It’s the holiday season. As I write this post, one grandfather is playing a round of golf on the course behind our house, while the other is playing an old show tune on the piano. One grandmother enjoys the solitude of a crossword puzzle and a cup of coffee, while the other bakes a pumpkin chiffon pie. Mom flashes her famous heartwarming smile as she passes by on her way out the door for a walk in the sun, and Dad busies himself with his current woodcarving project. Unfortunately, none of this is currently happening, all of these family members remain only in memory, but the impact each has had on today and all the days after is still critical. Generations to come will be who they are as a result of all those who came before. This is never more evident than when it comes to parenting.
We are all the product of not only the genetics, but also the parenting that has been handed down from one generation of our family to the next. This fact often becomes strikingly clear as we spend time with many generations of loved ones over the holiday season. When we talk to the families we work with about parenting skill sets, we are ultimately impacting the future in big ways. By looking toward that future, we parent our children with hopes that they will go on to be amazing parents to our grandchildren, and the cycle continues.
So what is the recipe for making this generation of tiny humans into adults who go on to nurture their own children and contribute to their communities in positive ways? Our ingredients list includes four inner strengths they will need to possess in order to be ready for life.
The first ingredient is a heaping cup of security and self-worth. By providing children a secure base to turn to for emotional support parents are supporting this development. Frequently expressing feelings of love, joy, and pride, and grounding them in their cultural heritage helps the child know that what he/she has to contribute is valuable. Parenting in a nurturing and empathic manner, participating in their joy and excitement, and not just praising their accomplishments, but all their efforts is an investment that will pay off every day for the rest of their lives. How are your families doing with the GGK tools like E-Parenting, Getting in Sync, Ready for Play, or the 4 Steps to Success?
We want to add plenty of self-regulation and age appropriate impulse control to this recipe. By helping children understand the predictable nature of their lives through routines and consistency, they can make more sense of their world. Play games that promote self-control and increasing attention span. Games where children take turns, wait for things to happen, or maintain a physical position will help them learn to control themselves better. Giving them simple rules and encouraging them to complete tasks independently is an important step in this process. As parents we must demonstrate impulse control in our own behaviors and use disciplinary techniques that encourage internal self-control. Are your families intentionally practicing the use of Daily Do’s like E-Parenting, Character Builders, and Brain Builders? Have you used any of the GGF modules to discuss discipline and self-discipline?
The recipe also calls for lots of respect and empathy for others. Start by helping them to recognize and understand what to do about their own feelings. Children who have this ability are much better at understanding the feelings of others. Give them opportunities to show empathy for others so they can experience the pleasure of treating people respectfully. Support their understanding and appreciation of the similarities and differences between people. The use of nurturing, non-corporal discipline, shows them that you understand their feelings as well. Does this sound like work your families are doing when they do the Daily Do’s dozens of times daily? Do they understand the difference between discipline and punishment?
Finally, the last critical ingredient, is a great big curious mind that is wired for both creative and critical thinking. We find this in children who have a caregiver that makes learning fun! Parents who use activities to stimulate and encourage children’s natural curiosity have children who can go through the entire Cycle of Mastery and master new skills. Parents can support cognitive development by encouraging daily physical exercise and healthy eating patterns, expanding language skills, and providing age appropriate problem solving tasks that develop creative and critical thinking. Have you introduced all of the Daily Do’s to your families yet? Do they understand the importance of the Cycle of Mastery and the 4 Steps to Success? Do they see the connection between Body Builders and Brain Builders?
Parenting mindfully and taking care of children’s needs in the midst of life’s challenges is demanding and sometimes can feel impossible. It’s even harder to be a parent and give what perhaps you never received as a child. One parent who had grown up with significant adversity summed it up well when he said “The hardest part about being a parent now is trying to be different from the way my parents raised me.” Research has shown that early experiences, the good and the bad, alter the neurological development of the brain in “ways that dramatically change our later ability to create and nurture successful, meaningful relationships.” (Jackson Nakazawa, 2015) Naturally this includes the parent’s relationships with their own children.
Your support of families as they work their way through the process of building a healthy new generation of parents is critical to the lives of all who come after. Remember the ripple effect of the decisions you make each day to help parents understand that cause and effect relationship.
Jackson Nakazawa, D. (2015). Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal. New York: Atria Books.