Thinking back on my childhood, the landscape of parenting today is almost unrecognizable. We were outside playing everyday with no supervision, expected to come in when the street lights turned on. Today, the police are called when children walk down the street to the park without an adult.
What does this mean for parents? We are getting the message today that we are expected to actively parent as human doings, not just human beings. This mindset can make us feel that we are failing if we are not DOING something for or with our children at all times. The internet is replete with parents screaming out for a reprieve from the endless string of snow days. Would we have the same level of fatigue if we didn't feel the constant need to entertain and edify our children around the clock?
This month, do you!
1. The golden rule of parenting: Treat yourself like you'd like your child to treat herself
Are you taking time to nurture yourself physically and mentally? Create a routine and practice regularly, even if your child is with you.
- Play when your children play. Read a book you love, craft, garden. Whatever your play is, put your energy in it. When you model enjoying life, your child will understand, "I can be my own best company."
- Carve out time to care for yourself. Create a routine to maintain your physical, mental and emotional hygiene. When it's time for yoga, belly dancing, meditation or whatever your thing is, make this time sacrosanct. Make yourself unavailable! Set a timer if your children need a concrete reminder, but you can send the message, "I'll be available when I'm done." What if your child is upset or doesn't like waiting? It's ok, you are modeling how to care for yourself, your child is learning that it's important to put self first at times.
2. Try the "Child's Game." We get caught in the trap of feeling we need to help, guide, teach, and entertain our children all of the time. Our children need time to explore without instruction and guidance. Setting out time to just be with your child while he plays is a wonderful way to be together. Set aside 15 minutes to sit down with your child while he plays. Don't guide, direct or praise. Instead of pray try mirroring. When your child says, "Look at the tower you built," you can say, "Look at that tower you built!"
(The Child's Game came to me through Monessori veteran, Gini Emigh. She had learned it from a local psychologist, Brenda Ball)
3. Human Be, Don't human Do- Rather than helping your child to the other side of the finish line, remember- the process is the finish line.
What is perseverance? Perseverance is a skill that children must practice by completing what we call a "cycle of activity." Often we step in to help our child to the finish line, forgetting that the process is the finish line. What is this cycle of activity?
- The child has observed an activity and has something in mind, whether it is conscious or unconscious. Maybe he has watched someone climb up and slide or maybe he has been taught how to wash a window.
- He chooses the activity
- this means that he must have the freedom and time to choose and all of the items he needs must be within reach
- He attempts to recreate the task
- There is a result that may not be the result he had in mind
- He attempts it again and again, making a change each time until he's reached what he has in mind
- He achieves the result he had it mind
When we don't give the child time to choose his own activity, he doesn't have an opportunity to practice self-direction.
When the objects a child can use to care for himself and his environment, he doesn't have an opportunity to experience independence.
When we correct or direct, he doesn't have an opportunity to experience self-control or self assessment.
When we praise, he doesn't have the chance to compare the result to the outcome he already had mind.
4. Observe and yourself, your partner and your child to notice all of the positive things that are already happening without praising them. Dr. Haines would tell us in training, "Don't water the weeds, put your energy on what you DO want to see." You'll be amazed how transforming this simple exercise can be, but the most important part of looking for the positive in the people around including ourselves, is that we realize the amazing people we already are. We practice acceptance and unconditional love.
This month, let us embrace ourselves as human beings, not human doings.