PARENTING WITH PRINCIPLE TWO: SLOW DOWN — Part Six

Slow Down During Meals

These days, few families take the time to have meals together, and I believe this is a great loss. Having at least one meal together every day has always been high on my family priority list, and though my children sometimes complained, wanting to be like their friends and eat on the run, when they were older we ate together at least one night a week, and they complained if we didn’t.

Humans are built for ritual. It is the ritual celebration of what is good in our lives, of our connection to each other, that makes life rich. If you don’t do it already, I’d like you to consider having at least one meal together every day as a family. Responsibilities for cooking, cleaning, and atmosphere can be rotated or divided up. Keep it light, let the kids have a little fun, and try to find some funny stories to tell. It’s wonderful to start the meal by saying grace, if that’s comfortable for you, or just thinking creation for food and togetherness.

When we ate together only once a week, holding hands and giving thanks for our connection, our safety, and our food was important to us all. After dinner, we sometimes watched a movie or played board games or just sat around and talked for a while. The kids’ friends and sometimes one of my friends or family members were invited and treated with the relaxed acceptance of family. It got our week started in a way that made us all feel part of something bigger, and reminded each of us how fortunate we were to be so loved, regardless of what else was going on in our lives. Small children like it when the same blessing is said every night. For children, ritual means safety, stability, and continuity. Having table decorations to celebrate holidays or the seasons added festivity and remembrance to the meal.

When the kids were adolescents, naturally rebellion had to come out around this ritual. The kids would refuse to say the blessing, or when it was their turn, say something silly. the boys would find some way, at some point in the meal, to start talking about something gross or disgusting to the adults. At first we tried to stop and control it, but that just led to a tension-filled meal that was no fun. Finally we let it go. Then it was a kind of family  joke. As the boys grew older, they would wait until the very end of the meal to bring up something totally tasteless, just to let us know they hadn’t for gotten — and we’d all laugh. Eventually that little “tradition” went by the wayside as they grew up and got more interested in the food and the positive energy of our family being together. By taking the long-term view, keeping the end in mind, I allowed them to work through this period in their lives. Sure enough, it eventually just died away.

Tai Chi teacher Chungliang Al Huang says,

“One of the best images of Tao is to be like bamboo,or a bow. You can feel the weight here on your shoulders. But instead of resisting, you bend like a bow and then spring back then the weight releases. Instead of resisting the energy, you store it up and use it as you recoil.”

Unfortunately, it often seems that just about the time life is going smoothly, we find some way to get caught up, once again, in our unhealthy thinking— speeded up, worrying about a bill, concerned about the future, regretting the past, resenting something that happened at work, or simply consumed in our to-do list for tomorrow. There are an infinite number of ways to get off track. However, they all have one thing in common: They are the result of our own thinking. When we recognize that we are thinking, however— when we remember that we are the thinker responsible for the feelings we are experiencing—we then have the capacity to wake up and bring ourselves gently back to the moment.

Slowing down allows us to see aspects of life that were previously hidden in the frenzy of a busy mind. It allows us to open to the radiant, joyful feelings that reside within . We find that beneath the vicissitudes of our thoughts lies a spaciousness, a peacefulness of being, that is incomprehensible to a mind caught up in analytical thinking or a mind operating too quickly. When our mind isn’t racing to the next series of thoughts or holding on tightly to old ones, we gain access to the peaceful feelings of our innate mental health.

Those of us who have children know how quickly they grow up. One minute they’re keeping us up at night, and in what seems like the next minute they would rather be out at night. One minute all they want to do is spend time with us, and the next we are the last people they want to be with.

Yet despite knowing how short is the time we have with them, most of us seem to speed through our parenting years, almost wishing them away. We tell ourselves, “I’ll be happier when the infant state in over”; “I’ll be relieved when we’re out of the terrible twos”; “It will be so much better when the teen years are over.” But, ironically, as our children grow up, we convince ourselves of the opposite by rewriting our personal history. “It was so much nicer when the kids were little”; “I miss the baby stage”; “I long for the days when my kids took me seriously.” In short, we miss most of the present moments of our parenting experience by focusing our attention on thoughts of the future or memories of the past. Our minds are spinning a mile a minute, trying to get everything accomplished. We go back and forth between believing that “ someday” will be better than today, and convincing ourselves that “yesterday” was better than it really was. Rather than immersing ourselves in the present moments of our experience, we keep ourselves one step removed from life with our own thoughts.

Slowing down so powerfully enhances the raising of children that parents who find raising supposedly impossible teenagers will find it as wonderful and rewarding as raising a tranquil eight-year-old. By learning to live in and appreciate this moment, regardless of how it may be unfolding, instead of reliving memories of the past or anticipating moments yet to be, you too can transform your experience of parenting into a peaceful one.

Exercise for Principle Two

  1. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and relax each part of your body.
  2. Take two deep breaths. As you inhale repeat, “slow,” and as you exhale repeat, “down.”

© 2015 Vimala McClure

Advertisements

PARENTING WITH PRINCIPLE TWO: SLOW DOWN Part Four

SLOWING DOWN FOR YOUR CHILDREN

Unfortunately, it often seems that just about the time life is going smoothly, we find some way to get caught up, once again, in our unhealthy thinking— speeded up, worrying about a bill, concerned about the future, regretting the past, resenting something that happened at work, or simply consumed in our to-do list for tomorrow. There are an infinite number of ways to get off track. However, they all have one thing in common: They are the result of our own thinking. When we recognize that we are thinking, however— when we remember that we are the thinker responsible for the feelings we are experiencing—we then have the capacity to wake up and bring ourselves gently back to the moment.

As the mind slows down, we are able to see life much more clearly. We have many of the same issues to contend with, but they look different. Rather than appearing to be emergencies that are smothering us, they look like issues that need resolving or opportunities in disguise. Feelings are a mechanism to let us know when our minds are operating too quickly and when it’s time to slow down. Just as a timer goes off to signal that dinner is ready, an internal buzzer goes off when you are thinking in an unhealthy way. If you listen to these feelings and trust what they are trying to tell you, you will begin to experience the peace and joy of your mental health. Never again will life seem like such an emergency!

As the mind slows down, we are able to see life much more clearly. We have many of the same issues to contend with, but they look different. Rather than appearing to be emergencies that are smothering us, they look like issues that need resolving or opportunities in disguise. Feelings are a mechanism to let us know when our minds are operating too quickly and when it’s time to slow down. Just as a timer goes off to signal that dinner is ready, an internal buzzer goes off when you are thinking in an unhealthy way. If you listen to these feelings and trust what they are trying to tell you, you will begin to experience the peace and joy of your mental health. Never again will life seem like such an emergency!

Carlson, Richard; Bailey, Joseph (2009-10-13). Slowing Down to the Speed of Life: How To Create a Peaceful, Simpler Life  (pp. 53-54). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Slow Down While Getting Dressed

Often, getting everyone up and out in the morning means the day begins with stress, chaos, and hurry. Wouldn’t you rather start your day with connection, joy, and relaxation? Try making the morning ritual as easy on yourself as possible. You can minimize the struggle with preschoolers, either the night before or when they get up, by offering them choices so they feel in control. Often power struggles over food and dressing come from the conflicting needs of the parents who have time constraints and the child who is beginning to try out her autonomy by saying “no” at every opportunity. Offering choices usually helps to head off a conflict: “Do you want to wear this outfit, or this one?” It does sometimes require some grounded parental power (which we’ll talk about as we go along) so the child knows you mean what you say and that there are no other choices.

With breakfast, again, choices can be offered such as juice or milk, this cereal or that, hot or cold, and so on. Choosing is fun for kids, so often it can keep them preoccupied and their minds off the need to control their environment by saying, “No!”

TODDLER TANTRUM 1_m

Having a morning ritual that is the same every day can help, too. Make it a slow, easy ritual, perhaps accompanied by music. By the time my daughter was in high school, we had to part ways on this one — when needed “Pump-up” music, I needed meditative, harmonious tunes. So we agreed she could have her rap music in the car if I could have my morning New Age melodies at home. Maintaining a morning ritual may mean getting up earlier, so everyone can feel the support and enjoyment of family before going their separate ways. Again, making some of these choices the night before can be part of the bedtime ritual, and make mornings easier.

Slow Down in the Car

One of the things I dreaded most was driving with my children in the car. Even with car seats, they sat in the back and fought incessantly. Once, we even hit a parked car because the loud fighting and crying in the back was so distracting. I discovered this was my problem. No amount of yelling, cajoling, bargaining, understanding, or pleading changed the situation. I even regretfully, resorted to spanking my son after one such ride; it made no difference at all. I am horrified to this day that I lost my cool.

CRYING CHILD_n

One day I was on my way to teach a class, kids in tow. The fighting started. I pulled to the side of the road and sat. Slowly the children became silent and the oldest asked, “Mom, what are we doing?” I said (without anger, with an understanding demeanor), “It’s hard for you to be quiet in the car. But when you two fight it distracts me. I can’t drive safely so I am putting us and other people on the road in danger. I will not drive under those conditions. We will sit here until you are quiet.” So, they were quiet. We started out again. The fighting started again. I pulled over again. I repeated my speech, neither adding nor subtracting a word, but adding a minute to our five-minute break. We began again. Now it was time to test Mom. Many parents, at this point, knowing they are going to be terribly late, might give up just to meet their objective. I stopped at a phone (no cell phones back then), called the place to which I was going, explained I was having some “kid trouble” and said please forgive me but I would be late. If necessary I would cancel the class. Then I called a fellow teacher to see if she could fill in if necessary — but she couldn’t. Talk about stress!

Each time they began to fight, I pulled over and added time. No radio, no air conditioning (it was dead summer), just total silence. My feet were planted, and you can bet I was practicing controlled belly breathing. After a while, the kids began to get bored with this game. It was hot. Being confined in their car seats was not fun. But I had at least one boundary tester, so I knew we were in for an ordeal. I called and canceled my class with great regret. I told the kids this was what I was doing, and that it really felt bad to me and would reduce my income so that treats would be out of the question, and stopping at the toy store would be impossible. We spent around two or three hours at this. Eventually, it definitely was no fun anymore.

W QUOTE32_n

The kids could feel my resolve, and from then on there was no hitting or yelling. They knew I would sit in that car, bored and sweating, all day if I had to. They also knew, though it hurt me, I was willing to give up my objective to teach them something. Not only did they see this type of parenting clearly modeled for them, they also, deeply, unconsciously, got the message that they were my number one priority. I was willing to slow down and sacrifice in order to keep them safe and teach them right from wrong. The next week, I explained this to my class, and apologized to all of them for the inconvenience. But they benefitted, too. As parents, they could see that I walked my talk, and they respected me for it.

When, the next time we were in the car and the kids didn’t yell or fight, I thanked them sincerely.

From THE TAO OF MOTHERHOOD:

Like the eternal Tao, a wise mother

gives birth but does not posses. She

meets the child’s needs yet requires

no gratitude.

Observe how great masters raise

up their dearest disciples. Observe

how nature raises up the plants

and animals.

Great teachers take no credit for

their students’ growth, yet they

will go to any length to teach

them what they need to know.

Nature requires no praise,

yet it provides for the needs

of earth’s inhabitants.

Mother is the reflective principle,

the balancing agent for the child.

Like a guru, she allows the child to

make mistakes and loves the child

without condition. Like nature,

she allows consequences to unfold

and balance to be restored when

it is lost.

She intervenes only when the right use

of power is required.

© 2015 Vimala McClure

Purchase THE TAO OF MOTHERHOOD:

http://www.amazon.com/Tao-Motherhood-Vimala-McClure/dp/1608680134?ref_=pe_584750_33951330

Link

What I Changed for the Sake of My Kids | Wendy Bradford.

“Softer” is a way of being, of parenting, of thinking that I learned to embrace over this past year. I had to. For years, I had been tightly wound around the idea that rigidity and harshness were my best options in dealing with my kids.”

Link

Honoring the Emotional Child | Abundant Life Children.

Great article about handling tough emotions.

Video

#peaceful Parenting: when you’re triggered. – YouTube

#peaceful Parenting: when you’re triggered. – YouTube. FABULOUS VIDEO!

Link

» The Most Helpful Parenting Articles of 2014 Positive Parenting Connection.

A great bunch of articles to keep on hand.