I was on the beach observing a little boy about 4 years old who was full of energy as he raced back and forth busily building what he called a swimming pool. it was both fascinating and uplifting to watch the two adults involved with him, whom I assumed were his parents. They were 100% engaged in play with him while also teasing and flirting with each other. They felt like a unit.
The petite young woman was enthusiastically digging in the sand with all her might along side the child, helping him build his pool, scooping sand up forcefully to build a three foot high wall that collected the ocean waves into a little tide pool. She was totally unconscious of the sand all over her, in her suit, in her hair, just everywhere as they immersed themselves. All the while she was occasionally saying things to the little boy like “You are just the best hole digger I’ve ever seen” and when he announced they were not finished yet, she said “That’s what I like to hear, never give up!” It wasn’t overkill or false praise, just a natural flow in their very loving engagement as they dug.
What amazing messages this child was receiving, and not just from her. Her companion was in the hole digging with
her and allowing the child to pour water over his head, just as far into their big dig as the woman. They joked about how the child was going to be a great manager, and they hoped he wouldn’t dock their pay if they took a little break, giving him the room to be in charge of the project. It was joyful to watch.
People talk about how hard parenting is, and it is the most difficult and important job on the planet, but I found myself thinking that these two were making it look easy and fun. Do you share joy like that with your children as a family unit? Are you “all in” for what is, in the scope of a childhood timeline, a very short ride?
One of the most challenging aspects of parenting is setting age appropriate boundaries for your child. In order to truly provide the kind of structure your children need, expert Daniel Siegel, M.D., co-author of No-Drama Discipline, encourages parents to “connect and redirect” as the core of an effective discipline style. First you offer a soothing connection to a child who is experiencing distressing feelings, and then you can redirect them. Siegel says “Even when we say no to children’s behavior, we always want to say yes to their emotions, and to the way they experience things.”
This is sound advice if you want to raise children to become adults who both understand and govern their emotions successfully. We live in a cooperative society, and without this skill set, what might be a newly paved road easily becomes a rocky dirt path as you move through life.