Our answers may be different than our children's answers, and we need to keep that in mind, too.
What do we value and how much time do we put into answering this important question for our children?
Letting Go of Material Possessions and the Ego... and Holding Onto Our Children.My husband and I believe that the most important things we can do for our children are:
I Hear You, I See You, I Understand, and I Care
The Child's Language of PlayWhen my oldest daughter was a baby, I attended a filial therapy workshop at George Fox University in Portland, Oregon with Garry Landreth. The purpose of the workshop was to teach counselors how to teach parents to play therapeutically with their children. This can be important after a traumatic event, but truthfully, it's something that needs to be done in the parent-child relationship to have healthy communication, because the child's language is play.
During the workshop, he explained that children need to feel loved. They need to know the following from their parents: I see you, I hear you, I understand, and I care. He explained specific behaviors and sincere words we can use to communicate this to children. He explained how important play is, and that play is the child's language. He explained (in detail), specific play therapy techniques parents can use to help communicate effectively with their children. What I learned at this workshop became the rock on which I began to develop my parenting style. It was at this workshop that I began to specifically focus on what I could do to show my children that they are loved.
One thing I love about Mother Goose Time preschool curriculum is that play is a part of the learning curriculum. One of the themes coming up for the beginning of the next academic year is Feelings and Friendship. It is so important that true friendship starts with the family... Making eye contact, loving, listening, caring and understanding.
ProtectWhen children feel safe they are more likely able to think clearly, are more joyful, and it is more likely that they will be able to reach their fullest potential. As parents, it is our responsibility to protect our children, beginning at conception. Children today face many dangers, and many are fortunate to survive the womb. This is very sad, and it is clearly reflected in the eyes of today's children.
Instead of thinking about how we need to make life more convenient and comfortable for ourselves, as parents, we need to start thinking about growing up and protecting our children.
I'll give you are real-life example in my own life. When I was pregnant with our second child the genetic "counselor" (not really a counselor) told me that our baby was "test positive" for Trisomy-18 from a blood test that was taken. She told us there was a 1 in 5 chance our baby was going to die when she was born, and she assured us that it was a pretty slim chance she would even live to leave the hospital. (She said this in front of our 3-year-old daughter even though we asked her not to. Our daughter was heart-broken.)
The genetic "counselor" was manipulating me into getting an amnio (needle in the belly next to the baby to pull out amniotic fluid). I knew that this amnio had a 1 in 100 to 300 chance of killing our baby, who had at that age developed the ability to feel and react to pain. Even though the doctor and genetic "counselor" kept manipulating me and harassing me about it, I refused to endanger our baby's life to see if the blood screen was correct. So, I had to protect our baby for several months from this unnecessary risk.
After our children are born, we need to protect their minds and their hearts. Too many people seem to think television is appropriate for children. More people need to learn to protect their children by turning the television off. No, this does not make them naïve. It helps our children not get brainwashed and learn to have a mind of their own in real-life, not fake television. Our children are also being exposed to inappropriate toys (like the horrible Monster High dolls). It's important not to let our children think that these types of toys are normal or okay to play with, even if the store tries to put them at eye-level. We intentionally avoid retailers that sell these types of toys.
Spending time with our children is also important. Leaving children with people they don't even know is a serious problem in our culture that is becoming commonplace. This is made worse when families split in divorce and children loose the protection of having a father.
Then, teaching children how to use each level of power is also challenging. Honestly, the best example we can give them is how we live our lives. Yes, they will see our flaws and our strengths, and they will likely learn from it. It's amazing how we can teach our children to use these levels of power by understanding their gifts and talents. Empowerment in these areas could be a book, and I'm sure there must be one out there. The highest level of power is spiritual, and this is the level that many people overlook. Prayer and the Holy Spirit are powerful forces children can learn to use at an early age.
So, why do I keep showing Mother Teresa quotes. Well, I'm not the best example, but I know she is.
I'm wondering how my answer to this will change over the years, as our children get older. I do know enough to know that I don't know it all. I'd love to hear what you think.