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To my beautiful Grandchildren, “mitokozapi.”
“How to be a Good Lala”


Look into the mirror- what you see, you reflect to your grandchildren.  The first thing is to try to be all that you want your grandchildren to be.  Reflect all of the attributes of a whole, loving, well-balanced human being.  When they look at you let them see respect, integrity, loyalty, honesty, courage, concern, humbleness, tenderness, optimism and compassion- the whole range of positive characteristics neatly wrapped in a beautiful red ribbon of LOVE!

Develop their imagination- encourage them to expand their thinking patterns by becoming involved in their imaginings, their make believe, their daydreams, show them old photos of the little girls at play with their little “doll-babies” and their little tipis, hand-sewn and made to scale. Show old photos of the little boys playing at hunting or horse games. This is their initiation into early adulthood.

Delay academic training, the regimenting kind- at least in their early years. What if they don’t start the first grade until they reach their 7th or 8th birthday, let them enjoy and relish their early years where they can expand their bodies and minds- those things not of an academic nature. Let them see a little nest of bird eggs hatch or Sweet Pea have her colt or take them with you when you cut willows for a “sweat lodge.”  There are so many things of nature for young minds and hearts to discover and experience.  Our young ones are truly free for such a brief period.

In the Fall of 1928 we were living in the little town of Mobridge, South Dakota, just across the Missouri River from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.  When school opened in the fall, I went up to the local high school to enroll in school.  I had never been in a school like that one, being more familiar with the Indian Mission Boarding School at St. Elizabeth on the Reservation. Well, the first day I walked up to the school and entered a big room, much like a lobby. I noticed there were doors leading into several different rooms, a broad stairway leading to an upper floor and a stairway leading down to a back doorway.  Soon a bell rang and all of the students disappeared into the rooms and I was left alone in the lobby.  After standing there for a while, I walked to the back stairs, descended to the lower level and since the door was wide open, I walked out and returned home.

I enjoyed going to that school but after a week of it, I quit making the fruitless walk and remained home. After sometime tunkasila, grandpa, said, “Takoja, I notice you around the house lately, aren’t you going to school?”  I said, “No grandfather.”  He very nonchalantly said “Oh,” and that was all that was ever said.  Well, as I’ve told you before, that was the winter that old grandpa Low Dog came in October and stayed until April.  Of course it was my duty to always be at grandfather’s side as I’ve told you how he had great difficulty in getting around due to a stroke he had suffered a year and a half earlier.  Well I spent that entire winter in the company of those great old men, listening to them reminisce. I heard so many great old stories of our Dakota people in their days of glory.  It seemed that every story had to be accompanied by a good song.

Well in the spring, Aunt Ella returned home and she noticed me around the house every day.  Of course the inevitable question had to pop up to which I had to tell the truth.  Aunt Ella questioned Grandpa about my school status and he said, “Yes, he has been with me every day and this time with me will be more valuable in his life than the time he would spend in a school he doesn't understand the first thing about.  I am an old man, he is just a boy and the things he has learned and will learn here with me, he can never learn in a school.”  Well just as he said, I learned more in that year than there is to learn in any academic situation. There are so many things to learn that enriches one’s life beyond academics.

In ones relationship with grandchildren always look at the big picture.  See them through all phases of development. Don’t be short sighted or narrow.  Try to visualize the young man or woman – fully in balance on all four sides.

Do not restrict children to time limits. Permit them to be free – no clock, that comes all too soon.

Never trap a child in any situation; always give him a way to escape.  Don’t ever put the child’s dignity in jeopardy. This is a good time and place to tell him an interesting and meaningful “ohukaka” story.

Don’t ever be critical of a child, even though it might be deserving. Be manly in your appraisal of any situation and address it in a positive tone rather than a negative way.

Be very positive in rewarding honesty, this is the very foundation of integrity (moral soundness).  You can never give them too much.

In discussion with children, get down on their level, physically, on your knees or lower.  Remember they live in a world of giants.  Speak in pleasant tones, never shout.  Give them 100% of your attention, this develops confidence in them and is the basic of respect and foundation of dignity.

Maintain the grandfather-grandchild relationship, this is a beautiful relationship that lasts a lifetime and beyond the grave.  Try always to use those terms of relationship “mitakosa” (my grandchild), they in turn reply, “Lala.”  It creates the sense of belonging.  The worst and most tragic emotion to a child is abandonment, it can lead to suicide.  Among our Native people the importance of the extended family is to maintain security.

Build a sense of security in the child, always be a warrior in the eyes of your grandchildren.  If there is a choice of danger always stand between it and your family.  In case of danger their first thought will be, “we will be safe with Lala.”

Always be a motivator to your grandchildren.  This takes some effort as you must always approach life with motivation and purpose – again, the value of sincere praise and gratitude.

Inspire children to try new things and let them make mistakes, never be constantly correcting a child so he might avoid mistakes – he’s smart, he’ll soon turn the whole job over to you.  When he reaches maturity and is on his own, a lot of pain and frustration is waiting for him.

Develop a sense of humor in the child by always trying to see the humor in everyday life.  Be free with your jokes and kidding but never make him a butt of a joke – no teasing – no good.

When one feels he must discipline a child, do it only in the presence of the two of you.  Never let what took place be known to anyone else.  Develop respect by being respectful.

Maintain a value system that helps the child at an early age to begin distinguishing character building qualities and things of temporal value.

Teach the child his role or place in the scheme of things that he might learn to respect all living things.  This he starts by treating himself with respect and dignity.  He learns what his role is within his immediate family, his extended family, and finally with all of society.  Practice charity.

Don’t ever be critical of a child, even though it might be deserving.  Be manly in your appraisal of the situation and address it in a positive tone rather than a negative way.

Always be aware of the child’s overall development.  Unusual talent usually manifests itself at an early age.  God given talents should be nurtured and recognized.  In the early days our great medicine men, leaders and thinkers were recognized and so were developed by their peers.  The mainstream people may think they were first to come up with the “Gifted Child” program – well they weren’t too far off – a few hundred years maybe.

Always keep your child’s confidence –let him know that Lala is a place to share ones closest secret to help him share all things that may be painful.

Develop integrity - self-respect – let them see the order and harmony that exists in Nature.

Do not let injustice prevail.  If you are in the wrong be quick to admit it and make amends.

Be very clear in defining anything to children be very positive that they understand explicitly.  Never let them proceed with the least amount of doubt.

Be honest in all of your associations, as children are not easily fooled, worse yet it can affect their belief system.

Be just in any disciplinary action, never act on hearsay, and always allow child to present his side of any situation.  The one bringing a complaint against a child many times see only his side, whereas the child in his way of thinking may be completely justified for his action.  This kind of justice builds character.

Never let the child dwell on failure.  If we want our grandchildren to be winners, then put the emphasis on winning.  Make sure that he is never overmatched or above his level of competence.  As he begins getting older push him enough so that he can learn to function under pressure, but always be aware of how much pressure he can stand.

In relationship with playmates, brother or sisters, impress on him to respect their restrictive space.  This is perhaps a good place to emphasize the Golden Rule, growth on the moral side.

Finally, inspire the grandchildren to look for happiness, which is based upon a strong spiritual commitment.  Pray with him and make it a natural function of everyday life such as eating or sleeping.  Teach him the sacredness of all creation that he might love and respect all things of our creator.

I quote young Phil whom once made this statement, “A great people is made up of great individuals!”

“A great nation is a natural result of great people!"

Photo: Unknown Source

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