There are no real books on “how to be a parent”, although some authors have tried. There are psychologists, psychologists, researchers, other parents, and so many more who have tried.
I am no expert, but there is one thing I did learn from the early years with my children. And maybe it will help you too, because it taught me more than just something about being a parent. It also taught me something that helped me in my other relationships, both personal and professional. And that is the “Power of Allow”. Let me explain what I mean. I will start with a short story on my being a young mother, trying to learn as I go.
My first child, my son, was my first lesson as a mother in patience. He did have some health issues, but gradually over time, he healed. As you read in my last blog, you saw how he struggled to be born, struggled to breathe. And he was a ‘posterior presentation’, with his head lying against his spine. He was born with some damage to his brain where it lay against the spine, resulting in some scar tissue. This led to him developing what we called “dormant epilepsy”, when he tried to sleep, his brain activity would increase instead of lessening, leading to epileptic seizures. Sometimes they were severe in the first few years of his life.
The doctors ended up putting him on chloral hydrate, the ‘knock out drug’, and he would become like a zombie. This was very hard for me to witness, but it did help his seizures and his nausea. But, I couldn’t stand seeing him like that, so I borrowed books from the doctor and began reading. I was not yet experiencing the “Power of Allow”, this was too important. I found that there was a natural body enzyme called pantothenic acid that would act in much the same way that chloral hydrate did, quieting brain wave patterns. So, I tried it gradually, and weaned him off of the drugs slowly. And it worked! By the time he was in second grade, he was acting more like a normal child, with no more seizures. Even through his health challenges, he was a good child. He seemed to instinctively know when I needed him to play quietly and when to give hugs.
The challenge of having a sick child and being pregnant for your second is being sleep deprived. When my son was 2, I became pregnant for my second. He was still not sleeping much, as he would wake up with the brain activity around 4am and be up for the day. The story is quite a bit longer, but suffice it to say, those were difficult times. It was my hope that my second, a daughter, would be an easy baby so I could handle everything.
That didn’t happen, she was a bit of a handful, feisty and loud and determined to have her own way.
And I was just such a tired young mother, I just allowed her to be herself. This ‘Power of Allowing’ was, yes, a fall back position due to being so overwhelmingly exhausted from the challenges we had to deal with every day.
I tried to handle everything one day at a time and tend to their needs and smother them with love; help gently and compassionately guide them on what was good behavior and what was not, and allow them to develop who they were meant to be. And it worked. They are grown up and amazing people! They are confident, and know who they are as human beings. I could not have hoped for more. I not only love them, but I like and respect them as people. And we are a family that shares a lot of love.
Was I just lucky or did I learn something during those early years? Maybe it was a little bit of both.
I was witness recently to someone trying to handle her child, who was frustrated and complaining about something. That parent was saying “Don’t do that” and “Stop it!” Did it work for them? No. Why?
We, as humans, want to control everything. We many times fall into the “you should know better” trap, and allow our own issues to stop us from allowing our family and friends to be the people they really are. And this is the same with children.
We sometimes abuse our authority and use it unthinkingly to correct or even punish a child for expressing an opinion rather than allowing their expression, observing it and responding thoughtfully and mindfully.
So, is this basic human nature – our innate tendency to take short cuts and do “what should work” rather than “what we have thought about and chosen to do?” Do we really mean to teach our children that there is no point to having feelings or opinions, as well as we just tell them off when they express them? Do we mean to be rude or offensive or abusive?
When you are with a young child, and that child becomes frustrated or angry, what do you do? Do you say “Don’t be angry, you have no reason to” or do you take the time to say “I can see you’re angry. Let’s talk about it and see if we can work through it.”?
The first approach denies and invalidates the child’s feelings – teaching that child that their own inner voice is not valid or true, that the only way to know what they should feel is from an external source that leads to problems.
So, what do you do? Say “No, stop it,” or do you stop and observe and try to help? Does this mean that there might be a tantrum or two? Yes, but this is allowing the child to feel that feeling of anger or frustration, and exhaust themselves before they may be ready to talk about it. The next time, there will be less tantrum, with even less the next time, until there will be no tantrum. There will be communication that can actually help that child develop and find out who they are and what they want.
Allowing is key to developing a healthy, open, trusting relationship with your child, your friend, your spouse, your employee. Allowing also builds confidence – that it’s ok to express feelings, instead of fighting your inner voice.
You’ve heard of “What you see is what you get”. That is what allowing does. It builds character, a sense of self and confidence.
By allowing the feeling instead of denying it, your subconscious starts to trust you, and will be more honest about how it feels. Then when you know you are having ‘real feelings’ and you are experiencing your ‘authentic self’ – then you can mindfully and thoughtfully choose what you are going to do about it.
‘Allowing Mindfulness’ gives you control of yourself and control of your confidence. This also allows you to help others gain control and be more confident. Try it and see what happens. And when you try it with a child, be patient, and watch what happens over time. You will be guiding a young person to develop into a better human being, one who will be living their authentic self. What is better than that?
I am not an expert at anything other than being a mother, grandmother, and life experienced woman. No degrees in psychology or psychiatry (although I did take classes in college). But, if this makes sense to you, try it. And if it works, keep trying it. Practice the “Power of Allow”, both for yourself and others.