It is so true
It is so true
Trying to think of names for this, my new ‘parenting with mindfulness’ venture was a lengthy process that came to an abrupt halt in the middle of one night. From my sleep I awoke with the name Raise and Shine just ‘there’ before me: and without question, that was it. As a former market researcher, it is unlike me to make such a concrete decision without first consulting a wider audience. Not this time. This time I had no choice: not only is it a decent, catchy play-on-words, but it also captures the very essence of what it is I hope to convey. It was a name that I could truly stand-by and work with.
Raising children is sometimes beyond difficult, and the seeming ‘never-ending-ness’ of the challenge can, at times, feel like a tedious and even a painful grind. Lots of wearisome shouting, nagging, reminding, coaxing, shaming and worrying is often involved. It can leave us parents and our children, feeling weary, depleted and battle worn. Although there are those moments that are lovelier than you could ever imagine (such as the warm cuddles with your sleepy toddler, the camel performance at the nativity play or the first time your child makes you lunch and does a decent job!) life for parents can often feel a lot less fun overall. Personal identity feels diminished and for many, the weight of the high-stakes responsibility that children represent is such that the ‘shine’ of life AC (After Children) is lost … or is at least significantly smudged. We find ourselves ‘raising and whining’!
This is exactly where I found myself when my two boys were young, just 2 and 4. I was tired, the 2 year old was still waking us regularly in the night, I was managing ill-health and I was facing the usual day-to-day parenting challenges that I was, with hindsight, ill-equipped to deal with effectively. This ranged from the basics, such as getting the boys to brush their teeth and share their toys, to the more complex, such as a child simply refusing to put his seat belt on in an aeroplane causing the whole flight to be delayed (but that’s a story for another time!).
Still, I found my way on the path to Raise and Shine quite unexpectedly. At the time I was on a course studying and practising mindfulness for health reasons (I have lupus) but instantly saw the benefits ripple out to many other areas of life, not least my relationship with my children. It was at about the same time, again, completely by chance, I found myself at a talk on parenting that introduced me to the idea a more positive and effective way to get cooperation from and motivate my children that actually had the practical steps you needed to get you there. Sufficiently intrigued I perused it, and before I knew it all the pieces were in place for me to ‘raise and shine’ – life, for me and for the whole family, became, and has remained easier and brighter.
So, parenting skills and mindfulness for parents and families have become my ‘things’ and I’ve been researching, training and trying stuff out ‘in the field’ of my own family ever since.
So if you want to start ‘raising and shining’ here are some steps to get you there:
Wishing you the best of luck in your raising and shining! Now: go sparkle …
Nb This post is dedicated to my Granny Barnes. I was her ray of sunshine, she was mine and boy did she sparkle
After dinner yesterday evening, my spirited six-year old checked the new-ish rota pinned to the wall only to discover it was his turn to sweep the crumbs from under the table. His response was, well, loud and incensed: “It’s not fair.I can’t believe it’s my turn again. I hate you Mummy. You are going to be the world’s worst parent teacher ever. The sweeping rota was a terrible idea”. So here begins my first blog post for Raise and Shine.
Let me introduce myself: I am Daisy, a wife and mother of three (two sons aged 8 and 6 and a daughter who is 14 months), formerly a qualitative researcher and someone who travelled a long and tricky road to get to the point of being a parent (if you are interested, check out www.livingwellwithlupus.org). Raise and Shine is a new business, my new business, that has been in conception for some years now and that will open its doors in Peckham, South-East London at the beginning of next year and I am exploring ways to share my work with a wide range of families in my wonderfully diverse local community.
Raise and Shine is designed to help create ‘happier families with brighter futures’, because I believe that a ‘positive’ family life (whatever form that family takes), where there are strong and loving connections between parent and child, makes life better for everyone – parents, children and the communities in which they live. Parents who cultivate this environment will not only be responsible for making a better and more enjoyable life for themselves, their children and those around them but they will also be raising a generation of children who will go on to become the kind of adults we need to create a better future for everyone.
So, I hear you ask, why on earth would you ‘shoot yourself in the foot’ as a brand new parent educator by revealing your son’s highly condemnatory reference for your own parenting credentials?!
Well, my reason for sharing this little interchange is twofold.
Firstly, whilst I sincerely hope I don’t actually prove to be ‘the worst parent educator in the world’ (!) it is important to me to be an honest one. Raise and Shine is not about ‘perfect’, ‘Instagram-worthy’ family-lives because in reality such lives don’t exist. As you will have noted, my own family is no exception. Families are made up of humans (at least the ones I deal with!) and humans aren’t perfect: no one gets things right all the time. Children don’t, and we parents certainly won’t. Plus, we are all unique individuals with different temperaments, moods, needs and desires. There are going to be ups and downs. Letting go of notions of ‘perfection’ and unrealistic ideals is the first step to being a more effective parent. The simple truth is being a parent is not easy for anyone. Being a good parent is incredibly hard, but being a perfect parent is impossible. Once we can accept this and forgive ourselves for our mess-ups we can move on so much easier. The best thing we can do as parents is to take responsibility to get the support, insights, skills and tools that we need to build meaningful connection with our children. In so doing, they and we will thrive in spite of our mistakes and imperfections.
Secondly, it is what happened after my son’s little outburst that reminded me of just how far I have personally progressed from the parent I once was and reaffirmed my conviction that the mindfulness and parenting skills are invaluable. That is because in days gone by this little episode would have surely been an unpleasant, explosive and lengthy affair involving, at the very least, indignation, reprimands, shouting, tears and feelings of guilt. However, on this occasion, because I was equipped with the knowledge and tools I needed to regulate myself and to stay calm and reasoned I managed the situation with far less drama.
We, as parents of today, are very fortunate to have a wealth of solid research that wasn’t available to our parents’ generation. This research has shown that a close parent-child connection is the strongest factor in preventing a variety of health and social problems. It also shows us what works and what doesn’t. Whilst few would deny that love is the most important ingredient to being a ‘good’ parent, it turns out that there are a range of particular skills and techniques in which we can all be trained that will help us be more effective parents. With proper training we can more effectively motivate, praise, communicate with, set boundaries for our children as well as to more constructively handle situations where our children get things wrong. Most of us aren’t born just ‘knowing’ this stuff but it can be learnt. Similarly, we are likely to have a certain natural ability for what we have chosen to do professionally, but most of us welcome training to make us better, after all, even Olympic athletes have coaches.
Nonetheless, my conviction to sharing mindfulness and positive parenting skills with other parents goes beyond what psychologists, neuroscientists, sociologists and parent specialists have proven to be so (and, as I have explained the evidence is certainly there). It is rooted in the transformation I found in my own family when I started practising these principles.
So, what actually did happen after the condemning outburst? Well, with a bit of understanding and support my six-year old son soon calmed down and got on with the job at hand without further ado – he even put the broom and dustpan and brush away when he’d finished without being reminded! We were all then able to continue enjoying the rest of the evening, which we did. And, in case you were wondering, by bedtime the whole episode was long forgotten and I had been reinstated as “the best mum in the world”!
At Raise and Shine I will be running courses designed to coach parents in tailor-made mindfulness skills to help them to stay calm and be present for their children, as well coaching them in a set of very specific positive parenting tools to help them get better cooperation from their children and build stronger trusting relationships. It is my aim to empower parents to effectively manage all the challenges of parenthood.
I will also be sharing easy, day-to-day contentment strategies because although life can be hard, it isgood and we should make the most of it.