Guest post by Leana Bowler
How do you “make” a flower grow?
After you have carefully planted the seed, how do you “make” it grow?
Do you stand over the soil and harshly shout?
Grow flower! I said grow! I planted you and you must listen to me!
Would you threaten the flower?
If you do not grow right now, then no sunshine for you!
When the flower doesn’t respond, would you punish it?
Would you frustratingly stomp on the soil?
Of course not.
That wouldn’t make much sense.
We know that a flower would not grow under those circumstances.
You cannot “make” a flower grow.
You simply LET a flower grow, on it’s own time, by nourishing it patiently and lovingly.
You provide the flower with the optimal environment to bloom beautifully, and smile up at the sun with strength.
When the flower wilts due to the elements, or for whatever reason, you do not punish the flower for wilting.
You give it more water, more sunlight, more LOVE.
Our little ones are like flowers, and just like flowers, they do not need punishment.
They need our nourishment.
They need our patience.
They need our love.
Little ones do not need constant CORRECTION in order to bloom.
They are not broken machines that require us to alter their parts so that they can function properly in the world.
Little ones need constant CONNECTION in order to bloom.
They are emotional beings that require our gentle, peaceful, mindful interaction so that when they go out into the world, they will change it for the better.
This way of thinking is not to be confused with permissive parenting. Permissive parenting is an environment in which there is no correction OR connection, and indeed, a little one could not thrive in that type of environment either.
This is about attuning to our little ones, listening to their emotions, and responding in a way that is fulfilling to them (and us) mind, body, and spirit.
They do not need to be yelled at.
They do not need to be threatened.
They definitely, definitely, definitely do not need to be hit.
Hitting another, when you have the emotional maturity and cognitive ability to do otherwise is violent.
It is damaging.
I do not think that parents who spank are bad parents, or bad people by any means. I feel that they were probably spanked, or yelled at, or belittled in some way when they were children. Therefore, now that they are adults, when they are frustrated, exhausted, or stressed they resort to the very same violent reactions that they endured.
It is unfair that they were treated in this way, and it is not their fault. With that said, they have the incredible insight and potential to break the cycle.
They can reflect back to those moments when they were children, when they saw the beautiful God-given hands of their parent turn ugly coming towards them with the intention to cause discomfort.
They can reflect back to the resent, confusion, and fear they felt in their tiny little hearts.
They can reflect back to perceiving the hands of their parent as a source of hurt, rather than a source of healing.
They can choose peace.
I want my birdies to run towards my loving hands when they are afraid and uncertain, not run away from them because the sight of my hands make them afraid and uncertain.
My hands are not for hurting my children.
My hands are for loving them.
My hands are for gently caressing their faces when I kiss them.
My hands are for rubbing their backs as they drift as to sleep.
My hands are for lifting them into the air as they smile and laugh joyfully.
My hands are for wiping their tears when they fall down and hugging them against my heart.
My voice is not for yelling at my children.
My voice is for singing to them.
My voice is for telling them stories.
My voice is for telling them I love them.
My voice is for inspiring, encouraging, and kindly teaching them to use their voice.
We cannot expect our children to use their voice when they are adults, if we do not allow them to do so as children.
It is okay for them to protest.
It is okay for them to have an opinion.
It is okay for them to think for themselves.
If we want to teach, then we must learn to listen.
We must learn to resolve issues in unity WITH our children, not forcibly AGAINST them.
I want to teach the birdies to be peaceful, loving, respectful, and compassionate towards people and the Earth.
Therefore, we must be peaceful, loving, respectful, and compassionate towards THEM as they grow.
Does this mean that the birdies never misbehave?
Nope, they act impulsively and make mistakes all the time! They are growing and learning! There will always be instances where they will need to be refocused, and for the record, us adults are no different. We cannot hold our children to a standard of behavioral perfection because we ourselves are not perfect.
You cannot force a wilting flower to stand upright. You have to provide it with all the essential care that it needs to stand upright on it’s own…the same goes for little ones.
You already know how to do this. Your ability to love and act peacefully towards your children is something innate. It is a primal, intuitive, natural response that your spirit was blessed with from the moment of your existence. It is there. Discover it. Embrace it. Don’t lose it.
There are plenty of resources that advise, “how to discipline children.”
I want to come from a more positive place, and share with you three FUN ways that we practice peaceful parenting with the birdies.
Sit Like A Frog
There is an awesome book called Sitting Still Like a Frog by Eline Snel, that contains mindfulness exercises for little ones. Meditation is a wonderful way to help little ones handle their emotions. Personally, I feel that instead of making little ones sit in time-out, we should teach them to meditate. Teaching little ones to self-reflect can be SUCH a useful practice.
If the birdies are behaving negatively, then we simply tell them, “Please go sit like a frog.”
This entails sitting cross-legged, taking deep breaths, and thinking peaceful thoughts, or happy thoughts.
If they are using “hurting words,” or “hurting hands,” then they are expected to think about kind words and kind ways to use their hands.
The other day, Kaulia was trying to complete a puzzle and she could not get a piece to fit. She became so frustrated trying to force the piece into place, that she angrily threw the puzzle on the floor and stepped on it. (Billy feels this way whenever he puts together furniture from IKEA) Suddenly she looked up at me and said, “Mommy I’m mad. Can I go sit like frog?”
She sat for a minute or so, and then got up and started working on her puzzle again. I asked her if she felt better, and she told me, “Yes! I thought about blowing bubbles!”
Blowing bubbles and watching them float away in the wind is one of her favorite things to do.
Art and Music
Art is one of the most simple, yet powerful, ways that we can teach little ones to express their emotions. Art has such a positive impact on emotions, that it has been used to help refugee children from war-torn countries heal from the atrocities they experienced. Art is incredible. Art is beautiful. We need more art!
We help the birdies verbalize their feelings, and then we let them paint/draw their feelings. Sometimes they will sit at their small table and draw. Other times we will go outside and throw paint around. Those sad, angry, frustrated feelings will soon melt into colors, smiles, and laughter.
The same goes for music. We encourage them to beat on their drums, wildly play the piano keys, strum on my guitar, slam pots and pans together, anything to make music! Music is expression! It’s lovely!
A listening walk is, quite literally, taking a quiet walk outside and listening to the sounds all around you. When the birdies are having a hard time listening, I talk them on a listening walk. They listen to the leaves rustle when the wind hits the trees, the bees buzzing, birds chirping, etc.
Always Be Mindful
At the start of each day I remind myself to be mindful of my birdies.
For me, this means giving them my loving attention, looking into their eyes when they are speaking to me or asking me a question, and creating a peaceful environment of love and trust.
I give them random hugs, smiles, and simply interact with them.
I feel happy (and they do too) when I engage them in conversation, truly listen to the thoughts they share with me, and observe them.
There are several ways that we can connect with our little ones, or disconnect from them. I have noticed that whenever the birdies are having a particularly challenging day, it is usually because I was distracted in some way. Distractions will happen. We are adults and we have adult responsibilities, but our most important responsibility is our little ones. We can’t let our distractions interfere with our ability to connect, and to be happy.
Daddy Bird is incredible at doing this. He works full time, but when he is home, he radiates happiness! He responds beautifully to them, and they adore him. He is a natural, loving, intuitive father and he makes me a better mother.
I hope this has given you another perspective when it comes to our growing little ones.
They are the future of our beautiful Earth, and I pray that it’s a future with more peace, love, and happiness.
“It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”
Please be rain.
Please be patient.
Reprinted with permission. Leana Bowler is a God-loving, Earth-loving, mother of three adventurous daughters. She is a thinker of happy thoughts, who believes that hugs, humor, and humility are essential components of parenting. Her husband is her bearded prince charming. He is her kindred spirit, and because of him she blissful, balanced, and brave. She can be messy and awkward. She stumbles often. She smiles often. She prays often. She doesn’t always express herself in the most eloquent manner, but she values self-expression because it feels awesome to be who you are. She revels in the fact that motherhood is raw and beautiful. She’s learned to embrace the stretch-marks, the non-existent post breastfeeding boobs, the tired eyes, and every ripple on her skin. Her bodily flaws are the physical tributes to the amazing, imaginative little miracles that call her mommy. She writes because it breathes life into all her thoughts. She writes because she is compelled to tell the stories of these colorful, quirky, amazing individuals that she calls family. She writes because she enjoys sharing her mistakes, her mishaps, her embarrassing moments, and the wisdom she’s gained from all of them. Read more here: MommyBowler.