"I’m careful not to forget that my goal in being present with my daughter isn’t to demonstrate my wisdom and superiority, but simply to connect with her."
align emotional energy In my own life, in order to enter a state of engaged presence with my daughter, I determine not to try to change her state of being, but instead join it. I attempt to find a way to align my emotional energy with her energy, instead of asking her to match her energy to mine. When my daughter speaks to me, I try hard to bring all my attention to her, listening with my heart as much as with my mind. I express respect for her voice and spirit, demonstrate reverence for her opinions even if I don’t agree with them, and remain in a state of receptive openness. I’m careful not to forget that my goal in being present with my daughter isn’t to demonstrate my wisdom and superiority, but simply to connect with her. I have come to greatly value this daily time of engaging in a being-to-being dialogue with her, carving out at least an hour for this each day. Relating from an authentic state of love and admiration for who she is, I express how much I learn from her. During this time, we don’t do homework or chores, but simply relate, either eating together, playing, reading, or talking to each other. This one simple hour has the power to fill my child’s cup with her own inner presence.
reflecting back As a result of the abundance of psychologically based reading, teaching, and counseling about not trying to “fix” things, some of us have become savvy. We practice the art of reflecting back to our children what we hear them saying. Perhaps you have used some of the following mirroring statements with your children, as I have with mine: “I see you are upset.” “I notice you are angry right now.” “I can see you aren’t in the right mood to talk right now.” “I can see you are anxious about your exam tomorrow.” It’s important to be aware that often these reflective statements are infused with our own ego, with its need to control. It isn’t easy to reflect back a person’s feelings and thoughts without contaminating them with our own. In fact, if we listen closely to the above statements, we will see that some of them can appear patronizing or judgmental. For instance, if someone says to us, “I notice you are angry right now,” and we feel they are coming from a place of judgment or being patronizing, we are likely to resent them for coming across as superior and clam up. Or we may explode at them for saying such a thing. To make truly reflective statements to our children, we need to be aware of our own anxiety and ego. Otherwise, instead of allowing our children to have their experience, and being completely accepting of them as they go through it, we will unconsciously patronize or judge them, which may cause them to disengage from their feelings about the experience. In other words, when we make reflective statements, it’s important to be aware of the place from which we make them. Is it our intention to join with our children as they go through an experience? Or is it our desire, however unconscious, to separate ourselves from their experience and consequently deter them from experiencing what they are going through? When you engage your children at their level, words often aren’t even necessary, since they can detract from the emotional connection children have with their experience. Instead, your tuned-in presence is all that’s needed. Engaged presence involves simply being a witness to your children’s experiences, allowing them to sit in what they are feeling without any insinuation that they need to move beyond this state.
just be there Many of us find ourselves taxed when our children act out. What we don’t realize is that at the root of a child’s acting out is an emotion that was never expressed, instead becoming split off from consciousness. If for no other reason than that it’s to our advantage to encourage our children to own their emotions and have them validated, we are wise to encourage them to feel all their emotions and find appropriate ways to channel them. I emphasize the word “appropriate” because we have every right to dislike how our children sometimes express their emotions, and we can help them modify their means of expression. Just because we understand our child is angry doesn’t mean we need to allow them to hit us or break things. I recognize that this simple act of bearing witness to our children’s emotional states can be extremely challenging for us. We are so heavily invested in our children, determined that they not mess up but become a success, that in our desire to be “good” parents, we find it difficult to just be with our children in their current state, allowing whatever is happening to exist. As we witness our children going through their emotional states and restrain our tendency to analyze or pigeonhole a particular state, we equip them to become aware of their own inner witness. By not jumping in to tell them what they are feeling or experiencing, we open up the space for them to come to these insights for themselves. We give them a chance to hear their own voice, which is the only thing that ever changes anyone. This is much more beneficial for them than anything we can say. To the degree that we are coming from ego, we find it much easier to say yes to our children’s state of ego than to their state of being. But when we are grounded in our own consciousness and model engaged presence in everything, our children learn how to become fully present in each moment of their life.
FURTHER READING The Power of Now - Eckhart Tolle tinyurl.com/powereckharttolle Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves - Naomi Aldort tinyurl.com/naomialdort1 The Conscious Parent; Transforming Ourselves, Empowering our Children tinyurl.com/shefalitsabary
Shefali is author of The Conscious Parent; Transforming Ourselves, Enpowering our Children and lectures on mindful living around the world. She lives with her husband and daughter in New York
10 The Green Parent The Green Parent promotion
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The Green Parent 11