I am one of those parents that reads parenting books and then does my best to put their strategies into action. I am at heart a very eclectic person and this is reflected in my parenting and the way I read. I pull pieces from here and there and connect them together in ever changing ways. I have an ability to see connections, patterns and interactions in a never ending spiral. The conversations my DH has to contend with as my brain sparks, oh my.
I have taken parenting strategies from Buddhism for Mothers by Sarah Napthal, in particular, understanding that children need to undergo a bit of hardship, and how to introduce them to meditation in a way that they can understand. Also, Before Your Kids Drive You Crazy – Read This! by Nigel Latta, with his magnificent Ladder of Doom. And right now I am reading Raising Children Who Think for Themselves by Elisa Medus. It is brilliant. And more than any book, I am going to have really look at and change my behaviour.
At the moment, I am in a reflection stage. I am putting in place some changes but more than anything I am reflecting on my own behaviour and language with the children and considering ‘What is the message they are getting from what I am saying?’ ‘What behaviours are my behaviours reinforcing?’
One of the basic premises of the book is that we generally raise our children to rely on external indicators in order to understand their success or what they should be doing. For example, we tell them that they have done a beautiful drawing. Drawing on my philosophy background and post-modernism, it seems that the drawing is only beautiful because the viewer deems it so – if it wasn’t looked at it, would it still be beautiful? The child needs to be able to recognise that they did a beautiful drawing without the external recognition. They need to be able to think for themselves.
This extends into so many areas. I catch myself all the time saying to my son, it is going to be cold today you had better get yourself a hoodie rather than letting him know it will be cold and leaving it at that. He can work the rest out for himself (or not). He can think for himself.
It is not the marks that they get at school that should be celebrated but the hard work and effort they put in to get those marks. I now ask my children how they feel about what they have done before, or instead of, telling them what I think. Encouraging them to think for themselves, develop their own internal barometer.
Lucky I run. While I am out running I am able to decide which particular “thing” I am going to focus on for the day in terms of being a better parent. I desperately would like my children to think for themselves, don’t go with the crowd, and have their moral compass pointed in the right direction. I would like them to be resilient and self assured.
I think we all know this comes from the inside.