When I was young, I imagined coming down the stairs after putting my children to bed and relaxing, as I remember my mom doing. That day came and I have truly enjoyed every minute of the day being a parent. Not to say there weren’t tough days, but that comes with the territory. It is a job, one we must enter with as much dedication and devotion as any other profession, and then some.
As a teacher, I watch parents and children interact daily; not just at school, but wherever I go. I remember being a young parent and being told that my child needed a hat or shoes, that I should re-position them in the stroller as they slept, so they would be safer. These tips not only were unsolicited but seemed incidental. The reason being, parenting is about the big picture. I tell my students I have two overall goals for them: to be likable and employable. Mindful movement teaches many skills to reach these basic outcomes.
If you are considerate, kind, empathetic, non-judgmental and loving, you’ll be likable. If you are prompt, attentive, focused, driven and detail- and goal-oriented along, you’ll be employable. (And just for clarity, if you own your own business, these traits are important to customers!)
How are these two topics related? If you are a parent who tries to have your children like you, you’re missing the target. Teaching your children involves time and effort, here are some of the little details that will lead to their success.
First, we need to be aware of our own bodies. If we teach children the prompt SLOW: to take time to scan their body, lower their shoulders, open their breath and ask about the why/what involved in this moment, they will learn to be aware of their self. Let’s look at this a little deeper. A child becomes frustrated in a stressful situation. Ask him/her to SLOW down. Remind them to scan their body, being aware of how they are feeling. Lowering the shoulders and opening the breath relieves stress and allows for deep breathing. Finally, encourage them to use words to explain why they are upset, or what they are wanting or needing. This works for adults too, so do not be afraid to model!
Empathy is virtually impossible without being aware of others around you. Children do not develop consideration on their own. Teaching children to look around their environment is first a safety issue. It also leads to nurturing an empathetic and thoughtful individual. Perhaps you have seen a large group saying goodbye at a mall or restaurant. They might be hugging and talking as someone else is trying to squeeze by. They are not trying to block the door, their focus is on each other, and because of this they are just not mindful of others. If we model being cognizant of every day moments, we will hold doors open, move out of another’s way, and not be distracted by multi-tasking.
It is easier to be kind when we are aware of other’s needs. Once we think of a kind act, we must then find time to complete it. Training our children to take time to write a thank you card, bake cookies for someone or raking a neighbor’s leaves is a big lesson. We need to create time for moments like these in order to think beyond our own day.
This may even be more difficult than ever with all of life’s distractions. Focus is developed. Paying attention to details is so important; time, directions, and appointments demand concentration and memory. Unless your child is unable, encourage your children to look at people when they speak, or the server while ordering. Question your kids about details at church, the store, or at a restaurant after leaving. (The secret here is to know the answers, so pay attention too!)
Games while you are waiting are so helpful. In practicing attentiveness. ‘I Spy” is a favorite game, but any mindful activity will work. Making eye contact while conversing will demonstrate focus. Using technology as a tool to be involved with each other is great! Try downloading and playing a charade game for kids while your family waits in a restaurant.
You are never too young to set a goal. Wanting to grow up and be a super hero is a great start! Check lists and chores give us our first feeling of accomplishment. Updating goals is important with change. Make vision boards, create inspirational word art, and dream together! Life is a journey, there are obstacles to overcome and sometimes a detour, so be flexible and stay determined! Goals give us direction, difficulties make us stronger. Fight the temptation to make it easy by fixing everything and you’ll help your child become a problem solver. Model goal setting, because you are never too old to set goals.
Investing in your children is not easy in the busy world we live in. Again, being proud of your children is great! As we drive our children to lessons and practices, it is in these experiences where virtues are taught, and character is built. This is our goal as parents. Don’t lose sight of this in our world of bumper stickers of honor students and club sports. Slow down, look around, be kind and appreciate the moment. You can never get this time back, so live in the present and relish every minute of it!