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Kindness Quotes : 3

http://www.littleheartsbooks.com/about-the-authorillustrator/

Limiting our children’s choices, disregarding their rights and enforcing arbitrary rules through rewards and punishments creates frustration, anger and discontent.

Perpetuating the myth that life is cruel and hard promotes a mind-set of scarcity and desperation, and skews our natural tendencies towards cooperation and connection.

Fear, competition and self-obsession become the drivers by which we strive to get our needs met.

The more messages that our children receive that they cannot be trusted, that they must be constrained and controlled for their own good, the more likely they are to internalise this and begin to distrust themselves and everyone around them.

In essence we create a self-fulfilling prophecy, a culture of fear and distrust and a tolerance for hardship, cruelty and oppression.

Becoming comfortable with negative and pessimistic views of human nature, of life and of the future, can chip away at our capacity to challenge, to envisage change, and to work together.

Yet by supporting our children to get their needs met, treating them with respect and acknowledging and upholding their rights as people, rather than using their age and stage of life as an excuse to disregard these, we provide a space for them to discover and appreciate their connection to others.

Experiencing kindness, developing a sense of abundance and a healthy regard and recognition for meeting their own needs promotes understanding, empathy and compassion, empowering and enabling them to recognise and respect the needs of others.

By cultivating a culture of kindness and respect in our relationships with our children and in our homes, we are in a very real and practical sense promoting a culture of kindness and respect in the world.

Children whose needs have been respected and have been supported to meet these needs develop a sense of self-worth and acceptance, they value themselves and others.

These are the children who will be less likely to tolerate cruelty and brutality in their personal relationships and in the wider world.

These are the children who will ‘make the world a little less cruel and heartless’.

Beautiful x

 

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The best thing any parent can do for their child.

Just one best thing, I hear you wonder. Can it really be that simple?

Parenting feels infinitely complex. So many different elements and seemingly competing demands. An endless juggling act with too many balls in the air rapidly falling to the floor. Just the practical stuff – the keeping clean and fed, and clothed and healthy – it’s a full-time job in and of itself.

But perhaps it really is much simpler than we might sometimes believe…

The best thing we can do as parents is nurture our relationships with our children.

Grow and develop those loving connections that were likely established at birth and even before.

Make those relationships a priority.

It’s a cliche, but a classic – the days are long, but the years are short.  One day that relationship may be all we have left.

While pondering our educational philosophy for the umpteenth time, contemplating our big picture goals and musing over the job of parenting, this really struck me. Everything just keeps coming back to the nature of our relationships.

Valuing connection rather than compliance, respecting rights rather than enforcing rules, and listening rather than lecturing – these can radically transform our family dynamics and improve our relationships. But this is all dependent on our choices, how we choose to invest our time and resources, the effort we make in nurturing and supporting these relationships to thrive.

We are all busy, we are all tired and we are all bombarded with images of perfect homes and perfect lives, often leaving us feeling swamped and overwhelmed. But there is hope. If we can stop to catch our breath, pause, slow down and be more intentional. If we make the time to ensure that our actions, our words and our mindset are strengthening our relationships rather than undermining and damaging them, then all the other tasks of parenting inevitably get easier.

If we can put the relationship first, all the other stuff will follow. So much of what we do and who we have become has been influenced by fear. Fear that doesn’t serve us, that leads us to fret and to worry, a self-fulfilling prophecy that damages our relationships. Let’s try to worry less.

When we become too concerned with the societal expectations of children at a particular age, or the stereotyped difficulties supposedly inherent in parenting certain stages – think terrible twos and rebellious teens – maybe, sometimes, we get what we expect. We may be inviting challenges based on expectations without effectively communicating with, or respecting the reality of our children’s actual individual experiences.

If we really want to nourish our relationships, strengthen our bonds and really get to know our children better, then it can help to release ourselves and our children from the ‘shoulds’, the ‘always’ and the ‘never’. Thinking of our children, or ourselves, or indeed anyone, as fixed entities – ‘they always forget stuff’, ‘they’re always late’. ’they never learn’ – damages our relationships and disregards the reality that we are all growing, learning and developing as people throughout our lives.

Seeing our children free from the baggage of labels, maybe we or others have previously given them, can allow us to consider a greater range of possibilities when issues do arise. We can think in terms of opportunities for growth, and ways to be helpful, supporting them as they develop skills, knowledge and tools to deal with different situations. We can model useful strategies and positive responses to life in general. We can give them the chance to see themselves in different ways and embrace their whole humanity. If we can do this both metaphorically and literally then so much the better- go on, get hugging!

Avoiding judgement and resisting the temptation to disregard our children’s activities or interests can provide possibilities for increased connection. Nurture those opportunities to deepen attachments. Listen and be curious, remain open to the idea that our children have much that we can learn from.

Trust may have been lost if we have neglected our relationships. As we rebuild those relationships then we encourage that trust to return. As we learn more about each other as real people, rather than being confined to the roles that society attempts to assign us, we will gain more respect for each other and trust will become easier.

By setting the tone for our relationships with kindness, peace and mutual respect, by trusting and being trustworthy, and acting in ways that support what we seek, we invite what we wish to receive. It’s also worth remembering here, that sometimes it’s the actions we choose not to take – the comments we refrain from making, the complaints we resist sharing, and the demands we decide not to make – that can have the most impact on our relationships.

As our relationships improve, we may see changes in the way we respond to everyday situations. We may stop acting from a place of desperation, impulsively and in fear. We can move from being reactive to becoming more reflective. And as we begin to relax and enjoy the benefits of better relationships, then so too will our children. The potential for conflict is reduced and our relationships improve yet further. Isn’t that really what we all want?

(If you’re worried that this all seems too much like being a friend rather than a parent, and you think that might be a bad idea, see what I have to say on that here)

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The job of parenting.

Not because we have to, but because we want to.

Not because we get paid to, but because the rewards are infinitely more than money.

There is much work in parenting – the routine, practical, daily living tasks, the being together time, the not being together time, the time in our heads. The list could go on and on.

When we began home educating our children seven years ago, one of the first things we did, was to write an educational philosophy. This was our attempt to summarise how and why we had chosen to home educate. In reality, it became much more than just about education, it was an exercise in defining what kind of parents we wanted to be.

Taking the time to really think about our big picture goals (you can see those here) helped us to sort out our priorities and reflect on what was really important for us and for our children. It was a useful process in so many ways and, certainly, helped to confirm that we had made the right decision. It became obvious that the school system was not the ideal environment to support and promote what we had deemed most important.

The use of the word ‘goals’ sounds so future- focussed, like we were working towards a specific target. That there would be an end, a point at which success could be quantified and measured, confirmed or denied. Maybe we thought that then. Of course we still had much deschooling to do.

In reality, of course, there is no moment when our children will be done, no end point at which we can sit back and revel in our success, or despair in our failure. Children are not simply grown-ups in waiting, future citizens in need of shaping and moulding.

Our children are complete and whole and messy and glorious people right now, whatever age or stage they currently inhabit. Children are people, people who are deserving of our respect and appreciation right now, in every moment, not merely in some unknown future.

Maybe the term ‘big picture’ is also, a little misleading. It might be off-putting, seem too massive to contemplate, too broad and overwhelming. Like there are too many possibilities for failure and disappointment, frustration and regret.

Yet defining our ‘big picture goals’– (yep, here I go, still using that term, even with it’s problems. At this point I shall stubbornly soldier on, awaiting a better alternative – feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments). It’s not meant to be an attempt to control the future, or to create the perfect children.

They were, and are, perfect.

Maybe this process isn’t even really about the children at all.

Except of course, it is. Those children that we love, that inspire us to be better every day, that delight and challenge us in so many ways. Those children, they are our responsibility, and they are our reason.

So it is about them. But really, it’s much more about us.

The actions that we take in those every-day, ordinary moments, the environment we provide, the example we set and the people we are. This is all about us.

Taking the time to consider how our actions affect those around us, how we conduct our relationships and the ways we respond to others. These can actually offer simplicity, allow us to reach some clarity of purpose and highlight our priorities.

There is no single ideal way to parent. There is no one model child, no universal rules, no job list, no person spec, and no ideal candidate for parenting. But there are real consequences and real people to nurture and love, real people that can be damaged and hurt.

So we sat down again, and we thought. About what kind of parents we want to be, about our vision, our purpose and what principles we want to guide us.

It turned out to be another long list.

For our children, we want to –

• be kind and gentle, appreciative and respectful

• be trusting and trustworthy

• be patient and calm, present and attentive

• be a safe space, supportive, approachable and dependable

• offer a guiding light and a welcoming beacon

• be quick to help and slow to judge

• make a home they can always return to

• recognise their competence and respect and trust them as whole and capable people

• nurture and encourage their innate curiosity and wonder about the world

• support them to explore the rich diversity of the world’s natural, social, political, historical and cultural heritage

• support them in following their passions and interests

• recognise that their personal learning journey is unique and special and individual

• offer opportunities to develop new passions and interests

• open up new possibilities and options to explore

• use our experience and power to support and guide, rather than to control and manipulate

• provide time, space, resources and our committed presence to support them in fulfilling their ambitions, today, tomorrow and as long as they need us

• do our best, be aware that we can always do better, that there is always more to learn and that we will make mistakes and mess up over and over again

• be willing to apologise, be able to pick ourselves up and move on from our mistakes, try harder and…

• model patience, forgiveness and grace for ourselves, and for them, as we learn and grow together.

 

Like any job, there are better days and worse days. There is always more to learn and there is always more to give. We don’t always get it right but we keep on trying and doing the best that we can, because this, surely, is the best job there is.

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What do we really want for our children? Big picture goals.

I don’t believe in controlling children, or forcing them to do things they don’t want, or making them do things for their own good, or trying to fashion them in our own image.

But I do believe in parenting intentionally – with purpose and with kindness.

It can be so easy to get bogged down in our to-do lists, frantically trying to get stuff done and pay the bills, again and again… and earn the money for those pesky bills, again and again!

Of course, these are important. But sometimes it’s good to step back and consider the bigger picture.

Alfie Kohn, in his book Unconditional Parenting, sets the scene –

“Picture yourself standing at a birthday party or in the hall of your child’s school. Around the corner are two other parents who don’t know you’re there. You overhear them talking about…your child! Of all the things they might be saying, what would give you the most pleasure? … My guess- and my hope- is that it wouldn’t be, ‘Boy, that child does everything he’s told and you never hear a peep out of him.’ “

Alfie asks us to consider “whether we sometimes act as though this is what we care about most.”

Writing an educational philosophy for our family’s home education journey prompted us to dig deep around this issue.

What kind of education do we want our children to have?

What kind of people do we want them to be?

This is not about trying to create the perfect child, they are all perfect.

It’s certainly not about creating rules and routines and rewards and rotas.

It’s about considering what our actions and our interactions with our children say about our priorities, what is important to us and what we want to nurture.

Our list got quite long.

We want our children –

• to feel comfortable in their own skin

• to feel safe and secure at home and in the world

• to have confidence in us and feel able to come to us whenever they need and want to, and feel sure that we will support them

• to have close, loving, mutually supportive and respectful relationships with us, their siblings, wider family and friends

• to recognise and place appropriate boundaries when relationships are not wholly positive

• to be curious, kind, generous and compassionate individuals

• to be kind and patient and calm when they can be and be forgiving and kind to themselves and others when they struggle with these things

• to love learning, to want to grow and develop themselves

• to follow their joy, passion and interest

• to have a healthy respect for, and a deep sense of caring about, themselves, others and the world

• to be able to say no and have an appreciation for the possible consequences of doing so in different contexts

• to be able to listen to their own bodies, explore what feels good and bad to them and use this knowledge to nurture their own sense of well-being and good health

• to develop resilience that will enable them to manage difficult times and emotions and respond to challenging times with as much positivity as they can muster

• to recognise the value of time as a healer and recognise, that sometimes, in some moments, survival is the best we can do (and that it always beats the alternative)

• to assume responsibility for their own actions and recognise that not everything is their responsibility

• to recognise that sometimes it is someone else’s problem and that we cannot fix or change everything

• to be able to let some stuff go and move on

• to be self-reliant and yet also be comfortable in asking for and accepting help

• to be gracious in accepting help that is wanted and in refusing help that isn’t

• to be willing to help others and be gracious if that help is refused

• to look for the positives and to recognise the value of re-framing

• to have a sense of connection to and appreciation for the natural world

• to be open to and considerate of new ideas

• to have a sense of their own competence and ability to tackle whatever life throws at them

• to recognise that learning never ends and that mistakes do happen

• to appreciate that mistakes and difficulties can be opportunities for growth (and usually are!)

• to place their relationships with others above any social expectations that don’t serve them well

• to question assumptions and challenge injustice

• to feel confident in their own judgement and decision-making skills

• to view the world with a sense of awe and fascination

• to let go of measuring and comparison, to give freely and without expectation of return

• to expect miracles and to recognise the gifts in the every day

• to wonder and be wonderful (tick!)

Of course, we can’t make these things happen. We can’t know the future and neither would we want to. But considering what is important to us and what kinds of qualities we value, can guide us in our everyday moments. Allow us to think more clearly and more creatively, be more reflective and less reactive, and be intentional in our relationships.

What do you want for your children? I would love to know your thoughts.