Implications of Disciplining with Compassion.

The back to school season always reminds me how the scholastic hopes that we have for our children impacts our parenting choices because education remains a gateway to success. In the past,  moulding my son for success admittedly led to expecting him to be perfect lest he succumb to poor choices or judgement. Subsequently, I interpreted my son’s misbehavior as threatening  his prospects of living the good life and erroneously adopted excessive discipline measures with the hopes of training  him to “make better choices”. My ongoing practice of self awareness and unconditional love over the last eight months has taught me that our children’s capacity for success in the ‘long run’ actually depends on the relationship that they are having with themselves. Their ability to be compassionate, self forgiving and graceful with themselves during challenges will impact their ability to remain motivated, passionate and resilient over their lifetime. With so much content to cover on this topic, I will likely write another installment to address a subsidiary topic of giving our maturing children the freedom to follow their unique path to self re-discovery. I will not be able to thoroughly discuss the intricate relationship between self acceptance and the law of attraction as well as manifestation. So I will simply highlight that if we were attracting the external displays of how we want to be perceived then more of us would be manifesting a greater magnitude of abundance, purpose and fulfillment in our lives. After years of using a punitive approach to discipline, I now advocate for more compassionate measures to guidance and correction not only because of the positive results it has produced in our children but because I finally understand that even in our wisdom, without self compassion we remain entitled, unaware and dis-empowered.  

Act with Compassion.

Parents send many implicit messages to children about how they are worthy of love and I believe that how we treat our children models how they come to treat themselves. Therefore, how we respond to their wrongdoings sets an important precedence for their own internal response/dialogue with themselves during their personal mistakes, failures and set backs. Disciplining choices that lack compassion disconnect children from their internal sense of self compassion during the moments that they have disappointed themselves or others. Compassionate discipline choices will vary according to each incident but in my practice I’ve found its beneficial not extend our dialogue/frustration into the past incidents or projecting the current issue as a reflection of their potential to behave differently in the future. This models to children the importance to focusing on the factors that we can control, which is the always the present moment. We all know that consuming our energy with what we cannot control does not enhance our self efficacy. When we begin extrapolating beyond the pertinent occasion then we can begin to implicitly create shame in children. Personally, being a product of the old school mindset of shaming bad behaviors to prevent their recurrence, I wholeheartedly attest that we have little success in learning from and transforming any personal conditions that we are ashamed of. Rather, shame undermines self agency because it leads to projecting blame to other factors and making choices to regain social approval instead of correcting our mistakes. It’s also important to avoid self negating statements that equate the child with a behavior. For example instead of “you are not a good listener” try “I need you to listen more carefully” and provide the rationale as it pertains to the situation.  I believe that disciplining without compassion is ‘one’of the ways we come to perceive that people will “love” us only when we are perfect and thus become afraid of failure and pursuing our authentic goals as adults. Sustaining contentment and success in the very long run requires accepting ourselves as worthy in spite of our imperfect outcomes and each moment where a child misbehaves is an opportunity to teach them how to overcome failure without fear, guilt or shame. Essentially when children can feel worthy despite their transgressions then we are freeing them from caring what others think of them when they would otherwise fear not being good enough, which is the true secret to sustained growth and success.  

Perfection Doesn’t Exist.

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A majority of the parenting advice that I read in the past primarily focused on adapting the parent-child relationship or on how to change our children. However, I’ve discovered that we must first enhance the relationship that we are having with ourselves in order to improve the dynamic with our children. That’s because the relationship we are having with ourselves is the only one that exists and we simply project the expectations that we have of ourselves onto everyone else, including our children. If you are like I was in the past, I was often in a relationship with perfection instead of myself. Our attachment to perfection leads to feeling inadequate or unworthy if we believe that others will judge the imperfections in some aspect of our lives. Therefore, we are expecting our children to be perfect human beings because we see them as an extension of ourselves. I often resorted to non-compassionate disciplining choices because those were my only measures for responding to myself for making mistakes. The way I scolded my son for his mistakes reflected the manner that I criticized  and treated myself for messing up amidst the perceptions of others. Our desire to prove to others that we are good enough heightens our frustrations to any act of imperfection but excessively punishing ourselves and our children to preserve an image for others is truly deserting ourselves  in the worst way. Improving my own self acceptance and releasing the need for perfection had made it possible to respond our children’s behaviors in the same compassionate context that I relate to myself. A majority of our children’s ‘misconduct‘ and behaviors are normal developmental curiosities as they are experiencing every stage of their development for the first time and will naturally explore the full scope of their being and self boundaries. For example, my one year daughter currently puts everything in her mouth during this stage of her development. She doesn’t care if the object is food or paper, yet it would not be reasonable to react as to one of her paper eating episodes as  though she ought to be a perfect one year old and know better. It’s possible to approach every stage of our children’s growth in this compassionate manner if we abandon the expectation of perfection and nurture a more loving relationship with ourselves. Interestingly, every parent is striving to teach their child(ren) not to be influenced by the opinions of others, but without self compassion for their imperfection, children may develop a stronger propensity to seek admiration and validation in their social relationships. Admittedly, many of us were raised in the exact same manner that we are parenting our children to mould us into better people than our folks, yet by in large we turned out pretty much the same, so it’s worth breaking the cycle. 

Changing The Success Story .

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 The consciousness of success is slowly evolving beyond the old model of commencing adulthood motivated to prove ourselves, only to become stuck or complacent in unfulfilling arenas twenty years later. The externally driven approach to success is not sustainable over one’s life time, therefore we must equip children with the self compassion necessary to continue challenging themselves to explore their full potential. Without self compassion, we may complete our post secondary education, get a decent paying 9 to 5 job, own a house etc. But we need to embrace unconditional self acceptance and grace to experience inner peace, make empowered decisions in our personals lives and nurture a positive mental dialogue, which encourages us to explore our inspirations. Our generation minimized that value of the relationship that we are having with ourselves while putting on a good front to the world. It’s now obvious that our degree of self-love impacts every life decision and subsequently shapes the progression of our personal lives. Without self acceptance, we resign to making choices that help us to feel loved and accepted by others. Hence our initial success platform as young adults may simply reflect the conditioned need to be approved and validated by our friends, family, public etc. With time, it becomes less desirable to continue expending excessive efforts in endeavors that don’t authentically fulfill us. Yet, without self compassion, we may remain both afraid of failure and lack the passion necessary to support exploring continual personal growth. Parenting with compassion allows children to internalize their worth as being greater than even the most damaging outcome. Such self grace is what will allow them to detach their happiness from the outcome of their efforts and remain curious about expanding their creativity and potential. More so,  nurturing children to be compassionate to themselves unconditionally enables them to make empowered choices especially when their expectations aren’t met. Essentially self compassion, is the key to sustained happiness because it allows us to feel worthy and accept ourselves amidst our changing circumstances. Positive psychology studies have shown that happier people make an average $600-700K more money over their life time, live longer and are more fulfilled in their relationships (1). When we are happy with ourselves, we tend to make choices from a framework of self expansion, while choices that stem from a feeling of unworthiness are geared at seeking approval and simply appeasing our discontent. The new face of success in the coming generations will continue to be that of creative entrepreneurship, which is primarily motivated by passion and self evolution. The greatest gift we can give our children is modeling the self compassion and awareness that compliments evolving their creativity, growth and potential.

Remaining compassionate when we are triggered by our children’s actions is undoubtedly difficult but we must imagine that if we react excessively from frustration, those responses will likely become the choices that they will also choose for themselves. Rather when our choices always align with love then we avoid the inconsistency of swinging between anger to guilt, which limits our effectiveness. If we teach our children to always feel worthy in themselves then we can rest assured that they will be able to take make empowered choices that support their success and fulfillment. Life will never be perfect, therefore expecting perfection of our children may not afford them with the skills and confidence to gracefully overcome challenges without fear. Rather, when we model self compassion, we teach children not to be ashamed of their mistakes but to forgive their errors and take responsibility for their actions. A child that feels worthy at all times is better able to make positive choices and are less likely to be limited by their imperfect circumstances or the judgement of others. 

(1) Information adapted from Rob Mack, happiness coach, speaker and author.  Interviewed on Earn Your Happy podcast. Aired August 25, 2017

INI ANANA IS AN ASPIRING LIFE AND SELF DEVELOPMENT COACH IN EDMONTON, AB. LIKE STEEPING JOY ON FACEBOOK  FOR MORE SELF DEVELOPMENT INSIGHTS.

 

8 Reasons Why Babies Are Awesome And Adults Should Learn From Them.

Babies have some of the most amusing and ironic mannerisms and at any given moment Fraya’s behaviours offers us the best entertainment that you can get for free. Unbeknownst to them, babies have a constant dotting fan club that comes with round the clock paparazzi and our constant adoration of Fraya’s quirks reveals a deeper value in all her traits. Here’s a list of eight classic behaviours that babies display on a daily basis, which I believe we should also try and emulate.

1.) The only focus on what they want.

  • A baby’s eyes are like a set of magnets for the object of her desire. Nothing else around them matters during a moment when baby is eyeing the string in your shirt, the fluff on the carpet or the crumb stuck between their fingers. Even as I try to flash something more appealing within her view, Fraya does not shift her interest from whatever she is intent on making hers. Approaching our pursuits with this type of passion is what motivates us to remain focused solely on the means of achieving them. It takes a baby-like dedication not to become discouraged by the difficulties we encounter while pursuing our desires.

2.) They let go of anything they don’t need.

  • A toy, pacifier, bottle or a cup, when an object is no longer useful to a baby, it’s leaving their hands like a hot potato! Consider the practicality of a baby freeing up their explorative resource to embrace something  of greater interest once they are finished with another item. We may fail to discover our creative potential if we remain preoccupied with ideas/thoughts that are not useful. Our mind is our most valuable creative resource and it’s not beneficial to invest our imagination reinforcing thoughts of what makes us unhappy. I believe that we must develop an understanding of the emotions that give rise to our negative thoughts in order to eliminate nonconstructive ideas  .

3.) They let you know when they are unhappy.

  • Babies are living the high life because they let us know when we need to remedy something in their environment. From arching their back, fussing, squealing, crying, grunting and that snake-like rotation maneuver freeing them from your grasp; babies are good at conveying their discontent until someone understands how to fix the problem. However, as adults, we have to be able to identify WHAT is causing our discontent to remedy our unhappiness and this is probably the biggest obstacle to creating positive life changes. Our lack of fulfillment signals that something is amiss but we may be unable to identify the cause; I believe that we should develop a daily practice of questioning and understanding our negative emotions to discover the source of our discontent.

4.) They get over things quickly and move on.

  • Babies will have you believe that the world is ending in one instant and will be playing blissfully just moments later, showing that they know how move on once their discomfort is over. This is currently a noted blessing with Fraya entering the recurring head bumping stage of her mobility. I am passionately practicing this concept of letting go of displeasing sentiment(s) and it’s becoming hard to fathom why I would have ever remained preoccupied with negative experiences. The secret is that we need to progress emotionally before we can move on mentally, which requires an understanding of the fear(s) that are manifesting in our negative emotions.

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5.) They find joy in the simple things. 

  • They could be half a dozen fancy toys in front of a baby but they will unfailingly find the commonplace house hold item to be more fascinating. A spoon, a piece of paper, a sock, her books are just some of the items that causes Fraya’s eyes to light up. I believe that it is a baby’s sense of wonder that intrigues them to discover the joy in ordinary items. We stop enjoying the simple experiences/things once we start to believe that we need more to be content. Yet, a reduced sense of fulfillment may diminish the means that we are willing to utilize to acquire more. It is a practice of love that enables us to find joy in the ordinary and the resulting sense of passion is the currency we need to fulfill greater desires.

6.) They know that a smile is a good way to you what you want. 

  • Even our funkiest moods can be altered by a full-hearted ear to ear smile from a baby and I’m starting to think that Fraya already knows when to flash her winning grin. And of course, when a baby blesses you with a smile, you automatically reciprocate and become interested in how they want to engage with you. Similarly for the rest of us, as they say “you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar”; a positive attitude is truly the best approach to adopt during any of our pursuits, especially if we require the support of others.

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7.) They pay attention to the little things. 

  • A baby’s development depends vastly on their ability to collect information/cues from their environment and incorporate it into practice. Fraya is now at the stage where her eyes are drawn to the most minute details in her surroundings and I know it’s only a matter of time before she’ll become the household vacuum cleaner. We sometimes become too distracted by the bigger picture that we overlook the little things, which are often the essentials or pre-requisite components to materializing the broader picture.

8.) They love freely.

  • This is undoubtedly the most meaningful lesson that I have gained while living vicariously in Fraya’s world. Babies demonstrate that our true nature is love, and it is their lack of perception that enables them to freely embrace every moment. My spiritual journey and awareness reveals that the perceptions that inhibit our ability to love is a fear of being unhappy. I now understand that every emotion, thought and encounter is an opportunity to choose love or fear and the choices we make from fear foster various forms of our discontent.We can be sure that we are acting out of love if our thoughts during any interaction echoes the positive energy of contentment.

What are some of your favourite traits that babies possess?

XO

Ini Anana

“Steeping joy, brewed with all that life has to offer”.

Enabling Older Children To Experience Personal Failure: How It Helps Them Win.

“There are two lasting gifts we can hope to give our children, one is roots; the other, wings.”–Hodding Carter Jr.


“What’s the point of being on the best team, if you don’t get to play as much…I’m just going to stay put and improve myself with this team”. When my son made those remarks a few days ago, it immediately gave me the incentive to write this post. He was responding to rumors that several of his teammates plan to leave to another team that has a better chance of advancing to the U16 Nationals soccer tournament. As you can imagine I was impressed by his insightful and mature reasoning, yet two years ago, I would not have envisioned his ability to display such logic. That’s because two years ago, he himself was bouncing from club to club determined to be on the best team. He insisted on this pursuit against my rational persuasion but I realized that it was an opportunity to grant him greater ownership of decisions that ultimately only affected him. So, I dared to allow him to fail, because I recognized that it was the only means for him to learn certain important life lessons. And fail he did, after making one of the top club soccer teams during the outdoor season, he was subsequently cut from the roster when the team accepted fewer players during the indoor season. My boy was heartbroken and it was the type of sadness that us parents never enjoy seeing in our children. I scrutinized my decision to allow him to leave his former team as we now faced the prospects of him missing an entire indoor season. Yet, my son’s gradual growth from such scenarios confirms that the teenage years is an appropriate time for parents to give their children wings to navigate some of their own decision making that may cause personal failure. My classification of failure does not refer to a child’s sense of personal hopelessness about circumstances that are out of their control. It is our job as parents during such occasions to take all necessary steps to restore our children’s confidence and positive outlook. Rather I am defining failure as the repercussions in personal matters that the child is inherently more invested in than the parents. Empowering my son to make choices where there’s a potential of failure enables him to learn important life lessons about perseverance, self reflection and personal accountability.

The sky is never really falling.

After he was released from that team, my son did not know how he was going to live if he couldn’t play soccer and he felt more helpless because he burned bridges with his former team. The spoiler alert is that he did not miss that indoor season and made it onto another  club team but not without learning the intricacies of determination. The most critical component of perseverance is establishing your next desired outcome and I recall asking my son “do you want to play soccer” to which he of course said yes. Once he affirmed his intention to play, I then encouraged him to only focus on brainstorming how to bring this to fruition. In other facets of life, we must also employ this same intentional mindset as we decide to move forwards after unforeseen setbacks. It didn’t take long for him to recall that one of his previous teammates had joined the team half way through the season after asking to attend a couple practices. We did not know that coaches often choose to keep a smaller roster for this very reason and so I began sending out emails to several teams requesting for my son to attend a practice with a prospect of being brought onto the team. The approach worked and he found a new team. As we continued to discuss the lessons from this event, he understood that there’s always a way to move forward and interestingly came to the most profound conclusion, stating “mom I feel sorry for kids who have to feel like for the first time when they are older with something that’s really important”. Yes, HE said those words and it was the biggest reassurance that I am making the right choice in giving him more freedom to experience failure. As they mature into adults we would all want our children not give up after rejection and  it’s beneficial for them to become familiar with how to create possibilities after failure while they are still young.

Reflecting on what went wrong.

Learning from mistakes has proven to be a meaningful occasion to help my son develop insight about his choices; our follow up discussions provides him a safe landing place as we utilize his new awareness to improve his outlook on life. Once he was accepted onto another team, I asked my son how he felt about his decision to hop teams in the first place. He explained that he sincerely thought that being on a better team would make him a better player. However, being one of the more novice players on the team (at that time) he received less playing time and became more tentative during game situations, which may have contributed to his subsequent release. He later admitted that as a relatively new club player, it would have been preferable for him to remain on a team focused on player development than winning. I honestly do not believe he would have gained this insight without the fallout from his attempt to seek greener grass elsewhere. We often do not recognize the tunnel vision of our goal setting motives until we discover the multiple influences that impact our desired outcome. Previously, I could not convince my son that becoming a great soccer player entailed more than being on the best team but he gained that insight independently after his expectations were not met. As we continued to talk about this experience, I explained that its important to consider the various factors of each option in any decision and we are now in the habit of creating a pros and cons list in these situations. Hindsight is 20/20 but insight also offers us a broad viewpoint and I am beginning to see proof of my son’s ability to understand his role and responsibility in creating favourable conditions for his own success.

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Been there, done that.

I asked my son why he doesn’t feel tempted like some of his teammates to leave his current team and he responded “because I’ve already been there and done that”. He followed up with an explanation that at his age division most teams have been cohesive for many years and are loyal to their players. Therefore, even if a team expands their roster during the upcoming outdoor season, they would likely release new players before their veterans going forward. If you have children in sports then you may be familiar with the politics of player loyalty, which is a discussion that’s beyond the scope of this post. What I find commendable about my son’s current outlook is his desire not to potentially repeat the same mistakes as before. He knows what it feels like to regret a choice and feels responsible to avoid the same outcome. Failure helps us to become accountable by making us aware of what to do differently to avoid similar set backs. Of course, there is a balancing act of also recognizing when it’s appropriate to step out of our comfort zone and take new risks that challenge us and enable us to thrive. I believe that one’s motivation for pursuing or abstaining from certain goals typically reveals whether it is the prudent choice. And in his case, his motives for remaining on his current team enhances his self development more than the alternative. From bad relationships, wrong career choices to poor judgement of character, we often learn to do better going forward after we understand where we went wrong and enabling older children to implement this skill will be valuable to them as they get older.

Allowing our children to fail is difficult because it contradicts our innate parenting instinct, which desires the very best for our children. Yet success is a continuous journey of getting up after we fall and it is important for children to develop this ability while they are gaining a greater sense of identity as teenagers. If one insists on keeping all the balls in the air for our older children, they will indeed succeed in those moments but unless we plan to micro manage them forever, we must eventually allow our children to experience disappointment and help them to grow from it.

How are you navigating the domain of allowing your older children to make choices that may disappoint them? Is it easy or challenging? I would love to hear about your experiences.

XO

Ini A.

“Steeping joy, brewed with all that life has to offer”