Part of my personal development regime is to read for at least fifteen minutes per day and to meditate for an equal length of time. If that sounds like a discipline in any way—believe me it is! Can I just highlight that this is an intention and I’ve been practicing for years to get it to become a habit. Last month, November, was far from ideal and I managed to create a quiet time of fifteen minutes twice only. And I’m aiming for improvement for December!
When I do make the time I get the investment back in bundles. I had a moment earlier today when I asked myself what has to be in place to allow our children to develop their strengths and uniqueness as they grow? Plus, how do parents do this whilst still maintaining an element of control within our households? These are the three things that sprang to mind immediately:
1. Set Clear Boundaries
This, at first glance, might appear to be restricting, but boundaries are the most empowering facet of our reality. You see, when we’re clear about what’s not allowed, not healthy, not appreciated or not constructive, we can live with a set of parameters inside which our characters can truly excel.
For example, if I tell my daughter that jumping on furniture is not allowed and give her the reasons why, then I can be confident that in any social environment that particular challenge won’t occur. If she agrees to play within that boundary, I can confidently take her to friends, restaurants, shops and out for treats. Same with rules around how we use please and thank you, how we behave at the table, how we dress on a school day, how we speak respectfully, how we do what we say we’re going to do, what time is bedtime and what to do when approached by a stranger.
Boundaries also work for parents to keep at the top of our game. I commit to boundaries around communication for me and my ex, around schedules (so if I say 5 p.m. I’ll have to be there), how much time I invest with work, how much time I’m away, how much time my daughter and I do educational stuff with our free time and how much we just play or chill out, how late I stay up and how much I spend on fitness and aloe products (which I love).
2. Instill a Sense of Freedom
My grandfather died about three years ago at the age of ninety-four. About six months before he died I was visiting him and granny who’s still with us at nearly ninety-six! I asked my granddad, “If you had your time over again is there anything you’d do differently?” He said one thing, “I’d say ‘be careful’ less.”
Our children are growing up in a fearful culture. They don’t walk to school alone, they are warned about playground safety, cycling safety, stranger safety. They climb a tree, we say be careful. They head out to football club, or to gymnastics … be careful. They head out with their friends (when they’re a bit older) and we say take care.
I’m not saying that some of these lessons aren’t wise—they are. I’m saying that to get the most out of anyone (including ourselves); their creativity, their full talent, their inspiration, their uniqueness sometimes we have to adopt a slightly different motto—take a walk on the wild side!
3. Love Unconditionally
Absolutely and without a doubt the most powerful thing for a parent to instill in their child is that they are unconditionally loved. And this isn’t a soft, fluffy kind of love although that’s essential too. This type creates a foundation of strength from which our children grow in confidence, self-belief, and bold creativity from childhood to adulthood to pension-drawing age.
I remember when I was seventeen years old and I wanted to take a year out to travel. The night before I left to Australia, alone … except for a backpack … eeek, I stayed with my parents so that they could give me a lift to the airport the next day. As I was going to bed I got this huge surge of fear … what was I thinking? A year? I don’t want to be alone in a strange country for A YEAR?!
When my mum came in to say goodnight, I told her I’ve changed my mind. I’m not going. She smiled, sat down on my bed and said yes you are. I know you’re scared just now but here’s the deal; if you have ten bad days in a row, just get on a flight and come home. If you have three difficult days then a good one, you have to start counting from one again. Your dad and I will always be here and you can come home whenever you need to and stay for as long as you like. But you decided to do this and it’s going to be such an adventure! You can do this. I love you and I’m so proud of you!
So clearly, I went! For a year! Confident that if things were too challenging for too long, then my parents would be supportive and loving when I appeared back on their doorstep.
I’m nearly forty years old now. And I’m still aware that the ten day rule applies with my parents although I’ve never used it! Even through divorce, single parenting, redundancy, and new businesses launches, my confidence and happiness—which originates with the unconditional love I received in my family home—has allowed me to discover a deeper, more positive, unlimited part of me than I could have imagined existed all those years ago.
LOVE your children unconditionally and they’ll grow into adults who love their children unconditionally. This is our highest calling, our richest legacy!