By Paula Marchman, M.A., L.P.C.
When I ponder on the blessings of parenting, I begin with Adam as written in the book of Genesis. The scriptures describe his walks in the garden with God, his Father. I think of how engaged every aspect of his senses must have been with all the beauty he beheld. Can you imagine how every second was full of total presence and mindfulness in that time and space. Adam must have felt understood in the deepest sense of the word and greatly loved.
He responded to God not only with his human ears but with every cell in his body, to the heart and soul of his being. This is how our children listen to us. Children, when we capture their attention, are models of “active listening”. They listen with their eyes, their minds and hearts as well as their ears. Children need to belong, and they learn how to belong as they grow. They discover that certain responses from others give them a feeling of belonging. We reach our children by connecting to their core, their heart. Through our relationship with them they also experience God’s presence and love in their lives. Children are tuned into the tone of our voice, the gentleness of our face and eyes as we look into their faces. We begin to communicate with them way before we even open our mouths to speak. How important is it to have an overall plan for how we want to relate to our children.
They search for safety within this parental connection which allows them to thrive and experience childhood. Our children need to know that we “know them”, their strengths, their weaknesses, how they express themselves, how they learn, play, cry. It is important that each child realize their uniqueness and the traits that make him or her like nobody else in the world. Therefore, as parents we are called to encourage them, recognizing their efforts rather than demanding perfection. Comparisons can lead children to believe that their worth depends on being better than others while encouragement helps each child to appreciate their own unique qualities.
When we teach our children that their thoughts and feelings are important, they experience the gift of truly being understood and heard. This way of communicating when we give another human being our whole attention is a healing form of love. This is the process where our children also learn how to communicate their needs and desires in a healthy way where they come to know themselves better.
As children experience positive regard for their feelings, children will grow in self-awareness and self-esteem. When they believe their feelings are worthy of respect, they over the years learn to respect other’s feelings too.
Parents have a great influence in building positive beliefs in their children. When children have positive beliefs about themselves they practice positive behaviors. These behaviors then reinforce the beliefs about themselves, which strengthens the desired behavior.
“Good listening requires that we be sensitive to the needs of others. We cannot be sensitive unless we have anchored our lives in the love of Christ”, quotes Fr. Anthony Coniaris in his book, Making God Real in the Orthodox Christian Home. This book is an excellent resource with concrete ideas and traditions within our Orthodox faith that we can practice in our homes. It is important that our children experience being a valued individual within the framework of a family. Thus, the importance of family dinner hours, family meetings where every child feels heard and respected for their ideas.
I am not telling you anything that you do not already know as a parent. My purpose in this article is to create intentional awareness and to provide insight into resources that are available to provide you tools to help you in your parenting skills. The intent is to encourage you as a parent to practice attentiveness and conscious parenting. Children within our families are like small pearls of life that all too soon slip through our fingers. Take the energy and time to commit in experiencing joy and connection in your family today.
This takes practice on your part to actually do what comes naturally to us as human beings. If it is indeed natural then why do we have to practice this way of parenting? We must be intentional and purposeful in our lives because the society we live in does not nurture this way of communicating or parenting. In fact, it drives us to the other side of the paradigm. We are encouraged to stay busy, strive for material gain, and the list continues with many distractions. These distractions not only tug but painfully jerk our focus from each other onto what the world tells us is important.