“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They came through you, but not from you, and though they are with you, they belong not to you.” – Khalil Gibran.
Whenever I think of my children I feel a sense of immense joy. Children are resilient, curious, and pure. They have not been damaged by the world or my clumsy parenting. One day it occurred to me they do not really belong to me. They are a gift. They have helped me stretch, and grow, as a person, in ways I didn’t even consider possible, before their arrival. They have taught me the payoff of patience, being present, and the power of being a beginner who admitted “I do not know” but am willing to learn.
One day my daughter did something that struck an internal negative cord within me. I wanted her to “feel my pain”. So I scolded her. She seemed not to care. So I thought of something that I thought would “hurt her” to get her attention. She burst out in tears and I remember thinking “aha now you see what I’m feeling and have given this the importance that I think you should.” Also note how many adults you see do this to each other. “You hurt me and now I will teach you a lesson” ~ If you have no children think in terms of the relationships you do have with family, friends, employees, bosses etc.
After a few moments I thought “what have I done?” A question emerged in my mind “why would you want to cause her pain to teach her a lesson?”. The answer was “this is what I know”. I decided in that moment that I would never do this to her or any of my children again. This method could produce callused hearts, shut down emotions and over time a total sense of apathy toward life. I had not figured out a different way to communicate the importance of my wishes to her, but I knew this was not the foundation I wanted to build our relationship on.
My own personal belief is that we get a ‘free pass’ when they are little. All the stuff we cram into them; they just take it for the most part. (new employees, new relationships, new friendships just sort of absorb it AT FIRST). Then they turn into teenagers. Then they revolt. Whatever we’ve crammed in there is going to come exploding out and all over us. I saw this explosion in my own teen years where all that ‘stuff’ came up and out. Then I saw this clearly when I invited my 14 year old brother to live with me almost 5 years ago! He was a reflection of everything downloaded onto him during his life. This does not mean we blame ourselves as that serves no useful purpose and will not correct the errors. It means that we have a choice. We love our children. We have good intentions. But we were ‘ignorant then’. If we are reading this post we now know that which we did not know. So our choice can begin now.
“Now is ALWAYS the time to grow, to treat our children with love and respect, and to create new patterns in our family.”
Life is all about choice. We live in choice each moment of every day. We can choose to be mindful and selective of the messages we relay to our children, and think about the impact it will have on them. We can decide to talk to them the way we would like to be talked to. To cut them slack as we would like others to cut us slack. To hold them accountable as we expect others will hold us accountable. To be fair. To be just. To be honest. To stick to our word. Mostly to make it about THEM and not about US or our own EGO.
“Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Upon reflection the point I wanted to make was not important. She shrugged it off for this very reason. I thought it was my job to make her see things my way. Through this experience I had a major internal shift. My job was to attempt to see things through her eyes. She does not belong to me and it is not my job to control her, or ‘hurt’ her into seeing things my way. My job is to work on me, so that I can be an example of how to live a joyful life. My job is to be a ‘coach’, so that she can learn effective communication skills to have an amazing and joyful life.
Children get over things quickly. At first I mistook this for a ‘lack of caring’. In reality, they just move on. So I started to learn how to ‘move on.’ I started to ask ‘how important is this’. Some things like messes, not climbing on the furniture, not playing with mommy’s camera in the river or flushing her IPhone down the toilet are not really that important even though at the time they hit those internal negative cords within me. So what’s this really about and what message do I want to teach my children?
In these instances, it’s about being mindful to the message I want to teach my children. So my conversations shifted away from “Get off that, how many times do I have to tell you not to climb up there, not to touch my phone, not to use mommy’s things”. This negative rhetoric usually begets a negative response.
Instead my conversations shifted to teaching my children how to be mindful in a way that held meaning for them.
“When you climb on things they may break and you may get hurt. I love you and don’t want you to get hurt. It is also inconvenient when things break because mommy has to spend time fixing them instead of playing with you.” This powerful language motivated them to give me a hug or say ok mommy. WOW.
They still climb on things. However, they know that my concern is for them and they understand the consequences of their actions. The latter negative response just taught them that mommy is a broken record player without any valuable message for them to grow upon.
“The real question isn’t whether you love your kids or not, but how well you are able to demonstrate your love and caring so that your children really feel loved.” – Stephanie Martson.
When my children act crazy and I see scornful looks from others, do I make it about me? Or do I think to myself, they are just being kids, and their well being is more important to me than my OWN SELF IMAGE. When they leave the light on, don’t put away the folded laundry or finish their chores do I make it about ME with thoughts like “they don’t respect me, listen to me, appreciate me, I would never have gotten away with this as a kid, me, me, me me, me, me?”
Instead do I say to them “when I was your age I never put my things away either. So I understand. However, we are a team and we all do things we don’t want sometimes. When you want to go to skate station, or have me jump on the trampoline or have friends over, I don’t really want to do those things, but I know they are important to you. So I do them. This is important to me.” Almost without fail I hear “ok mommy, we will do it”.
Please note there is no ‘If you don’t do this you will not get this or that. If you do this you will get this reward or that reward.’ These techniques stretch beyond bribes, threats and punishments and into CONVERSATIONS that create mutual trust, respect and understanding.
We use the bribes and threats for sure! However, they became a rarity now that we have moved into meaningful conversations through the power of Language!
Accept you may not know
Be willing to be a beginner. To ask questions. To open your mind to learning.
Then you will begin to understand.
But to LEARN you must apply this understanding. Take Action and Live It. Living it will produce results that understanding alone….. Will not.
Do it. Live it. Live in it. Focus on it. Be mindful of it. Reflect upon it. And do all this with the idea “What do I need to change in ME to shift these patterns which produce MY INTERNAL REACTIONS which I ALONE CREATED AND AM RESPONSIBLE FOR”.