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Learning to Talk With Your Child Not at Them
Far too large of a percentage of parents report not enjoying the job of parenting. It is very difficult to find pleasure in parenting when our focus is on controlling our child and forcing them to obey the rules all the time. When we are rigid and tense, our children feel unloved and become loaded with self-blame. Their need to be accepted as they are goes unmet. When our children live under the threat of criticism or punishment, their need to feel safe is not met. When we open ourselves up to the possibilities of our relationship, trust our child and talk with our child not at them, our parenting experience blooms. Cooperation from our child is fool proof and everyone’s needs are met.
We are told not to be with friends with our child however when we can describe our relationship in this way, we can’t help but become friends. Friendship grows out of mutual respect. Yet just because there is a friendship does not mean that we cannot still parent our child. When our child is younger, we need to teach him/her morals, values and what is and is not acceptable in our society. However, as our child grows, they look for more of our understanding, gentle guidance and friendship. A big part of a friendship is feeling safe with one another to express ourselves fully. This involves talking to our child about what they find to be important, whether they feel something is “good” or “bad”, and what they feel like doing. We can also ask our child how they feel in their bodies in various circumstances. We can ask them if their stomach feels relaxed or as though it is in knots. We can ask them if their heart is racing or if their neck feels tight. We can ask them what they think their body is trying to tell them. If a child feels safe and truly heard, they feel understood. The more open we are and the better listener we are, the more our children will be willing to be vulnerable and authentic with us and the more control they will feel they have in their lives.
Some girlfriends and I met one night and we started talking about the fact that Grade Four seems to be the year that children’s emotions really come into play. It is in Grade Four when more fights using words break out and children’s hurt feelings can take a little longer to mend. My friend told me that when she was a child, she had a teacher that distributed circles made of white cardboard to her Grade Four students each morning. One side of the circle was a happy face and the other was a sad face. Each morning, the children were instructed to turn their card up to show the face that most accurately depicted how they were feeling. If the child turned the sad face up and placed it on their desk, the others knew to tread lightly with that child and be extra kind that day. We all have good and bad days. What this teacher taught her students is that it is okay to have good and bad days and to respect and honour what we are each going through, at any particular time. What a valuable lesson for all of us to learn.
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