Quality of Life Perspectives: Matthew Coleman

The other day I was chatting with Matthew Coleman, a landscaping specialist from southern California.  He was helping us with some work and we got to chatting.

 

We started talking about parenting and before I knew it we started getting into one of those deep, fluid, interesting conversations.  The kind you wish you could do more of but find yourself not having the time for.  [In fact, I started to tell myself I didn’t have the time on a busy work day to chat – but thankfully I decided to chill and enjoy the rich experience presented to me.]

 

A minute into our conversation I realized some gems were forthcoming so I decided to record the conversation (with a phone video camera).  Below is a link to the conversation, in which Matthew shared his perspectives and practices around parenting.  CLICK ON THE PHOTO BELOW TO WATCH THE VIDEO.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some things that stood out from our conversation:

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Family relations

I think anything you can do to help everyone communicate. Families get into situations where they avoid dealing with things because it’s painful and it’s really close to home. I think it is helpful to constantly remind family members that their actions or lack of actions have an effect on the rest of the family. There’s a level of responsibility that everyone needs to step up to. What I’ve done in my family in situations that are tough is try to get people to that place. Put aside a lot of the character traits that will probably come up again and again because you can’t change people. But you can tap into this idea of the family being a greater unit and that everyone contributes positively and negatively.

Teaching risk appetite

From my own personal experience I can tell you that risk taking builds confidence and a sense of daring. I benefited tremendously from a mother who encouraged me to take risks. When I was four, I remember Mum stopping the car a few miles from our house and telling me to find my own way home across the fields. Around that time, my aunt bet me ten shillings I couldn’t learn to swim on my own by the end of the weekend. You bet I found a way to get the prize. As a parent, you will offer incredible value to your children by encouraging them to take risks and putting them in position to meet challenges. The confidence and assertiveness rewards will help them tremendously with their life journeys.

Parenting

The one thing that is true more than anything else is that your children observe what you do. Good parenting is essentially a form of repetition of who you are, how you relate to the world and what your integrity is as a person. Kids can escape your advice but they can not escape your role modeling.

Happy marriage

Being supportive — her mother has lived with us for 20 years. Giving her carte blanche control of finances in the family. Getting aligned on social obligations. Shared activities — lately we have been working out together and I think that adds something to our marriage. Shared interests — we both love to read and can do so next to each other for hours without saying a word to one another.

Parenting

We always thought that it was very important to put our kids in situations early on in life where they could be of help to others. During my son’s 8th grade summer, he went to Honduras to work with an orphanage. It was important for him to make himself useful there but to also learn in a meaningful way that the cost of his Nike shoes was equivalent to what many people earn working over a month. Introducing to your children the power of helping others is one of the ways that you help develop those values. When kids are in 8th grade, they don’t have much say about what they are going to do with you their summer. It’s a very good time to expose them and to introduce them to some of these opportunities. We also went to church regularly as a family. The value has been more understanding that you are a part of humanity and your interaction with humanity has to be of a way that follows certain principles and values.

Embracing your extended family

One of the things that has really helped me in family relations has been to help the kids connect with their extended family. We’ve really made a concerted effort to be able to do that so that those relationships are really strong. In raising the kids, we’ve always been able to say, you’re not just responding to your immediate family. There are all these other people that are supporting you and that believe in you, that are looking after you. So you are also accountable to them. And the uncles, aunts, grandparents are present enough so that their opinions are important. Every year we spend Christmas Eve with my family in Washington and every Christmas afternoon with my husband’s family in Knoxville. Every Christmas morning at 6am, we pack up the car and drive nine hours to my husband’s side of the family. It has became an important ritual. We let our kids open some gifts early and let them eat McDonald’s on the way.

Setting goals with your spouse

When my wife and I got married, we literally sat down on our honeymoon and said, “What are our goals for the next five years?” There’s something to be said about the actual activity of taking pen to paper and forcing yourself to articulate what you want to accomplish. It forces you to think beyond the simple idea of the ideal job or a desired salary. Interestingly, the whole process helped us to understand that while we both hope for material success, we are more interested in a healthy lifestyle and an improved state of being.

Parenting

I don’t talk to my children like they’re babies. Even when they were young, I asked them why did they do what they did. When they watched the Lion King or Shrek, I asked them what they thought about the movie, not just did they like it. How did this part make you feel? Does it remind you of anything? I try to find strategic moments to allow my children to make decisions, do you want this, do you want to go here. It’s challenging them to become thinkers. Ultimately how they think and process is an obvious but often overlooked factor in quality of life. What you ultimately accept, what you don’t accept, what you challenge people to provide you with, what you don’t.

Communication

In Africa, we have this thing called the indaba. It’s a custom where members of a tribe or community will gather around a sitting area and discuss what needs to be discussed. We incorporated the indaba concept in my family. A time to air out our issues. Anything on your mind, talk about it, don’t keep it inside. It can get fiery but it is so essential for a family to communicate openly like this.