Some of the ideas in Respectful Parents Respectful Kids by Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson seem so simple and obvious. For example the published by-line for Key 4 – Inspire Giving, is:
“to identify your child’s gifts, receive them gracefully, and encourage a mutual flow of giving and receiving.”
So what’s so difficult about that?
Some of the parenting styles discussed in previous posts can get in the way of inspiring gifts, especially Barbara Coloroso’s “brick-wall”. Its “my way or the highway” approach leaves no room for the parent to discover the child’s gifts. “Brick-wall” parents need to back off and pay attention to the strengths and talents of their children.
Temperament, or personality, might get in the way, as well. We are all uniquely different. Isabel Myers in her book, Gifts Differing, describes the four elements of temperament that blend in to create our personality – introversion or extroversion, sensing or intuiting, feeling or thinking, and judging or perceiving. Our preferences are our strengths. Ideally, these differences would be recognized, acknowledged, and then celebrated.
I have found Covey’s effectiveness rule, “Seek, first, to understand; then to be understood.” a great help in dealing with someone who is widely different from me. It’s far too easy to dismiss them rather than work at trying to understand their uniqueness and treat them as strengths. These differences are a reflection of needs and, as such, are fundamental. Just because they are not like you does not mean that they are not okay. Misunderstanding personality differences prevents respectful cooperation and leads to poor relationships.
“The hardest battle is to be nobody but yourself in a world that is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else.“
e. e. cummings
Children are the ultimate gift. From the beginning their lives are miracles unfolding one after the other. These little treasures start out in “awe” of their surroundings and most parents share that awe. As I watched my four children grow the sense of wonder was so strong that I resolved to relish it forever and never lose it. Hanging on to this fascination of the world and all that’s in it is my “fountain of youth”.
Next in the line-up of gifts we can share is “love”, unconditionally, at least with our children and families. It’s easy to love when everything is going well. Do it when things are turning out poorly and you will learn the true value of loving your children. I wish I knew who was responsible for one of my favourite quotations:
“Success or failure … treat those two impostors the same.”
Have you ever thought of the “time” you have been given, here on this earth, as a gift? Do you use your time wisely? You are pulled in so many different ways that you may never feel satisfied about the amount of time you spend with your children. Keep your children high on your priority list, even if it means sacrificing elsewhere. Once again Covey comes to the rescue with “First things first“. Be ruthless with distractions and don‘t let them waste your time and energy. We are all imperfect, but make sure your greater imperfections occur with your lowest priorities rather than with your highest.
How should you spend your time with your children? Start with their “interests”. We are all driven by our own set of interests as we work to satisfy our needs. Understand your child’s needs first, affirm and encourage them, then look for a graceful and respectful way to develop them further. Talk about your needs and how you work to satisfy them, not to direct your kids to do as you have, but to expand their minds. Encourage them to consider many options, try new things, and continue to expand their comfort zone and sense of awe and wonder.
“The greatest gift we can give to our children is not just to share our riches with them, but to reveal their riches to themselves.”