Written by Lian Brook-Tyler
This crazy modern world is constantly conspiring to make me forget these 10 things about my children, so this list is a reminder for me as much as anything…
1. When I feel annoyed with them it says nothing about them and everything about my thoughts about them in that moment. No-one can make me feel anything (although it’s a very powerful illusion that they can… especially when they leave damp towels on my bed). Only my own thoughts can create my feelings.
2. Supporting them to come up with solutions works a whole lot better than when I tell them what to do. The more I stick to just asking questions (“Oh, what could you do now?” “What do you know about this?” “What’s worked well before?” “What could you try?” “How could you find that out?”) the more I see they’re perfectly brilliant at figuring out answers for themselves. In fact, I’m noticing that even my questions are becoming redundant.
3. Expecting them to sit still, to sit up straight, to focus, and to stop fidgeting means I’ve forgotten how unnatural that is. A couple of moments spent watching any young animal in nature is a great reminder of how children are designed to move, to play and to explore too.
3. Telling my children what to do makes a lot less sense than modelling it. This means it’s crazy to shout at my children for shouting. It’s illogical to get angry at my son for losing his temper. Here more than ever it’s a case of Ghandi’s multi-purpose advice to ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ If I want a happy, kind and creative household then it makes sense for me to enjoy life, to help others, to tread lightly on this earth, to make things (and yes, baking cakes totally counts!) and to find things to laugh my cheeks off over.
5. They’re not here for me to coerce into the behaviour that I want. Looking for ways I can punish and bribe them to do what I want means I’ve lost sight of the fact that that is no way to relate to any human being. If I don’t want to be manipulated, monitored and managed via time outs, stickers, star charts and the withdrawal of things that I love then it’s a pretty safe bet that my children won’t appreciate that either. Interestingly, the kind of praise/punishment parenting we often consider to be ‘normal’ isn’t actually natural at all, it’s something we short-sightedly adopted from the field of behaviourism (basically: give a rat this and he’ll do that) and it doesn’t tend to work with humans in the long term.
6. They want human connection because they’re… well, human. Expecting them to want to sleep alone, to sit alone, to eat alone, and to be alone is expecting them not to be human. Snuggling together, cooking and enjoying food together, kisses, warm greetings (“Good morning, angel! How did you sleep?”) and expressions of love are the fuel to the human fire.
7. If I get hung up on their behaviour then I’m completely missing what’s creating the behaviour. When I’m judging their behaviour, I’ve forgotten that what they’re doing makes complete sense to them according to their thoughts in the moment. I get a chance to see my children’s needs when I put myself in their shoes and ask “How does the world look to my child right now? How does he feel? Does she need some space, to be heard, a cuddle or something else?”
8. They need space to wander and to wonder. In today’s modern world, the pressure’s on to fill my children’s diaries with clubs, classes and social events. To make sure my children’s schedules are as jam-packed as their peers’ (or the average blue chip CEO’s). But with a diary like that when will they have time to play, run free, find bugs, make dens, climb trees, look for fairies, and to imagine whole new worlds? If their every waking hour is filled with ‘stuff’ when will they learn the art of moving from boredom to creation? Freedom is the medium through which they’ll become resourceful and self-sufficient… there’s no class in the world that can teach them that.
9. I don’t need to try to control them for fear that they’ll ‘go bad’. For any of us living in a community, there are some things that are important to understand: what’s safe and unsafe, what will p*ss other people off and what won’t. (Although there’s actually surprisingly few things that fall into the ‘Important’ category when I stop to really think about the ‘why’ behind something that seems SO important!) The few truly important things such as ‘It’s not OK to hurt ourselves or others’ will form the values that my children will grow to understand and to choose to live by… long after they’ve left home and any control that I could attempt to exert.
10. My children are gifts (but not my personal property). Time passes fast and each moment is precious drop of life flowing on by… I can’t contain, stop or control any of it. Sometimes life gets busy and tough but when I pause to remember that this whole thing is an incredibly unlikely, jaw-droppingly beautiful miracle, it suddenly gets a whole tonne easier to feel grateful for these fleeting, glorious gifts with their rooms strewn with Lego and socks, sticky hands and heart-stopping smiles.