Giving Our Children a Resilient Sense of Self-Worth

My first ever blog post was called A Child’s Worth.  I still remember writing it, pouring over each word and struggling for hours to create a (rather ugly) website to publish it on.

I opened the post with the following quote –

“When we realise we are worthy, simply because we were born, we no longer look outside of ourselves for validation and approval.” – Emmanuel.

The point I wanted to empasise was that we’re here, so we’re worthy, no question, and my intention since publishing the post has been to pass the knowing of this spiritual truth onto my boys.  To give them a sense of worth that they would never have to doubt became the first purpose of Nurturing Little Souls.

Admittedly, my purpose was born of my own pain, the weighty sense of unworthiness I don’t remember not having.  As my spiritual journey continues, I am gradually believing more in my own worth but it’s possible that I won’t have fully “got there” in this lifetime.  When I wrote that first blog post,  I had hoped that I could somehow ensure that my boys would never feel unworthy like I have.  That was the gift I wanted to give them.

 

IS UNSHAKEABLE SELF-WORTH EVEN POSSIBLE?

But now I am starting to wonder if we can give our children an unshakeable sense of worth.  Don’t most of us live, to some degree or other, in a constant to-and-fro between fear (ego) and Love (spirit) – perhaps not Jesus, Buddha and Ekhart Tolle, but the majority of us for the majority of our lives?  I’m disappointed.  I wanted to spare my boys the pain of self-doubt.

I guess that, as I’ve written my blog, I have become far less idealistic.  Writing has helped me to get practical about spirituality, parenting and kids.  And I do see a beauty in the “mess”.  Abraham Hicks points out that, in any situation, the learning is in the contrast.  Through experiencing what we don’t want, we become clearer about what we do want.  Without the night, we wouldn’t know what daytime was.  Without the fear that we might be unloveable and unworthy, perhaps we can’t discover the true depth of our inherent worth?  We have to know both to know either – and so do our children.

Not to mention the times have been the one undermining my children’s worth.  I told my son once he was “annoying”.  When disciplining them, I have judged them in anger.  I have ignored their opinions and wants when it hasn’t been convenient.  I’ve done my share of parental ranting.  I have provided them with plenty of contrast!

 

RESILIENCE

I think I was right when I said in that first blog post that every interaction we have with our children is an opportunity to show them their inherent worth and I listed some ways that parents can do that.  Ultimately, my message was that our unconditional love reflects to them their unconditional worth.

However we each go about reflecting our children’s worth to them, though, the component I didn’t address was how to teach our children to cope in those inevitable times of self-doubt.  Perhaps they have disappointed themselves or been humiliated in some way.  Perhaps a parent has said something regretful to them in the guise of “teaching them a lesson”.  At these times, how can we help our children to return to themselves as an inherently worthy soul?

 

3 Ways to Teach Our Children Resilience When Doubting Their Worth

  1. Be there, loving them, despite their behaviour.
  2. Get their self-talk on-board! Help them to choose thoughts about the situation that support their picture of themselves as inherently worthy.
    Eg. Instead of “I missed the goal and let my team down”, “I gave the kick my best shot and tried hard for my team”.
  3. Help them to know themselves as Spirit and that they are not their thoughts & feelings. In this way, their sense of self isn’t tied up in these forms. The key to this is developing our children’s ability to observe themselves.  By watching themselves having a thought or feeling, they realise that their real self is the watcher, not the thoughts and feelings themselves.  We can teach them to watch through discussion and through teaching them practices such as meditation.

 

IN SUMMARY – A 2-PRONGED APPROACH TO SELF-WORTH

Trying to give our children pure, unshakeable self-worth is maybe impossible but it is not pointless.  I am not giving up, it is a high priority for me and a driving factor in both my parenting and my writing.  But I have realised that we need a 2-pronged approach when raising our children, involving these 2 things –

1. Reflecting our children’s worth to them.

2 Enabling our children to return to their sense of self-worth when it has been undermined in some way (resilience).

 

To finish, I’d like to share my favourite quote of my own from that first blog post

a person's worth doesn't need measuring, it just is

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

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Mopping the Grass (and My Latest Lessons in Spiritual Parenting)

The weather has been unseasonably hot and dry here in Wellington.  Our lawns are parched and our laundry is finally up-to-date (well, not folded and neatly put away in the cupboard, but clean, at least).

One afternoon last week, I was preparing a smoothie for my boys and I when 3-year-old Thomas came into the kitchen wielding my floor mop.  Too long for him to manage, he knocked just about every wall and cabinet on his way through.

“I’m just going outside to clean the grass.  The sun has made it dirty”, he explained to me.

It took me a moment to understand what he meant.  He had figured out that the sun was responsible for changing our lawn from fresh & green to dry & brown, but he thought that the brown colour could simply be wiped off like dirt to make the grass green again.

“Good idea”, I said, trying not to think about the fact that my mop was brand new, unused, and that, after this, I’d likely never be able to use it on my floors.

I let Thomas take the mop with him to clean the grass and find out for himself that mopping wouldn’t restore its colour.  I wanted him to explore and discover for himself.  Besides, if he was busy outside mopping the grass, that would give me a few more minute’s peace on this stinking hot day.  I might even get to sit down with my smoothie and book for five minutes.

Later, as I stood at the window, watching Thomas clean the lawn, I realised that this is how he will learn about things of a spiritual nature also – through the experiences Life naturally gives him and his own curiosity.

There’s so much I want my boys to know about the way Life works.  As I’ve understood more myself, I have had a lot more peace, joy and love in my life and I want the same for them.  My brain thinks that I have to be especially explicit when it comes to teaching them about spirituality because it’s intangible, not obvious enough.  Sometimes I kind of panic that I’ll forget to tell my boys something important or run out of time to teach them everything they need to know (the years really do fly).

But spirituality is to be experienced, not explained.  Our children will learn a lot about it on their own.  Even by allowing them to hold on to their misunderstandings until they discover truth for themselves, we support their learning.

Perhaps one of the most helpful things we can do as parents is to reflect with our children on their experiences after allowing them the space to learn in their own way.  Just as we do for other kinds of  learning – like why the grass changes colour in the sun.

When I found my mop discarded on the front lawn, I asked Thomas about his cleaning efforts.

“The sun has burned-id the grass so it’s still brown. But it’s clean!” he said with satisfaction.

He had figured it out. Or perhaps his brother put him right when he went outside to kick his ball around to find the intriguing sight of Thomas mopping the grass.  I can just imagine how that conversation might’ve gone.

If, when he’d come into the kitchen with my (clean) mop, I had told Thomas he was wasting his time and mopping the grass wouldn’t make it green again, his learning would’ve been far less memorable – and he wouldn’t have had so much fun.

Thinking about it, I don’t think it’s even our job as parents to teach our children everything there is to know about spirituality.  Is it even possible for just one or two people to do that?  Aren’t we still learning so much for ourselves?  Perhaps our main responsibility is to make our children aware that life is essentially a spiritual experience and then to give them the space to know it for themselves.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

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Why I’ve Stopped Telling My Children to “Be Nice”

“Be nice”.

“That’s not nice”.

“Speak nicely please”.

I tell my boys these things with the best of intentions.  It’s important to me that they treat others well. But I’ve been wondering recently whether telling them to “be nice” is what I really should be doing.

 

“Be nice” seems to imply that my boys should be sweet-as-pie to anyone and everyone all the time.

“Be nice” seems to suggest that they should censor what they say and do so that no one is upset by it.

“Be nice” seems to assume that what they think and feel doesn’t really matter as much as what the other person thinks and feels.

 

At the end of the day, “being nice” sometimes isn’t nice for them.  It requires them to ignore their own thoughts and feelings for the sake of someone else’s, which contradicts two ideas at the heart of my spiritual parenting approach.  They are that –

* our role as parents is to empower our children to be themselves.

* we are all equals, regardless of our age, gender, intelligence…regardless of anything.

These beliefs mean that everyone’s thoughts and feelings, needs and wants count.  As a parent, I feel a tension between teaching my children to be considerate of others and taking care of their own needs, which I wrote about in my blog post Walking the Tightrope of Parenting.  I wrote –

“There are times in life when, in order to be true to ourselves, to back ourselves, we need to do things we know others won’t like.” – Julie

When I wrote the post, I had no solutions as to how to teach my boys to find this balance between their needs and other people’s but, maybe if I stop telling my boys to “be nice”, it would be a good start.

 

WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE?

So, if I’m not going to teach my boys to be “nice”, what am I going to teach them?  I think what I’m really trying to get at are kindness and respect.

Kindness and respect are sincere and honest.  They aren’t as sickly sweet as “nice”.  They feel more mutual.  Being kind because “I should” or “mummy told me to” isn’t kindness at all but obligation.  When I’m really being kind, it’s because I want to so I benefit from the act of kindness as well as the recipient.  Respect is only truly respectful when both parties are respected.  When I resentfully sacrifice myself for another, it is not respect and not a true gift to the other.

 

5 Ways to Teach Kindness & Respect Rather than “Niceness”

Here are some ways I’m trying to shift my behaviour to help my boys honour both themselves and the other person in a situation.

  1. Replace “nice” with “kind” or “respectful”. For example, if they’re shouting their disagreement with me or someone else, I’ll remind them that they can say what they need to but they must do so respectfully.
  2. Be an example of kindness & respect myself. For example, I personally shy away from expressing my disagreement with others, often opting to be nice rather than honest. Here’s my chance to learn to be brave and to find the words to be honest in a way that is also kind & respectful of the other person.
  3. Let them choose not to be nice if they can’t do so sincerely. For example, if they can’t willingly share a favourite toy with a visiting child, perhaps I shouldn’t make them. (Though I wouldn’t let them play with that toy in front the other child).
  4. Notice and affirm their acts of kindness & respect. For example, tell them, “it was kind of you to let her go down the slide first”.
  5. Talk with them about what feels “right” for them – For example, if I see that they did something nice for someone else but with resentment or, conversely, that they enjoyed a sense of satisfaction from being kind to another, I can talk with them about how they felt. This reflection will encourage them to honour themselves by using their internal sense of what’s right to make decisions.

It’s a complex thing, trying to teach our children to give only when it feels right for both themselves and the other person.  Sometimes we intentionally choose to do something kind for another because we want it for them while still not wanting it for ourselves.  It feels right, if not personally desirable.  At 6 years old, Jake’s pretty tuned-in so I could introduce this concept to him but I wouldn’t expect him to grasp it fully until he’s much older.

 

IN SUMMARY – ME, WE & YOU

I want my boys to grow up with a “we” mentality, not a “me” mentality.    We is that middle ground between You and Me.  But it’s not a stationary half-way spot where there’s a perfect, mutually-pleasing solution in each situation.  In life’s usual messy way, it’s probably more a case of sometimes leaning further towards me and sometimes leaning closer to you.

Judging what to do each time takes a certain amount of skill that niceness doesn’t require.  At 3 and 6 years of age, developmentally my boys are not yet able to judge it easily.  It would be easier just to tell them to “be nice” – and probably looks better to other parents too.  But I will be patient and persistent (as we parents are often called to be ) because we are being kinder and more respectful of our children if we teach them to be kind and respectful of others rather than nice.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

PS – In what situations do you find yourself inadvertently encouraging your children to deny themselves by telling them to “be nice”?  Comment below.

 

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Childhood Is Not Just Preparation for Adulthood

When I was expecting baby Jake, I imagined giving him an idyllic, carefree childhood.  My visions were of bare feet and giggles, exploration and play. Once Jake was born, he and I began attending coffee groups for new mums and, as he got older, we also went along to baby activities, such as story sessions at the library and playgroup.

At these places, I often found myself surrounded by anxious parents, whose daily outing with their babies were not primarily for a bit of fun and to get out of the house but to fast-track their babies’ development.  I met parents at playgroup who were there to “socialise” their babies and I watched parents at the library earnestly trying to get their 4-month-olds to focus on the letters and words in books as if it would give them a head-start as readers.  At these young ages, our babies didn’t need any extra socialising or literacy instruction beyond what daily life with Mum and Dad provided – their young brains couldn’t even process some of the things we parents were keen for them to learn.

I realised that, already, many parents were caught in the hamster wheel of always trying to prepare their babies for the next stage of life.  By “socialising” their babies at playgroup, they assumed their toddlers would be more prepared for early childhood education.  When the time came, they looked for early childhood centres that would formally teach reading, writing and maths so that their children would be “ready for school”.  And so it continues – each stage being merely a stepping stone to the next.

In this way, for many people, childhood has been reduced to preparation for adulthood.  Parents fear that, if they don’t “start early”, their children will “fall behind” in some way, destined for unsuccessful, unhappy futures.  My opinion is that, if we continue to sacrifice their childhoods for the sake of their adulthoods, both their years as children and as adults will be unsuccessful and unhappy.

 

THE PROBLEM WITH REDUCING CHILDHOOD TO PREPARATION FOR ADULTHOOD

When we are too focussed on preparing our children for adulthood, we are not respecting who they are.  From a spiritual perspective, the real purpose of parenting is to honour and support our children in being the people they came here to be.  In trying to prepare them for adulthood too early, we inflict on them our own ideas about what kind of adult they should become whereas, if we’re present with who they are as children, we enable them to be themselves.

Further, without some perspective, we begin to hold our children up against the adult we hope they’ll become and, being children, they will almost always fall short.   We develop a deficit-approach to parenting in which we try to improve our children rather than value them as they are.  Our impossible measures become messages to them that they are not good enough.  I know I’m guilty of this myself.  Sometimes, I expect my boys to be able to manage their emotions in respectful, controlled ways like an adult would but, developmentally, they can’t always do this.  My disapproval of their outbursts gives the message that they are not acceptable when their emotions get the better of them.  They’re only 3 and 6  years old!

 

WHY WE NEED TO VALUE CHILDHOOD MORE

Here’s my case for why we are better to value and be present with our children as they are now rather than pushing them into their future.

Children contribute in so many ways.  When we take our children out and about with us, other people delight in them.  Many stop to fuss over our babies, engage our children in conversation or smile at their antics.  Just by being their childish selves, they are like little beacons of light scattered about the community. More personally, most parents feel that their children have contributed to their own lives in numerous ways – the tender moments between us, the memories we make together and the ways they make us laugh or help us to see things differently.  Then there are the little souls who never became adults for some reason but still touched our hearts.  The one I miscarried changed me forever and, on a more public scale, think of Matty Steponik.

Children have things they need to know now.  When I was a teacher, we had meetings in which we speculated about what kind of future we were preparing our students for.  Those discussions had a place but mostly I was thinking, “we don’t know what the future will be like but we know what the kids need now”.  Part of the discussion was always around technology – its growing prevalence in our lives and how it will have changed exponentially between the time a child starts school and when they leave. There was almost an obsession to use technology in the classroom as much as possible for these reasons but sometimes I felt that a lot of rich, relevant learning was lost in order to be seen as progressive & relevant by using technology.  My 7-year-old students needed to be able to read the books they loved, to count their pocket money and to negotiate with their friends more than they needed to know how to use the latest multi-media program.

Joy is found in the present.  The childhoods we dreamed of for our unborn babies were joyful ones.  Only available in the present, joy is lost for both ourselves and our children when we are mentally tied up in worries about the future and how our children aren’t yet meeting the expectations we have of them as adults.  As I said in my blog post about joy, I think joy is essential to a fully-lived life.  Do we want to teach our children to constantly be striving for the next thing or to find joy in every stage?

 

“We tend to think of childhood as preparation for adulthood and almost forget that childhood has its own value”. – Julie Louisson

 

BY TAKING CARE OF THE PRESENT, WE TAKE CARE OF THE FUTURE

All things in nature follow a natural progression.  In its own time, a seed becomes a beautiful, strong tree.  As a seed, it needed different things to what it needs as a tree.  Some seeds can’t grow in the presence of light but, once they are trees, they need the light for photosynthesis.  There is no doubt that we are sowing the seeds of our children’s futures through our parenting but we can trust the process, knowing that, by tending to our children’s current needs, their futures will take care of themselves. 

 

IN SUMMARY – A NEW QUESTION TO ASK

Let’s stop asking children “what are you going to be when you grow up?” and instead ask, “who are you?”  Our children arrive fully-formed, ready to enjoy an contribute to life nowLet’s love who they are and get excited, rather than fearful, about who they will become.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

 

PS – In what ways do you catch yourself nudging your child towards the next stage instead of honouring the one they are in?  Comment below.

 

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Why we Can’t (and Shouldn’t) Protect our Children from Pain

Thomas and I were at preschool Kindy Gym and the session had just started.  I patted my pocket and realised I had left my phone in my bag, on the other side of the room.  I wasn’t expecting any important calls or messages so decided to leave it there and give Thomas my full attention.  We had a great time playing together and I enjoyed being present, not distracted by the pings & buzzes of my phone.

When I eventually did look at my phone, once Kindy Gym had finished, I saw a series of missed calls from my older son’s school and my husband.  I looked at the times on the screen – they’d been trying to get hold of me for almost an hour.  My heart started racing – what was up?  I set Thomas up with his lunchbox and listened to the first message.  It was the school principal himself calling, asking me to phone him back “urgently regarding Jake”.  Feeling jittery, I tried calling the school – no answer.  I tried calling my husband – no answer.  There was nothing to do but keep making calls until I got through to someone.

Eventually I got hold of my husband.  “Don’t worry, Jake’s fine” was the first thing he said.  (Don’t those words always seem to imply that there is something to worry about?)  He told me Jake had hurt his head and they were in my husband’s van, driving to the hospital.  “His head!” I exclaimed in alarm, imagining copious blood, screaming pain and serious concussion.  I didn’t ask for details, I just wanted to get to the hospital and see Jake as quickly as I could.

Thomas, bless him, was in a particularly co-operative mood.  I hurriedly packed up his lunchbox and told him Jake had hurt himself so we needed to go to the hospital.  You can imagine the onslaught of questions that prompted.  I answered them patiently as we speed-walked to the car.  As I drove, we said a prayer for Jake & all the people looking after him.  I wondered what kind of state I would find him in but resolved to keep myself together, no matter what I found.  I searched for a place of steadiness within and focussed on it.

When we got to the waiting room at the hospital, I saw Jake sitting on my husband’s knee, a bandage around his head, a miserable expression on his face and his complexion an unnerving shade of greyish yellow.  I gave him a careful hug.  “You got a big fright, didn’t you?” I said and he nodded sadly.  “Are you ok, Dake?”, Thomas asked him.

Thomas was getting tired and we decided it was no use all of us being at the hospital.  I’ve got the stronger stomach for blood and medical procedures so my husband transferred Jake to my knee (when did he get so big?) and took Thomas home.  As we sat there in the waiting room, Jake’s colour started improving and he began chatting a little. He told me that he had been playing tag with his friends and had run into a wall, knocking his head.  I looked at the red sign the staff had put on the counter to save themselves numerous enquires – it said the wait was “more than 2 hours”.  “This is a child with a head injury, why are we still waiting?!” I wanted to shout.

Fortunately, a nurse appeared with an ice-block not too much later and asked us to follow her to an examination room.  It turned out that the school staff had done such a great job caring for Jake’s injury that there was nothing more to be done except to put a clean bandage on top.  I had been unsure how I was going to get Jake to co-operate if stitches were required and was very relieved he didn’t have to go through that too.  We were soon sent home for a quiet afternoon.

That evening, as I was drying Jake after his bath, he told me that, when his head was bleeding at school, it had felt like water coming out of his head and he had been scared because he didn’t know if he’d be okay.  I realised that he had genuinely believed he could die and I felt dreadful that I hadn’t been there for him in what must have been the most terrifying moment of his life so far.

Having had a significant blow to the head, I kept Jake home from school the following day.  In the morning, we had to pop out to drop Thomas off at kindergarten.  At kindy, the same one Jake had attended when he was younger, the teachers were pleased to see him again and fussed over him kindly.  After we settled Thomas in, we went to a bookshop to get Jake the next book in a series he’s been reading – I figured he needed something to do if he couldn’t run around and jump on the sofas like usual.  Once we found the book, he wanted to browse the shelves for a while and we pointed out interesting reads to each other.  As we wandered back to the car, he said “I like having time just you and me”.  He told me the same thing again later in the day.  “I do too”, I said, “Hanging out with you is one of my favourite things to do”.  Since he started school, we haven’t had much time for just the two of us and it was a reminder to make dates more often.

Before heading home to relax, I took Jake to a café for a fluffy.  (For those of you not in New Zealand, a fluffy is a child’s drink of warm, frothy milk, made with an espresso machine, usually served with chocolate sprinkled on top and marshmallows on the side).  As I watched him sip his drink, a chocolate moustache above his lip and the square of white bandage crooked on his head, my eyes filled with tears.  I felt just how deeply I love him.

I understood in that moment that pain (physical and emotional) is inevitable in life and I won’t always be able to protect Jake from it.  Not only is it impossible, it’s not my job to protect him from it all.  It’s through pain that our children will learn things and discover their own strength.  Sometimes the only thing I will be able to do is acknowledge Jake’s pain and sit with him through it.  There will be times, too, when I won’t be there (like when he was injured & panicing at school) and I can only hope that, at those times, he knows I am coming to him as fast as I possibly can.

Our children’s pain often feels worse than our own, doesn’t it?  As parents, we learn and discover strength through enduring their pain as much as we do our own.  If we didn’t let it grow us, our children’s pain would break us (or so it feels) and we would be no use to them then.   On this occassion, I learned that my place of steadiness within is always available to me and I was reminded to have more dates with Jake, “just us”.  I wonder what Jake feels he has learned through the experience – I’ll ask him tonight.

Unfortunately, there is likely bigger pain to come for Jake – a variety of diappointments, perhaps a more serious injury, a broken teenaged heart…  I can’t say I invite these times ahead but I won’t live in fear of them.   Whenever I see the scar on Jake’s forehead, I will be reminded that he and I, both, can survive, the pain ahead and, even, allow it grow us.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

 

PS – How do you find the strength to cope with your children’s pain?  Comment below.

 

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3 Common Fears That Parents Have

I go about my day carrying hundreds of little worries and fears for my children with me –
* did he remember to take his jacket to school with him?
* will he have more trouble with that mean kid today?
* how will his spelling test go?

Those are the kinds of mini-fears that regularly fire around in our parental brains. But I think there are bigger fears lurking underneath them all that we need to shine some light on and decide what to do with.   I’ve identified  3 common fears that I see in myself and my parent friends that you may relate to also.

1. The fear of making the same “mistakes” as our parents did.  I’m sure we can all think of  experiences we had as children that we are determined our own children won’t have.  Many of them we likely hold our parents responsible for.  Firstly, in defence of our own parents, I want to say that they were doing the best they could at the time (as we are) and no parent will do perfectly (more on that in my post You Will Probably Mess Your Children Up – But It’s OK). We can be mindful of doing things differently to the way our parents did but we don’t want to be fearful to the extent that we inflict too much of the opposite on our children. My own parents inadvertently taught me to be a people-pleaser rather than to listen to my own truth. I’m now determined that my boys know and follow their own hearts but I need to be careful that I don’t coach them into selfishness.

2. The fear that our children will struggle in some way. We fear both the ways our children may be struggling now and the ways they may struggle in future.  From worrying about whether they’re fitting in with classmates to how they will manage financially as adults, our hearts break when we think of our children struggling in any way. Yet struggle is part of the process of life. Personally, I know that it’s easy for me to try to over-control things in an effort to minimise my children’s struggles but this doesn’t allow them to learn or to build resilience.

3. The fear that our children won’t reflect well on us. Our children can humiliate us so effortlessly! Social skills in particular take a long time to learn and young children can be like bulls in a china shop when it comes to etiquette and appropriateness. If there is some way that our children are unlike others or deviate from social norms, our first instinct can be to feel that we have overlooked something in our parenting and we fear being judged for it.

But parenting from fear is no fun – it’s hard work trying to avoid all those things that could go wrong! And our fears ultimately become limits we put on our children.

 

HOW DO I STOP BEING FEARFUL?

I don’t know who first said it but there is an idea I often hear that –

“Our brains are wired to help us survive but not to thrive”.

Our brain uses fear to protect our body but, in doing so, it also “protects” us from doing things we might enjoy and learn from. Because of our design, we’re kind of stuck with our fears – but we can choose not to listen to them.

This relates to last week’s post about the mind-body-spirit connection. We need to align our thoughts with our intention to help our children thrive, rather than with our fears, which will keep them safely from living a full life. Sure, protection is part of our role as parents but we want our children to thrive as who they are and we want to thrive ourselves as parents.

As long as we are focussed on the fears we have as parents, we aren’t focused on Love.  A Course In Miracles says that every choice in life is one between fear and Love. A choice made in Love is far more empowering because, where fear limits us and our children, Love encourages & nourishes us all. In any parenting situation, fear will ask, “what can go wrong?” But love will ask, “what does my child need?” Our children certainly don’t need our baggage from the past, our anxiety that they will struggle or our delicate egos to contend with! We need to lead with our unconditional love for our children rather than our fears.

 

IN SUMMARY – BRAVE PARENTING

We don’t have to pretend our fears aren’t there but wouldn’t we rather spend our energy loving our children than avoiding ourselves? There is nothing like parenthood to develop our bravery and courage.  Each time we put our children’s needs before our fears, I think our fears will shrink a little smaller and our capacity to love will expand a little larger.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

PS – What fears do you have as a parent?  Comment below.

 

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How the Mind Body Spirit Connection Works

I was enjoying a walk with a friend last week and we got talking about the relationship between our minds, bodies and souls.  Being a “spiritual parent” does not mean I undervalue the importance of our minds and bodies to our experience.  In fact, as time goes by, I see less and less distinction between the three aspects of ourselves, noticing more and more how they are interconnected and co-operative.

This is what I have come to understand about how these three parts of ourselves work together –

Our minds and bodies are in service to our souls.

Our minds and bodies are incredible tools, gifted to us to help us through our experience of life on Earth.  I believe that each soul is here with a distinct purpose – a combination of lessons to learn and ways to contribute.  It is upto us whether we choose to fulfil our purpose but we are given everything we need to do so, including complex minds and bodies that are useful for all sorts of things!  Like good girl/boy Scoutts, we come prepared!

 

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR SPIRITUAL PARENTING?

I value all aspects of my children.  I have some knowledge of cognitive and physical development, learned mainly through my work as a school teacher, and I use it to help me as a parent.  What I do, which may be different from parents who don’t identify as “spiritual parents”, is I lead with Spirit.  I let my soul and my boys’ souls guide my parenting.

Once I have established what my boys really need through spiritual connection, I can utilise the capacities of our minds and bodies to meet those needs.

When faced with difficult behaviour from my boys, for example, leading with Spirit is very helpful (though I can forget to do it when I’m tied up with the frustration or stress of a situation!).  The usual approach in the face of challenge is to subject our children to a range of strategies, often recommended by psychologists and parenting experts.  The limitation of unquestioningly depending on parenting strategies, even good ones, is that we don’t stop to determine what each child’s soul really needs in that moment.  When we recognise what they need first, we recognise the strategy or response that would serve them best and we can use our minds and bodies to do this.

Being led by Spirit doesn’t only apply to parenting challenges.  It’s about seeing who our children really are, individually, and supporting & empowering them to be themselves.  When we recognise their passions and strengths, for instance, we can encourage our children to develop and follow them.

 

HOW, EXACTLY, DO WE LEAD WITH SPIRIT?

Here are the three things I try to do to help me recognise what’s really needed in a situation –

I listen to my soul – I begin each day by connecting & inviting Spirit into my day and I’m getting better at recognising & listening to it throughout the day.  It will give us messages that will help us parent, we just have to be listening.

I listen to my children’s souls – When I’m present with my boys, my parenting is at its best.  I seem to recognise what they’re really needing from me intuitively, without giving it much thought.

I encourage my boys to listen to their souls – I find this difficult to do because Spirit is subtle but I’m experimenting with different ways to help my boys connect.  I’ve been teaching Jake to take a moment to still his mind & body when he’s feeling overwhelmed by an emotion.  When he’s trying to make a decision, we talk about what “feels right” for him.  If my boys know themselves, I can follow their lead.

 

IN SUMMARY – TOOLS FOR OUR SOULS

Human beings are complex and, when we stop to think about all the mental and physical systems within us, we can’t help but marvel.  While my blog focuses on the spiritual aspect of parenting, because it is the starting point, I’m also fascinated to learn about the workings of our bodies and minds.  Being spiritual doesn’t at all require us to dismiss the science of being human – by understanding it, we can utilise it for our souls’ purpose.
Let’s end with this often-quoted phrase –

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience”. – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

PS – In what ways do you lead with spirit in your parenting?  Comment below.

 

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Nurturing Ourselves to Nurture Our Children

As you know, the name of my blog is Nurturing Little Souls.  An important part of nurturing our “little souls” is nurturing their natural spirituality.  Helping them to recognise and develop their spiritual connection is a gift we can give our children that will enable them to live fully, with authenticity and peace.  The idea of being able to give this to my boys is exciting but, I used to feel very unsure how to go about it – so I started writing my blog to figure out the “hows”.  A few months into writing, I realised that it’s not as complicated or mysterious as I first thought and I actually wrote a post called Relax, It’s Simple.

Deeper into my spiritual parenting journey now, I’ve realised how important it is to nurture my own soul in order to nurture my children’s.  During the recent school holidays, I struggled to find quiet time for myself to connect.  I usually spend time alone each day either before my family wakes in the mornings or during Thomas’ afternoon naps.  But I was tired, needing to sleep in a little longer, and I didn’t have Thomas’ nap time to myself because Jake was home off school.  My parenting suffered in various ways from not taking time for my spirit.  I don’t say this to judge myself, I accept that my usual routines can’t all stay in place during the holidays, but it has helped me to understand more fully that nurturing my own soul is essential to my parenting.   Here are 3 reasons why –

 

1. TO BE AN EXAMPLE TO MY CHILDREN

I know I sound like a broken record when I say that our example is our most powerful tool as parents – but, it’s the truth.

“Children learn more from what you are than what you teach”. – W.E.B. DuBois

When I have spent time attending to my own spirituality, I am a much better example of Love for my boys.  Having connected with Love/The Universe/God, I invite its power into my days and find myself recognising and taking more opportunities to be compassionate, trusting and grateful, for example.

I am also giving my children an example of a spiritually-led way of life.  Jake, the next to rise in the mornings after me, comes downstairs to where I am in the lounge and he knows I’ve spent time praying and writing – two of my main spiritual practices.  During the day, I sometimes share a spontaneous moment of gratitude with my boys or invite them to say a short prayer with me when we hear bad news. It’s not that I want them to live my way, they must find their own, but to know that they can include Spirit in the way they live their lives.

 

2. TO HAVE PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE & EXPERIENCE TO SHARE

Life is full of big questions and children are great at asking the tricky ones!  Having had a recent death in the family, Jake has had a lot of interesting questions for me.  Over the past few years, we’ve also had great conversations about the nature of God/Love/Source and intuition, for example.  If I had not had some experience of these things myself, I wouldn’t have anything meaningful to offer Jake.

I’m interested in introducing my boys to meditation  as I know it can be a great tool for letting go, relaxing and tuning into Spirit.  The thing is, I don’t do much of it myself.  I know I don’t need to be an expert to be able to offer it to my boys, but I’m fumbling to explain it or to suggest practices that are accessable for their ages because I don’t know it well enough myself.  So, first step, commit to regular mediation myself.

Having said this, I think it is absolutely okay to reply “I don’t know” to some of our children’s questions or to frame our answer as a hypothesis.  We can’t possibly know it all.  With older children, we could even write down our questions and endeavour to find some enlightenment together.

 

3. TO FILL OURSELVES UP SO WE HAVE SOMETHING TO GIVE OUR CHILDREN

It’s the old “you can’t give what you don’t have” scenario.  Nurturing my spirit fills me up and my capacity to be patient, non-judgemental, present and creative with my boys expands.  I also find I get more information intuitively about what they need from me when I’ve taken time to connect.   Another benefit of taking time to journey inwards is that it helps me to be more aware of my pain points, fears etc so I don’t take them out my boys.

 

IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW WE NURTURE OUR SOULS

How we fill ourselves up really doesn’t matter, as long as it works for us.  Praying and writing are my first choices and, as I’ve said, I am going to meditate more often.  I also sing to my favourite songs as I cook, do my nails or sort the plastics cupboard in the kitchen – sometimes, I just need to do something fun and frivilous which takes me out of my head and brings me to the present.  I do lots of different things and my style is to follow what I feel I need, rather than have a set-in-stone routine.

From my experience, it seems that consistently taking time alone is more important than how long we actually spend.   So I’m learning, also, to take the short moments available to me in a busy day to quiet my mind and sense Spirit within and around me.  When a spare minute arises, I’ve stopped reaching for my phone and instead take the opportunity to just be.  When I’m taking my morning shower, I use the time to chat to God, instead of to plan the day ahead.  When I’m stuck in traffic, I notice my surroundings and what it feels like just to be where I am in that moment.  When I haven’t been able to begin my day connecting in the ways that I like to, I can at least find small moments to remember my Spirit.

 

IN SUMMARY – YOU’RE WORTH IT!

I think it’s fair to say that our lives are often not well set up for taking quiet time and it is really something we have to  intentionally carve out for ourselves or, at least, grab for ourselves when an opportunity arises.  Taking care of ourselves is really taking care of our families.  I think many of us can be resistant to taking Spirit time because it feels luxurious and, sometimes, selfish when there’s a family to look after.  Let’s do it anyway.  I’m finding that the more I do it and the more I see the benefits, the less guilty I feel.  Also, we’re worth it.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

PS – How do you nurture your soul?  Comment below.

 

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Children are Naturally Kind…Really

“When you are kind to others, it not only changes you, it changes the world.” – Harold Kushner

One morning, not long after dropping my son, Jake, off at school, I got a text message from my friend.  Jake and her son, Sam, are friends also and go to school together.  That morning, Sam had been feeling upset and was reluctant to be left at school.  When Jake saw how his friend was feeling, he took care of him and tried to cheer him up.  “Jake is such a lovely kid and you should’ve seen it”, the text said.

I really appreciated the text because I needed to be reminded of how kind Jake actually is.  Lately, I feel that I’ve spent a lot of time refereeing arguments between my boys and I had forgotten how caring he can be.  But, when I read my friend’s message, I could just imagine Jake’s manner – the gentle one he uses to comfort his little brother, Thomas, when he’s hurt or when he’s helping Thomas to put his shoes on.

 

NATURAL KINDNESS

Coming from Love, kindness is intrinsic in us all.  We are born spiritually aligned, with a sense of oneness that wants to be expressed through kindness.  In support of this, we are biologically wired to be kind – think of the natural high both the giver & the receiver feel when an act of kindness has been performed.

Although born ready for kindness, we quickly have experiences which can cause us to behave in less-than-kind ways. Contending with other children who want the toy we have or parental pressure to do well at school, for example, can create a threat to us.  At these times, fear kicks in and survival of one sort or another becomes more important than kindness.

As parents, though, we can help our children to exercise their kindness muscle, to build its strength so that it is stronger than fear.  And we’ve got a head start with this job because, really, we all want to be kind.

 

5 WAYS TO NURTURE OUR CHILDREN’S KINDNESS

Be an example of kindness.  I know, I write that we should be an example a lot!  But our example is our most powerful tool as parents.  Firstly, we need to show kindness towards our children.  As obvious as this may seem, it can be hard to do at times, especially when we’re feeling under-the-weather or pressured in some way.  For me, the way I talk to my boys isn’t always kind.  I can slip into a slightly ranty, instruction-giving machine at times and that is something I’m working on.  Our children also need to see us being kind to others – even little kindnesses like stopping to let a car into the flow of traffic or holding the door open for the Mum with the buggy provide a great example to our children.

Acknowledge and appreciate our children’s kindness.  By noticing and thanking our children for their kindness, they see that it makes a difference.  I thank my boys for kindness they show to each other or other people, as well as to me.  I try not to praise kindness as this encourages them to be caring for the wrong reasons – it becomes  approval-seeking instead.  (My post Overusing Good Job elaborates on this.)

Look for natural opportunities for our children to be kind.  These arise all the time.  At a birthday party, we may suggest our child invite the shy one to play with them.  When they come home from a party with a goody bag of sweets, we may suggest they share some of the sweets with their brother or sister.  I try to present these as opportunities to be kind, rather than as expectations so they can feel the joy of kindness, not a sense of obligation.  By practising kindness, we make kindness a habit.

Be kind together as a family.  We have some family Christmas traditions that help our boys to think about what they can give, not only what they might get.  Leaving candy canes for people to find around the local shopping mall is a particularly fun one.  But, kindness is great any time of year.  When Thomas is a little older, I’d like our family to get involved in helping a particular cause on a regular basis and am on the look-out for one that we all feel passionate about.

Talk about kindness.  In our home, we use the word “kindness” daily.  It is one of our family’s highest values.  When talking with my boys about their behaviour, I tend not to say it is “good” or “bad” but to discuss with them whether it was respectful and kind.  We talk about kindness people have shown towards us and acts of kindness we witness that don’t involve us.  We talk about how good it feels to be kind.

 

IN SUMMARY – KINDNESS IS WIN/WIN

Kindness comes easily to children and adults alike.  I know it doesn’t always seem this way but, with a little faith and nurturing, our children will surprise us with their small acts and large gestures of caring.  The form kindness takes is of less importance than the fact they cared enough to offer it.

Last weekend, Jake made me an “I love you” card, decorated with 18 hearts and declaring that, not only am I the best Mum ever, but my chocolate chip cookies are the best ever.  It made my day to get it and I could tell by the way he presented it to me that it made Jake’s day to give it.  Kindness is win-win.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

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Love Songs & Chocolate

I once saw a mother admonish her young son for telling his friend “I love you” as if he had said something inappropriate.  But what is more appropriate than telling someone we love them? Loving others is what we are here to do!

We often associate the words “I love you” with romantic relationships so perhaps the mother in this situation thought of love in this way by default and felt that her 4 year-old was too young to be professing it.  But her son wasn’t meaning that he was “in love” with his friend.  He was just trying to tell his friend that he cared for him and appreciated the connection they had.

This got me thinking about all the confused messages we get about love.  It made me think about what Love really is and what I want my boys to know about Love.

 

TWO TYPES OF LOVE – EMOTION & TRUTH

When we use the word “love”, we’re often filled with an emotion or feeling of caring, attachment, enjoyment or similar.  All these are good things, but they are not true Love.  Do I really love chocolate? – no, but I do especially enjoy eating it.  In the past, when I’ve  said I’m “in love” with someone, I’ve actually meant that I’ve felt strong caring for and attachment to them.  When we use “love” in these situations, we probably really mean “BIG like”.  Not to undermine two of the most thrilling experiences of life but, in both cases, it is the flowing of chemicals in our bodies that creates the feelings.

Although we may speak of it less often, there’s also the greater Love in our lives.  It isn’t a feeling and it isn’t about something or someone being more special than another.  Our children need to know about it because it is in the giving and receiving of this true Love that we thrive.

 

True Love

True Love is deep and wide, knowing no limits – it is unconditional and infinite.  Depending on nothing, it is always there.   My love for chocolate is not unconditional – I’ll admit to being a bit of a chocolate snob and, if it’s not high quality, I don’t love it.  In past romantic relationships, I’ve stopped feeling “in love” with someone when I’ve been hurt.   True Love is reverence for life – as it is, without judgement.  When we sense it, it is not overwhelming like falling in love or eating the best chocolate we’ve ever tasted are.  It is quiet and familiar.

Familiar because we are Love.  Love (God/The Universe/Source) made each of us with her own energy.  Love is not a chemical reaction but a recognition of our oneness.  Love is our truth.

I want my boys to know that they have infinite Love inside them and that their purpose is to share it around indiscriminately.  I want them to understand that it is universal, not something they offer only to people who are special to them in some way.

Our example to our children is the best way to help them understand this Love.  When they see us extending friendliness, help and compassion to everyone we meet, they learn how to do the same.  I also think it’s valuable to talk about Love directly with our children.  When one of my boys shows kindness, I sometimes say “thanks for sharing your Love”, just to remind him that it’s there inside.  If I’m centred enough when he’s bothering his brother, I’ll suggest “Use your Love”.  (This does not usually stop the bickering – other intervention is generally required – but it brings Love to his awareness.)

I also want my boys to know that they are Loved.  If they understand that everyone has this Love within to share, it makes the world a friendly, supportive place to be.  In one of my early blog posts I wrote –

“As a mother, I am a representative of God’s love”. 

I later read The Spiritual Child, a book by Dr Lisa Miller, based on her scientific research.  In it, she said that a child’s understanding of divine Love is based on their experience of their parent’s Love (and that of other close family & friends).

 

IN SUMMARY – DON’T LEAVE IT TO FAIRYTALES & LOVE SONGS

If we leave it to fairytales and love songs to teach our children about Love, they won’t know its true power.  To make my point, here are the lyrics of two songs I’ve heard recently – “Only love will break your heart” and “You’re nobody until somebody loves you”.  What kind of expectations will they have if this these are the only kinds of messages our children get about Love?  The feeling of love is represented everywhere in pop culture but true Love – the type that makes a real difference in our lives – is largely missing.  We can intentionally create a culture of Love in our family to represent it.

The beauty is that, in many situations, we sense the presence of both types of Love – when I hug my boys and tell them I Love them, I actually mean both that I feel love and sense the exchange of true Love between us.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

 

PS- How do you help your children to recognise True Love?  Comment below.

 

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