Whenever Jessie and I have time to ourselves (coffee dates, lunch dates, dinner dates, running errands, taking a walk, etc.) there is one topic bound to come up… parenting! Most of the time we make a significant effort to get time alone so that we can think or talk without being interrupted by the children’s incessant needs, but then ironically, we always end up thinking about them and talking about them. The kids take up a significant mental bandwidth whether we are in their presence or absent from them. In their absence, Jessie and I are constantly discussing:
- How do we become better parents in general?
- How do we better parent each child specifically?
I remember one date Jessie and I had at the Bonefish Grill in Destin, Florida where the tables are covered in brown paper and you are greeted by the waiters unique ability to write their names upside down on the paper with crayon. Jessie and I took that idea and ran with it. We spent the rest of our dinner date writing down all of the goals we had as parents and how we might accomplish these goals.
It was our goal for our children to be:
We constantly encourage our children to follow the flow of passion in their lives, to follow their dreams, to learn how to learn, to give first, and to serve others with their interests, talents, and passions… and most importantly… to trust their inner voice (to trust themselves)!
We ended up writing down a few ways we, as parents, can accomplish these goals:
- Lead by example – this is the #1 way we feel our children will learn from us. We must continually act in a way we want our children to act (independent, courageous, confident, joyful, healthy, honest, respectful, etc.) Sometimes, it is difficult as a parent, because there is a tendency to not let your truth shine completely in effort to live for your children, but I am convinced that being yourself and being vulnerable as a parent is more powerful than hiding parts of who you are. As Marianne Williamson so eloquently wrote, “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people the permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
- Get on their level – when we get on our kids’ level (whether we take a knee to speak to them eye-to-eye, go to them to speak to them, or just play with them on the floor), they feel our presence, the respect we have for them, free to speak their mind, and feel valued as a part of the family.
- Let them be – everything is going to be OK. By letting them make mistakes, learn, and make new mistakes, they will grow to be strong, confident people who can test things out in the “real world” and try new things and not worry about making mistakes at every turn. So we let them make mistakes and do it themselves (when appropriate for their age).
- Catch them doing the “right” thing – this is something Jessie brought into our relationship and I am grateful for it! As a pilot and Kai Zen (continuous improvement) enthusiast, I am on the constant lookout for things that can be improved upon or corrected. That has to be just draining for people in my day-to-day life. Focusing on catching the kids doing the right thing is a beautiful shift towards the positive things the kids are doing all of the time… AND… when they are aware we notice them in this light, the energy in the family takes a change for the better.
- Focus on ‘what you want‘ NOT ‘what you don’t want’ – Here is another wonderful thing Jessie brought into our parenting philosophy. As a kindergarten teacher she learned by experience that when she asked her students to “stop running in the hallway” or “don’t run in the hallway,” the students kept running in the hallway. When she began asking her students to “walk in the hallway,” everything magically improved. As parents, it is so easy to say “stop doing that…” or “don’t do that…”, but I swear you may as well just ask them to do that thing you do not want them to do, because you get the same result. When we ask our kids to do exactly what we want them to do, it is a game changer.
- Say “Yes,…” – as parents, we are bombarded with statements of desire and questions from our kids constantly. Can I watch a movie? I want gum. Can I go play with my friend? Will you take me shopping? Can I have a popsicle? …and on an on it goes. It is so easy to have “No.” as a hair-trigger response. It lands differently for the kids when we say, “Yes, we can watch a family movie… on Friday night.” “Yes, you can have a piece of gum… after dinner.”
As a parent for just over fourteen years now, I have realized I am still on a journey of discovering myself and being in alignment with my inner being, my source, my God and the greatest gift I can give my children is the encouragement, support, freedom, and love for them to trust themselves and find the space to be in alignment with their inner beings.
They say it takes a village to raise a child… What goals do you have for your family? What are your key parenting principles that work for you and your children? Let us know what is working for you.