Switch On Your Parenting: 10 Tips For Thriving Kids & Peaceful Homes
1. Treat your kids as little grown-up human beings – smart, empathic, intuitive, wise; with lots to teach us. They are sources of surprising insight once we switch on to their genius. It also helps temper our desire to control them, to bend them to our will. Respect breeds respect; trust breeds trust. So the more we relate to them as little humans who need our support to thrive, the more they and we thrive. Understand that any irritating or frustrating behaviour is a natural, understandable – usually justified in their logic – emotion they have trying to be expressed. For example, whinging usually arises when they feel ignored or powerless. So check out whether you are ignoring them a bit; or whether you can help them be empowered. See if taking wise action stops the whinging in its tracks. Guide them towards the behaviour you want, as you would a respected colleague or friend. For example, try asking them to speak in their “strong” voice rather than judge them for the whining. Help them take some breaths and to become calm, rather than be annoyed by their energetic craziness. Above all, apologise to them authentically, as you would a colleague, when you yourself switch off and step out of your own ‘happy place’.
2. Help them build empowering stories that they own – Kids, like all of us, will make up a story about everything, with the insight of their years on Earth – so help them have a narrative that is honest yet empowering and appropriate. This is most true of big ‘stuff’ that hits the family emotionally: Break ups, people leaving, death, job loss, ill health. They can feel the vibe change whatever happens so do what you can to prevent them making up a story that has them be a victim or being to blame for what happened. When they have questions, try explaining things to them as honestly (and sagely) as you can – as you would to a friend – so they grow up both trusting your word and knowing how the world works from a connected, conscious wise view of life. Research shows that kids who have mainly empowering narratives from their parents grow up to thrive far more. Answer their questions with truth; but own that it is your opinion, your view, not The One and Only Truth (as if there was one). This gives them space to reappraise your views in future and make them own choices. It helps them think critically from an early age and know there are always multiple perspectives. This allows them to respect different viewpoints in future; and gives them vital room to explore different frames for situations and issues as they grow up, so they never get hooked onto one narrative which locks them in pain or lack of creativity.
3. See them as Natural Born Testers of your personal growth to date. We can’t bullshit them in the same way we might bullshit ourselves. They will, by nature, seek out our weaknesses and unseen shadow – and probe us to see if we are as sorted and smart as we think we are. They will spot any defences or falsities in our behaviour and challenge us with them in, in some way or other. How beautiful is that: The arrive to show us how to heal and become fully ourselves. Welcome these fuzzy balls of crazy wisdom into your life and use their guidance to focus where you want to heal and breakthrough next. They love you so much they will trigger all your patterns, in any way possible, so you can heal.
4. Stay connected to them, as much as possible, as much of the time you can. Repair that connection whenever it is disrupted through anger, upset etc. The connection is what provides the safety, the feeling that every child needs more than anything else. So the mantra is Connection Before Correction. In particular, realise that they want to connect and play with you pretty much all the time, especially when it is most inconvenient. Can you honour this delightful urge to have fun, to learn, whilst also ensuring you do what you need to do for you, your work and the family?
5. Show them how to make peace as well as how to fight – When you fight with a partner – or in anyway disconnect from yourself, them or others – show them how to repair that connection. That means modelling how to get past the pain and suffering of everyday life by being open about conflict resolution techniques you employ. Conflict and rupture is natural. So be unafraid of it as well as they soft moments that come next. People tend to fight in from of their kids – or be moody or whatever – and then hide the reconciliation and repair from them. So they learn how to disconnect, to switch off; but we don’t show them all the awesome ways we can switch back on and reconnect. Show they how much insane joy comes when we let go of our story about who did what and prioritise love instead.
6. Teach them, as you deepen you own mastery, how to master their mind, heart and body. Research shows that self-mastery like this is the No.1 predictor of a good life. People with self-mastery (wisdom of how to use, process and channel their emotions) live longer, are happier, wealthier, better at relationships, more popular and trusted; and less likely to be addicted or arrested! Teach them how to find stillness, breathe deep, take a pause, reflect on a quandary before speaking, process new news etc. You can start doing this when they are infants – teaching them how to find Presence amidst the chaos. This can dissolve conflicts before they occur; as well as teach them how to repair their relationships and solve their issues through tapping into their own heart- and body-wisdom, AKA intuition. A massive part of this is to show them how to get into their bodies; to sense their feelings within their gut, muscles and movement. The more they (and you) get out your heads, the more you can feel into any situation and sense the wisdom that is always ready to emerge as truth, love or creativity (or some combination of the three).
7. Introduce them to core wisdom and psychological concepts from the start. Take essential concepts, like gratitude, surrender, empathy, anger is fear, the power of the Oneness, etc. and interpret them in an age-appropriate way. So start the family off with the “Thank You Game” after a bedtime story, where everyone has to think of one thing they are grateful for from the day. Ask them to consider what something feels like to a friend or pet if they hurt them or grab something from them, to build their empathy skills. Take them to a hostel or hospice so they put into action compassion and social justice from a young age (and see just how lucky they are). Teach them to go beyond the surface levels of emotions to find the gold nuggets within.
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8. Tell them you love them, authentically, as often as you feel it. In our house, we tell each other this many times a day. We hug each other and kiss each other spontaneously, all the time. This then happens in public, at parks and on holiday. Just as you would reach out to kiss a lover when you see something beautiful about them, do it with your kids too, no matter how old they get (and perhaps they won’t get embarrassed if they have enjoyed a short lifetime of it). Don’t hold back like so many of our parents did! Hug them whenever you feel you want to, as long as they want to (which sometimes they don’t). If they are’t into a kiss or a hug, don’t take it personally and don’t do any guilt or shame. Just give them space, as you would like. This teaches them to respect their own “felt sense” about when to engage in affection. Take very opportunity to whisper into their ears – and so into their always listening unconscious mind – that they are loved, unique, welcomed parts of the one universe with a right to be here. Do this at night as they go to sleep. Put yourself into the role of a loving, wise, connected universe and speak to them from that place. What does your little human need to hear right now to feel most connected, loved and safe?
9. Mirror back everything they say so they know you get it; and teach them how to mirror back. This ensures you actively listen to them, empathically, and embeds this form of relating in their life. When we are actively listened to, we feel safe, connected, our stress response drops , and we are more likely to co-operate and collaborate. Same for them. So if they are upset about something, repeat back what their gripe is, matching them in heartfelt-ness but with added wisdom. Take care not to exacerbate and amplify their emotions but to match them and bring them into calm. You can then validate those emotions by saying “If you were you, I think I’d also be upset if X happened to me”. Watch the magic of mirroring infold…
10. Become conscious of as many parenting habits, beliefs and assumptions lying dormant within you that are no longer serving thriving or connection. Spot how many wonky or shonky patterns you have that you learnt and mimicked from your own parents. Engage in them with an honest appraisal, using all of your wisdom and intelligence, about whether it is an appropriate way to think / behave / feel given what you know about the best of human experience. Is it time to break cycles of ancestral pain and habitual pattern? You are free to transform the stuff that no longer fits (you can use the process in the Switch On 21-Day Breakthrough Challenge to do this). Surrender old beliefs, emotional triggers and habits that disempower both you and them. In particular, watch for how upset and angry you can get when you feel powerless, impotent; like you are doing your best or trying to get them to do something at you realise you can’t. Notice how much language you use that attempts to control, manage and predict their ebullient emotions. Amazing moments for profound, tangible, surrender!