This year I am running a Family Project.* I will be researching and creating ways to teach, model and coach my children about core values (kindness, respect, gratitude etc.) and life skills (setting meaningful goals, dealing with their emotions, taking responsibility etc.). I am hoping that this will contribute to a more harmonious family life as well as setting my children up with the habits that will help them have a happy and successful life.
I know some of you may be thinking ‘Isn’t that what parents do anyway?’ And you’d be right. Most of us do. Everyday we model and teach the values that are most important to us. But I’ve found that in our busy lifestyle, I am not teaching my children about the most obvious things because I expect them to ‘know’ it already. Or sadly – and I’m sure I’m not alone in this – we say one thing and do another and our children get mixed messages. How many times have you shouted at your children “Stop shouting! Show some respect!” Another example: I was talking to my youngest son before Christmas about friendships and forgiveness. And I realised that this was the first time I’d ever mentioned it to him. He thought that when a friend was mean to him, that was the end of their friendship. He didn’t realise forgiveness was an option, and he took any friendship disputes very personally. Obviously we model forgiveness at home, and I say sorry a lot to my children (after one of my tantrums, or grumpy moods) but we’d never discussed the concept openly.
I also think that in my case, I am so busy looking after 3 children and establishing my own business, that teaching and focussing on the children gets over looked. It doesn’t seem urgent. We’ve got dinner to make, rooms to tidy, homework to do, clubs to go to, arguments to settle, emotions to deal with. We can talk about forgiveness, or patience, or setting goals tomorrow, or when they are a bit older. But my eldest goes to secondary school in September – I’m running out of time to teach him everything I want to teach him to help him survive the harsh, cruel world of high school. ( I know, it will be great for him, but I’m also a bit scared.) I’ve wanted to do this kind of parenting ever since I became a mum, but I’ve never made enough time for it. I’ve done bits and pieces here and there (family meetings, workbooks for the kids, my early attempt at a family project*) but I was never consistent enough. This year, I am being brave and saying no to other things that have seemed more important. I am saying no to some exciting plans for my business (they can wait til 2014) , I am saying no to taking the easy life (putting the telly on, not exercising, going to bed too late, putting it off til tomorrow), I am saying no to alcohol (in Jan only!) and saying no to my perfectionist need to be in control (as much as I can…). I am also saying no to acting like a child myself. It’s time I grew up and learned to control my own emotions and reactions like I’m expecting my children to. These are very big no’s for me and I am sure to slip up time and time again. But this year I will keep focussed and keep going for the sake of my family.
The most important thing about parenting for me (after keeping them safe and well-fed) is to equip my children with knowledge, skills, practice and habits that will enable them to accept and deal with their and other people’s emotions in a mature way. It is a hugely important idea to me. It’s time I stopped thinking about it and just did it.
*Those of you with good memories will know that I started my family project in the summer of 2011, but it fizzled out so I’m resurrecting it again, and focussing on it for the whole of 2013.