‘The ability to do something that frightens one; bravery’ Oxforddictionaries.com
One of my all-time, favourite songs has a chorus line as follows; ” If I sense danger; I’ll dust my heart down and carry on ” Sense of Danger by Presence.
This song has gotten me through so much in the past…
The greatest attribute, in my opinion is courage. Without it, there would be no challenge; no breakthrough and no progress. A lack of courage has led to some of humanity’s darkest periods and an abundance of courage has returned light where there was none.
As a dad, I want the cubs to have the courage to:
- Tell the truth/speak up
- Admit when you’re wrong
- Admit when you’re scared.
I sometimes despair at helicopter parents. Watching them at the play park, following their children around various apparatus, waiting to catch them after the inevitable fall. I also sympathise, as I’ve been there.
I stopped when I recognised that in doing so, we cause a great deal of harm. Courage is learned in climbing trees, rope swings into summer rivers and monkey bars with impossible spans. As kids ourselves, we fell, almost drowned and learned about the importance of momentum and strength. We recognise now, that the reward lies in overcoming those fears.
Lies come from a lack of courage to tell the truth. I watch people lie all the time and it has to be one of the things that affects me the greatest, especially when it’s an obvious lie. More often than not, it takes real courage to tell the truth.
As we mature, what scares us changes. It’s easy to dismiss the fears of a child because we have forgotten our own childhood fears but, the gap in the monkey bars represents a lot. As an adult admitting fear can be liberating.
Limits are for pushing; it’s in our nature. That tree absolutely needs to be climbed and those bars aren’t that far apart. Others have climbed, swum and swung before us; someone was the first…
In a world where young voices are often lost, children should be encouraged to speak up. They need to know that how they feel is important, and that their views should be considered. Shouting them down or scorn will only take their future voice away.
For a child, truth and lies are legitimised at an early age. The parental response to either will decide which they prefer. If a child can ‘get away with’ an untruth, or gain advantage from it, they may be inclined to repeat the behaviour.
I positively reinforce the truth by reducing the consequences when the cubs are straight with me. I’m less tolerant of lies. There are no ‘little lies’ or ‘white lies’, it’s a binary choice.
I try to address their fears rather than ridicule them. It is a delicate act to which I try to apply science and reasoning. I encourage them to tell me what they’re scared of and emote their feelings. Once they do this, I can add a counter argument; a script, that once becomes reinforced, they’ll be able to complete themselves.
Courage takes so many forms in our adult life but as with most values, what is gathered and repeated in the formative years will most likely be who we become.
Positive and negative reinforcement will constantly shape their development; as parents, what we do will often have more of an effect over what we say, as you cannot hide who you are.
I’d like to give you a short preview of my 5 week series on the life skills I’m trying to impart into my cubs.
I’ve thought long and hard about this one and reflected on their upbringing so far. Eldest cub, for the most part was raised in a semi-stable home and relationship, although the signs that her mother and I weren’t going to make it were already there.
Her formative years were moulded by the dual influences of both parents, even though I worked long hours and my partner stayed at home. Bonds were formed and taught values were reinforced in behaviours I showed daily.
The co-parenting paradigm shifts things onto a more challenging footing, and my son is now away from the dual influences of both parents. It’s difficult to know what effect this is having on his development as you have to allow for individuality in behavioural differences. I doubt that it’s as straight forwards as nature or nurture.
This whole piece wasn’t straight-forwards.
Having the cub’s best intentions in mind, I want to give them the best start in life that I possibly could, without overlooking their childhood by extolling vicarious values. I tried to be objective, with a topic that is hugely subjective, and I struggled to get the list down to 5 life skills. It changed numerous times.
My list may differ from that of others and I’d be keen to see how mine measures up, but when I reflect on the times that I might have stumbled in life, these are the skills that got me to my feet again.
Within each of these 5, I will attempt to explain why I think that the skill is vital, from the perspective of both an adult and a child. I will also attempt to explain how I teach this skill and then reinforce it in my own behaviour.
I hope you enjoy my thoughts and as always, I’d love to interact with you and have a discussion.
Happy New Year!
As 2018 draws to a close, I’m moving into reflection mode.
So much has happened since the start of the year; some things I’ve enjoyed sharing, others I’ve kept a little closer to my chest. I like to get things near to completion before I publisice them to the world these days. It’s a response to my prior habit of announcing my intentions too early..
I feel I’ve grown; a lot. I’ve watched my cubs grow too, as I’ve continued to nurture their development the best way that I can.
I’ve matured into the co-parenting role too. On reflection, this wasn’t the easiest of years in that respect. The challenges that I have faced crescendoed to such a frustrating level that I genuinely feared for my health at the start of this month. That’s behind me as thankfully, self-care kicked in.
Bonds of words have been broken, so I’ve drawn a line in the sand. The final straw being Christmas Day. The cubs were blessed with gifts. Not so much with attention. That left me frustrated but determined, that it will not happen again.
For me, the power of relection is to take the opportunity to learn. It isn’t about regret, as life is too beautiful for that. I promise you, if you search hard enough, there is a positive message in every single negative event in your history. It’s your job to recognise and capitalise on it.
I am so blessed that simply focussing on what is in my life is enough to make me smile out loud.
The cubs have their issues, but none are insurmountable. Plans are in place to deal with those.
- Carry on with the plans, unabbaited. They’re progressing nicely, but require concentration and patience.
- Build better relationships based on my values, mutual benefit and reciprocity.
- Focus on my health. Healthy eating, exercixe, good food, fresh air and relaxation.
- Kill procrastination; my greatest foe.
For the cubs
Reflecting, has got me reflecting. What do I want to teach my children? what do I want them to learn?
I narrowed it down to 5 life skills. I’m going to discuss one every week from the 5th January. I hope you enjoy them.
Here’s to 2019 folks; stay true to your dreams!
On this special day I want to thank all of you that read my ramblings, and wish you, your nearest and your dearest, a very Merry Christmas!
For me and the cubs, I’m grateful that our story continues. I buried the hatchet and invited the ex over to stay, giving her the opportunity to wake up with them and open presents.
Peace is restored. Or it will be when she leaves… 😉
Merry Christmas all xx
Eldest cub, in a public toilet cubicle with daddy standing guard outside; she calls out:
Hey dad! There’s a 20p piece and a 10p piece at the bottom of this toilet!
A true indication of how fast you can move, as a parent, under the right circumstances…
I think my heads right; I think I can write; let’s see.
Co-parenting is a challenge. I’ve written as much before. If you’re lucky enough not to be in such an arrangement, imagine trying to share something you love with someone you don’t. That pretty much sums it up.
You don’t see eye to eye becuase if you did, things would’ve worked out between you. Instead, you agree to come to an agreement over the most precious things in your life. Whilst not ideal, when it works, it works.
But what about when it doesn’t..
I had the rug pulled from under me recently which has caused me to take action. A text that told me Christmas plans were changing, as the cubs had asked for them to. It was due to be with me this year, mother invited of course. The text was to ‘run the idea past me’.
My objection by reply, was met by an ultimatum; that if all future Christmases were to be at hers then that’s how things will be. But I was welcome to join them. All heart.
As an individual, I like to respond, not to react. I try to distance myself from a knee-jerk, even with something as emotive as this. These are my children too and we have an arrangement; alternate Christmasses, with the other partner invited.
Here’s the connundrum; the weight of leverage of a loaded statement such as ‘it’s what they want’ should not be underestimated. However, when co-parenting, a child’s comments should not be weaponised. I think that this was the element that got to me the most.
Children in these arrangements will say things about the absent parent with some frequency but I feel that it is the present parent’s job to reinforce the position of the absent parent, in order to maintain some semblance of balance.
Perhaps I was niave.
What I noticed, was that as I distanced myself from the text, my physiology changed. I found myself at work, sitting at my desk but one million miles away. I had neck pain, which I realised had come from clenching my jaw so hard. I was holding my breath for long periods. Most worryingly, I had chest pain that lasted for about two days.
Immediately I took action and instigated some self-care.
Deep breathing was step one, follwed by visualisation. Every breath, as it went in, relaxed a muscle. Clean air worked into the tissues and removed the toxins.
The chest pains stopped.
I exercised more. Upped my cardio in order to become correctly fatigued, through excersion, rather than through stress. I took back control of my biggest asset; me.
I have drawn a line in the sand.
I deceided that if I did not take action now, I would forever be at the mercy of the another person. I took the decision to formalise arrangements. It wasn’t an easy decision and it’s far from perfect timing. In fact, Christmas funds have been diverted into mediation. But a single, deciding point kept coming back to me;
If not now, when?
I’ve been quiet. I’m sorry.
The rules have changed and I’m in the process of seeking legal help.
Whilst there’s no good time to do this, now is a really bad time.
It’s also necessary.
When I have the energy I’ll write about it as objectively as I can.
Whilst I’m emoted and have a taste of fire in my mouth, the keyboard stays silent.
Every day, find a reason to smile; counting your blessings is the best way.
At 8 years old, my daughter has been called the n-word.
I received a phone call at work from the ex this week, she was in tears.
Our daughter was minding her own business playing in the playground when all of a sudden one of the boys she was playing with lashed out.
Her phone call was quickly followed up by a phone call from school; it was my daughter’s form teacher.
Her voice was trembly as she told me what happened. Most of the conversation was taken up by her assuring me of how seriously the school take such things and how they had dealt with this situation robustly.
I thanked her for the phone call and asked her to arrange meeting between both sets of parents. At this response, her voice trembled even more. She promises to call me back. She doesn’t.
I get up from my desk open the office door and go for a walk. I need to clear my head, calm down and think clearly.
From very early on I’ve tried to make my daughter self-aware. Where we live she, in fact we, are a visible minority. For this very reason I have spent years growing her self belief and the knowledge that she is worthy and can achieve anything
It appears to have worked. She reported the incident to the teachers before returning to what she was doing. The boy was removed from play, his parents were called and they removed him from school for the day.
We were eventually offered a meeting the next day with the parents and the headteacher. I declined stating that I need to put a couple of days between the incident to allow me to calm down and also do some damage control.
After school we sat her down for a talk. We asked her what happened and to explain in her words. She did and we listened.
She told us she didn’t really know what the word meant but she’d read it in a book and knew that it wasn’t very nice, and that’s why she told the teachers. I gave her the biggest hug that I could, told her she’d done the right thing and that I was proud of her.
She began to tell me that he’d only called her that name because he was angry. I stopped her. I explained that no one has the right to lash out and call anybody any names or inflict physical damage because they are angry. That is not a justification. People should learn to control themselves. He is young, he is learning, but the rules apply.
This is such an important lesson for children to learn. Words, actions, have consequences.
We received a contrite email from the boy’s mother. She was very apologetic, explained that he didn’t know what the word meant, they don’t use that kind of language at home, and that he picked it up on YouTube.
I couldn’t help but observe some parental choices. She’d read it in a book; he’d heard it on YouTube I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
Big cub is fine. After we had the conversation, she spent more time telling me excitedly about the football match that she was playing in tomorrow. She was playing in midfield against some other schools. I assured her that I would be there to watch.
Her mum and I, will take a little longer to recover. For us this is the end of the age of innocence. We knew that they would come up against this kind of discrimination and hatred but we had no idea how soon it would happen. I, have been preparing her for a long time by positively reinforcing images of people and women that look like her, making sure that she knew the struggles they went through, what they enjoyed, and what they achieved despite this. I’m so glad I did.
I taught my boy a tough lesson today and it almost broke me.
Youngest cub has now joined his sister at big school. The change in educational level has done wonders for him. His language has come along in leaps and bounds and so has his interpersonal behaviour.
He’s not the finished article yet and at 4, neither should he be.
We do have some challenges. He gets frustrated easily and when he does, he can lose it quite badly. Foot stamping, screaming and saying no to everything.
On Saturday, I had said that we’d finish the day with a trip to the park but this had to follow him cleaning up his room. His sister will maintain her’s on a regular basis, but he plain and flatly refuses, or states that he can’t do it without help.
Again, given his age I don’t expect much, just a token effort.
At times I help him, at other times I get on with other aspects of housework to show them what is required to maintain a home.
As he’s grown, we quickly (and sadly) moved from the response to the tidy your room request of ‘No thank you!’ to plain and flat ‘no’.
We never made the park.
As I had no wish to punish his sister, I told them both that we’d go after breakfast the next day.
Next morning, after a hefty porridging, they headed for the bathroom. A quick wash and then out, was the plan.
All went south after hair washing. Water in his eyes was too much to bear and foot stamping began. Followed by screaming, and then kicking his sister.
At 4 years old, he seems to be experiencing the terrible 2’s.
I won’t stand for kicking so tell him he’ll lose a star. ‘I DON’T CARE!!!’ he screams, and kicks out again.
I pick him out of the bath. He screams and stamps. I ask him to apologise to his sister. He’s in full flap and now cyclically repeats that he’s not listening to me and he never will.
Admittedly, I can feel my blood pressure rising, so I decide to remove myself from the situation. I leave him dry, but naked.
Eldest cub gets ready and I shave and brush my teeth. She does her hair, which takes a while. He eventually stops screaming and comes in to my room. I’m now reading and pay him no attention.
He climbs on the bed next to me and slowly attempts to capture my gaze. I change position away from him. His sister declares that she’s ready.
Right; let’s go downstairs.
‘Dad! I’m not dressed yet…’
I walk down the stairs, telling her to put her shoes on.
In his nakedness he’s smiling and laughing as we get ready. He asks me a few questions, which ignore.
He persists. I stand firm.
His sister opens the back door and heads into the garden. Still in a state of undress, he puts his coat on.
I walk away from him and step into the garden. He screams…
I stop and go back.
I bend down and hold him tight.
We have conversation about what it feels like to be ignored; I do my best to keep it simple. He says he understands.
His sister, a witness to the entire charade, comments on my ability to maintain the ruse.
As I said; I don’t believe in striking a child but I do believe in discipline.
I’m not sure if what I did was any better.