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,

 

If you found this post helpful, subscribe to get new essays & soulful parenting tips sent straight to your inbox.

Read our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions here

The quality of our relationship with our children determines how we go about our many tasks of parenting – disciplining, instructing, making decisions… If you’ve been reading over the past few weeks, you’ll know that discipline is a hot topic for me right now and this post is about how nurturing our relationship with our children makes it easier for us to discipline them.  I don’t mean that it allows us to control them and punish them but to teach them, get more co-operation and reduce the need for discipline in the first place.

 

HOW QUALITY OF RELATIONSHIP IMPACTS OUR CHILDREN’S BEHAVIOUR & DISCIPLINE

Our ego wants a relationship with our children in which we are in charge, things go smoothly and they go our way.  But this kind of relationship becomes a power struggle, an all-too-familiar battle of wills.

On a soul level, though, both our children and ourselves know that we are equals and there is no question that our love and respect for one another is mutual and unconditional.  We want to see that expressed in our relationship.  We both long for connection.

Making that connection with our children has incredibly positive impacts on how they feel about themselves, how they feel about us and on how they behave –

  • Giving our children our attention affirms them.  It shows them that we like them and we think they’re worth spending time with.  This affirmation is something all humans crave.  Giving our attention to our children in positive ways means they don’t have to try to get it, perhaps through inappropriate behaviour.
  • Being approachable and responsive to their needs gives our children a sense of security & support.  It reduces the likelihood that their needs will be expressed as difficult behaviour.
  • Seeking our children’s points-of-view and involving them in decision-making (as appropriate) shares the power in the relationship and builds our children’s trust that we are fair.  They then know that, when we have to set boundaries, it’s not just on a whim, we have considered their perspective and they are, therefore, more likely to be co-operative.
  • Showing that our love and caring for them doesn’t change no matter how they behave is essential to a child’s sense of self-worth.  When it comes to their behaviour, they can’t feel bad about themselves and do the right thing.  So, in loving them unconditionally, we also support their positive behaviour.

Every interaction with our child either is an opportunity to strengthen our relationship with them or to chip away at it.  That includes when we discipline.  The focus of my respectful discipline resource is on using discipline to teach, connect, learn what’s really going on for our child and give them choice (whether to experience the natural consequences of their behaviour or to change it).  There is no judgement of them, threatening, manipulation or over-powering – all of which can appear to “work” in the short-term but ultimately undermine our relationship with our child.

 

WAYS TO BUILD OR REPAIR OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR CHILD

Struggling again & again with our children deteriorates our relationship with them and we find the tone of our days spiralling downwards into resentment and shouting.  As I wrote about recently in my post My 6-Year Old Put Me In Time Out, I found myself on that slippery slope.  I now have a bit of repair work to do both by disciplining my son differently and putting some intention into deepening our connection.

 

 “Children who disrespect us are showing that they don’t feel enough connection, warmth and respect from us” – Dr Laura Markham.

 

When our connection with our child is needing repair, we can look at the list above to see what’s been missing. For my son and I, I think the missing component has been my attention – both in terms of time and presence.  It’s not that I ignore him but, particularly on school days, organising our family’s life keeps me occupied and I don’t make enough time to just be with them.  So, I’m getting deliberate about being more generous with my attention.

I’m sharing my intentions with you here in case it’s helpful because I think finding the time for the mental & physical work of parenting as well as enjoying our children is a challenge many parents are familiar with.  Here is what I will be doing –

  • Getting down on the floor and playing their games with them is the ultimate quality time for both of my sons.  In my post Mummy, Will You Play With Me? I shared ways to fit playtime into a busy day.
  • My son loves “talking time” when I tuck him into bed so I will allow more time to chat together at the end of the day.  Communication seems to be at it’s best at this time of day.
  • Stopping what I’m doing, making eye contact and giving my son my full attention when he’s telling me something that’s important to him.  (My eyes glaze over at the first mention of Star Wars so I am working on actually listening to the intricacies of the battles so I can then give a meaningful response.)
  • Giving attention to the good stuff.  We’ve all heard that where our attention goes, energy flows.  When things are difficult between my son and I, it’s easy to only see everything that feels “wrong” and I find myself kind of picking at him.  I want to make the effort to acknowledge all the great stuff about him (of which there is PLENTY).
  • Giving him affection.  “Just because” squeezes and putting my arm around him as we walk make him glow.

 

IN SUMMARY – RELATIONSHIP AS THE FOUNDATION

While our relationship with our children is one between equals, it is upto us as the adults to set the tone of the relationship.  Ultimately, our children will follow our lead.  So it is our choice whether we intentionally create respect, communication & connection or fear, defensiveness & conflict.

Of course, a good relationship with our child is not purely in order to make disciplining easier!  It is primarily to enjoy the relationship itself and is the foundation of the life we share together with our children.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

If you found this post thought-provoking, subscribe to get new essays & soulful parenting tips sent straight to your inbox.

Read our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions here

I had sent Jake to sit on “the step” – essentially our version of a time out.  I’d warned him that his disrespectful behaviour would land him on the step if it continued.  It had continued so he’d spent 5 minutes sitting by himself on the step by our laundry, to “think about his behaviour” and give us all a break.

When Jake got off the step, he asked me tearfully, “How come you don’t have to sit on the step?”

“Well, no one has ever given me a warning”, I replied.

“I’m giving you a warning now,” he said with a scowl (probably the same scowl I use to give him warnings).

“What for?” I asked, thinking through my various parenting misdemeanours of the afternoon – there were a lot of them.

“Shouting”, Jake grumped at me.

“Fair enough.”

 

WHAT’S WRONG?

It was then that I realised I’d lost my way when it came to disciplining my boys.  I guess I’d sensed for a month or two that I was on a downward spiral, my discipline methods slowly slipping further away from my values, but I hadn’t stopped to rethink things. Sending my boys to “the step” was not a strategy I wanted to be using but it had turned into a habit and become my default approach to correcting my boys’ behaviour.

And that’s where the first problem was.  The step didn’t actually correct their behaviour at all.  The evidence lay in the fact that they were sitting on it more and more often.

The second problem with the step was that it didn’t reflect my parenting values, especially the way I was using it.  That we are all spiritual equals requires me to treat everyone with respect, regardless of their age or behaviour.  There are times when we parents have to position ourselves as an authority to guide our children but there is no power struggle in a relationship between equals.  The step had become a weapon in our power play, me using it to threaten, manipulate and, ultimately, control Jake and Thomas.

How had it got to this?!

 

LOSING MY WAY

I think the main factor that saw me resorting to the step was that my boys were, inevitably, throwing new challenges my way.  I was unprepared to deal with the backchat, defiance and attitude that was increasingly featuring in Jake’s interactions with me and I hadn’t taken the time to figure out how best to respond.

Additionally, the personal truth is that I saw red each time Jake used his new attitude with me, my insecurities about being disrespected instantly triggered.  I hadn’t consciously realised that he’d struck a nerve and I had immediately started trying to control Jake rather than taking my time to see what was really going on (for both him and I). I was trying to control him because my I felt out of control.

Being both challenged and triggered, I had slipped away from my own parenting values and my relationship with Jake was suffering.  I felt ashamed and disappointed in myself.  What was I going to do about it?

 

GOING INTO TIME OUT

I put myself in a self-imposed time out of sorts to reflect on what was going on and to find a new way of doing things.

The first thing I had to do was forgive myself.  In my blog post Self Love – Not Just Warm Fuzzies, I wrote –

“Forgiving ourselves is perhaps the truest act of self-compassion.  It allows us to move forward without the burden of our past.” 

Taking the time to consider what was going on within me when met with Jake’s emerging ‘tude helped me to understand and empathise with myself.  I realised that, when I’m tired, triggered and uncertain what to do, it is natural that I’m going to struggle and this made it easier for me to forgive myself.

Then, I put all my to-dos aside for one morning to figure out how I wanted to go forward.  I was prompted to read back over some earlier blog posts I had written about discipline and found that they were actually pretty helpful! I also flicked through some of the parenting books I keep on my desk and thought about what my boys are needing from me at the moment.  I devised respectful strategies for dealing with my current parenting challenges.

 

IN SUMMARY – FLOUNDERING, FORGIVENESS & MOVING FORWARD

As parents, we constantly need to re-evaluate what we are doing, whether it be around discipline or another area of life.  As our children grow older, they will bring new challenges our way which will require us to adjust our way of doing things.  Don’t we all bemoan the fact that, just as we feel we’re getting the hang of this parenting thing, something new comes our way?  It certainly keeps us on our toes -parenthood is about our own evolution as much as it is about our children’s.

We can’t expect ourselves to adjust seamlessly to every change in our children’s development.  The changes can surprise us, we’re not necessarily anticipating them.  It’s understandable that we will flounder around for a bit each time until we find our way.  I’m hoping that, having gone through this, I will recognise more quickly what’s going on when there is another significant change in my boys.  Instead of being overwhelmed and punishing myself for my  imperfect parenting, I will take a time out to forgive myself and to strategise with Love.  Having compassion for ourselves and moving forward deliberately are the only ways to keep up – more or less – with our children.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

If you related to this post, subscribe to get new essays & soulful parenting tips sent straight to your inbox.

Read our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions here

“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 soulful 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,

 

If you found this post thought-provoking, subscribe to get new essays & soulful parenting tips sent straight to your inbox.

Read our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions here

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,

 

If you found this post thought-provoking, subscribe to get new essays & soulful parenting tips sent straight to your inbox.

Read our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions here

My boys and I had driven to visit my parents, music turned up, singing along merrily – or so I thought.  When I parked the car and got out to undo my boys’ seatbelts, I saw that Jake had been crying.

“I miss you when I’m at school”, he sobbed.

I knew something was up.

I carefully probed around with a few questions and it came out that Jake has been having a few troubles with his friends recently.  His description of what’s been going on was sketchy and, not being at school to see for myself, it’s hard to know what exactly has been happening.

For any parent, the thought of our child being disrespected in some way and feeling alone during a long day at school is crushing.  We can probably all remember a time in our own childhood when we were the one in that position.  I certainly can – for a period of time when I was five, my poor parents had to prise me off their bodies when they took me to school each morning.  I’d cling on to them for dear life, not able to face the classmate who was bullying me.  While Jake is still going to school largely happily, I’m anxious that his situation may deteriorate to the point that he starts clinging to me.

On top of not knowing what’s really going on, all this emotion (his and mine) makes it incredibly hard to handle.  I’m a pretty reasonable and diplomatic person but my fear has its sleeves rolled up and is ready to get in there and fight for my son.

Fortunately, I wrote a blog post last week about parenting from Love instead of fear – must’ve been divine preparation for now because I can see that there is actually no fight to be had.  I have realised that the way I handle this situation with Jake and his friends will be an example to him and I have to ask myself, Do I want to model Love or Fear?

As painful as it is to see my son in tears, I also see the potential for him to learn so much through this experience, if I choose.

“In every situation you have two choices: Will you learn through fear or will you learn through love?” ― Gabrielle BernsteinThe Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith

 

CHOOSING LOVE: 5 LESSONS

  1. We are all worthy. This is an opportunity to remind Jake of his inherent worth. He is worthy of being treated with respect, as we all are.
  2. How to set boundaries. When sure of his worth, it will be easier for Jake to set boundaries. My husband and I have always encouraged him to respectfully tell children to stop when they’re doing something he doesn’t like. At the moment, his friends are testing his boundaries and it is my hope that Jake will learn to be insistent enough that others respect them.
  3. The nature of truly unconditional love. I will not speak unkindly about his friends, label them as bad or encourage Jake to be unkind to them in return. I want him to see that my respect for others does not change because of their behaviour – I think that this is what unconditional love does.
  4. How to go inward for his answers. In a situation such as this, it’s all too easy for worried parents to take over and try to manage the situation entirely ourselves – I am tempted to bombard Jake with my ideas about what he should do.  I will discuss possible solutions with him but I told him that he needs to do what feels right for him and that I will support him.  I asked if there was anything he wanted me to do and he asked me to talk with his teacher, which I have done.
  5. How to take responsibility for himself. If Jake chooses to keep spending time with children who don’t treat him well, he’s exposing himself to the risk of being hurt. I can see, though, that he is conflicted.  The children he has great fun with are the same ones who often end up being disrespectful and unkind.  I know it’s not easy.  Jake can also take responsibility by making sure he’s not participating in the same kind of behaviour that upsets him.

It would be easy to be too heavy-handed, letting my fearful fight-or-flight instinct kick in.  Naturally, I want to protect Jake and a part of me wants to give the other children a talking-to and demand that the school keep them away from Jake.  But that would not be a good example to Jake and all the bluster & controlling would be avoiding the real issues as well as the chance for Jake to learn.

Focussing on how “bad” the “mean kids” are is a waste of time – I can’t change them and the school staff are not at liberty to talk to me about other students for privacy reasons.  What I can do is help Jake to choose his response to what is going on.

I want him to see that he can handle whatever comes his way.

 

IN SUMMARY – WORKING TOGETHER

I am hoping that, through working together with Jake and his teacher, the difficult dynamic within his group of friends can be amended.  Jake is popular and his school is a friendly place – when I walk into his classroom in the mornings, lots of kids say “hi” to him and want him to join in with their play. Whatever’s going on may turn out to be a small blip in his friendships, it won’t necessarily decline into ongoing bullying.  As a parent, my role is to be proactive while also showing my son both his own worth & capability and what it really means to Love.  All situations we find ourselves in really are opportunities to fear or to love.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

If you found this post helpful, subscribe to get new essays & soulful parenting tips sent straight to your inbox.

Read our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions here

 

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,

 

If you found this post thought-provoking, subscribe to get new essays & soulful parenting tips sent straight to your inbox.

Read our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions here

I often feel that parenting is like a walk across a tightrope.  For each aspect of parenting, there seems to be a continuum between two opposite ways of doing things.  Since last week’s post was about diet, take spoon-feeding and its opposite, baby-led weaning, for example.  There are pros and cons for both and my approach when introducing my boys to solids was to do a bit of each.

To keep my balance on this parenting tightrope, I need to find the mid-point between the two extremes of each matter, skilfully judging whether to lean a little more this way or that, taking each step with intention.  If I lean one way too much, I’ll fall off.  These are the matters I’ve been struggling to find my balance on of late –

 

Giving My Children Space to Learn for Themselves vs Being a Teacher/Guide

When my boys are facing something new or challenging, I try to allow them the space to discover what they need to know for themselves.  Through asking questions, trying things out and learning from their own mistakes, there is a lot children can work out on their own.  I think it’s easy for us to interfere with their self-teaching processes and to undermine them by taking over.  It pains me to watch parents coach their children on how to play on a playground.  But, on the other hand, there are many other situations when I have wisdom born of experience that could help my boys.  For example, friendships can be difficult for children to navigate on their own and there are times I find myself coaching my son through challenges with friends, brainstorming with him possible solutions to difficult situations.

How do I judge when to step in with a bit of guidance and when to leave my children to learn for themselves?

 

Teaching My Children to be Considerate of Others vs Becoming a People-Pleaser

I think it’s important for people to be able to see beyond themselves and to be aware of how their actions impact others, either positively or negatively.  In our home, we talk with our boys about how their behaviour affects others, calling it the “ripple effect”.  A typical scenario – one of them hits the other, the other cries and I get stressed trying to deal with two emotional boys.  I point out (afterwards) the flow-on effects of the hitting as an example.  Equally, when one of them shares a toy, making the other one smile broadly and they go on to enjoy an hour of playing happily together, I use that as an example too.  But 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.  I worry I could over-emphasise consideration & kindness as I raise my boys,  to the point that they may believe, as I did for many years, that other people are more important than they are and that it’s mean & selfish to do what’s best for themselves if it might upset others.   I want my boys to know that they are equals with everyone and there are times when it’s appropriate – good, even – to act in self-interested ways.

How do I teach my children to judge whether to prioritise themselves or others in a situation?

 

Giving My Children Treats vs Creating a Sense of Entitlement

I like to treat my boys sometimes, just because it’s fun and I love them.  It might be a surprise outing after school, a new book for the school holidays or something yummy in their lunchboxes.  The catch, I find, is that, often, when I give a treat, they expect it again next time.  “Are we going anywhere after school today?”  “Can you buy me this book?”  “I don’t like these crackers, can I have a cupcake like yesterday?”  It’s a give-an-inch-they’ll-take-a-mile.  Unfortunately, I always think twice about giving my boys treats because I’ll likely have to face pestering tomorrow.

How do I give my children treats in a way that doesn’t become entitlement or “spoiling”?

 

HOW TO KEEP BALANCE

There is a time to stand back and let our children discover for themselves.  And a time to use what we know to teach and guide them.

There is a time for our children to be considerate of others.  And a time to prioritise their own interests.

There is a time to treat our children.  And a time not to.

 

I’m sure you have your own tightropes to walk as a parent.

 

You may have noticed that, as a tightrope walker eases themself along the rope, their weight is not perfectly centred for the entire walk – it’s not physically possible.  So they do a lot of correcting as they go.

But a tightrope walker doesn’t have the time to do the maths and figure out precisely how far to lean, as they begin to wobble.  They make these decisions in the moment, based on the feel.  With concentration and full presence, when things feel wobbly, they know instinctively how to correct their balance.  As parents, we can feel our way along the rope also.  To notice the wobbles and know how to stabalise, we need to concentrate and be fully present, both with ourselves and our children.

When I have been maintaining my personal spiritual practice and I’m present with my boys, I am tuned-in and I find that I know what to say or do much more easily.  It usually comes to me in the moment that I need it.  If I am teaching one of them something new, I sense what I need to say and I know when I’ve said enough & should leave the rest to them.  If I am talking with them about how their behaviour negatively impacted others, I find a way to validate their needs and wants as well.  If I’m deciding whether or not to give them a specific treat, I can feel whether this treat is a good idea or not.

I also want to add that every family’s centre is in a slightly different place, which is why being tuned in with ourselves and our children is so important.  Centre is not exactly half-way between two opposite ways of doing things, it’s actually the place that feels right.  To give an example, I would say that, for my family, there is more standing back and allowing my boys to learn for themselves than explicit teaching.

 

IN SUMMARY – THE CIRCUS IS COMING TO TOWN!

Actually, parenthood can feel like a full-blown circus at times, with a sense of anything-could-happen.  But that’s not all bad – there’s a lot of fun and spontaneity in life with children, the performers have well-developed skill and creativity.  As parents, our greatest skill and creativity comes from parenting not only with our bodies and minds, but with our spirits too.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

If you found this post helpful, subscribe to get new essays & soulful parenting tips sent straight to your inbox.

Read our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions here

On my blog, I share my experiences as a parent who is trying to honour and nurture her children’s spirits in the ordinary moments of life.  I write because it makes me a better parent.  I find that I make discoveries as I type, uncovering loving wisdom as I mull things over and try to make enough sense of them to put into words.  I share what works for me in my posts, not because I regard myself as an expert but incase other parents might find it helpful in some way.

Today, though, I don’t think I have any tips to offer.  I’m writing about an area of parenting in which I feel stuck.  I will try not to let it turn into a pointless rant, I’m hoping, at least, that other parents who have the same struggles will feel less alone when they read it.  And, if you have any suggestions to help, please share them in the comments!

 

THE PROBLEM – CAN  YOU RELATE?

I want to say from the start that my boys are lovely.  They are kind, friendly, helpful and charming much of the time.  They adore each other.  3-year-old Thomas will put his arms around his big brother and say, “You’re my best friend Dake (Jake)” and Jake will return the affection.  My heart swells to see them play together, happy in their own world for two.

But, next minute…there’s shouting – no, roaring – and Jake has evicted Thomas from his bedroom.  Thomas is banging on the door, crying that he wants to be let back in.

Or…Thomas has decided he wants the toy car that Jake’s got (even though his fists are already full with 3 others) and the snatching and squealing begins.

Or…Jake begins to slowly wind Thomas up, taking advantage of his 3 years senior.  He argues, manipulates and competes with Thomas, who just can’t keep up and ends up hitting Jake in frustration.  And, of course, Jake comes running to report to me, very indignantly, that Thomas hit him.

Or…(and this one takes the cake)…we’re in the car and Thomas starts wailing “I don’t want Jake to look at me!”

 

Jake knows how to use his power over Thomas and Thomas can be just plain difficult sometimes.

Most of this squabbling occurs either when we’re in the car and I’m unable to resolve things because I’m driving or when I’m just out of ear shot so don’t know exactly how it got started.  And trying to get a straight story from the two of them is pointless.  Sometimes, I don’t even try.

Often, usually when I’ve just sat down for a 5-minute coffee, I hear them both declare “I’m telling on you!” followed by two sets of feet racing to get to me first in order to lodge a complaint against the other.  I already know the situation is going to be impossible to resolve.

The bickering, fussing, shouting and tears challenges my sanity some days.  I’m tired of having to stop in the middle of what I’m doing to try and sort things out. I don’t have energy to expend on what are usually quite petty arguments.  For all my efforts, I rarely feel that I’ve sorted things out properly and it all starts up again 5 minutes later anyway.  It’s like trying to referee a sports game without knowing the rules.  Some days, I end up bickering, fussing, shouting and nearly in tears.

 

WHAT DO I DO?!

As a soulful parent, I’m trying to teach my boys to show kindness and respect for everyone, regardless of who they are or how they behave.  Siblings are the perfect people to practise on and that is part of their purpose in our lives.  I still believe in my boys’ natural kindness because I see so much of that too but no amount of appealing to the love they have for each other seems to be making a long-term difference with the squabbling.

I’m also mindful of the fact that it is their relationship to have and it’s not my role to micro-manage it.  While I don’t allow them to hurt each other, I don’t often discipline them over the way they treat each other because I don’t see it as a discipline issue, I see it as a relationship issue.

Many days, by the afternoon (or sometimes by breakfast time), I’m fed up, too exasperated to try being wise and reasonable.  Sometimes I do what I always said I wouldn’t – ask Jake to back down since he’s the older one, just so we can all have some peace.   Other times, I confiscate the toy they’re fighting over or send them to play in different areas of the house or distract them with something else.  These things give us all reprieve.  But it’s only temporary.

 

CALL IN THE EXPERTS – SOME PERSPECTIVE ON THE SITUATION

As I’ve been pondering all the squabbling and my own feeling of helplessness in order to write this blog post, I’ve remembered a theory I learned when training as a teacher.  Psychologist Jean Piaget defined four stages of cognitive development and, according to his theory, both my boys would fit into the Preoperational Stage (approx. 2-7 years).  Among other things, at this stage, children tend to be ego-centric and struggle to see things from another person’s point of view.  This is reassuring – kind of.  It’s not that my boys are especially self-centred – they’re typical of their ages – but what am I to do in the meantime?

One of the most important things we do as parents is to accept our children as they are.  So here is another opportunity for me to practise full acceptance.  I need to accept the cognitive stage my boys are at.  I can keep reminding & encouraging them to be kind & respectful and explicitly appreciating it when they are but I may have to accept that it won’t be immediately effective.  Right now, I’m sowing the seed for when their brains are able to think beyond themselves.  If I can’t change the situation, for my own sanity, the best I can do is accept it.  I find praying helps me to find acceptance when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

 

IN SUMMARY – THEY’LL SURVIVE EACH OTHER & I’LL SURVIVE THEM

Thanks for listening to my grumblings.  Two weeks of school holidays are coming to an end I’m feeling a bit worn out by the bickering.  Jake and Thomas are the cause of each other’s highest highs and lowest lows in a day and it’s been a rollercoaster ride for me too.   If I can see their squabbling as one of those necessary stages all children pass through – like newborn nightime feeding and the toddler “whys?” – it might help.  Getting up multiple times a night and answering a barrage of inane questions made me borderline-wretched too…but I’ve lived to tell the tale.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

If you related to this post, subscribe to get new essays & soulful parenting tips sent straight to your inbox.

Read our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions here

“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,

 

If you found this post reassuring, subscribe to get new essays & soulful parenting tips sent straight to your inbox.

Read our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions here