Parenting can be a challenge, but it can also be a joy. As parents, we are always searching for tools to help us overcome the challenges and bring us to that place of joy. One set of such tools that has been highly effective for me is learning to parent with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness (RECK). This transition, which happened gradually for me three years ago over the course of about 18 months, has been absolutely transformational.
The first thing I discovered when I put these tools to use was how often I was completely unempathetic to things my then 6-year-old twins were experiencing. After all, I had been six once myself. And I remember what a strange, magical, and sometimes frightening place the world could be. Harnessing my empathy allowed me to slow down and see things from their perspective. Respect played a part in this too, because first I needed to have a certain amount of respect for the fact that what they were experiencing was very real to them before I could start to empathize with them.
Over time, this experience changed me. I became a much more patient parent. I came to realize that when they didn’t immediately hop-to-it when I asked them to do something it wasn’t because they were defying me, but because they needed a moment to shift gears. Children have full inner lives just like adults and – like adults – children need a moment to process a request, finish up whatever they were doing, and move forward.
For me, compassion was an easy one when something happened to my children physically, but a challenging one when things happened to or within my children emotionally. Compassion, for me, was very much about learning to read my children better. Yesterday, for example, I told my son that I was a little disappointed that he had gone against one of the house rules (it was really just kind of an aside, no big deal). He didn’t react much at first, but about five minutes later he got up from the couch and went to his room. A few years ago I would not have understood what was happening, but thanks to working on my compassionate response I was immediately cued in to the fact that he was beating himself up over what he had done. I went to his room and we had a long talk about the fact that I love him and that he needs to talk to himself the way he would expect a good friend to talk to him. He wouldn’t let a friend speak to him abusively and he shouldn’t speak to himself that way either.
Finally, in all things, I have learned to be kind. The world is a tough place and children need a place to feel safe, secure, and loved. I don’t know about you, but I want that place to be our home. I am constantly conscious of the atmosphere of our home now. If I’m not feeling the love then I make an effort to pump it up. We don’t need to worry about toughening up our children – the world is going to do that to them whether we want it to or not. But we do need to worry about our children’s psychological and emotional well-being. Harm that happens at home and harshness inflicted by a parent can leave scars that last a lifetime. I have adult friends who will testify to this.
In the end, children learn to treat people the way they are treated. If we treat our children with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness, then we will raise humans who are respectful, empathetic, compassionate, and kind. And isn’t that really what we all want as parents?
Much love to you all,
Founder, Century of Compassion