Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

Posts tagged ‘Child’

Who’s the grown up, anyway?

This is a post that has been festering in my mind for some time. It’s one of those rant-posts in which bloggers sometimes indulge, where weeks and months of pent-up frustration spurts out onto the screen like a giant, electronic ink blot on an otherwise clean, tidy page.

Defining the issue

Joy on a Shoestring's Manifesto for grown-ups

Joy on a Shoestring’s Manifesto for grown-ups

Adults ought to behave like adults unless they have a physiological impairment that prevents them from doing so. That might seem obvious to some, but based on the interactions I observe between individuals of all ages (including my own fits of pique), it’s clearly not as self-evident as one would hope. In the interests of clarity, let’s be clear about what I mean when I say adults should behave like adults. How does an adult behave?

Here’s a simplified definition:

  • A grown-up shows restraint.
  • A grown-up waits until she has all the facts before reacting.
  • A grown-up bases her reactions on the truth.
  • A grown-up listens.
  • A grown-up is wise.
  • A grown-up considers the source of a communication.
  • A grown-up behaves discreetly and with respect.
  • A grown-up is patient with those who have not grown up as far as he has.
  • A grown-up is hard to offend.
  • A grown-up is quick to forgive.
  • A grown-up seeks the growth of others.
  • A grown-up is not petty, small-minded, easily swayed or weak.
  • A grown-up laughs it off.
  • A grown-up is kind.

Adults behave like spoilt children

I heard of a lady once whose two-year-old grandchild refused to greet her. The child’s parents had taught it that no physical interaction should ever be forced, and that it is always okay to say no to too much touching. The lady was innocent of malice, but also inclined to be overwhelmingly “huggy”. When the child refused to engage, the lady became so angry that she stormed off and left the event – her grandchild’s birthday party. I was astonished. How can a two-year-old child offend anybody? Surely anyone can see that the chid means no harm, and surely no offence can ever be taken in the absence of intent? In other words, the child didn’t mean it. How can a two-year-old ever be offensive? A mature adult would realise that the source of the “confrontation” was innocent, and would therefore not take it personally. If anything, an adult would laugh it off. It doesn’t take much of a perspective-shift to see the funny side of that interaction: an over-ebullient granny imposing one too many kisses on a frazzled toddler; the toddler, with great dignity, rebuffing the affection. Truth be told, it was hilarious. (Interestingly, in later years it has transpired that the toddler in question has a mild form of Asperger’s Syndrome, and struggles with social occasions of any kind, not to mention overwhelming attention).

Parents expect too much from their children

Not just their children, in fact. Poorly adjusted adults expect too much from everyone – and very little indeed from themselves. These are the people who expect their young children to clean up after themselves, while they themselves do not. Or, if they do clean up after themselves, they haven’t patiently taught their little ones to do the same, and stand in astonishment when the untrained children leave a mess, having absolutely no tools with which to remedy the situation.

be strong - you're inspiringThese so-called adults complain about their sick bodies, yet take no steps to fix the situation. Perhaps they make poor eating choices, neglect exercise, or poison their bodies in any of the myriad legal avenues available to the subconsciously self-destructive today. They fail to see that each moment of sickness is a moment of health stolen by force from those who love them. The irony is lost on them altogether when they berate their children for not finishing a “healthy” lunch (which included sweets, crisps and that cleverly disguised pack of chemicals and sugars the shop euphemistically labels ‘yoghurt’), when they themselves make astoundingly poor meal choices day after day. Where will you children learn the principles of hygiene, home making and healthy living if not from you? Yes, they can acquire these skills later in life, with effort and motivation. But how much more of a gift is it for parents to train their children in the way they should go? When they’re older, they will find it so much easier to revert to what they know, so what they know needs to be what they need. Their every day experience becomes their baseline for what lies ahead. That’s why it is vital that their every day experience consists of the very best we can hope to offer, and not the very worst of what we are. When we lazily and selfishly default to that, we create a rotten foundation for our children and make it hard for them to be the best they can be. They deserve better!

We placate ourselves with words, telling ourselves that our children need to realise that their parents are only human, reassuring ourselves that children are resilient; they will survive. Really? Yes, we’re human. But they can learn from us that it is possible to strive daily to be the best version of human we can be, and sometimes even to achieve that. Yes, they are resilient, but do you really want your children to survive their childhood? Is it not far better for them to thrive in their formative years? Childhood should not be some kind of concentration camp from which we’re lucky to escape intact. Childhood should be a breeding ground for genius, for contagious creativity and boundless innovation.

We expect too little from ourselves

As much as we expect our children and are fellow man to be more than they are, we expect too little from ourselves. We give up too easily. Often, we get off the track before we’ve even started the race. We don’t stare down danger, we cower under a duvet and hope it won’t find us. And when we have no choice but to weather the trials, do we respond with grace and dignity? Oh no! We moan and wail. We wallow in an ocean of self-pity and make sure the world sees just how hard done by we are. We are being watched. We are lighting ways. Be strong! Acquire dignity, gentleness and peace.

A better way

children are great imitators so give them something great to imitateThere is a better ay to achieve adulthood. First of all, we need to acknowledge that it can and should be achieved. I may not be responsible for any cognitively healthy adult other than myself, but I am responsible for myself. I need to draw a line in the sand and say, that is who I was. This is who I choose to be now. Itemise the differences between who you are and who you would like to be, then make small, consistent changes each and every day to become that person. People have said for years that positive thinking can change lives. The Bible clearly commands us to renew our minds. Now, science shows that we can reprogramme our neural pathways to default to new ways of thinking. If we can, we should! If we can be better than we are, what’s stopping us?

Let’s take active steps right now, this minute, to become the grown-up version of ourselves, fixed, whole, and contributing.

  1. Commit to honesty. Mark Twain has famously been credited with saying that the beauty of honesty is never having to remember what you’ve said. Be clear with those closest to you: you will speak the truth. You will keep your promises, or not make promises at all. You will admit your fears and your failings. You will humbly apologise and ask to be forgiven. No more passive-aggressive mind games for you. The truth will indeed set you free.
  2. Agree to approach the situation with gentleness. Make a verbal and mental commitment that, no matter how angry, astonished or hurt you may feel, you will always respond gently and kindly. There is always more to a situation than we realise. Only sociopaths actively do horrible things with the express intention of hurting others. The people in your life are not sociopaths. They don’t mean to hurt, annoy or anger you, so bear that in mind when you react and be calm until you know the whole story. By that time, your anger will have dissipated anyway, and you will be able to resolve your differences in love.
  3. Be rational. Look at point two again. If someone you love has hurt you, they didn’t mean to. Even when we hurt others, they don’t always try to hurt us back, so simply assume the best, and act on that assumption. You may be wrong. You may be taken for a ride by someone who sees you as a soft touch. But wouldn’t you rather be wrong when you’ve behaved well, with dignity, honour and grace, than be wrong when you’ve behaved appallingly, shouting insults and hurling abuse? No one can be ashamed of having taken the high road, no matter the outcome. So take it.
  4. Be a grown up. Easy peasy. Stop being a child. No matter what has happened to you, unless you have a serious physiological impairment, you have no excuse for selfish behaviour, so stop behaving selfishly. The simple act of putting others first is enough to begin a radical transformation in every part of your life. Let the power of that transformation take hold in your life, and transform you into a wellspring of blessing in every life your life touches.

Your kids are awesome! Do they know what to do about it?

Children are phenomenal

Be vast and brilliant

Be vast and brilliant

Alright, it’s time to ‘fess up. I love kids. If you only know me through this blog, then that’s probably already obvious to you. But if you know me in real life, not so much. In “real life” I always say that I don’t like kids generally; I like specific kids. Specifically mine. But I’m realising that that’s simply not true. (I’ve long-held that belief because at one time we thought we couldn’t have kids, and pretending not to want them was easier than facing the pain of that loss. More on that some other time).

Children are magnificent. They are bold and courageous. Vast and brilliant. Their potential is infinite, and they know no bounds. They have no idea what they can’t do, so they blithely do whatever takes their fancy.

A child’s view is fresh and untainted. Through their eyes, everything is new and sparkly. Each moment brings new wonder, and their joy and genius can be contagious – if we let it be.

They need to know

Do they know? When last did you tell your daughter that she astonishes you? That her strength and resolve will stand her in good stead all her life? That being independent and courageous is a good thing – a grand thing? How often has your son heard you admire his innovation? Does he know that those heart stopping moments when he disappears up a tree make you proud as much as they terrify you? Does he know that his gentle care of an injured butterfly breaks your heart and delights your soul?

Do they know how phenomenal they are?

You need to recognise it

Do you know how phenomenal they are? Do you get so caught up int he hustle and bustle of every day that you lose sight of the great and infinite truth that this precious moment is the only one of its kind that will ever exist – anywhere? Your daughter will never be nine years old and utterly uninhibited again. Never again will she be eleven years old and self-conscious for the very first time. Your son will never offer you that particular, tiger-striped snail as a grandchild ever again. He will never throw that particular stick in that wild, abandoned, utterly delighted way ever again. There may be other snails, other sticks. There may be other milestones, other daughters, even. But this one millisecond is the only one of its kind there will ever be. Ever. Do you see that? Do you feel the desperate need to bottle it, to ponder it, to guard it in your heart and bring it out in quiet, lonely moments, worthy as it is of endless admiration? Take notice now. Don’t let another frazzled second pas in which you fail to see the gift you have in front of you this very moment. Invest in the ultimate success of these precious gifts we call our children, almost as if they could ever belong to us. We know better, don’t we?

Amazing is not faultless

Just because our children are infinite in their capacity to delight and bless, they are not perfect. Recognising the pleasure we have in every moment with them is not the same as overlooking the areas that need work. Each and every one of us has room to grow. We must grow, learn, evolve all the time. We should take active steps to develop our intellect, our spirituality, our relationships, our skills, and our bodies. We’ll never reach the place where we can say, “Okay, I’ve arrived. I’ve done enough in this area. I can stop developing here.” Because the day we say that is the day we begin to die. Rather, we should learn to be adaptable to the change that attends every stage of life, and embrace it as tangible evidence of our personal development.

In the same way, we need to be cognizant of the fact that our kids aren’t done yet. They need us. Our job is to do whatever we can to help them be the best they can be, and that implies that they’re not already the best they can be. They’re not. They’re flawed human beings with failings and shortcomings. Be aware of that. Enjoy it, because those so-called “blemishes” on  their perfect selves ground us, humble us, and often delight us with their innocence. These, too, will pas (if we do our jobs right!), and we need to nurture our children through the rough patches into the exquisite gardens they can be.

Just don’t expect more than they can deliver. In fact, don’t expect anything. Swop your unreasonable and unfounded expectations for a sense of expectancy, renewed every morning by the imminent delight that your privilege,a s parent, allows you in seeing them mature and navigate the perils of growing up – all with you at their side, faithful ally and trusted navigator.

Amazing comes with a responsibility

The best way to find oneself is to lose oneself in the service of othersSo, what do we do about all this awesomeness? Here’s the thing: with great power comes great responsibility. Our children have a responsibility, and we should ensure that they know this. It’s not enough to reassure them that they’re great. Trust me, they know it. If we do our jobs right, our children will have a strong sense of self-worth and a well-established self-image. They’ll be confident and bold. They may also be entitled, a blight that afflicts more and more of the next generation. Business owners complain daily about the trouble they have finding dependable staff. School leavers have a sense of what they deserve that beggars belief. They feel that lazing around texting their friends or gossiping on Facebook is their inalienable right, and they actively defy any who disagree – from parents to employers to authorities. They certainly make no meaningful contribution to society. Whatever spark of greatness they may have been born with is utterly diluted by years and years of ego-stroking. Parents alone are not to blame here. Peers, the media and society at large have developed such a strong fear of raising insecure, withdrawn or shy youngsters that we’ve overbalanced entirely and tipped the scales in favour of morally bankrupt sociopaths. 

We have a deep responsibility, and it’s one we should never dream of shaking off lightly. We must teach our children to take responsibility for themselves. We must teach them to be strong and independent of us (wholly dependent on God). We must teach them to recognise and value their strengths, wherever they lie. We must teach them to use these strengths to serve. We need to redefine the common, hollow definition of success from “the one with the most stuff at the end is the winner” to something far more valuable: the value of significant service. Nothing has more reach. There’s no greater way to impact this world or leave a legacy, then to devote your talents to the service of others – no matter how small or great that act of service may be.

What will you do about that?

Since the moment I found out I was pregnant, I’ve been telling my daughters they’re wonderful. They truly are divine gifts, and I am so very grateful. They know that. We work together to identify their strengths and talents, and workshop ways in which these can be used to enhance the lives of others. We honestly appraise areas for improvement and then work on those as a supportive team. We boldly identify things that may possibly never be “fixable”, because sometimes we’re just made that way. Honest appraisal leads to authentic acceptance and allows to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses in others like the multiple facets of a sparkly gem. It also leads to humility. Knowing we have areas of strength as well as areas of weakness makes us humble and grateful for what we have.

This is how I am working with my girls to develop both confidence and character. What’s working for you, in your family? I’d love to hear your comments.

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