Welcome to the April 2013 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Peaceful Parenting Applied
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about authenticity through self-expression. We hope you enjoy this month’s posts and consider joining us next month when we share about Peaceful Parenting Applied.
“Don’t mix up that which is habitual with that which is natural.”~Gandhi
In our everyday speech as parents — both to our children and about them — we are creating our reality and shaping theirs. Neither sticks nor stones, words are water, a powerful force that works its effect over time. Our speech is often habitual and unconscious which also means that we may remain unaware of whether or not we are creating what we really want through our words. Being more conscious and intentional can help us bring more peace, love, respect, and harmony to our hearts and homes.
What do our words mean?
How we talk to our children greatly affects their own self-image and sense of self worth. It strongly influences how they will see the world and interpret events. Our language (and tone of voice and body language) communicates approval or disapproval, acknowledgment or disregard, support or withdrawal and either strengthens or weakens the connection we have with our children. While most of us rarely say things that are blatantly hurtful, many, if not most of us occasionally speak to or about our children in negative ways.
“My kid is all over the place and everyone else’s child is so well-behaved.”
“You need to get in your car seat now!”
While these statements might not seem extreme, they are commonplace examples of how our speech can harm our relationship with our children.
The first statement paints the picture of our child as “less than” or somehow not as acceptable as other children. It also describes our child as one-dimensional — always “all over the place,” instead of behaving this way some of the time. Even though this statement isn’t likely spoken directly to our child, s/he may overhear it, and, even if s/he doesn’t, it is still solidifying in our own minds who our child IS versus how s/he sometimes behaves. Indeed, speaking in such a way can blind us to the fullness of our child’s humanity.
The second quote (likely given in a loud, exasperated tone with accompanying body language signaling our irritation) violates our children’s sense of autonomy and can also make it easy for him/her to develop the belief that he/she is responsible for other people’s emotional reaction (In hearing your anger, he/she might think “Mom is angry because of me.”). The other problem with the second statement is that in almost all likelihood it is untrue (you may want them to get into the car seat but probably don’t actually “need” them to). By falsely categorizing a desire as a need, we run a power play on our children that puts our “needs” ahead of their own (for more about this concept, read Needy Parents Create Needy Kids).
How can we speak to create peace and connection?
“Be impeccable with your word.”~don Miguel Ruiz
One of the most challenging and effective things we can do as parents is to follow this teaching of Toltec shaman, don Miguel Ruiz. Being impeccable means being truthful and the result is that instead of spreading fear, we spread love.
“Sometimes my daughter has more energy than I can easily handle.”
“I really want to be able to drive home now and I feel frustrated that we’re sitting here instead.”
The statements above are revisions of the earlier examples I used to demonstrate two negative ways we might be communicating about or to our children.
With the first statement, a parent honestly states how it is for him when his daughter is in a high-energy place. No one is judged as “good/bad” and no one is compared to others. And the clarification is given that shows this is just a “sometimes” experience rather than “always.” Ideally the truth of this statement would be easy for both the daughter and father to own (“That’s true. I sometimes have a LOT of energy!” claims a daughter.)
In the second statement, the parent takes responsibility for her own feelings rather than making her child to blame. No one is guilty and no one needs to change. When we own our emotional responses to reality, we generally feel more powerful (instead of being the victim) and it often makes it easier for others to actually co-operate with us (instead of resisting, which usually happens with blaming).
Another way to bring more peace into the way you speak with and about your children is to consider the answers to three questions about what you are thinking of saying before you say it.
It is kind?
Is it true?
Is it necessary?
Usually attributed to the Quakers, Sufis, or Buddhist teachers, these three questions give parents a way to screen our thoughts before they become speech. I first really learned about this “triple filter” when I became a Simplicity Parenting Group Leader, and they’ve been helpful in more ways than I first imagined. I thought that they would help me avoid saying things that I nearly always regretted uttering in the first place — sarcastic comments, hurtful “comebacks,” or lies told when I’m emotionally upset. And these questions did. In addition, considering these questions — or the broader idea of “will it improve on the silence” — simply kept me quiet even when my impulse to speak was positive (as in offering praise or commenting happily about one thing or another). Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big believer in acknowledging others, especially our children, and in taking the time to say loving things. For me personally, this pausing before speaking allowed me to see that many times my voice was going to be extraneous to an already lovely situation.
In my experience, the easiest part of speaking truthful, kind, and necessary things is the speaking. The most challenging aspect is creating the internal space that makes this speech flow naturally from my mouth. When I’m not feeling peaceful internally — because of self-judgment, fear, envy, or poor self-worth — my words will require more monitoring. At those times I’m almost required to actively apply these ideas I’ve written about. It takes a lot of effort and often I fail to speak in a conscious and mindful way. The result, of course, is that afterwards I have some relationship repairs to make.
So, to make it easier to parent peacefully through the words I use, my first practice is to create inner peace. Interestingly enough, these same “rules” — be impeccable with your word and speak only that which is true, kind, and necessary — applied to my internal dialogue help me find that peaceful place. When I refuse to believe the lies and fearful thoughts bouncing around in my mind, or I actively refute false beliefs and replace them with the truth, I feel calm, composed, and quieter. From this more centered space I’ve found that those sarcastic impulses or that compulsion to hear myself talk fade away. Self-monitoring becomes almost extraneous because “right speech” is the only kind that even comes to mind.
Three Gates by Beth Day*
If you are tempted to reveal
A tale to you someone has told
About another, make it pass
Before you speak, three gates of gold.
These narrow gates: First, “is it true?”
Then, “is it needful?” In your mind
Give truthful answer. And the next
Is last and narrowest, “Is it kind?”
And if to reach your lips at last
It passes through these gateways three,
Then you may tell the tale, nor fear,
What result of speech may be.
*Three Gates found via Daily Kos.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon April 26 with all the carnival links.)
- Dealing with Whining Compassionately – Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses ways to deal with whining when it is getting on your nerves.
- Peaceful Parenting in the Light of Big Emotions – Laura from Authentic Parenting wonders how to resist being swept away from the storm of emotions in a sensitive child.
- How a peaceful parent speaks -Will the truth set you free? Shonnie at Heart-Led Parenting tells how being truthful (and more) in the way she talks to and about her daughter has helped create more peace and joy in her home.
- To Sleep, Perchance to Sleep – Mercedes at Project Procrastinot expounds on the difficulties of sleeping when you’ve got new twins by your side.
- Hitting and Peaceful Parenting – Susan May at Together Walking writes about her son’s recent “hitting phase” and how they were able to navigate it without punishing him.
- Peaceful parenting in action: the importance of realistic expectations – Tat from Mum in search shares a few examples of how knowing what to expect from your children can make your day a whole lot more enjoyable.
- Success Through Encouragement – At The Squishable Baby, Lisa discusses how she helps her child be successful through encouragement.