Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Magic All Its Own


Parenting is not easy. Sure, it can be fun, worthwhile, and it is always a great privilege, but anyone who says it is easy, has no idea what they are talking about. If you got into parenting because you thought it was going to be easy, only to realize it is the single most difficult thing you will ever do, rest assured, there are many who join you in that discovery.
That being said, parenting can be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have. Seeing your newborn smile for that first time, take their first wobbly steps, speak words only you can understand, and learn new things on a daily basis....that is part of the magic of parenting. And that is why we keep doing it, over and over again, generation after generation. Despite all of the muck that comes along with that magic.
I am not an expert on parenting. I still have much to learn. With that in mind, I want to share some simple suggestions that may help to make your own adventure, one of joy and love.
    1. We set the tone As parents, we are the ones who decide what type of environment we create for our children (and for ourselves). If you feel like your home is constantly in chaos, if your kids are fluent in Whinese, or if you never seem to get ahead, it is time to sit down and check yourself, before you wreck yourself (and your entire team of little ones). I do this. A. LOT. I wish I could say that I live my life, constantly full of cheer and endless patience, never losing my temper or my focus on priorities. But the truth is, I am and always will be, working towards becoming a better me, partly so that I can be a better mom and have a happy family. One of the things I have learned, is that my children mirror my emotions, be they positive or negative. Let's just say that I take time outs, more than my kids do. When I notice crying, whining, distress, etc., I can almost always trace it back to myself. So, how DO you maintain a positive, nurturing environment in your home? Begin with personal prayer, meditation, setting personal goals (and working towards them on a daily basis) and being willing to admit when you are wrong. Breath. And remember WHY you began parenting in the first place, to experience the joy of watching these little ones grow into truly amazing adults. What a privilege!

    2. This, too, shall pass It is so easy to forget that this mortal life is only temporary. Everything that happens, happens for a reason. Even all of the muck that you will have to go through, is there to make you stronger and help you to grow into who you will finally become. The fact that this life is temporary should help you to remember that, whether you are experiencing joy or sorrow, stress or complete contentment, it is all temporary. ENJOY the moments of reprieve, cherish those blissful times when your children are in complete harmony with one another, when the stars all align and the world is easily seen as perfection, and appreciate the age when they think you are their world and can do no wrong. Realize that these moments are temporary, don't take them for granted, and live in the here-and-now. On the same hand, recognize that what may seem like the worse thing that could ever happen (and we have had a few of these, in our home), is only temporary. Whatever you are going through, it will evolve, change, and become something better, something to learn from and grow out of. True joy comes from being able to learn from the past, look to the future, and LIVE in the present. Sooner than you know it, your little ones will no longer be little. Enjoy them at EACH and EVERY stage of life and accept that you will make mistakes along the way, as well. It is all a part of the process. I promise.

    3. Finding common ground I have always enjoyed looking for ways to connect with other people. Common interests, traits, friends, whatever I could find to connect. I have a great love for people, all people. I love being able to find something that we share, so that we can connect. It is the same way with our kids. While it is easy to find connections between ourselves and our children, I think it is much more difficult to find connections between our children that will bring them closer together. But it is SO WORTH IT! In our home, we have been able to find several shared interests. We all seem to love to travel and learn about the world and the many cultures it encompasses. We all love to build and create. And most of us love to read. I have used these connections to create lasting relationships and memories for myself and for my kids. Through our travels (and future travels), building Lego villages together, reading books as a family, etc., we are able to make those connections. And those “connections” are what keep our family happy and free of contention. When my children have a common purpose or goal, even if it is as simple as working together to get the kitchen clean so that they can play video games for a few hours (once a week), they seem to work better when they find common ground, when they are on the same page. It is amazing! Try it sometime, with fellow employees, strangers, or family members you Can. Not. Stand. Find that common ground with them and you will know why it is so magical!

    4. Natural Rewards
    Too much of my early days as a parent were spent bribing and threatening. And I am not saying that I am completely bribe or threat-free, but I have taken some time to evaluate the benefits of using these methods and have to come to the conclusion that they should be used sparingly, if ever. Here is why. When you use either of these methods for getting your young children to accomplish a task, behave in a particular way, or for any other purpose, you are creating a sense of entitlement or fear within that precious being. They will come to expect that they should always get some sort of named reward for what they should be doing without any reward (other than the feeling of accomplishment and peace that comes when we do good things). It can lead to them learning to avoid getting in trouble, by lying. They may eventually grow to resent you. It is a vicious I am fervently working towards breaking.
    We decided not to pay our kids to do the jobs they should be doing, as a part of our household (but if you have allowances, kudos to you!). And I have been working on cutting back on treats for a few years now, so we have come up with healthy, natural rewards for getting work done. They know that the natural reward for cleaning up and getting required school work done (we only have a few things we require of them, mostly we work to inspire them), they have free time to do the things they want to do. This works well, because this is reality. I know that if I get my chores done and keep a tight budget, I will have time to do the fun things I want to do and the money to use for whatever I choose. It is a great way for them to learn to enjoy working, through natural consequences and rewards.

    5. Distraction & Redirecting Early on, I decided to use the tactic that works well with very young children, distract or redirect. When a child is upset, I help them to calm down, find out what is wrong, and refocus their attention on something positive. It works well with helping kids to overcome phobias, accidental injuries, or any other sadness/fear. I use it to calm my kids and I also use it to help them to focus on whatever they like about the task at hand. I use it to create a space for love, when they are struggling with each other. If I can find something for us to refocus on, instead of whatever problems we are having, soon my kids have forgotten what they were upset about. They are free to love and be loved, because they have chosen a new direction. It works well with younger kids and hopefully, by doing this consistently, they will learn how to effectively let go of hard feelings and refocus on what is important, on their own, someday. After all, my job is to give them the keys to a healthy relationship. Some day, I won't be there to redirect, they will have to discipline themselves and make the choice to choose love with whomever they are dealing with, a room mate, a companion, a fellow employee, spouse, child, etc.

                6. Choice & Accountability I am a firm believer in the Adversary. His plan was all about removing the choices that might bring us down. He wanted to make sure we never made mistakes, we never had to feel pain, we never had to endure misery. I get that. But his plan would also inhibit us from the ability to feel the joy that we find in making righteous choices. His plan would have prevented us from finding ourselves, through much trial and error, from learning from all of our mistakes. His plan would keep us from ever getting back to be with our eternal family, our Heavenly Father and Mother. One of the greatest gifts our Father gave us, was choice....and accountability. As parents, I believe that is one of the greatest gifts we can offer, as well. This has probably been one of the most difficult things for me to comprehend, as a parent. I want my kids to be happy, to not make all of the same mistakes I made (and believe me, there were and are SO many). It seems so much easier to just tell your kids that they have to do something that you have chosen for them, because you know it is right.
                In our home, we use a great method from Love & Logic (one of the best courses we ever took), where we give our children a choice with as many things as we possibly can. Some common choices might be, “Would you like to clean up your mess now or in 5 minutes?” (the answer is almost always 5 minutes). I set the timer and they know in 5 minutes they are expected to clean up. But, they feel a little better about having to clean up. Why? Because they had a choice in the matter of WHEN they were going to clean up. The key to giving choices, is to find two choices that you, as the parent, are okay with. At bedtime, I am okay if my child has the hall light on or off, if their bedroom door is open or shut. Frankly, it doesn't matter to me at all. But to a child, who is constantly being told what to do and how to do it (at least that is how they feel sometimes), they need to be able to recognize all of the freedoms they do have. They hear “Don't go out into the road. Don't touch the hot stove. Don't fill up several cups of water and dump them all over the bathroom floor and into the hallway....” well, maybe that's just my kids that get to hear that, but you get the point. They need to be given and recognize all of the many choices they DO have, so that when they really don't have a choice in the matter, they are okay with that. When you are in a situation where there are no safe choices other than the one you give them, they will feel better about it because they know they have a multitude of choices to choose from, all day long. It is a good thing, a very good thing.
                When your child grows and becomes a young adult, a lot of the choices are placed in their own hands. At that time, you have to learn to accept the things you cannot change. Our oldest child was and is very independent. She was extremely obedient and very helpful, until she hit around 14. Then we had to go through a great learning process. We had to learn how to accept that we didn't have control over most of what she did. We could expect certain rules to be followed and have reign over what some consequences were, but in the end, she would make decisions on her own. It was a very humbling experience for both of us. We learned the next lesson....

                7. Love is the ultimate discipline
                  As parents of young children, we have so much control over our children's environments and lives. After living a life, full of our own parents, teachers, bosses, community leaders telling us what to do, it is kind of strange to be put in a position of authority. It is easy to get a little heady about the power God grants us, as parents, to forget that we are supposed to be stewards, mentors, protectors, nurturers of the most divine gifts ever allotted a human being. I am not going to advise others on how to discipline their child, that is their own prerogative. But I will attest to the fact that it is so much easier (SO MUCH EASIER) when you work on building a loving relationship and loving your child UNconditionally, instead of having them live in a constant state of fear, finding absolute obedience from that fear. I am not perfect, far from it (or anything that remotely resembles perfection), but I have been working on instilling one piece of knowledge within my own children's hearts. And that is that I love them, no matter what they do, what they say, or where they end up in life. I am honest about how I feel about whatever they are doing, don't get me wrong. But I am also able to share the logical side of why I think some of their choices might bring them confusion or sadness later on, because I can separate myself from their decision long enough to set my feelings aside and speak logically. It isn't an easy task, letting go of the power you can have as a parent. It reminds me of the part in Lord of the Rings, where Frodo offers Galadriel the one ring....yeah. We have to be willing to let go of a little of our own ego, to gain a deeper and more meaningful relationship with our child.

                  I don't mean that we should let our children walk all over us or that we should be friends INSTEAD of being a parent. But it always bothers me a little, when people justify abuse or using harsh words with their child (and believe me, I am not sinless in the harsh words department, I have said my share, unfortunately) because they believe they can't be both a friend and a parent, simultaneously. It is a tough balance, but it is still possible to accomplish. To see into your child's soul and love who they truly are and build a relationship, based on that glimpse of hope, despite whatever troubles you are going through together. I know. I have been that parent, searching for answers and struggling to maintain a loving relationship with a very independent and stubborn child. I am sure there will be more opportunities for me to experience. I say, “Bring it on! I will love them all the way through their crazy stages of life, even if some of those stages last their entire life.” That is the magic of love.

                ~.~ the purple sprout


              1. I love this. We don't have little ones but love that we can be still great example to the little folks. So well said!! To see into your child's soul and love who they truly are and build a relationship, based on that glimpse of hope, despite whatever troubles you are going through together. I know. ~ VERY well said. Jorge/Evielynne MrsCraftyRVing

                1. Aw! Thanks, Jorge & Evielynne! I truly love every one of them, even on their very worse days. :)