Dear style & substance,
I attended your last winter series talk and loved the question you asked about what qualities the women felt were important to instill in raising daughters and young women today. I have been thinking a lot about it and have two daughters myself. What do you two think?
That is a question that too many parents are not reflecting on enough. Although it takes planning, change and discernment; we call this “intentional parenting”. The women’s response hit on two very important themes; SELF-AWARENESS and RESILIENCE. We highly agree with the thoughts shared by our speakers and share some additional thoughts from our experiences raising daughters.
Girls change as they grow, but do we as parents? Beginning with a plan of action to intentionally rear in a positive and empowering direction is great;but changing, adding, and developing that plan is crucial in giving her the tools she will need to come out as a well designed adult! We believe in letting them decide their ultimate outcomes; but giving them the tools they need helps them to make smart, unique, and heartfelt choices.
From Sally: When I had children, my plan seemed quite simple…I wanted my children to have a conscience, with spirituality as the guiding force, and to become happy, healthy, independent and productive adults. When having a guiding mantra, I could make those crucial decisions and measure my guidance by returning to my overall objective. I highly recommend developing a mantra, recipe, or code for direction at any point in your children’s lives! The simpler, the better. The three qualities that I would add to the first two are discipline, curiosity and spirituality.
DISCIPLINE: This works best if you are fairly disciplined yourself….which is hard to maintain when raising kids and is always a work in progress. Set the rules and the consequences and do the follow up. Don’t threaten what you won’t DO. Be consistent. This will give them self-discipline, the ability to regulate their own rules and consequences, as they grow. It also gives them a lot of freedom in the world. I thought of it more as, ‘this is what you CAN do,’ rather than, ‘ this is what you CANNOT do’. Saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ as opposed to ‘maybe’ is part of the discipline of being able to make a decision. School and extra curricular activities can become easier for the child, because they are used to structure and team work.
CURIOSITY: To me, being curious means that you are engaged in the world around you. You are interested in what is going on OUTSIDE yourself; people, places, nature, etc. Having curiosity makes people more empathetic, conversational, and ready for adventure and less self-oriented and fearful. It begins with talking about your world and the people in it and then bringing them out to experience it and talk more about it. Curiosity can give every day life a sense of adventure!
SPIRITUALITY: Having a sense of right and wrong goes hand in hand with TRUTH and AUTHENTICITY. What I have found is that it doesn’t mean that you will design your child’s choice of religion when they become an adult. It could mean going to church, reading and discussing children’s books about struggles and life decisions, exploring spiritual practices, and ultimately letting your child formulate a moral code by which to live based on some positive exploration and input. When your child grows and they feel that what is on the inside is the same as what they are presenting to the world…that is authenticity. Saying you are sorry when you have behaved badly or made a bad decision is one of the most powerful learning tools for your child.
From Michele: Discipline and living by a code were the foundations my husband and I established from our beginnings as a family. While our paths have differed, our core values have remained steadfast. We have four children, a large family by current standards, and this reality was the guiding force that shaped our family.
We created connectedness through the unspoken rule, ‘all for the greater good.’ While this may sound prohibitive of nurturing creativity, we found that individuality was not sacrificed but encouraged through supporting one another’s gifts and talents. Self-reliance was a life skill developed out of necessity and supported by unconditional love.
VALUES: Gratitude and thankfulness were celebrated everyday through words and actions. We tried to have dinner together every night. The meal began with grace and conversation was focused on the day, the world, any topic somebody wanted to discuss. Family dinners became a challenge as our children entered the teen years so we compromised and set four nights each week where everybody had to schedule ahead and perhaps make accommodations with work and sports – “all for the greater good” was still guiding us and kept us on track.
ADVENTURE and CREATIVITY: These two values began when we packed our belongings and oldest child, a 9 month old infant at the time, into our Volkswagen and drove to Alaska. Cultivating adventure and creativity is not always an easy, or enjoyable, journey. When this same infant grew into a bit of a sassy mouth teen she once responded to a rebuke by me with “this is not my fault, you are the one who raised us to be free thinkers.” She was correct in her assertion, just not in the delivery. Cultivating and supporting these qualities can be trying but the end game is what we want as parents; thoughtful and courageous adults with a clear sense of purpose and place in the world.
MEANING: Every family has challenges despite diligent effort and plenty of love. Our Day of Infamy came when two of the children experienced the severe consequences of their actions. The following morning I went to the store and bought the largest box of Wheaties I could find. I woke the boys, made them each a bowl of Wheaties, and told them to get back to work and act like the champions they were born to be. This is unconditional love in action – forgiveness with high expectation. I believe that forgiveness, of self and others, is the greatest gift we can give to our children and a quality that not only builds resiliency, but (and more importantly), builds compassion. So often parents do not hold their children accountable; poor decisions, lack of disciplined action, or blaming others is the default response. Giving children the opportunity to make right what they have done wrong is a powerful act that will serve them well throughout life.
This should stimulate some agreement and disagreement on your, the reader’s, part! Raising children is intimate, challenging and quite specialized. That is the purpose of our weekly ‘advice column’; not to give advice, but to begin a personal thought process to answer the question, “what would I do?”. We believe that an early start in setting a standard is best, but it is never too late to start over. Parenting is a never-ending reinvention and reinterpretation of the codes you set at your child’s birth. Parenting our children at all stages in life is an intentional act of creation and re-creation!
Don’t forget to join us for:
body, mind & spirit
keep the winter blues at bay!
Champlain Wine Company on City Hall Place
5:30 TO 7 p.m.
Wednesday March 26 - Diane Miller
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