Somewhere between birthing a baby and today, I had a huge revelation: these little human beings we’re raising are seriously amazing little sponges. For example, on the way to a birthday party recently we passed some windmills. N asked if they were airplanes. I could have simply said, “No, they are windmills.” But instead, I continued just a smidge further, “Windmills make electricity that give us things like light that help us see better.” He said okay and we headed to our birthday party. Several hours later, on the way back from the party, N saw the windmills again. He said, “Windmills make light to see better.” I know he was just repeating me and he doesn’t understand the intricacies of how that is actually happening, but it still blew my mind.
My point is, now is the time for me to actively introduce N to values that are important to me. He is learning from my words and by my example (well, and many other people’s examples but all I have control over is mine). So, here are a couple of the things I’m working on speaking and showing:
Kind & Calm Words
I work really, really hard to use kind and calm words regardless of the situation or my level of anger, frustration or annoyance. I say, “I work hard” because this isn’t something that comes all that naturally to me in heated moments. When N chooses to write on our white door or pull a drawer out of a night stand and dump the contents all over the floor because, “I needed to,” my patience is truly tested. In these moments, I have to work to not scream or growl unproductive words at my son. Learning through trial and error, I have come to realize I am much more successful at discipling when I am firm and strong but calm and loving. When I lose my temper, N inevitably showcases a large, and quite impressive, temper and it takes us much longer to get back to the task at hand. Still, I am human and I sometimes fail.
So, it is in these times, I practice apologizing. At work I regularly preach to our team, we are human, we all make mistakes; it’s how we handle the follow up and come back from them that counts. And I truly believe that both personally and professionally. In regards to my relationship with N, this means being genuine and honest about the mistake or miscommunication; reminding him of the love I have for him and the intention of my action; providing an example of how I could have handled the experience better and will try to next time (Bonus: now I have a strategy for the next time I’m in the same situation); and addressing any solution to the problem at hand. We are a super affectionate family, so I usually follow this up with a hug or snuggle if he is ready to participate.
On the same token, I think it is critical to be fully engaged and accepting when my child is apologizing to me. There will be no shaming or guilt pushed his way. In these moments, I go down to his level; tell him I appreciate his apology and how his action made me feel; and that I accept his apology, forgive him, and love him.
Failure is Okay
In an effort to help him understand, I also teach that failure is okay. As I mentioned in my 2015 Resolutions , I struggle with perfectionism. There are times I will procrastinate, avoid risk, and “over-control” for fear of failure. I recently heard someone say avoiding risk is avoiding opportunity. I thought that was really insightful. So, I’ve been trying to find a balance for this perfectionism. After all, there are really great components of being a perfectionist such as the things I take on get the very best of me and I’m always seeking greatness. But, I’m really working on looking at failure as a journey or practice. That, in order to learn and grow, failure is inevitable. I’m working to accept it and not run from it. And, I’m working on teaching my son the same thing. I’m trying to help him not feel ashamed or defeated when he fails. Instead, I want him to see these experiences as an opportunity to learn and to begin correlating it as a practice so next time he will open to the vulnerability of trying something new or different.
Embrace What You Love Simply Because You Love It
Maybe then, he will find something he truly loves. As an over-thinker and over-communicator, it has taken me a long time to really listen to my heart and to shut down the noise of other people, self-doubt, and my play-it-safe conscious. Sometimes, you just have to do what you want to do because you want to do it (of course within reason!). N loves, LOVES Planes Air Rescue and Dusty Crophopper. I have watched this movie, seemingly, a billion times and he carries his Dusty plane everywhere. There is a part of me that wants to say, let’s watch a different movie or grab a new toy. But, this is what he loves right now, so I’m also embracing it. Sure this is in a much smaller context than adult responsibilities and issues but I believe it is laying the groundwork.
Universal Love & Non-Judgement
I also believe part of this groundwork is acceptance. And, part of acceptance is teaching our children that although something may be different or not our choice, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong or bad. We are not born with judgments or preconceived ideas; these are taught or learned. And my son will learn that he is not better than anyone else and everyone deserves opportunity.
As I write this, I wonder if these things will be as important to N as they are to me. Even though I may lay all the right groundwork, he will still be free to make his own choices and develop his own opinions and that is something we are all entitled to do as individuals.
Do you hammer certain values into your children? Are they expected to follow your value system? Or do you guide them and let them decide on their own?
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