Balance is a continual process. In order to stay balanced, we must be constantly shifting and adapting to even small changes in the environment or situation. When something changes, we must also change in order to maintain our balance. If we don’t, then not only do we lose our previous balance, but we tend to topple down the other side. This is true not only in regard to our activities and the busyness of our lives but with our relationships, including those relationships with our children. When our children are out of balance, we need to step over and help regain that balance rather than spiralling down, out of control.
American parents are running their children to and fro, frazzled themselves by the never-ending car pools and activities. The children, not knowing anything else, long for a simpler lifestyle, one in which they get to be children.
It’s true that our children benefit from varied experiences. Learning about how other people live and think gives them a broader sense of the world and of their own lives. Trying new things gives exposure to topics and activities which might spark a passing interest or a lifelong passion.
However, children need time. Just as they haven’t had a lot of experiences in their few years, neither have they had time to find themselves. It is through time, and play, that our children discover what it is they are really interested in and their own beliefs about life. It’s this time that is vital for them to learn about who they are.
I’ve often heard parents rationalizing punishments and rewards by citing the real world. When the kids grow up, they’ll be in the real world. In the real world, they’ll have to get a job and then, they had better be prepared. Punishments and rewards are everywhere, in the real world.
It was one of those idealistic parenting moments. I was in the kitchen washing dishes, and all four of my children were happily playing together in the living room.
The game of the moment was a pirate one, and there were plenty of giggles amidst the “Arghs.” In one of my glances, I saw my eight year old wielding a foam sword in perfect form. Another time, my three year old was proclaiming to be the Dread Pirate Roberts (I’ve mentioned we are a family of bibliophiles). The throw pillows morphed into a gang plank and the fish in our aquariums were hungry sharks.
As the climax of the game approached, I heard something that made me pause. “Send in the baby! He won’t harm her.” I had to laugh at my son’s use of diplomacy.
Though conflict, we learn to establish healthy boundaries between ourselves and other people. Conflict provides an opportunity for growth and learning. This is true not only for children, but also for ourselves.
The word should is very negative. Its conditional nature breeds guilt and shame. Used about another person, it implies blame. Things we should have done are in the past and can’t be changed. Things we should do in the future serve to set up guilt if we don’t get them done. Acting how we should limits authenticity. If we replaced the word should with the word could, not only could we bypass the guilt and other negative feelings, we would open up limitless possibilities.
Everyone tends to get frustrated at times. Our family is no exception. Whenever that happens, we remind each other, regardless of age, to take a deep breath.
Taking a deep breath helps to calm us. The physical act of deeply filling one’s lungs and exhaling reduces stress. When stressed, we breathe in short, shallow breaths; deep breaths help to relax us. Breathing deeply also releases endorphins which help us to better deal with stress. It helps us to clear and focus our minds.
The time it takes to take a deep breath also breaks the current cycle of reactive thought. We can once again focus on finding a solution rather than expending all of our thought and energy on our frustration.