Children Are Drifting… How to Stay Close as Your Child Grows
GROW WITH THEM
– Remember Childhood…
One of the simplest ways to grow with our children is to remember our own childhoods!
We can relive old memories, reminisce about the past and think back to when we were young. We can try to put ourselves into our children’s position and empathise more.
When you feel like sharing, try to remember stories from the age your child is.
Tell them what it was like, what was different.
How was it the same?
What struggles did you have that you can share?
Guide them through life with subtle advice from your mistakes!
Weave the advice in to the story, like a “Now I would…”
Teach and entertain!
– Self Improvement…
Sometimes when I remember back to childhood, things that have hurt me come up. By digging in to these things, and figuring out how it effects me I have been able to change a lot. From behaviours that don’t serve me anymore, to comments that cut people flying out my mouth.
If we grab on to these things, and wrestle with them for a bit they can be a great teachers.
In our parenting these things can be a warning, something we can change.
Perhaps a lesson we can teach with a story.
Whatever we do to use it as a guide, we also need to heal the damage.
This is where self improvement comes in. We are raising little humans, and little humans grow in to big humans. Big humans make big decisions, and that means equally big consequences. I forget that sometimes when I rush in and try to help, instead of allowing my child to learn and grow… I’m robbing her. Stealing a discovery and that feeling of accomplishment from my child, to turn around and pat myself on the back for helping.
With the internet we can learn almost anything.
Dive in to the things you see in yourself,
Find out how to fix it,
Do the work,
Share the lesson with your children.
It will change your entire life and family, forever.
– New Adventures…
Take that family places. Do new things. Buy things to experiment with. Learn new skills. Get creative.
Doing things together is like a glue that binds us together. Jumping in the car and driving random directions is a guarantee for new experiences. Planners can do the same thing, on the internet. Gather around with a bunch of screens, maybe even have a race finding things to go out and do.
However you can bring a sense of wonder, and a good splash of adventure. Your children will want to stay closer, even as they age. Just be sure to keep growing with them, and the things you surprise them with, the adventures, will still excite them and keep them close.
It can hurt, it can sting… But everyone likes the truth. No one likes being lied to.
Why does it suddenly change with children?
Almost everyone seems to lie to children, and we aren’t talking some silly joke, I mean tell them something that they know 100% to not be true. For some reason, people seem to do this and then expect honesty form their children. I’ve even seen workers in residential care do this and GRIN, completely proud of themselves.
Let’s say at work everyone just tells you wrong information all day.
Next thing you know all of your work is off, because you’re stuck with bad information.
How much worse would this be if you were trying to organise your life?
What if you were first figuring something out?
Maybe some furniture flat packs… with instructions that were incorrect.
How long would you try?
If the manufacturer called you, would you believe much of what they said?
Lying to children can have the same effect in their minds. I’ve seen them be crushed and relationships break down quickly after pointless lies. Sometimes it seems that they have a weird sense for untruths.
Telling children the truth models the behaviour, encourages them to do the same by setting the standard, and helps to keep the relationship strong as they age and move on.
Trustworthiness is really just telling the truth while living it out.
Simply doing what we say we will makes us trustworthy.
Add in eliminating gossip and boom, trustworthy!
Want open communication with your child?
Crave to know the truth?
Want to have them snitching on themselves?
Sick of wondering what they are really doing?
Want them to sell themselves out, and eventually make better choices?
Be trustworthy ourselves, hold their secrets in (appropriate) confidence.
Model total integrity, expect trustworthiness as a standard in the family.
Our children will be more honest, open and responsible. (Trustworthy… almost full of integrity)
“adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.”
This is the next step.
Once trustworthy, we can work on integrity.
The difference is, motivations.
Anyone can build trust… narcissists, manipulators, good people, randoms.
Integrity is about what people do when we aren’t watching.
Choosing to work as hard as you can without the boss being there.
Putting in maximum effort at all times.
Keepin’ it real.
One of my goals for raising children is to teach each one of them integrity. As they grow this means that their word will be valuable, it will actually mean something.
One of the ways I have worked at this already is simple commitment. Every choice made is a promise to be kept. Recently I had a book, a heavy book, from an old Russian author. It was about an atheist and a christian debating, but both characters were the author’s own mind. I explained when she asked that the book was fairly dense, and that I was avoiding reading it. Our daughter insisted… It has been 2 months of complaining, moving the line to 2 out of 3 nights reading “The Brother’s Karamazov”… She finally finished it!
Why did we do this?
At the moment she is asking about getting a singing teacher.
I am happy to pay for anything she wants, but it will be for a commitment.
If it was sports it would be all season,
For an instrument she would practice and play at least a semester,
Any skill, there needs to be effort over time. This type of discipline teaches integrity, and will add to keeping our children closer for longer.
As the adults in our families we must set the standards.
Whatever your uncross-able lines are will give you good indication on your standards. The ideals that you try to live up to in life. These things have helped us navigate life, so let’s pass on all of the positive ones. Better yet, why not work on some, maybe even learn some new ones?!
Even the saintliest saint can improve somewhere, we are all broken people. Even if we face all of life’s storms we can get better at keeping calm for the occasional hurricanes that sweep in at the wrong times.
– Keep Calm.
I suggest starting with working on keeping calm. Keeping calm is a valuable tool for our parenting, like a literal super power. We can hide our thoughts, intentions, motivations, anger, almost anything really with a good poker-face!
More than that, keeping calm also allows us space and time to think.
Remember the last time you were stressed out,
Did you make good choices?
By keeping calm in smaller things we improve our ability to problem solve. This means that next time a similar situation, or level of stress arrives, we perform better. Pressure the previous time got us used to a new level of stress, and now we are stronger.
Keep calm, and you will make better choices.
Practising keeping calm, no matter what is going on around us, also allows us to appear more confident. The parent-child relationship (and the family dynamic) are really just lessons in leading and following. We can play pretend with our children, allowing them to lead. At other times, we lead them across the road and as they navigate life. Every good leader is dependable in the storm; when everything has gone to hell and keeps getting worse they must rally the troops, keep the focus and reach the objective. In parenting, that’s on us, each of us. Keeping calm is the basis for all of our standards (in adults and children!).
Besides, who wants a child that just shoots off their mouth, throws around attitude, and has no self control? Modelling keeping calm will teach these skills, practising keeping calm will improve our relationships, and becoming a master of ourselves will change the world around us. It’s the good type of infectious.
Negative infections are closer to behaviour problems, or the poison that taints our relationships. In parenting these annoyances can set us up for terrible patterns and habits…
Just think about all of the things that your children do that annoy you.
List them in your mind,
Now try to remember some of the things that you have worked on,
Things that have improved.
Imagine if they never changed…That every thing that bothered you was still happening…
How hard would it be to discipline the child with all of that annoyance in the back of your mind?
This is why I believe our parenting should address issues that bother us. As adults we should try and bear it first, growing ourselves. However some habits run deep, and these need to be changed if they are coming from our children.
Relationships are about balance, and if you are constantly bothered by something that keeps going, eventually you will snap. Snapping is seldom pretty… Instead we can keep balance in the relationship by eliminating our pet hates, and using the energy and time saved to feed in and build up our children! Planning ahead, nipping problems for us in the bud now, so that we support more as things get busier and more stressful. Hard now, harder later.
The flip side of this are the annoyances our child feels.
How do we annoy them?
Is it to do with a belief?
Are they “triggered” because it’s cool now?
How genuine is this complaint?
Has this been an issue in the past?
Do I think this will continue being an issue for them?
What can I change to help the situation moving forward?
Asking ourselves these kinds of questions does two things.
Firstly: we trouble shoot, and end asking ourselves if we are the problem.
Secondly: it forces us to think about how our child is thinking. Imagination kicks in, and we get to pretend to be in their mind for a little while. From here it is easier to empathise and understand some of the context to their annoyance.
Which leads me to clear boundaries, a surprising annoyance for most children…
– Clear Boundaries.
Children crave boundaries.
Sounds crazy, I know… but just think it through for a second. The ‘bad’ kid in school, how often did they have firm boundaries put on them? An overly talkative child that interrupts, do you think they had solid boundaries? People who needs constant stimulation, and ask you what they should do… what do you imagine their boundaries were like?
“Boundaries give us safety and security, while also providing the opportunity to experiment, learn and grow. Boundaries are the sandbox that we should all get to play in before heading over to the jungle gym of life.”
In our lives boundaries change everything.
From chaos and attitudes, to order and openness.
From the same questions day after day, to discussing new ideas.
Showing our daughter, not just telling her, that boundaries were there for her protection, and to allow her to grow made it simple to implement.
We would discuss the issue we wanted to confront as a couple, coming up with a plan.
Then sit down with our daughter and talk about whatever the issue is.
Asking questions first we give her time to speak her mind, and end by asking her what she thinks the consequences should be if the new boundary is broken.
Then, if we feel it is all in a good place, we will carefully explain the boundary, what breaking it looks like, and what the consequence is moving forward.
Usually we bring up boundaries in the next few days, reminding our daughter that all boundaries move. That if she is consistent that the boundary moves out, allowing her more freedom. This way the boundary moves with her as she grows, and when it isn’t helping anymore we can completely remove it.
– Keep It Fresh
Changing things keeps things interesting. So, why not change up the fun things with the boundaries? It could be as simple as adding in a family walk, or a time to chat together every night! Anything to break up the monotony and ruts of life. Maybe it’s even something you just haven’t done for a while. From kayaking, hiking, and snow boarding to chess, movies, and shopping. Adding something new to the family routines is liberating.
There’s a sense of freedom and adventure in trying new things, and doing it with people is like a glue. Bonding us together, pulling us closer. Just be careful! I tried this with my family once, and found out my partner was scared of heights…
Keeping it fresh can also unlock some of the screen issues a lot of us face. Screen time is dopamine time, and dopamine rewires our brains. By doing different activities that give a dopamine release we can begin freeing our children from their grip if we choose. Activities that include exercise, good food, excitement or some scares (like amusement parks) are perfect. They get us all outdoors, in the sun, and doing exciting fun things together. These are the times that can bind us together into the future.
– Mess Things Up
Teaching things, and learning things, also binds us together… and I have a perfect game to play. It’s called “Silly Adult.”
It is simple, make mistakes or say things so wrong that they have to be corrected. Giving our children a chance to ‘help us out.’
Even more fun is literally messing things up! Breaking things, throwing mud around, little food fights. Think random, and the more random the better.
Making dinner and have a few spare pieces of tomato? Throw them to your child!
Left over pancake batter? Wipe it on your face and strike a pose.
Go wipe your clean hands on their face even.
Making space for mess shows that we don’t always need to take everything so seriously.
It says, on a deep level, that we can clean things up. Including mistakes, emotional problems, anything.
It shows that we are ready and willing to clean up.
And it proves that a perfect little world doesn’t matter, and that real life is messy sometimes.
– Make It Up
When things are messy, being creative can be difficult. The easiest way to combat that is to make improvising a normal part of life!
Cook without recipes,
Again, random drives,
Plan accommodation, but have am unplanned getaway,
Just put yourself on the spot and make things up.
Stress and negative experiences are a part of life, there’s no escaping them. By making things up on the fly, when everything is calm, we are practising planning in emergency situations. Decisions have to be made, but they don’t hold too much weight. Food for example, we need to eat no matter what, but where we eat doesn’t matter too much. It’s an important decision, but it doesn’t matter too much where the food comes from. Taking that unplanned getaway, and not booking accommodation is the opposite. Somewhere safe to sleep for the night is extremely important, so not having that sorted is not an option. It is a top priority.
Putting ourselves in positions to make quick decisions throughout the week, where there is no real pressure, will help us to prioritise and make better decisions when it truly counts. Completely freeing us, the power of flexibility.
Granting us the ability to move unrestricted, completely free of pain.
Flexibility is important for many parts of life. Just travelling through the day being more flexible makes millions of tiny little everyday things simpler, they become things we don’t need to think about. Like catching the tea bag as it falls with no pain. There are also times that flexibility gets us out of danger, being able to twist and turn quickly and decisively because we are able to move easily. We are free and can respond to the problems. But one other group use flexibility, to devastating effect. Fighters.
But why do fighters stretch?…
Is it to move easier?
To kick higher?
Are they just lazy at the end of a session?
I believe flexibility improves all of these, and can for our parenting as well!
Being flexible we can move through family life easier
We can reach for higher goals, because there is more energy,
The pain of correction, for us and our child, is greatly reduced because it is a custom solution,
Our boundaries and consequences have greater impact,
All with less stress and effort!
So how do we do it?
– Ease Up.
First things first, let’s make some fake space.
By easing up we can create the illusion of flexibility while we learn! Maybe there’s a boundary that is a little firm, by easing it off we can keep the correction for bigger issues. When we are on top of their eating, we could relinquish control of a meal to free our time. Or maybe there’s a constant argument we kept being pulled in to. By deciding that we won’t argue about this same thing over and over we can release ourselves.
When it comes to easing up it’s best to have a constant reply. Whenever the topic comes up we can now simply remind our children of the response. While working with teens one of the big things was children saying “I’m going to go kill myself now.” I would react with care and curiosity at first, but as this became a regular saying I switch my response. I began with “So… have you made a plan?” into “Have you decided on a day or time?” and closing with “Do these feelings come up often?”
Ending open ended like this extends our flexibility, allowing us the luxury of options!
Really, flexibility is all about the options.
Range of motion is about options, fighters need options, options mean a high probability of winning, and the parenting war is a fight we need to win.
Options mean we can be more spontaneous. Spontaneous means we can create wonder. Wonder means we are creating new experiences. New experiences mean our child is growing and learning nuance in different situations.
Different situations call for different actions and planning. By exposing our child to more things, we create a more rounded human. More rounded humans operate more effectively in the world, and typically sort out a lot of their own problems. To help our children become problem solvers options are invaluable. Even just the ability to pivot as a family unit, while keeping to flow and connections, is important for each member to feel important and valid. A lot of children struggle with resilience. In a world filled with climate control (air conditioners), machines to do our jobs (dish washers etc), vehicles to get us places (over walking and horses), and all the rest of western life’s conveniences it’s easy to forget that we can control our environment. This is a problem for one glaring reason, if we change the world around us to make life more bearable… we no longer need to change ourselves.
Changing ourselves is part of being flexible, and stretching hurts.
To become unstoppable we need to become indestructible, and no one is there. The type of indestructible we need is mental toughness. Raising another human is a tough gig. We have different personalities, different ideals, different information, different amounts of time to put in, different levels of discipline and on and on… Just because a child may have come from us, does not mean they are the same. Digging in to ourselves, our pasts and our true intentions (which are sometimes hidden from ourselves) will make us better people, and by extension better parents.
Being better people gives us more options and more gas in the tank. There’s suddenly more brain power, more strength, more resolve, more opportunity.
If you’re struggling with feeling low, get fitter.
Low energy is usually either our sleep or our eating habits, get on top of it.
Stress seems to come from having things we can’t deal with, write them down and start chipping away.
Every piece of our character that we improve is a piece our child has an opportunity to learn. Every opportunity seized is a lesson learnt, and a pain avoided. Sometimes this takes some extra effort, sometimes we aren’t doing alright ourselves. This is when we need to reach out, find support, find somewhere to vent, get on top of our self care.
There it is.
A mass list of ways I have failed, and seen others fail, and some strategies for keeping our children closer as we all grow older. We covered:
We don’t all need everything, but I guarantee there is something in here that stood out to you,
Just work on that.
Your family, and your children, will thank you for years to come!