My daughter’s Year 6 Valedictory is coming up and she was thinking of what she is going to wear. She told me about her friends choosing clothes and while we were not concerned about this at all, we suddenly starting thinking about it more and more. At some point we both thought, she could look at my wardrobe and see if there is anything in there, in fact she went through my clothes before I even got these words out. Suddenly I saw someone she wasn’t. That is when I woke up.
I realised that somehow by my own fears (Am I doing enough? Am I making her look her best? Is she going to look too simple there among her peers? How is she going to feel if everyone comes in fancy and she looks ordinary? What are other people going to think of her, of me? Is she going to have comments about her that may hurt her feelings?…), I created the fear/motivation in her to reach outside of herself to feel beautiful and to feel good about herself. Even though, I didn’t say these things to her, she picked up on my fears and I am sure the questions or comments (positive or negative) I made, had an impact on her thoughts. I am glad I woke up, because I know these experiences will shape some of her beliefs about her self esteem and self worth. I had to have a painful conversation with her about the dress that she had chosen from my wardrobe (something I haven’t wore before and looked nice on her). We talked about her being herself. She was very disappointed and said that she wanted to look beautiful. I reminded her that she is beautiful no matter what she is wearing. This has all been done in a gentle way but it was painful to see her in tears and me thinking if I am doing the right thing or not. I asked myself why this mattered to me. This got me thinking a bit more deeply of my values and beliefs. I asked myself what do I really want for my daughter, what values and beliefs are important for me that she understand? How do I want her to feel about herself? This is what came up in no particular order:
- I want my daughter to believe in herself.
- I want her to know her self worth.
- I want her to be happy.
- I want her to know that its the beauty from inside that makes the beauty from outside shine.
- I want her to have love and compassion for herself and others.
- I want her to be brave enough to live her truth.
- I want her to have respect for herself and for others
- I want her to have fun and not take life too seriously.
- I want her to feel and be safe
- I want her to have inner peace and to be confident.
- I want her to have faith in God/Life
If I have to pick one thing from the above list, it will be, “I want her to be brave enough to live her truth” because when she does this everything else will imply. Now How can I ensure that my daughter take on these values and beliefs? How can I support her to bravely live her truth?
- Firstly, I asked myself if I am living these values and beliefs myself (How much self esteem do I have? How much do I believe in myself? How much love and compassion do I have for myself or others? Am I living my own truth? etc…), because clearly my fears above was about me and not my daughter. Living those values will help my daughter to live them too. Children don’t do what we say but they sure do what we do!
- Secondly I must be present with my daughter as much as possible. Which doesn’t mean that I am with her 24/7 but every time we interact, she has my full attention and I am in the NOW. When I am present/conscious I relate to my child as separate from me. Like she is her own self and I am talking to another human being with her own desire, personality, temperament and feelings. I talk to her with the respect she deserves (Not with the old belief that we have to dominate the child and they have to respect us because we have the power etc..). I have certainly used my power at different times but I know by experience that this doesn’t serve any of us. Therefore awareness is what will help me to understand what is happening (seeing my mental, emotional and behavioural pattern without judgement) and make the choice of how to respond to my child on a conscious level. This is a deeper level of connection which Eckhart Tolle calls the level of BEING. It surely will require some practice and I won’t be perfect but who is?
- Thirdly for her to be living her truth, to be who she really is, I need to see her for who she really is and accept her for who she really is . I need to create the space for her to be who she truly is. We often want to shape our children the way WE want them to be shaped. We have this ideal about who we want them to be, what is right and what is wrong, what society think is good and bad, right or wrong. We buy into this ideal and we create this beautiful story for our children that may not be their story. I heard this a lot when I was growing up and i still hear it now, “You need to have good grades to have a good job to get enough money to buy a house and then you get married and have children and you will be happy” Its something along this line but the point is that it is not authentic, its some beliefs that life should be this way for everyone or this is the road map for happiness. And when things aren’t really going that way we panicked, we get angry, we are disappointed….. and we may think “Oh no her grades are not good, she won’t get a good job, she won’t be able to buy a house, it is going to be so hard for her…” Who decide this?, who made up this story? Well may be she has a different talent, may be she is going to create her dream job and be successful, maybe she wants to travel and not have a house! Why in the first place are the grades bad, what is the underlying cause of this? Is mainstream school not his/her style? Maybe everything is going to be OK and things are just the way they should be. There is nothing wrong in wanting the “best” for your child (grades, house, money, relationship etc…) I certainly want all of this for my child, but OUR “Best” may be different to HIS/HER “Best”. It is important to accept that their journey will be different from ours and that they will learn from their own mistakes at their own pace in their own time!
Making it practical:
- Be confident when I talk to her. Be clear with my intention (which should be linked to my values)
- Build real connection with her. I planned to spend an hour or 2 with her at the end of the day but sadly I haven’t been doing that and the time we spent together is less and less which is most of the time without me being present. So I want to re-implement this at the end of each day, the time will depend on if its a working day or not. But no matter the amount of time, I commit myself to be fully present and make it quality time. We have also started to implement a one on one “Board Meeting” which comes from Jim Sheils, https://youtu.be/MTFB9vruxxE (which I came across through this beautiful website as I loved their incursion at kinder, http://www.littlewoodworkers.com.au/blog/what-if-all-board-meetings-were-this-constructive . It is an approach that helps to build a connection with your child or each of your children and create a space where you can share life lessons, create happiness, create memories, make your child feel important and so many opportunities of learning. This is done once a term for at least 4 hours with your full attention (no phones, or any other distraction), 100% you and your child. I have certainly enjoyed our first one, where we went to the beach and it was enough for me to just witness pure joy on my daughter’s face. She smiled all day and declared, “This is life” as we peaceful watch the sunset. I am looking forward to our next “Board Meeting”.
- Listen with my whole body (I tend to talk too much giving her more information than she asked for). When I truly listen I can take the action needed, sometimes it might just be acknowledging her feelings and comfort her,just be here without the bla bla bla (such as why? how? you should do this or that…)
- Set limits within respect and always come back to my values
- We all make mistakes but just be humble enough to accept it and even apologies genuinely if needed (this will help her to accept her own mistakes and apologies when needed)
- Use humour and have fun (sometimes I take life too seriously and I drive myself crazy and definitely my husband crazy but probably confuse my own child with all the things that are needed to be done this way or that)
- Never start a sentence with NO (That doesn’t mean I let her do whatever she wants). Instead of No, I would ask a question and more questions. For example, Why do you need this toy? Oh I see, it does look really fun, but have you thought of where we are going to put it and when will you be playing with it?…. The conversation will go on until we have an agreement (most of the times it works for me, even at kinder where I work). This only shows the child that I respect her as a person but I have concerns that I want to address and it also give her an opportunity to problem solve with me.
- Choose my battle (Does it REALLY matter that the school bag is not where it was supposed to be or that the socks are on the floor or that her room is messy? Who is this bothering, me or her? Where does this sit with my values?
- Spend time with her in nature because nature as you may know is a great place to learn about life itself and great on many level for the well-being of anyone (children and adults alike).
By becoming aware, I am growing as a parent too. In fact children are great teachers, my daughter is sure to be my biggest teacher (along with the many kindergartens I encounter when I am teaching). Anytime I feel challenged by a behaviour (whether she is scared, she can’t cope or not listening etc…), I can choose to step into this awareness and learn more about myself/my old patterns or stay in the same pattern. When I step in awareness, I become a better parent for my daughter and a better version of myself each time.
Now I have to admit that when I was in a different head space and was disconnected with myself, this was hard for me to do. I wasn’t able to see my child as separate from me but as Eckhart Tolle mentioned, I was relating to my child “through the conditioning of my mind. I was in the grip of mental/emotional reactive patterns, beliefs and unconscious assumptions…” So my reactions were based on my own fears….Now don’t get me wrong, I only moved up a level, I think, by waking up to myself , but I still react many times more than I would admit it. But the beauty of bringing consciousness in my interactions is that all I need to start with, is, to be AWARE. And the more I practice, the better I get. Then I can take action. I can already see how it works with my child and I am amazed of the effect it has on both of us.
Therefore, Start with yourself, go inward, connect with yourself first in order to be able to connect with your child on a deeper level. Don’t beat yourself up neither, there is no perfect parenting and no one received a manual after giving birth. There are no set formula as each of us are unique, and thus you need to find out what will work for your own unique child. But when you are connected with your inner wisdom, you can listen to your child’s unique needs. Practice makes better! When reactions come up, just ask yourself why. Why does this really matter to me? Go back to your deep values and see if they align with the reactions.
Further Readings if anyone is interested to take the next step:
Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves by Naomi Aldort
Parenting with Presence by Susan Stiffelman, MFT
The Conscious Parent, by Shefali Tsabary, PhD
Parenting for Peace by Marcy Axness, PhD
How do you connect with your child/ren? Are there any special rituals or practice that you do to build memories with your child/ren? Are there any challenges you are facing to connect with your child/ren? If, so what are they?
With much love and to the BEST IN YOU