Monday, 4 June 2012

Pearls of parenting: time, intelligence & tough love

Parenting is a vocation; trial and error and sheer hard work – everything ever said about the nurturing of offspring is true. The scary thing about parenting is that we receive no training for it. We are expected to produce well-rounded children whilst we are less than equipped for such a major undertaking.

If you’re ever seeking to apprehend thieves of your precious time then look no further than your children. Each one of them will, in their own inimitable ways, imprison time in their childish fortress and sometimes even throw away the key. 

Children are a force of nature and, like the wind, they rush around like a tornado or they may enter as coolly as a summer breeze. Either way they will claim your attention.

Children need attention as much as plants take their daily nourishment from sun and water. We are the givers of time and they are the takers. Children look to their parents as role models and that’s how they fathom the world around them. So when you find them eavesdropping, telling a white lie or two or plain gossiping, be sure that they’ve picked up the  nastiness from you. Equally, when you see them sharing with their friends or helping grandma to plant bulbs in winter or caring for a hurt animal then you know some of your good habits have definitely rubbed off.

Chase after the pearl

Children capture your time and it’ll feel as if you’re a butterfly caught in a net. You really have to work on that spreadsheet but Jessie wants to play table-tennis. You know you have a cupboard to clean out but Sam wants to go to the cinema. As they grow the demands on your time (and nerves) increase.

Resistance will not work. Children intuitively know when you’re reluctant. By all means explain why it may not be possible at that given time but if you make a promise to do it later – keep it. The more you try to squirm your way out of doing fun things, the unhappier they’ll be. T
hey’ll become withdrawn and sullen and emotional damage sets in.

The ignored child grows up to be an attention seeking adult. He craves, he demands and stamps his size 11 shoes if he doesn’t get his way. Anger management therapists are acutely aware that uncontrollable rages have a lot to do with childhood experiences.

So give your time for healthful experiences. Go play table tennis with your young ‘un. Spreadsheets can wait, children do not. Take time out for the cinema and other educational trips; a cupboard doesn’t value memories but your child will.

Never give your child money in lieu of your time. Time together is ultimately more precious. The latest gadget, clothes, holiday will get broken, thrown away or be forgotten, but time spent is stored in your child’s secret mental hideaway and will be taken out at a later date in adulthood.

Read all about it
If you don’t have time to give then don’t scatter your seed. The harvest will be poor and all you'll reap are regrets.

Reading books on child rearing is helpful but no child I know ever conformed to the principles of anything written on paper. Children, as much as adults, are a mass bundle of contradictions and complexities. They are mini reflections of us though we distance ourselves from any comparisons when they’re acting up but are quick to preen ourselves when they display positive behaviour.

“Johnny scored the second highest in his Maths end of year paper. I was just the same at school; always had a good head for figures,” replies Dad. When Johnny gets a middle ranking next time. “Hey buddy, I never hit the middle, always the top!”

To a child, this is not encouragement. In fact, it’s the very opposite. Comparisons are demotivating and irrelevant to a child....that was then and this is now. Intelligence in parenting is not the cerebral kind; it is emotional and it is non-judgemental. To achieve harmonious interaction between head and heart takes wisdom. Ultimately the presence or lack of wisdom makes or breaks relationships. 
Keep striving for wisdom; your children are in sore need of it.

Your child is a walking book of wisdom. Oh yes, this is the toughest challenge of parenting to accept. 
There comes a time when parents must do the learning. Children look at life with a clarity so rare that your adult mind jumbled with prejudices and half-truths will question it.

Recording her wisdom

Recently, my 14 year old daughter had a poignant encounter during a work experience placement at a kindergarten with a three year old – Tommi - who looked underweight and  slow for his age. She developed a rapport with Tommi and came home speaking gleefully about her day with him and the other children. Another helper at the kindergarten told her that Tommi was a foster child whose mother had taken drugs during her pregnancy which had caused Tommi to be developmentally delayed.

This information hit home and played on her blossoming mind. A day later, whilst I was discussing her work experience with her, she said: “I’m glad Tommi’s mother didn’t have an abortion because he’s so beautiful.” I was touched and thrilled that my daughter had found the positive in a negative situation. 
Every child is a gift and a child’s entry into the world does not have to fit in with conventional thinking. 
The “best” route can be littered with challenges and the “worst” can bring untold blessings.

Emotional intelligence is what’s needed and we must take notes from our children. Listen to their ramblings and complaints and you’ll stumble upon some uncommon nuggets. Wisdomona’s mini-me has her heart in the right place!

In parenting, love is so many things that it’s difficult to list them all. Love is all of the above and this vital, golden rule below:

I'll find that pearl even if it kills me!
Tough love:  stand back when your children get into trouble. As long as it doesn’t involve the authorities then leave well alone. Bailing them out, clearing up their messes and providing sympathy (when it’s not the best medicine) will prevent them from developing responsibility and resourcefulness.

This is probably the hardest one as it means hitting the rocky road which is full of bandits. It’s a journey that feels scary as you have to do it alone. This is a time for saddling up the stallion of courage within and galloping into the dark night of your insecurities. Husband, partner, family and friends will warn you off but audacity will take you further than cautious advice.
This where you find that true parenting means providing inspiration and how do you do that? 
By being inspirational yourself– thinking and feeling it – even when you don’t believe you have always do.

Inspiration is the pearl of parenting. But you’ve mislaid the pearl. It’s been buried deep under your wounds and scars in the vast ocean that is your half-lived life.

On the back of Inspiration
So take the horse to water (even if it's not thirsty), take a deep, sea dive and stop asking other oysters if they’ve found your pearl. 
No one can find your truth before you do. Accept help but grow strong in self-reliance.

It’s you; you are the pearl that needs a little polishing to shine....a few hard knocks are just what’s needed to restore your unique lustre (and you’ve had plenty of them!).
Shine the light of time, intelligence, tough love on your children and all will be well, trust me.



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