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.