodiles and bears to you; when you look at the mountains you see monsters and lions; find connections between things and situations that others cannot see. Make sure you have a vision. Follow new roads. Build a map for your life: the vision is your destination and opportunities are the crossroads.

LOVE I am impressed by the love you are able to give me. When I do something wrong to you, you forgive me after a minute; your love is unconditional. When you open your eyes and see me in the morning, the first thing you do is smile. Then you say: "I love you, Dad" and then I am happy all day. I wish to try and answer your questions. C. wrote me a note before going to bed: "Gatto, I will love you forever. When I am dead, I will still love you". You understand more about life than we think. Last night you asked me: "Dad, can we go online and see who invented God?" As you grow up, I expect these questions to be more and more difficult. This requires preparation, commitment, love.

On the investments side, yesterday I challenged you: "If you had some money, what would you do with it?" L. answered:"I would save it and put it in a bank". C replied:"But that is boring, I'd rather spend it!". You are showing pretty different attitudes and I enjoy it.

Dad

James Sogi recommends a completely different approach:

I am a firm believer in behaviorist child raising. Much of this touchy-feely stuff is nice, but mumbo. Many well wishing, warm feeling parents have spoiled their kids and resulted in mixed up individuals. Though the parents feel right, their actions are completely and totally wrong. The correct way is to reward good behavior, and to describe to the child what is expected exactly in quantitative terms. Breach of that expectation should not result in withholding of love or the threat of that, but a mere withholding of some minor privilege. The child needs a clear message. Many parents pay attention to the child when he is bad, saying no no no, but inadvertently reinforce that bad behavior at other times. This creates tension and uncertainty in the child as he receives a mixed message. For counters and quantitative scientists, child rearing should be approached similarly. Of course love must be unconditional, but training the child is a separate matter. The result is a happier, more focused and fulfilled child.

Michele Pezzutti says:

I am also a father of two, a 10 and a 7 year old, and I think it is right to try to transmit our values to our kids, if we believe in such values. To integrity and sense of responsibility, I would also like to add respect for others.

In raising my children I am always unsure on how to do it. I think that the most natural way is to use the same model that we have been raised with and that we have absorbed through our family. But is that method the best one? The natural answer would be 'yes' as it is part of us (here I am assuming we all had a happy childhood and I apologise in advance if I am hurting someone's feelings here).

But there could be a better method instead, and we must look for it. We need to be very honest with ourselves, as finding a better method sounds a bit like blaming our own family. But we do not have to be scared, it is not a blame, if we know that our parents were moved by the best intentions, as we are with our kids.

This part of the letter is very nice, as it transmits a very positive message. "As a father, I wish I were able to give you the best of myself … I will tell you about my mistakes and what you can learn from them. I will discuss with you what I see right for your future, but I will always let you be free to make your choices. I often go back to my past and run mentally different scenarios, "what if?,what if?". I am wrong when I try to find responsibilities for choices made and events occurred. Look ahead. Look at the future. Don't waste too much time and energy looking back. You do not know what remorse and regret mean. The later you learn these words the better."

To make my kids look ahead and not fall in the 'regret and what-if' trap, this is how I would like to be with them. I would like to be able to accept their mistakes, especially when they are so young. I would like to be able to praise them for every little achievement. I would like to be able not to scold them for every little thing.

They will grow up confident in themselves. They will bring inside them positive feelings and leave negative thoughts behind. They will remeber words of praise and not of blame. They will not feel the need to look back. And they will look ahead, to exploit the opportunities they will have, random or not.

I hope I will be able to stick to these rules, not to fall in the 'regret and what-if' trap in ten years from now… At least not with my kids. I do it too much with stock investing already and I have enough of it!


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