They want to be seen, heard and loved.
They want boundaries to keep them in and a safety net for when they escape.
As parents, it is up to us to figure out how to do that on a individual basis. The premise is the same but the application is a bit different depending on the ages. What you would tell a 2 year old is exactly what you might tell a 16 year old, with a twist. At 2 I said be gentle, loving, kind and respectful. At 16, I ask IS THAT gentle, loving kind and respectful.
My parenting style is not perfect but it is consistent.
I model being gentle, loving, kind and respectful and go out of my way to make sure my kids feel seen, heard and loved. This consistency has offered my kids an idea of what my personal philosophies and boundaries are and that I will always have their back. No matter what. Even if they do the worst possible thing ever . . . I will stand by them. When I became a parent I made a contract with myself — to be their guide in this life — no matter what path they take. I will never give up on them. They know that — I tell them often we can figure it out.
In the words of Tony Robbins says “every thing is figureoutable.”
When children feel seen they have a sense of worthiness. They know they matter for who they are NOT any external accomplishment. They learn from us that they are worthy and loved in return they will develop a love of life.
My kids play sports and when they score they look at me in celebration not seeking approval for a job well done. After the game I ask “how did that feel to score?” I may even follow it up by saying all that time practicing that instep kick really paid off! They know I love them . . . the score is their accomplishment to own.
I want my tween and teenage girls to feel beautiful because they are full of beauty. Teaching them that beauty is a reflection of what you feel inside. I work on this daily in small ways. Our culture stresses the importance of being seen in all the wrong ways, as parents we need to balance this out.
Some kids talk non stop and some kids never speak a word without prying it out of them.
Kids want to be heard for who they are — not what we want to hear and not our agenda for them. They want us to understand their very being — or soul before they do anything. They count on us to listen to tangents, stay strong when they say mean and hurtful things, the arguing . . . they push us away in every possible way. As parents if we can try to understand our kids on the deepest level, kids feel that. They know we are trying to hear them.
When my son told me “I hate you!” I literally stopped breathing and my heart just stopped. Not an exaggeration. I stood looking at him thinking, I’m going to die and that is the last thing he said to me.
I did burst into tears. I walked away. We both needed space. Within a few moments I was able to breathe and realized that he didn’t hate me he hated the situation he found himself in and I was his safety net. Being our kids safety net can be the hardest part of parenting.
Rather than tell my kids I love them I ask them “do you feel loved?”
My friend tells her kids “I love you fiercely!”
Ok, so we can’t actually make someone feel loved, we can only help them feel worthy by the way we look at them, the words we speak to them, and how deeply we listen. We can reflect to them how much they are loved.
The key is seeing our children as separate people from us. They are an extension of us not a contraction. We expand through our children. If we parent consciously we will open ourselves in amazing and uncomfortable ways. We grow with them.
I work hard each day to make my kids feel loved, heard and seen. Some days are easier than others. Our family mantra: IS that gentle, loving, kind and respectful? Is a question we continually ask of ourselves and each other as we navigate our shared lives. Our foundation is based on the safety and security in knowing that we are heard, seen and loved — no matter what.
Originally published at medium.com