If I am not being present with my kids, I respond to them with a comment that has been preprogrammed in me. I respond without really thinking. I always know when I do this because they give me a funny look, or they call me on the carpet. This jerks me back into the present moment. I often wonder exactly what our world would look like if we all responded to each other without the commentary going on inside our heads. What would our world look like if we respond to each other from the heart? How many of us really tell others what we want to tell them? How many times have you felt really connected to someone you just met, but were too scared to let them know because they might think you are strange? I know I have done that. We have been so conditioned to avoid responding from our inner voice. When adults aren’t not in touch with their inner voice, or in touch with what their heart is telling them, their kids will be taught the same lesson. “Look outside yourself for your answers.” The answers will never be found there.
As parents, we are given so much information on the “right” way to parent our children. Depending on the book you read, you may get thousands of techniques and ideas on “the best way” to raise children. I read many books when my children were little, and I was very grateful for those books. The books started me down the path to treating my children with kindness, compassion, and respect. However, there was a point when I had to stop reading the books because I was on information overload! All of this information, coupled with my already pre-programmed information didn’t leave me any room to listen to my heart. I could read all of the books in the world, and none of them would help me be an authentic, respectful parent if I wasn’t responding from my heart. I needed to learn to question the stories, listen to my own heart, and respond to my children from that authentic place.
I think so many parents are afraid of not doing the “right thing” with their children that they get caught up in how to respond to them. This makes it difficult to respond to children from the heart. We can’t respond to our children from an authentic place if we have stories running through our minds. For instance, a child is asking for a cookie before dinner, and our story tells us, “no, that will spoil his dinner”, or “no, she will think she can have a cookie every night if I give into her this time,” or “I need to stand firm and tell him no.” Once we start listening to all of this added commentary, our connection is broken. We are not seeing the child in front of us, we are in the story of all of the reasons our child shouldn’t have a cookie before dinner.
I started seeing a pattern in my parenting when my kids were younger and I was just starting down this path. I noticed that whenever the story going through my mind started with a “he shouldn’t….do this…or have that…or want that,” our connection was broken, and the resulting exchange was always a negative one. I learned to question my stories. When I really paid attention to those stories, they would often make me laugh! They were so ridiculous! Some of the things “he shouldn’t do”, made no sense at all. These stories were conditioned beliefs that I was convinced were true without a doubt. This was the way things were “supposed to be” with parenting. I thought I should have all the knowledge and answers, and the kids should believe and go along with what I said because I was the parent. Boy was I in for an absolutely joyful awakening! I was awakened to the fact that having an incredible relationship with my kids was not only possible, it was what my kids expected. They wanted me to be real with them. Kids don’t want to be in a relationship with someone that is going to tell them what to do, what is good for them, etc. They want parents who are honest, be a partner to them, tell them real answers to their questions, and treat them like real people. Once I started working on myself and my conditioned beliefs, my parenting “job” became a million times easier.
Kids respond authentically when they are treated authentically. They respond from the heart unless they are taught not to trust or listen to their heart. Kids respond with respect when they are treated with respect. Responding from the heart did not happen overnight for me. In fact, it is still a practice for me. I had so many conditioned thoughts and beliefs! It amazes me what we go along with. Many people go along doing the same thing that was done to them, without questioning “why” we are responding in certain ways. Why can’t my son have a cookie before dinner if he wants one? I would certainly eat one if I wanted one. How do I know for sure that it will spoil his dinner? And, so what if it does? He can eat later when he is hungry. Why not allow him to listen to his own body cues?
It is not always easy to go against what our familiar stories are telling us. I know that for sure! It really is an awareness practice. It is learning to awaken your own inner voice, your own heart. When my kids were younger I had to question myself many times a day. I learned so much about myself! It felt so freeing to question all of those beliefs I thought were true. Twelve years later, I am still questioning everything. My world looks like a whole new place now! When I believed my stories, I was closed off to other possibilities. Once I learned to question everything, a new world opened to me. Thanks to my kids, a part of myself that had been buried is now alive and well! My heart is open to all sorts of possibilities now. I eat cookies anytime I want to, and I might even eat more than one right before dinner!
I have a website at www.benurtured.com. I write mostly about personal growth and healing from depression with self-love, but I also write about mindful living, meditation, unschooling, homeopathy, and peaceful living with kids. Hope you will visit me!