This is part two in a series about the gift of emotions when parenting consciously.
5. “Mistakes” are really learning opportunities
Instead of the word mistake lets rename it a learning opportunity. There really are no mistakes. Everything that we experience in life happens for us. And not just the good stuff, but the not so good stuff too. Can you begin to look at these learning opportunities as avenues for growth?
There are many ages and stages of learning while raising our kids. As parents we have many learning opportunities.
How can we learn to do it if we had not done it wrong first? We learn what works from what did not work. As adults we remember moments we would rather forget, did we learn from those experiences, you bet we did. And we learned from them because no one saved us from the consequences.
Our children also need to learn the natural consequences from their learning opportunities. If we rush in to save them every time, or prevent a “mistake” from happening what do they learn? They learn, “I don’t have to feel my uncomfortable feelings because mom or dad will do, remember, or fix this for me.” How is your child going to learn to remember to bring his homework home if you drive him back to get it? All he learns when you drive him back is mom will take care of it for me, I don’t have to be responsible, or they may begin to feel they are not trustworthy.
What if you don’t drive back to school? Then he will learn from the discomfort when he has to go back to school without it the next day. Feeling this discomfort will allow him time to process what he needs to learn. He may express anger at you for not rescuing him, and that is ok. He is allowed to be angry for not being rescued. He is then given a chance to become self-reliant.
Becoming self-reliant will enable him to feel proud of himself for what he is doing for himself. This will help him develop a sense of worth and self-efficacy.
As a conscious parent it is up to you to look at what feeling comes up for you when you want to rescue your child from a potential problem. It is those feelings, usually anxiety and fear, which drive parents to: bring them back to school, give too many reminders or do it for them.
It is time for you, the parent, to recognize it is your own feelings you want to make feel better when you do not allow your child the room to learn from their own opportunities. Our children came here to teach us. It is time to wake up and recognize our own emotions which call out to us for attention.
Our children need compassion and understanding for their plight not to be handicapped by never letting them learn to deal with the consequences. I am not speaking of a life-threatening situation or one where there can be serious harm but one where the consequence is fitting to the learning opportunity.
There are learning opportunities that happen all the time from the toy breaking because they played with it roughly to the teenager forgetting a doctor appointment because they refuse to look at their calendar. It is up to you to take care of your own difficult emotions and allow your child, and you, room to grow.
Striving to be perfect is just another way to create anxiety.
Let them mess up, let yourself mess up. Learning opportunities give all of us emotional freedom.
6. Patience is an exercise of relinquishing control
These words apply to all areas of your life not just parenting. However, since parenting is the focus right now that’s what I will address. Four years ago, my oldest was applying to college. This became a huge lesson in patience for me. I am the type of person, when given a task, will get it done as soon as possible. Especially a task which is time sensitive, I need to check it off my list and know it is done.
The thing about applying to college is that YOUR KID is the one applying, not you. As a parent, you must sit back and let them do it. If they want your help, support or guidance then be there, sit with them while they fill out the applications, help them gather the necessary documents, but only if they ask.
I had a conversation with a mom recently. She has twin boys who are about to begin their senior year in high school. We began talking about college and she shared that she was already worried but at least “WE got the essays done.” And I thought, this is not a “we thing,” it is something HE must get done. This is a great example of a parent who is too personally invested in their child’s process and is owning it as hers since it seems it was “their” essay.
This speaks to allowing the child to learn from doing it. When the parent does it for or with them this eases their own emotions. Remember, your child’s timeline for getting things done is theirs, not yours. You will have more patience and less stress when you can separate yourself out of their responsibility. This applies to all areas of life; from applying to college to learning to tie their shoes. When you step back and let your child do it, it also lets him know you trust him.
If I thought learning patience was hard in the application phase I was wrong, my greatest lesson in patience was waiting for the acceptance letters to arrive. My daughter applied to her perspective colleges by December 1st. The colleges do not send back anything until March, unless you apply early decision which she did not. Your child hits send and then you wait. And you wait. And you wait. As a parent you have no control, there is no one to ask about the status of the application and your child is emailed their acceptance letters, so checking the mailbox does not help either.
For me, learning to be patient, was an exercise in relinquishing control. And, man, I love being in control. Luckily, I was able to have enough self-awareness to know that this was an exercise in patience for me. A life lesson which needed to be learned and then applied. And I had the opportunity to practice it again, the following year, with my son. I think I did better the second time around, but you would have to ask my kids to find out.
Here is what I learned. Slow down and be in the moment with your child. Nothing is that urgent. Ease into the seat of the patient observer and allow space for the unfolding of what needs attention in each present moment.
And most important of all, detach from the belief that their responsibilities and the outcomes of those tasks are also yours.
7. Presence and Connection
Be in the here and now. We cannot be anywhere else. Fighting reality is what causes us pain. The moment we are in, is the moment we are in. We must be in it until we move to the next moment.
When we are present there is no better place to be. In the awareness of being present we can feel connected to another. This connection can come from a hug, eye contact, sitting with another, playing a board game, coloring together, laughing, rough housing, a shared meal. Connection happens when we are with another, without distraction, and we are fully present in that moment.
Being connected builds trust and safety within the relationship of parent and child.
When you put down your phone, turn off the TV and computer, this speaks volumes to our children. It lets them know they are the most important thing to you in the present moment. Our children only want to feel connected to us. When they feel this then they know they are loved, important, worthy, and that they matter. Can you think of a better gift? I know I cannot. We all want to feel this in our lives no matter how old we are.