Silhouette, group of happy children playing on meadow, sunset, summertime

Even Ground: Why It’s a Better Place to Be

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From where are, and where we’ve come, we are all connected, here, on level ground.

I read an article today on Elephant Journal, of which I’ve linked below. The author is a mum of a young girl, who while endeavoring to support fellow parents and children, came into her own moment of awakening recently. This gained insight not only opened her eyes, but reaffirmed much of her intention to parent gently, with respect, and in reverence of the little person in her care.

It’s not too often I come across a truly kindred spirit in the world of parenting, living with children, nonviolence, empathic connection, etc., but when I do, the smile doesn’t leave my face for days. Today, Shonnie Lavender has brought me such a smile, and my gratitude is spilling out.

Recently, with my pregnancy, the continued work on the house renovations, travel, holiday events and activities, and the general sense of such “a lot”, we’ve had more of a challenge remaining connected than is the usual flow. Life is about change, movement, growth, expansion, and experiencing. Sometimes we get caught up in the whirlwind of all of it and forget to choose our actions and reactions thoughtfully and with intent to benefit. This article speaks to this for me, as well as reaffirms the beauty and value of revering our little ones, and their incredible journey of childhood.


 

Shonnie writes –

“Mentally, it’s much easier to parent by merely replicating what we experienced as children. It’s what we know and it comes “naturally” to us. But I’m not content to do things because they’re easy. I intend to build a relationship that is mutually-respectful, no matter what. A year after I first discovered my habit of usurping my daughter’s power, my belief in my own superiority still shows up on occasion. Whenever I notice that I’ve treated my daughter’s authoritative voice as less valid than my own, I look for ways to restore the balance of power in our relationship.

 

When I wrote vows to my daughter a few weeks after she was born, I promised to take a conscious path as her mother. I committed to do what I could to allow her to stay in touch with her true self, to trust herself and to live as she was meant to live, not just the way I thought she should live.”

The rest of the article can be read here: The Surprising Parenting Insight I Gained

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Relevance & Regret

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When we know better, we can do better….

We educate our daughter independently, in a manner that is driven by her curiosity and interests. This method works beautifully because it inspires, encourages, and ignites her (and us), it also requires relevance be at the root of our activities, which means her mind is ready to receive and expand.

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This is what learning looks like in our home

Yesterday, for whatever reason, instead of flowing with her, I screwed up everything. Instead of observing, I became utterly blind and unaware. Instead of listening, I only heard my voice. Instead of noticing and being, I demanded and shoved. Instead of a joy filled opportunity with her, where her intellect is ablaze, her inexperience a delight, her growth a wonder, and her little Self is safe, I came down like a wrecking ball and smashed her-in the name of accomplishing an agenda I apparently had, which I went on about through force (forcing). Something in me was very off yesterday….

I’m not afraid of her progress being insufficient, not worried by external judgment, and not unimpressed in the least with what she can and cannot do, does and does not yet know. On the contrary, I’m continually impressed, continually in awe, and consistently filled with joy at the wonder of how her mind and body develop. How she directs this development, how she flows and determines her fluidity, is something I revel at observing and having the privilege of being a part. None of that was at play yesterday, and the real trouble here is that I am uncertain what was at play within me – it was a reckless reaction, and one that I regret deeply. The entire experience was a mess, a distorted and negative malformation of what is usually a beautiful, complex, intriguing, and fluid expansion that she and I share together.

My daughter is 8 and academically, with few exceptions, functions at about a year/grade 6 (11-12 years of age). She carries conversations with educated adults, at her initiation, that leave them (and us) with an obvious reverence in their smile, along with an expression of captivation and satisfaction. She resolves things for other kids, invents her own solutions, and is a confident and capable, peaceful little spirit. She does not struggle to keep up with her peers, does not find academic growth challenging, does not have issues with self esteem, and does generally interact positively with all of us, except when her mama flattens all that. I don’t know why I was so intent on her cooperation and delivering of results yesterday, as we worked through a new mathematical concept that was clearly not one her natural development has so far opened a door. I thought it was a simple concept, and in one sense, she did too, but the connection wasn’t an organic one for her, and my pushing of it was the worst possible thing I could have done to support her.

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So, today as I write this lament, I am re-awakening; I remember now my purpose, my intent, my work. I am reminded of the value of non-violence, of gentleness, of empathic connection, of listening. I know all too well how awful it feels to have someone force learning upon a little soul – which never results in learning; I experienced it over and over as a child. Yesterday, my little one, broken in spirit, had tears dripping from her eyes because of my recklessness. Instead of flowing with her, I snapped and threw TNT into her stream. I suppose I can find an explanation or two for my behavior, but doing so would harm even more than I have already succeeded at damaging. So, I will leave all justifications where they lie, and instead pick up today with eyes and ears open, and hope that she will grant me grace and forgiveness.

And when she is ready, the concept we tried to sort through yesterday will come, without force or expectation, but instead a natural clarity, in gentleness.

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This is my baby, thriving in her accomplishment, learning with every single step and breath

 


 

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Sorry Is…

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– On Apology –

“One of the most profound human interactions is the offering and accepting of apologies. Apologies have the power to heal humiliations and grudges, remove the desire for vengeance, and generate forgiveness on the part of the offended parties. For the offender they can diminish the fear of retaliation and relieve the guilt and shame that can grip the mind with a persistence and tenacity that are hard to ignore. The result of that apology process, ideally, is the reconciliation and restoration of broken relationships.”

We were discussing the frequency with which we hear parents directing their children to issue apologies when some social injustice has occurred. To many, it’s mandatory “good parenting” to require one’s child to utter an “I’m sorry” whenever it seems appropriate.  To me, however, requiring an apology of a child or another adult, that being an omission of responsibility and existence of remorse, falls into the category of damaging and simply continues a legacy of superficial disconnectedness. Empathy generates something quite beautiful, something quite genuine and far reaching. This is what we base our decision to not require, or even suggest our child offer an apology, regardless of the situation.

  • What does it mean to make amends?
  • What is reparation?
  • When a response of simple regret is a matter of polite social interaction, can its authenticity be clearly seen?

How can we, as parents, demonstrate these valuable concepts authentically, so that our children, first, experience the benefit of their effect?

How can we provide a pattern worthy of our children’s observance, one that leads to authentic relating, compassion, empathy, and reconnection?

Let’s take a moment and look at the history behind the phrase, “I’m sorry”.

Originally, “sorry” came from “sore” (Middle English, pre 900)

feeling regret, compunction, sympathy, pity, etc.: to be sorry to leave one’s friends; to be sorry for a remark; to be sorry for someone in trouble.

regrettable or deplorable; unfortunate; tragic: a sorry situation; to come to a sorry end.

sorrowful, grieved, or sad: Was she sorry when her brother died?

associated with sorrow; suggestive of grief or suffering; melancholy; dismal.

(used interjectionally as a conventional apology or expression of regret): Sorry, you’re misinformed. Did I bump you? Sorry.

 

The Dalai Lama has much to say on forgiveness, as well as the responsibility we have of owning our actions and offering recompense.  It is said that something he has offered, included in the 18 Rules of Living, concerns offering apology when appropriate.

7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it. And do not let your pride get in the way of taking those steps. Apologize, taking full responsibility. That will speak for your character more strongly than the action of making the mistake in the first place.

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There is a site entitled Emotional Competency, which discusses the art and beauty of the apology at length. Below is an excerpt:

The Paradox of Apology

A genuine apology provides so much benefit with so little cost, it is surprising and unfortunate it is not more common. The decision to apologize is a tug-of-war between stubborn pride and guilt. Since guilt is authentic, and stubborn pride is not, it seems best to get on with the apology. Making a sincere apology is an act of courage, not a sign of weakness. Many people are reluctant to apologize because they fear either humiliation or retaliation. This is unfortunate because most genuine apologies elicit gratitude as the response. Failing to apologize can be a costly dominance contest that prolongs bad feelings in a relationship that could have been easily avoided or foreshortened.

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We have made the decision as a family to not instruct, encourage, or expect apologies from one another, but to instead request them when one feels it would result in reconnection and reparation, personally. We have also made the decision to not offer apologies for the actions of another, nor to expect another to offer an apology, regardless of whether the situation appears to warrant such. If, as an adult, I see a situation occur and I feel compelled to off my acknowledgement of the other person’s difficulty, I will do so.

In simple terms:

I will not instruct my child to offer an apology, I will not bring upon her a sense of shame.

I will not apologize for my child’s actions, that is her right to handle her situation as she sees best.

I will be observant and aware of my child’s interactions with others, and if a situation arises in which I feel compelled to offer my acknowledge and/or empathy for another child/person’s experience, I will offer them my authentic awareness and acknowledgement. My child is likely to witness this interchange, and I choose to communicate my own expressions in such a way that upholds my child, never diminishes my child, and maintains a path, in a positive environment, to give my child the opportunity to make amends if they make that choice.


Finally, if interested – I appreciate some of what Patricia has said here:

The Meaning of ‘I’m Sorry’

JUNE 6, 2011

What exactly do we mean when we say “I’m sorry”? It can be an apology (”oops I didn’t mean to do that”), a regret (”I should have done that.”), an excuse (”not my department”) or an expression of empathy (”I empathize with your pain, suffering, situation, and don’t pretend to have a way to ‘fix’ it so I’ll just be present with you”).

Recently, I have experienced “I’m sorry” as more of an excuse to lessen the punishment and/or as a promise that that they will not do something again such as I’m sorry…I yelled at my employee, stole from the organization, continue to act inappropriately etc. (you get the picture). The unfortunate thing is that people are saying “I’m sorry” without meaning it. Like “I love you” it is important when said genuinely, but prone to overuse leading to cheapening of meaning.

What has happened to individuals saying it to mean what it originally meant: I’m pained by the sadness/grief/trouble that I created. My actions/behaviors will change to reflect how authentic I am with this apology.   An apology is not only a potentially powerful act, but it can be a powerful tool when used appropriately. This power can help with settling conflict and moving forward.  By contrast, a botched apology can exacerbate the conflict and become itself the subject of conflict.

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Educated by Preschoolers

The image shown below is floating around FB.  The obvious topic is gender based behavioral conditioning imposed by society’s stereotypes, and I imagine that is what the majority of the conversations surrounding the image/message will be about.

When I saw this, and read through the captions, I was able to simply go through the first three paragraphs, with what might be considered appropriate acknowledgement and compassion, but then when I reached the final paragraph, my perspective shifted greatly.

The final statement reads as follows: “What does it say about society when a group of adults could stand to take a lesson in humanity from a class of preschoolers?”

 

It says, if they listen with humility and are open to growth, that they are wise.

There is great value and worth in adults paying attention and restoring the gentleness and wisdom in acceptance and equal value in one another that children are often inherently given to (before they are conditioned by adults to think otherwise).  Young children are no less intelligent or inferior in any way to an adult. We can, if we open our eyes and our minds, learn great things from one another. Universally.

A significant aspect of the concept of truly admiring and acknowledging our children, while in their childhood, is to inherently and intuitively know that children are wise, and able to offer perspective that often reaches far beyond and is much more thorough than adults often find themselves capable of.  Why is this?  I think it comes from simplicity found within a child’s mind, untainted, unconditioned, unscarred.  My ultimate aspiration is to raise my daughter without conditioning her, tainting her, or influencing her to associate anything negative with that which is neutral.  I hope to help her develop her discernment. Her ability to see clearly and discern what is beneficial from what isn’t is already very apparent and is demonstrated in her actions, words, and body language.

A child who has not yet been influenced to think otherwise, will see every creature as valuable, equal of worth, and worthy of acknowledgement and consideration.  Children see differences because their minds are attuned to seeking out patterns.  However, those differences are simply differences, that serve to assist the mind in categorization and recognition, not bigotry.

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Punishment is Retaliation

Such a simple sentence, yet so profound, it has permanently changed me.

Punishment is retaliation.

Discipline is a choice from within, rooted in integrity, awareness, and purpose.

Management of self and one’s emotions is necessary to provide a stable, reliable, harmonic environment for relationship and the beneficial growth of children’s minds.

Sometimes we just need to look at our world through their viewing portal… What a generation of empathic, aware, and respected humans we could grow.

I will begin a series on the value of guidance vs consequence delivering/punishing (what our society so often labels, “discipline), including punishment vs simple result over the coming weeks.  I have not had the ability to devote the amount of time and focus here that I have hoped this past year, but with a bit of luck, our conversations will inspire and much thought will follow.

Welcoming a year of blessing, benefit, and reverence.

 

 

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Trusting the Process

Being worthy of their trust, by first demonstrating our trust in them

 
A while back, I saw the following comment on a page from which I often take a few moments to share, learn, and find my inspiration.  The site is Natural Motherhood, and the FB page has continuously active conversation.One day, I came across the following request for encouragement, and it stayed with me for a while.  So often, I wish I could reach out and wrap my arms around these brave women and men, choosing to parent against the collective, and instead forging ahead in the way they know is most beneficial for their children, their family, and our world.    I wish I could step into their space, smile gently face to face, and share the quiet knowing that flourishes inside us.
Here is the thought; I hope you will journey through this with me.
“Hi, I need some advice please. My little ones are almost 3 and 15mos. We practice gentle, compassionate parenting. Lately I have been getting the, I told you so” from family members. I am having a hard time and am at a loss. My kids are both wild, rambunctious, whiney and just don’t hear me when I talk to them. We can’t take them places because of how they behave. My littler one screams and throws tantrums almost all day long…if I don’t give her exactly what she wants when she wants she loses it completely. I am just exasperated and exhausted. I’m not sure what to do and I feel like I’m failing miserably as a parent. My grandma says my parenting style has “created little brats.” It breaks my heart.”
Reading requests for help like these, my first response is to shake my head side to side, like an eraser is used.  I actually visualize an eraser sometimes, like the Mister Eraser on the show, “The Color Crew”.  Aeehghhh… I want to say.. “Neh, stop, back up, start over, scratch all that.”  I want to say, “Go to the beginning.  Start there, find your gentleness and find their eyes, then take a step forward in the process.  The forest, the trees, the entire system, we have to have water, sunlight, and roots.”  Find some dirt, and start drawing whatever comes to mind, maybe you’ll be blessed and your children will join you.

When we can see the world through our children’s eyes, from the perspective their minds can comprehend, our own eyes are opened and our understanding, compassion, wisdom, and most importantly, our grace expands exponentially. Gentle grace with ourselves and one another allows us to patiently trust the process of life as it unfolds and develops.

When we are struggling, it is most often a result of discomfort, strain, or our own emotional needs being unmet to some degree. Our children are mirrors. Step one, identify expectations and determine whether they are there out of mutual benefit and meeting of needs, or an underlying fear/concern/need for control.

The judgement of others comes, and when we let it in, it impacts us and we end up questioning ourselves. Instead, we can choose to empower ourselves by choosing to bring our mind to a place where we can see the world through our children’s viewing portal.  Instead of expectations imposed by the adult world, we see the value of being a child. Bringing yourself to their physical height, while making this choice to see through their eyes, has a profound effect, btw.

Children hear so much more than we sometimes realize, both in the words we do say and those we do not.  They “hear” us at a core and integrated level that we, as adults, have often forgotten.  Compliance and Listening are two very different concepts.

How often, as an adult, do we appreciate our day being managed extensively?  How apt are we to happily comply with constant overseeing, herding, redirection, correction, scolding, disapproval, annoyance, irritation, expectation, and the reproach of someone who sees themselves as “over” us, for whatever reason.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not much in the market for being told when to use the bathroom, what I will eat, when to get myself dressed and what to wear, how to speak, when to speak, what I should respond to because someone else thinks so, how to spend my free time, and finally, precisely when and how I am to cause myself to sleep.  It’s a cacophony of being controlled and not being good enough.

Step back.  Step out if you have to.  Change your expectations, discover what is worth appreciating and being downright in awe of, and watch how your approach and reactions follow the shift.

If your children are whining, they are not being heard by you.  Their needs are not being met in ways that they need most, or they cannot trust that you will respond reliably.  This is the purpose of whining, to be acknowledged and have our needs be addressed.

If your children are wild and rambunctious, relish their energy.  Find a way to catch their excitement and their enthusiasm, and enjoy some for yourself. The more you move, the more energy you will have. The more you laugh and squeal, the more laughter and joy your life will know.  The more you look, the more you will see.  The more you listen, the more you will take in, the greater your perspective and understanding will be.

Screams, tantrums, outbursts that are not positive, these are desperate attempts at being heard and understood.  Adults do the same, but some with a bit more refinement and calculation for effect, children act on impulse.  I love their purity of spirit.  They do what they know, what they have been shown, and whatever they have discovered is effective.  If you want your child to stop having such outbursts, then hear them and respond in a loving and fair manner BEFORE they have to resort to such efforts.

It’s a tough job, and it requires something that all of us can give, but some of us have to find and develop first.  But when we realize the difference parenting in a way that guides but doesn’t diminish, encourages curiosity without expectation of performance, and truly reveres the process and challenge that is Childhood, we end up with harmony and flow.

I will begin to write with specific example/scenario for the purpose of comparison, and to bring to real life all the concepts here.

Also something to remember… Our Little Persons are just that… they are not supposed to be small adults. The mind develops on its own schedule, and when we, with grace and wisdom, nurture those minds with acceptance, and trust the process of growing and developing, we are able to step beyond the realm of negativity, fear, expectation, and judgment…

When we choose to revere their childhood, and admire their accomplishment of meeting the challenge of growing and developing, then the natural result is our respect and admiration of them and their autonomy, and we can then truly love them, unconditionally.

 

 

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Driving the Point Home

Yesterday we took our daughter to an egg, er, scramble.  The group that put it together was thoughtful and split up the field into three age categories.  She ran with the 1-4 year olds, their parents..and older siblings.  She came out ok, but next year I suspect she will be a bit more aggressive…. oh, what we teach our children from the very beginning.

After the hunt, we went over to the playground for a while.  There is a feature on this playground built for wheelchair fun; there is a long incline ramp, a bridge, and then a very gentle slide.  Needless to say, the kids on two feet and wheels really seem to dig it, including my daughter.  She spent quite a few moments on this particular piece of equipment, until one time instead of going down the slide, she decided to go up.  She did so at the peril of another girl about her age.

The mother of the other child, my daughter, and my daughter’s father were all within arm’s reach, so the girls didn’t end up with any serious injury physically, but the interplay between my kiddo and her Papa that followed is something I want to talk about.

My daughter has a very solid sense of self, she is articulate and opinionated and we encourage this. She tends to see things for what they are, doesn’t follow the crowd too much, and generally just sort of blissfully fits wherever/whatever she’s doing.  She spends most of her days with me, but often Papa is around, and when he is, she is happiest.  Her desire for his attention, approval, interest in her, and general involvement with her seems to exceed her desire for the same from me.  Consequently, she is much more sensitive to his responses toward her.

She listens to his ideas, to his guidance and suggestion, and to his heart, and most of the time, she does so silently. You can see the acknowledgment on her face, if you’re looking for it, and sometimes in her body language and movements, but her acknowledgement of his communications is almost never verbalized (at least not until later).

Russ tends to be very gentle with her, he gets down physically so he is face to face, he plays, he teaches, he leads by example, he shares himself.  Sometimes, however, he reprimands, and it flattens her. He can be too firm, too rough… this is when the impatience sets in. (Can any of you relate?? I know I can.)  But he can also be direct and loving, yet if he reprimands even in this calm and connected state, she just crumbles. And crumbling can look like falling apart emotionally, but it can also look like defensiveness and anger.

The range of emotional response from her toward him is greater and more intense than it is with me.  There are reasons for this, unique to the personalities of all three of us, which I won’t go into in this post, but understanding this is important to understanding why I notice some of their interactions more than others, and why I’m writing about the one yesterday.

After my daughter decided to assume the position to climb UP the slide, and once her Papa realized that it was going to cause a collision, I think he attempted to verbally intervene. I don’t think she responded however, which agitated all involved, and the girls collided. The mom of the girl helped her daughter, who was upset because of the physical “bump” she’d received, and Russ took our daughter aside.  He knelt down, holding her (or trying to), and I assume began to tell her something along the lines of why he thought it was not a good idea for her to climb up a slide with other children concurrently sliding down the same slide.

I watched from a distance, and saw only the body language between the two… He was irritated but seemed to be providing her “Papa kindness” (which means he was not shouting or diminishing her in some way).  He was talking to her face to face, at her height, but she was pulling away from him and wouldn’t look at him.  He persisted, physically trying to get her to stay near enough to him that they could talk by taking her hand, holding her arm and waist, and attempting to have the conversation. She pushed him off, was defensive, and eventually decided she was done and ran off to play on the opposite part of the playground from him.

This is when I walked over to him and asked what had happened.

I got the run down, followed by a papa expressing his dismay that his daughter just won’t listen to him.

I thought about what I’d seen for a moment and concluded that my husband and my daughter need to spend a lot more time together.  He is intuitive and sensitive, and given the necessary amount of opportunity to discover and experience one another (Papa and daughter), together, he would have been able to see exactly what I was seeing. He would have become aware, would have realized his daughter’s plight and need, would have seen the development that had actually occurred (that was masked and hiding from him in that moment), and he would have been able to diffuse the situation immediately in a way that left both Papa and kiddo with positive feelings about self and environment.

He didn’t see however, not this time. He didn’t realize it in the moment, but our daughter was embarrassed. She was embarrassed by him not realizing that she got the lesson in the very first sentence, the first three-five words, or perhaps even in the physical action of either him helping to prevent a major collision (if he did, I didn’t see), or in the collision itself. I don’t think she’s ever climbed up a slide with a kid coming down before… 

I know the signs of not ‘seeing’ soon enough. I have experienced it plenty of times myself when I don’t see – until later – and then I have to repair. Humility is something I seem to be gaining more and more of, as she gets older… And while I suppose this is a good thing, it doesn’t exactly feel so great.

What her Papa and I don’t sometimes realize is just exactly how little can be so much.. He felt he needed to reiterate to her the lesson he knew she needed to get from the experience, not realizing all the while, she had already gotten it.

When he insisted she give him her attention so he could explain and teach (what amounted to her as reprimand), she rejected him. She fought back to hold on to her dignity and he held on because of his reasons.  I suspect those reasons consisted (at least in part) of him genuinely wanting to encourage her social development, increase her knowledge base for the purpose of future self-safety (just a week ago, she was the kid coming down when another was coming up, and she got hurt), as well as perhaps a sense within him of needing to do something because of the other adults around. (I don’t know what his motivations were, I didn’t ask specifically.) The result of the two, each struggling to be heard, to hold on to their own sense of self and need, was a battle that divided them.

They reconnected an hour or so later, but the rift was there and one of them will consciously remember it (the adult), while the other will subconsciously file it away. It will shape future interactions and perceptions, for both of them.

Wisdom comes from screwing things up, and realizing it.  

What if we, as parents, had the wisdom, awareness, and made the choice to step back from the interplay, while remaining engaged, for the purpose of gaining highly valuable perspective?  Doing so would allow our maturity to prevail, our intuition to be heard, and our awareness could do its job. Imagine what might happen in moments of struggle, where we think we are connected and moving toward each other, when in reality each is standing his/her ground defensively for their own reasons and the distance is actually mounting every second that goes by, if we as the parent/adult stepped back far enough to see. 

~  What would we see?

We might see our inner selves shouting, “Hear me! Hear me! I need to be acknowledged and know my thoughts, my feelings, and my perspective is important and valued. I am significant.”

We might see our children silently shouting, “Hear me! Hear me! I need to be acknowledged and know my thoughts, my feelings, and my perspective is important and valued. I am significant.”


Our children are not emotionally mature. Many of us parents aren’t either. It’s our responsibility to give our children an environment safe for them to be emotionally immature, so they can develop at their own pace.  We can give them this environment because of our own maturity. When we, the adults, are aware of ourselves in such a way that we recognize what is motivating behaviors, what is lying underneath our responses and thought patterns, our perspectives change, as do our reactions. When we, the adults, have accepted ourselves fully, and confidently value ourselves, we have nothing to prove… especially to our children (or the other adults standing by, watching).  We also have nothing to have approved, because we know within us that we are ok. We know that we are beneficial and needed.  We don’t seek out that assurance, it is within us.

Our children seek that assurance until their emotional foundation is solid and developed to the point where they have the ability to provide themselves with this assurance, and regenerate it when it is temporarily not able to be found. How many adults do you know who are still functioning somewhere within this same realm of underdeveloped emotional security?

Power struggles with children are completely unnecessary.  And when they do occur, it is the responsibility of the adult to cause them to cease, and not by winning either. Let’s use this metaphor: Adult and child, each has a water gun and they’re playing a game with each other. The game is going well, until their guns run out of water.  They both need more water, there is only one hose, both need the water before the other one in order to “win”.  Where some adults/parents will demand the water first, others will give the water to their kid first, but then double up efforts in drenching (or let the kid win, which does the same for that child’s sense of self that doubled up drenching efforts does).

What if the adult had the wisdom and awareness to cause the hose to “run out” of water?  The game would have served its purpose, it would have been fun, and the battle that might have ensued, where each (adult and child) have a need to get met for themselves, would simply not have existed. The concluding moments would have been a “truce”, where each side respected the efforts of the other, and they had fun.

Perhaps you think this story is simplistic and unrealistic, maybe even childish… But I challenge you to reflect with an open mind on either the last, or the next time you and your child engage in being heard, and getting your own needs met.. You might just discover a SuperSoaker in your hands.


I’d love to have you share some of your own experiences where you were able to “see” what else was going on inside a battle or power struggle between you and your kid.

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©2015 LEGO/Palle Peter Skov

Here, I Can Do It… You’re Taking Too Long

The other day, we were at a friend’s house and Bugz was playing with the family’s set of Legos. They have a child who has a fetish (they have thousands of Legos), and a truly rare talent. I don’t know how this kid builds the stuff that is produced, but it’s awe inspiring.

Bugz has never shown much interest in blocks, Legos, or other like toys, yet she routinely builds and invents, engineers devices that serve some purpose which is almost either always self evident, or obvious with only a slight explanation.  Legos?  Well, not so much.  At least she doesn’t play them with me.  She will sit for an hour with her Papa and play with them, but not otherwise.  Maybe it’s me…

That said, this day, she’d wandered into the play room where all this family’s Legos are kept, and she actually started to play with them.  She wasn’t exactly building anything, but she had rounded up all the human-like figures and had slipped into the realm of Legoland.

After she’d been occupied for about 20 minutes with the Legos, it became time for she and I to return to our own home.  I began the alerting sequence (more on this in another post), and in the process, the mother of the family noticed Bugz was struggling with attaching a set of crutches (or some like assistance device) to one of the little Lego people.  I noticed too.  I stood silently and watched her struggle. Bugz looked up at me and explained that she was having a hard time figuring out how to get them to stay where she assumed they should.  I acknowledged her plight.  I replied that I assumed I would find it also a challenge.

Nothing more..
She continued in her attempt and I continued in my silent support.

A moment later, the mother of the family whose home we were in, knelt down and took from my daughter the toy she was struggling with.  This woman did so stating, “Here, let me help you.  I can do it”.

I watched my daughter deflate at first, become confused, then annoyed.

A moment later, “Here, Bugz, I think it’s done.  You just have to know how to do it.”, so says this adult, while attempting to shove the toy back into my now disinterested daughter’s hands.

“I don’t want to play with it anymore.” Bugz then got up to leave, but hesitated when the mother in question spat out an sarcastic, “Well, uh, I, humph… ooohhhkkaayyy.”

About this time, I stepped in, ignoring the adult, and knelt next to my standing daughter.  I told her that I thought it was pretty cool she’d assembled the Lego people she had, and that she had been working with them.  She reiterated she didn’t want to play anymore, and I simply acknowledged her, knowing the lack of benefit if I’d gone any further at that moment (with the other mom right there).

All of this happened in the span of less than 90 seconds.

We departed, Bugz was mad.  She wasn’t stating why.

When we got home, I sat down with her, face to face, to have a conversation about her feelings. She was mad.  Mad.  I asked her to help me understand why.  She couldn’t.  She was just mad.

I knew why… so I led her a bit.

“Bugz, was it frustrating to not be able to get those crutches thingies on the little Lego guy?”

“No!”

“It would have frustrated me… but then again, you are much more skilled at Legos than I am.”

“Yep.”

“So, would you have liked me to have helped somehow?”

“No. It was hard though. They didn’t fit right.”

“You’re right… I think the crutches might have been meant for a special Lego person, different than the one you had chosen.”

“Oooohhh…. Yeah, there was one with a cast on its leg. Maybe that would have been the match.”

Pause… (She spent a moment thinking to herself.)

“Why didn’t you want to play anymore with the Legos after (name of other mom) decided to show you how to force the crutches to stay on the Lego person you were working on?”

“I dunno..”

“Did you like that she decided to take care of making them work instead of letting you figure it out?”

“I couldn’t get them to stay on the blue one. I would have tried the guy with the cast on his leg. She made them stay on but it wasn’t right… That’s why I couldn’t get them to… Why did she take it from me?”

“She didn’t trust that you would be able to do what you wanted to. She didn’t trust your ability to play and solve what you wanted to. She thought you needed her help. Did you?”

“No. I didn’t want her to do it for me. I didn’t know why it was stuck and not working…”

“Would you have wanted me to help?”

“No. I could do it. I don’t like that she came in… and I don’t want to play with those Legos ever again!”

“I understand. I don’t think I would have wanted her to take the toy and do it for me either. I think I would have eventually figured it out, or done something to fix it, or just decided to do something else.”

“Yeah.”

“I think your skill with building and tinkering is really cool, so does your Papa.”

“Yeah, I built him a Navigator Rabbit. He has it in his truck… If you stick it in the cup holder, and move the arms here (shows me) and there (shows me) and then  – – -, and it will tell him, ‘Turn right there’, and – – – it will help him know how to get back home to me..”

– Conversation concluded. –

Lesson: Don’t undermine the confidence and self esteem in your child by stepping in, unless you’re asked (or there is a question of safety, perhaps, and then still, do whatever you do with the utmost respect for their ability).  All you’re proving is that you, the adult, don’t think they’re good enough.  Why would you do this? Seriously.  Does the adult have something to prove (besides demonstrating their impatience, perhaps)?

It’s deflating, it’s undermining, it’s destructive to the spirit of the little person.  Instead, given the opportunity to determine what their OWN solution will be, that little person will develop another strong and solid link in their chain of self confidence and assurance.

Why crush a child’s spirit? Why interfere? It causes them to resent that “assistance” and the person who didn’t trust them to succeed.

This is a common response from parents and older siblings, and it’s so damaging (and so easily avoided). Jump ahead a few years and watch what happens when that same parent  behaves this way toward his/her teenage (or worse, pre-teen) child. And we wonder why so many parents have so many struggles with their teens.  Honestly, it’s not complicated.  Stop smashing your little ones, uphold them and honor them for all they are and all they do, respect their autonomy and value, and acknowledge fully all they accomplish and learn – fully admire their development right where it is, right then, right now.

And DON’T STOP when they become old enough to oppose you. Whether that happens at two years, ten years, or 16.  Value that confidence and ability in them, know that your faith in them helped put it there. You don’t want a kid that agrees and follows, complies with everything, and doesn’t think for themselves.  You don’t.  It’s not easier. It’s not better. And if you think this is what would make your life easier, if your teen or pre-teen would just “pay attention and do (whatever it is you want/don’t want them to)”, you’re wrong, and YOU are the problem – fix it by starting with yourself and learning what you did to create the environment and dynamics now unwanted.

~~~

Would you take a few minutes today and make a list of whatever comes to mind that your child(ren) possess a unique or individual skill/ability for. Something exception, something simple. Then, make a list of some things they’re struggling with.  After each line of struggles, explain directly WHY you have faith in them to solve their own struggle to their own satisfaction (not your way).

Now, give them the list (or speak it to a younger child over the next day/two).  Say nothing more. Expect nothing. Just observe and keep your responses to a limited smile and nod, eye to eye, if the child responds at all.

Wait (an hour, a day, a week… maybe months).
– You’ll see.

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Would you take a moment right now and create your list? Would you share it here?

What about an experience you’ve had where you’ve observed the response of a child who has been the recipient of an adult who has ‘stepped in’ where the child would have otherwise succeeded/or not (to their own satisfaction) on their own. Put yourself in the position of that child… What feelings does it evoke within you? Can you imagine now how you – being that child – might feel if, after speaking your opposition to the diminishment, was then also told that opposition was wrong/ungrateful/rude/inconsiderate/disrespectful (or any other slew of condemnations adults might throw)? Do you see what we do to our children when we tell them we don’t have faith in them? Do you? So… just don’t.