My little one has just turned four. Ahhhh...my wondrous little Aries, so full of joy and curiosity. I can't help but think about how much he has changed me over the years, and then, on the other hand what my role is in helping him to grow up an enlightened soul. Unfortunately, most people don't think about these things, most parents it seems, are more concerned with having a child who behaves and ends up being financially successful in life. Even more unfortunate they will base a child's esteem and worthiness on these two factors. Now, I am not here to judge, these are things which are deeply ingrained in our society, but the spiritual parent has an obligation to go beyond these factors and to help their child to develop and deeper sense of awareness of themselves, of other people, and of the world.
To give help a child to attain the skills which will lead to the perfection of their souls later on in life (when they are old enough to make their own decisions about their soul's path), is the greatest gift a parent can bestow. So, what are these "gifts", what actions can a parent can take to help their child to attain these higher states of awareness later on? Well, first let me state that it is up to each parent to contemplate their own lives, the lessons they have learned, and the experiences that they have had which have helped them to grow to a greater understanding of who they are, and then to translate this into how they raise their child. But of course I would love to share with you those things which I have learned and have experienced that I feel gives children a great start in these areas...and will not only ultimately help to lead to more developed souls but consequently also then help to feed these other areas of success and good behavior which are so important in our society. This knowledge comes from my training in psychology, the time when I was a nanny, the times when I was a yoga and martial arts instructor for children, and of course from my own experience as a mother. I am not saying these are the end all be all of tips, but they are what I have found works well. I hope you enjoy, and of course I always appreciate your comments. (I will be writing this blog in a few parts for time's sake).
1.Self-esteem: Self-esteem is very important to a child, not because it makes a child feel good or bad, but because it helps a child to define who they are and what their place is in the world. Humans do not finish fully developing their "frontal lobe" until their late teens/early twenties. The frontal lobe governs the function of understanding others thoughts and feelings and the world around them. These are skills that as a mystical parent we want to instill in our children...the ability to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and others. As a child, the frontal lobe is fairly undeveloped still so children look towards positive reinforcement to help then to understand if what they are doing is good and bad, if they are cared for, how they fit into the world, and how their behavior affects others. By teaching your child proper habits, not only will your child begin to develop these concepts much faster than most, but practicing them will actually help their little brains grow!
Self-esteem boils down to one concept... respect. Respect is not something that is often considered when it comes to children. Traditionally, people are of the opinion that adults are to be respected while children are to keep their place and 'Do as they are told'. But, I will tell you from what I have witnessed as a teacher and parent that a child, although they may not be able to verbalize or understand the concept, do understand respect on some level. They know that parents are to be respected, and in turn look for clues that they are respected as well. This is natural, because we are their examples, so in order to feel as if they are apart of the world, they look to how you are treated, and how you act, and attempt to see if this is reflected in their world. To a child, knowing that he or she has mutual respect from a parent affects how they view themself, their performance in school, and their willingness to do what is asked of them. In fact, many people think that success in activities (school, sports, social-life etc.) leads to a good self-esteem, but in fact knowing that regardless of how one performs that they will still be loved and respected leads to good self-esteem, and thus gives one the confidence to continue to keep trying and learning until they have mastered those activities.
In a sense, what we are talking about is developing the notion that one should treat others as they themselves would like to be treated. Yes, you should look at the day to day situations you are involved in with your child and ask yourself how you should act and how you would want to be treated. For example, if you would like your child to develop the habit of good manners, then it is important to use good manners yourself, not only when speaking to others, but also when speaking to your child. If you want him to say "please" and "thank you" then, when asking your child to do something or get something, you should also say "please" and "thank you" to your child. The "do as I say, not as I do" mentality A.) does not show mutual respect for a person and B.) is not enough to help a child to develop a good habit. Instead he sees that it is fine to say these things in some instances, but not others...so when is it appropriate and when is it not? Well for a child, who can't contemplate this, he doesn't know...so instead you are gifted with erratic behavior. However, if both you and your child use good manners at home and outside of the home on a consistent basis then not only will that habit be ingrained in the child, but he feels as if he is apart of the world, and also experiences the positive effects of using good manners from his interaction with others. All of these help him/her to develop a greater sense of self and a greater sense of others. These two things are key to concepts of spirituality such as compassion and humility. Other areas which help with this concept are
1. Letting your child help you with household activities such as cooking and laundry. For example let him or her help you put laundry in the washer, or mix up the cake batter. Being able to help with the house-hold activities helps them to feel as if they are apart of the family unit, teaches responsibility, and gives greater personal confidence. 2. Giving your child "choices", this not only gives you the ability to set boundries but also gives them the ability to think for themselves. It's a perfect example of the balance that can be attained between these two concepts. For example, saying that "It's cold outside so no you cannot wear your spring sandles", but then giving them a choice of what warm outfit to wear, helps them to feel that they are still important and keeps the rules intact. Also saying things like "Would you like to put away your toys or go to time out?" rather than "Put your toys away or you will go to time out" gives them the opportunity to learn to start making proper decisions. Children are also much happier to be able to choose to put their toys away then to feel as if they are already being punished. 3. Fun! We are all busy, and tired at the end of the day, but just like you must take time to nurture your relationship with your signifigant other, you must take time to nurture your relationship with your child...and not just on the weekends. This may be as simple as reading together at night, or taking a half and hour for some" mommy and me", or "daddy and me" play time. Having some quality time each day that you dedicate to your child without the distraction of house-hold duties, shows your child that he or she is important...it also teaches balance. Use this to help them learn the concept of responsibility. After dinner for example, have everyone in the house help with chores, and then spend some fun time together!
Remember, having a mutual respect between you and your child does not mean that you should let them walk all over you. It is important to remember that although you can show and teach your children respect, you are still the parent. Consistent boundaries are just as important to parenting. When rules are followed inconsistently children get confused, and this can lead to poor behavior and lower self-esteem. Boundaries not only teach children respect, but also help a child to feel safe in the world. So it is an important part of teaching respect to have boundaries and to keep them.
to be continued....;)
Nosce Te Ipsum,