five ways to parent with soul, part one

There’s a billboard outside the primary school I pass on my daily travels and for the past few weeks it has displayed this;

challenge for the day – find something good in your child


I don’t know about you but the idea that its a challenge to find good in a child worries me. It reminds me of The One Minute Manager that I had to read when I worked for the Gap years ago. ‘Find something good in your staff, and praise them for it’, is how it went, along the lines of how to win friends and influence people and the like. This billboard doesn’t challenge anyone that far, so I guess its not about kid productivity levels or morale. But as I pass it, even in heavy traffic, it seems apparent that parents might need to see their kids – and parenting itself – differently. So I’m offering some suggestions on how to parent with soul, that is, with acceptance of all its parts, good and bad.

1. Surrender. Yes, you read that right – give up the idea that you’re in control and that everything will go according to your ideas of how it ‘should’. Babies cry for no reason, toddlers poke things in the CD player and preschoolers swear in front of people you want to impress. Teenagers mumble. Some of them do none of these things. Children do as they do; that is the nature of the beast. Rules do not apply, so throw out the ‘what to expect’ book. Boundaries, on the other hand, teach kids and parents how to be safe and to navigate life – and its up to us parents to see the difference between a reasonable boundary and a dumb veto that’s making all concerned crazy. Telling a toddler ‘no darling, daddy’s watch doesn’t belong in the bin’ is crazy-making (ask my friend who lost a few watches); moving the bin, the watch and the kid out of range of each other is a reasonable boundary. Or maybe the kid has a point? The little darlings want to try out everything they see you do (perhaps – who knows for sure what their reasons are?) and have no idea of the value of a Rolex, until we drum it into them. But they do know the value of time together, just playing and making general mayhem. So stop trying to fit the kid in around your life – for every one’s sake – that’s all over now. Better to concentrate on your own self control, and teach by example. Rearrange your house, rearrange your life. Be prepared to at the very least. Trust me on this – by surrendering control, you gain peace.

2. Be still. Stop trying to ‘fix’ your kids, your parenting or your life. You can’t make everything perfect for your kids, you can’t make your kids perfect for your life, and you are the parent you are no more and no less. Every heroic action creates a victim, every martyr creates an oppressor. I see so much solar parenting around me that its no wonder there’s a greenhouse effect. Ah, OK, its a ‘hothouse’ effect – close enough – my point is that we could do a lot better by allowing our kids to have their own failures and teaching them to forgive themselves. While we are at it we can allow our own parenting ‘mistakes’ (if there is such a thing – and here we can throw that damn book of expectations again) and let our children see that we are human,imperfect and lovable. And, you know, your children are great the way they are anyway – complete with mumbling and ‘bad’ grades and black nail polish. Who says they should be any different? (aim that book at them, whoever they are!) Last year my family grew, and we all had some growing pains. My fourteen year old daughter, eldest of five, started having conflict with teachers at school; her grades dropped and she seemed like the weight of the world was upon her, like nothing mattered, like she just ‘didn’t care’. In this situation the only thing I could change was myself – my thinking. I knew I cared and could do with lightening up. The school teachers started calling me and asking me how to ‘get through to her’ and then, later in the year, asking me to ‘do something about her’.

“I have faith in her” I told them.
“I’ve delegated the task of sorting this out to her” I reassured them.
“I’m doing the best I can, and so is she. Please be patient.” I tried, when that wasn’t the result they expected.
“Stop relating to my kid like she’s an animal that needs to be tamed!” I finally blurted. Actually I put that one in writing.

I do have complete faith in her, whether she improves her grades or not. She’s not a performing monkey, she’s a person. I’ve always maintained that there’s no point in making kids miserable so that ‘one day’ they can ‘make it’ in the world. I want mine to be happy and true to themselves now, and because of this I love her even more when she is ‘acting out’. Anyway, she found her own way, with my full support, and she’s fine. Only a few weeks ago her teachers called me to say how great it is to see the kid doing so well. So what I’m getting at is that we are doing too much – we as parents have some kind of compulsion for taking action – just stop. Stop that right now! (I’m waggling a finger at you) Stop doing. Let life unfold as it will and have faith that everything is how it must be, because it is. (more soon)

13 thoughts on “five ways to parent with soul, part one

  1. nice to meet you, neha. If you think parenting is difficult, it must be for you. I hope you enjoy it anyway šŸ™‚ d

  2. This is exactly what I needed to read today, and also tomorrow and every day.

    At the moment we’re struggling with the return to kindy. The transition from holiday back into every day life seems to be difficult (come to think of it I wouldn’t want to transition back into every day life either)

    Pushing, coercing, shaming, threatening and withdrawing are all things that I have desperately tried to avoid in parenting … I’ve aimed to just ‘be’ … to behave in a manner that is empathetic, available, non judgemental, present and patient (now that’s a big one). I’ve tried not to conform to others ideas and rules … and to stand firm and unashamed when our rules of conduct differ from others.

    But I’ve been so desperate for some ‘me’ time since coming back from holiday, that I guess I’ve made kindy a priority, rather than Dylan – and as an adult I’d be pissed off too if someone put something above me as a person – especially someone that I loved and trusted.

    So tomorrow is a new day .. and perhaps with that new day, there will be a new beginning and I’ll remember what I have just written and what you’ve written Dan.

    I’m appalled to think that the statement you quoted is on a friggin billboard … it really re-inforced that whole thinking that kids are mainly bad, and you have to really look to find the gem inside. Which reminds me – to stop thinking about the things that bug me about Dylan and think instead of all the things that I love about him.

    To share a quote that I was reminded of today (and I hope that I didn’t throw out that plastic envelope that had my laminated poster of this) “Surrender is the art of letting go”

    Thank you so much Dan!

  3. Just wanted to make an additional comment on another beautiful piece of artwork – the pelicans remind me of my Pa, who would tell us stories about the pelicans in the channels on the Gold Coast when they went North for their winter holiday (my grandparents not the birds)

    You make the pelican look so graceful and elegant – evn with a fish hanging out it’s mouth.

  4. The message really ought to be ‘find something good in yourself’.
    But of course most of us are flawless, bad things are everyones fault, but ours.
    Even our kids, our DNA, our upbringing.

    I have grown deeply suspicious of the McWitticism. Some are deeply rooted distilates of folk wisdom, but most today are gaudy whores of pseudo-philosophy marketing.

    By all means, let life unfold, but do not be a passive participant. We have a free will (or at least a pretty good illusion of such). Use it.

  5. ouch wulfy! are you accusing me of McWittisising?

    I agree that one has free will – and I’m not suggesting we give it over to our offspring entirely (I have more to say about this in part two). What I am saying is that we parents may benefit from less ‘will’, from exercising less ‘remedial action’ and from ceasing the endless battle with the nature of parenting and the way things are (as opposed to the way we want them to be).

  6. Danae I’m with you on the fine art of letting be and creating safe boundaries. Also the surrender. I truly survived Ash’s first 3 years (and she my parenting) by chosing what was vital ie a safety based boundary against letting go of something not worth worrying about.

    As Ash was my second daughter I was under the mistaken belief that I knew what I was doing this time. Totally different child, totally different ways to parent. Equitable parenting.

  7. Hi Danae,

    Thought I would let you know the author deleted comment was me. I was playing a bit with images ala blogger and well …the comment I just resubmitted is the same one anyhow.

  8. Hi Danae,

    Thought I would let you know the author deleted comment was me. I was playing a bit with images ala blogger and well …the comment I just resubmitted is the same one anyhow.

  9. I enjoyed reading your post and agreed with you. In fact, I posted on the topic with a link to your post.

  10. I enjoyed reading your post and agreed with you. In fact, I posted on the topic with a link to your post.

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