Your Child is Like the Rain: A Guide for the Peaceful Parent - No Need to Fix the Child
|Your Child is Like the Rain: A Guide for the Peaceful Parent|
|No Need to Fix the Child|
No Need to Fix the Child
Can we respond to the child, rather than try to change her? The other day I gave one of my children a milk shake and he swung his arm when I handed it to him. The thick drink splattered on the floor, the counter and our clothes. “Wow, this is funny,” said his brother, and we burst out laughing. The thought, “It shouldn’t have spilled” would have been a painful thought. It didn’t cross any of our minds, so we stayed joyful and connected. Next thing to do was to clean the floor and our clothes. I like knowing what to do next. It makes my life simple. We can clean the floor in anger or in happiness; it’s the same floor. Will he or I be less careful next time because I wasn’t angry? Do you be- lieve this thought? Have humans stopped spilling things yet? Does being upset ever make us more capable?
The good news is, you don’t have to obey your painful thoughts. When thoughts bring you joy and loving connection, go with them. If you notice stress and disconnection, check the validity of your thoughts. Don’t believe everything your mind says. If it hurts, it isn’t true.
Parents often ask “What if my child is truly misbehaving?” I don’t know what “misbehaving” means, because to me a child is always doing the best she can to meet her own need. When you explore your thought about what you call “mis- behaving,” you may be surprised to find that it has nothing to do with your child: She has a valid and good reason to act or speak the way she does. Once you under- stand the reason, your confusion will be over and you will be able to either elimi- nate the cause of the difficulty or respond respectfully and peacefully.
A few years ago, I was teaching the SALVE formula and the “yes” approach in one of my workshops. A couple of days later, I received an e-mail from a participant who found my guidance very similar to the work of Byron Katie and to ideas from Vedanta, Taoism, Zen and other ancient teachings. I then ordered Katie’s book, Loving What Is, and found that the self-inquiry and the “yes” are similar to the four questions and the turnaround she offers in Loving What Is.
The work crystallized and deepened the self-inquiry I offered, so I started in- corporating it into my work with parents.
The four questions offered in Loving What Is are:
Is it true?
Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
How do you react when you think or believe that thought?
Who would you be without the thought?
Then, after answering these simple questions, turn the sentence around in one of the following ways:
To the opposite. (“He shouldn’t listen,” and find out why.)
To yourself. (“I should listen to me,” and notice how that would clarify things.)
To the other. (“I should listen to him,” and discover how it could benefit you.)
The following is an example of a mother’s investigating her own thoughts about her toddler’s behavior. To explore these thoughts, the mother, Yael, and I used the four questions and turnaround.
Yael: We came home after a wonderful day in the park and Toby was swinging a plastic rod while running through the house. I was afraid for him, and told him to stop. He didn’t. I told him if he didn’t stop I would take the rod away. He didn’t stop. I took it away. He kicked me. I told him if he kicks, no bedtime story. He kicked more.
Naomi: Toby shouldn’t have kicked, is that true?
Naomi: Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
Yael: No. He was frustrated. I did respond kindly first and said, “I know you had a lovely day and now I need time to my- self...” But nothing helped.
Naomi: Well, I understand, but the “nice day” story was not his experience at that moment.
Yael: Oh, I see. His day at that moment wasn’t so nice. He wanted a story, and to swing the rod around, and I took both away from him.
Naomi: Yes. So now you understand your child. If we don’t judge and decide how the child should be, we can understand how he is. How do you react when you be- lieve that he shouldn’t kick and he does?
Yael: I get angry, impatient…and I yell and threaten.
Naomi: Who would you be without this thought that Toby shouldn’t kick, when he does?
Yael: Calmer. I would help him.
Naomi: Yes. So turn it around.
Yael: Toby should have kicked. (Thinking). You know, he wanted to go outside where it would have been safe, but I didn’t let him. He didn’t have much choice.
Naomi: So you understand him.
Naomi: Turn it to yourself.
Yael: I shouldn’t have kicked me.
Naomi: Tell me about it.
Yael: I was kicking myself with anger inside my head, thinking I am a bad mother.
Naomi: All the while doing the best you can with what you knew in the moment.
Naomi: Can you see another turnaround?
Yael: I shouldn’t have kicked Toby.
Naomi: Is it as true or truer?
Yael: Yes. I was angry with him and in- sulting, and I took away his story time.
Naomi: If things don’t go our way, we kick in an “adult” way and the children mirror us. I call it the parent’s tantrum.
Yael: OK, I see now. So without my story, neither one of us would need to kick.
Naomi: You can only know about you. I hear from you that you will not “kick” without believing your thought. Instead, without the thought, you see your child’s need and find a kind solution.
Yael: But isn’t it a natural consequence for his kicking to not read the story?
Naomi: Notice how the mind wants to defend its position and question that. If it was natural, it would happen on its own. I notice that nature does not need my management. His kicking was over and nothing happened.
Yael: Oh, I see, I see. Not reading to him is not really related to kicking.
Naomi: Not reading the book is you kicking him.
Yael: You are right. When I listen to him and help, he doesn’t kick. He is learning from me to punish because that is what I was doing. So if respond to his need, he won’t kick.
Naomi: Likely. And, I cannot know that. Let me know how it works. Expecting a specific result is yet another story that gets in the way of clarity and unconditional love. It is being in his busi- ness. Work on you, so you can love him unconditionally.
Yael: In times that I respond to him with kindness and understanding, he doesn’t kick.
Naomi: So he is your mirror.
Yael: This is so freeing. Thank you.
This story leads most parents to the common worries: “How will he ever learn?” and “Shouldn’t he learn not to kick, whether or not Mom is doing the kind thing?” But observation tells me that he hasn’t so far, and Mom is working on her own learning not to kick.
The idea that learning has to be forced in advance has not been questioned. Yet, in reality, everything flows in perfect time. Without advanced breathing lessons, the baby is born and breathes. Without walking manuals, she walks, and without talking classes, she talks. These miracles are the lessons of life and of the way children grow all the way through. We only need to water the flower, not force its petals open. Each child grows in her unique way. How do I know how that is? I observe. I respond rather than trying to shape. Notice how you respond to the rain, and learn from peaceful you. Marvel at the miracle your child is, and respond as you would to the rain. Passively? No. With clarity and love? Yes.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #30.
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