positive parenting strategies and tips

As I discussed in my last post, positive parenting stresses the importance of children understanding parents’ expectations and rules. This is done so kids develop good morals and values. When children misbehave, parents are encouraged to have empathy and find the cause of the misbehavior. The focus of this post is how to implement positive parenting strategies and tips.

Positive Parenting Overview

Positive parenting focuses on children learning the importance of appropriate behavior. Parents and children show one another respect, and there is open communication. When speaking with children, it is important to use positive language and positive reinforcement.

Expectations should be age and developmentally appropriate. They should also be given in advance to prepare children for upcoming situations and set them up for success. When possible, children are given the opportunity to learn from their mistakes through natural consequences. Discipline in the form of logical consequences needs to be reasonable, related to the action, and respectful.  Consequences also need to be consistent. As opposed to yelling, parents should speak firmly and clearly. To get more detailed information about positive parenting click here

10 POSITIVE PARENTING STRATEGIES AND TIPS

 

(1) Model appropriate behavior

Our kids look to us to see right from wrong and appropriate versus inappropriate behavior. We cannot expect our children to follow the rules and emotionally regulate if we aren’t displaying healthy behavior. Therefore, it is important to model:

Understand that kids deserve empathy too- Just as we will have bad days and bad moods, so will kids. If your child is struggling, allow them to express their feelings. Give them an opportunity to explain why they are acting out, or if they are young, try to help them through their outburst. Young kids don’t have the ability to communicate and so they get overwhelmed and frustrated. It is important to help our children to deal with their emotions rather than rush to consequences. Encourage them to come to you and to identify their emotions using “I feel_________.”

There are times when your kid will have to ride out their feelings (just like adults), but other times there are strategies (example- breathing exercises, drawing a picture) that can be used to deal with their emotions in a healthy way. There also should be designated areas that your child can go to if he just wants to scream or cry or process feelings alone (parentingforbrain.com, 2020)

(2) Stay calm

I know this positive parenting tip is a very difficult one for many of us, myself included. However, I know from personal experience that if I begin a conversation with my husband or my child when my emotions are already elevated, it will inevitably turn into a very heated discussion/argument.

If your child has acted out and everyone is feeling upset, it is best for everyone to get some space and decompress individually. Your child should be told to go to a space that is designated to process feelings and help to calm down. Instead of a time-out being seen as a punishment, it should be used as an opportunity to take a break and come back together with a calmer headspace. Your child will be more receptive to having a conversation when given this time.

My daughter has a beanbag chair in her room with other toys that help her to emotionally regulate (a squeeze ball, a toy that you blow air into, a weighted blanket). She is asked to go to her “calming corner” as opposed to me calling it a time-out.

There are times when a time-in is necessary. If I see my daughter is upset and needs help to process her feelings, I may ask to take a break first so I’m in a better position to listen to her calmly. Once I’m calmer, I’m more equipped to help her through her feelings and process what is bothering her.

It is important to understand that being calmer doesn’t mean that people don’t still feel emotions. I can be calmer but still feel angry or hurt. However, giving ourselves an opportunity to process our own emotions first before speaking with another is always a good rule of thumb.

Depending on the expectations set in advance and the cause of the behavior, consequences may be given. However, it is important to give your child the opportunity to calm down first and process his/her feelings.

(3) Prioritize connection with your child

prioritize connection with your child

Children do not need materialistic things to feel loved. They need time with YOU. We all have busy lives and are juggling endless responsibilities, and I know it feels like we are being pulled in a million directions all the time. However, even 15 minutes of quality time with your child a day does wonders for their well-being. When your children feel that they are getting attention and that your time with them matters, it strengthens your bond with your child. This in turn helps them to feel loved and safe, and to feel that they can come to you with their feelings.

I have mentioned in prior articles that I implement what I call “fun-time” with my daughter. For a minimum of 15 minutes a day, I play with daughter without my phone or any other distractions. She has my undivided attention. Furthermore, she gets to pick the activity we choose to ensure that it is something that she will truly enjoy. She looks forward to this time together and knows that no matter what is going on, it is something she can count on daily. Quality time should never be taken away as a form of discipline.

Positive parenting is about teaching and helping our children to learn and grow, but part of parenting is having fun with our kids. Attention should be given emotionally as well as physically and verbally. Tell your child often that you love them. Give hugs and kisses, but be respectful if they are not as affectionate and follow their lead. Laughing and playing with our children is important for their development and it is a beautiful part of parenting (ptaourchildren.org, 2019).

(4) Allow kids to make decisions

Children from a very young age try asserting their independence. It is important to give them opportunities to have input or make a choice. Would they like an apple or an orange for a snack? Would they like to wear the boots or sneakers? What book would they like to read? The more opportunities kids have to voice their opinion, the more empowered they feel. This lessens the likelihood of power struggles. Additionally, it helps foster independence, self-sufficiency, and self-confidence.

(5) Pick your battles

A positive parenting strategy is focusing on all the ways your child behaves instead of their negative behaviors. When it is possible to ignore a negative behavior, do so. That doesn’t mean to turn a blind eye to behavior that is unacceptable. Rather, ask yourself if it is a big problem or a small one. Sometimes ignoring unwanted behavior will get a child to stop doing it rather than giving them attention for it. If it is necessary to point something out, try to keep the feedback to a minimum. Save the more lengthy acknowledgments for positive behavior. Kids want attention and will act out to get a reaction, as a negative reaction is better to them than no reaction at all. If you react more to the positives and less/as little as possible to the negatives, they are more likely to behave in a positive way.

(6) Encourage kids to be self-sufficient and figure things out for themselves

encourage your child to be self-sufficient

As much as it hurts us to see our children struggle, there are times when we have to take a step back and let them work through their own problems. Teaching self-sufficiency is a crucial component of positive parenting.

For example, my daughter lost her shoes a week ago. I often help her find her stuff because she tends to misplace her things regularly due to her difficulty with focusing. However, I realized I am doing her a disservice by not allowing her to look for her own stuff. I told her that she is capable of finding her shoes. When she started to get frustrated, I suggested she retrace her steps and kept encouraging her to look for them. She eventually found her shoes, and the look of accomplishment on her face when she found them was priceless.

If your child is struggling to do a math problem or to tie his own shoe, give them an opportunity to do it themselves. Don’t rush to step in and help. Even if your child doesn’t figure it out, they will learn the importance of trying to do things themselves. It also teaches a valuable lesson that we aren’t perfect and that trying is what matters.

(7) Find opportunities to say yes

There are times when there needs to be a hard “no,” and I am by no means encouraging indulging our children’s every wants and requests. However, when possible, try to say “yes” instead of “no.” This encourages children to respect and honor our boundaries when we save our “no” for the important matters. If your child asks for something that can’t be done at the present time, offer an alternative or redirection. For example, “I would love to go to the park! Would you like to go tomorrow or on Thursday?” or, “That looks like a really cool toy. Let’s add it to your wish list!” If we say no to everything, it loses its meaning and importance.

(8) Give warnings

We want to set our kids up for success and increase appropriate behavior. Therefore, try to give warnings to allow kids to be prepared and to help with transitions. Before my daughter has to leave somewhere, I try to give her a fifteen, five, and then two-minute warning. My daughter has difficult with directions and time management, so giving numerous warnings is helpful for her. The amount of warnings you give will vary based on the age and/or development of the child.

(9) Have patience

positive parenting strategies and tips

Positive parenting strategies and tips don’t result in changes overnight. When we aren’t using a more forceful means of parenting our child, our child may not cooperate at first. We need to understand that behavioral changes will not take place overnight. It is an adjustment for both parent and child, and parents need to give themselves compassion and understand we might feel more emotionally charged at first using this type of method. Having patience for ourselves and our children will help to make this type of parenting change.

(10) Be open to what your child is saying

Rules are meant to help our children and keep them safe, but with positive parenting, it is important to allow our child to have input. There are times when things are non-negotiable, but children should be allowed to offer their perspective. This gives them a voice and makes them feel like their opinions matter. There are times when my daughter has made a valid point and I’ve changed my mind. Other times I listen to her, but kindly and firmly tell her that my decision stands. Encouraging our children to state their opinion and speak up for themselves does not mean parents should allow children to dictate or be argumentative. However, the goal of positive parenting is for kids to understand why parents are setting rules and expectations so they can learn for themselves how to make proper choices.

 

 

Implementing positive parenting strategies and tips is not easy.  Quite the opposite. Positive parenting takes a lot of patience, understanding, and open communication. However, the benefits of positive parenting are instrumental. Our biggest responsibility as parents is to raise our children to be well-adjusted, kind, self-sufficient individuals. Positive parenting encourages parents to model healthy coping mechanisms and prioritize their own well-being, allowing both parents and children to thrive.

positive parenting solutions and tips

Not all children are the same, and what works for one child may not work for another. Even if all aspects of positive parenting aren’t best for your child, you can select which positive parenting strategies and tips work best with your parenting style. Tailor your parenting to your child, and remember that parenting is fluid. Learning different parenting styles and strategies help you make informed choices, and that is essential for parenting.

what is positive parenting

I vividly remember how I felt when I first saw my daughter. The love I felt for her was all-consuming. I knew I wanted to be a good mom, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to go about doing that. Every child is different, and therefore each child needs to be parented differently. This post will explain the different parenting styles and provide a guide to positive parenting.

The Four Types of Parenting Styles

4 types of parenting styles

In 1966 the developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind came up with four types of parenting styles. These styles explain how a parent interacts and disciplines their child. It is important to keep in mind that parenting is never clear cut. Elements form multiple styles of parenting may be used, or different styles might be used as different times throughout a child’s life (verywellmind.com, 2020).

1- Authoritarian parenting

There are high expectations and low amounts of nurturing with this parenting type. Parents use their authority to set rules and expectations, and do not allow questions or input from their children about these rules. As a result, the communication is usually from parent to child. They expect obedience and typically use yelling, spanking, and shaming to discipline their children. Punishments are used to deal with negative or unwanted behavior.

2-Permissive Parenting

This parenting style is the opposite of authoritarian parenting. There are low expectations and high amounts of nurturing. The relationship between parent and child more resembles a friendship than a parent and child relationship. Children are given complete freedom to make their own choices as there are no limits or boundaries. Parents give love and affection and communicate with their children, but there is a lack of guidance or rules.

3- Uninvolved/Neglectful Parenting

Low expectations and low nurturing characterize this type of parenting style. There is limited communication and parents are uninvolved in the child’s development and choices. Parents primarily ignore the child’s behavior and use no means of discipline.

4- Authoritative Parenting

There are high expectations and high levels of nurturing. Parents have open communication with their children and encourage verbal discourse. There are clear rules and expectations, and children’s feelings and well-being are prioritized.  Parents provide a warm, loving environment. Discipline is provided, while explaining the importance of rules and their consequences.

GUIDE TO Positive Parenting

Positive parenting falls under the umbrella of authoritative parenting.  The goal of positive parenting is to teach appropriate behavior rather than focus on negative behavior. The priority is placed on open communication so that children develop a good internal moral compass. As opposed to blindly following rules, kids are encouraged to understand the reasons behind these rules.

Advantages of Positive Parenting

(Parentingforbrain.com, 2021)

  1. Kids are more confident
  2. Children have more mental health and wellness
  3. Kids are more self-sufficient
  4. Children have better problem solving skills
  5. Kids develop healthy coping mechanisms
  6. Kids are more well-adjusted
  7. Children have more morals and values
  8. Kids have less behavioral issues
  9. Kids are more resilient
  10. Children have more academic success
  11. Kids have better social skills
  12. Kids are able to emotionally regulate and have self-awareness

ways to be a positive parent

guidelines FOR POSITIVE PARENTING

Look at the cause of the behavior

(positiveparentingsolutions.com, 2019)

When a child is acting out, there is often a reason behind it. Positive parenting stresses getting to the root of the behavior and having empathy in the process. For example, the next time your child is misbehaving, ask yourself what the cause could be. Did your child miss her nap? Is he hungry? Did something happen at school, with a friend, etc.?

There are other possible causes for misbehavior. A child needs to feel that he/she is getting attention/quality time with their parents and that he/she is encouraged to make choices. Power struggles often ensue when a child is not given the opportunity to assert independence.

Speak respectfully and firmly to your children

Positive parenting stresses that respect should be given to both the parent and the child. Using words such as “please” and “thank you” set a good example for how your child should speak to you and to others, while also giving them respect. Although parents who use this type of parenting speak in a kind way, that does not mean that they are not setting rules or boundaries. 

speak firmly without yelling.

Yelling is something many of us do as we were yelled at as kids. There are going to be times we lose our cool and yell. However, the situation will usually then escalate or the child will reacts out of fear rather than learning a lesson from the situation. When possible, try speaking in a calm, but firm voice.

There are two things to keep in mind when speaking with your children:

  1. Positive language– Instead of telling your kids what NOT to do, try stating what they should do. For example, instead of saying, “Don’t run,” try saying, “Please walk.” Instead of saying, “Don’t throw your shoes,” say, “Please put your shoes in the shoe rack.” Explain what to do as a positive statement instead of a negative one.
  2. Positive Reinforcement– Just as positive language should be used, it is important to acknowledge positive behavior and reinforce it. Often we see our kids behaving in ways that we like, but we tend to mention the unwanted behaviors instead of all the ways that they behaved appropriately. Some examples of positive reinforcement are: “You’re working so hard on solving that math problem!”, “You were so helpful when you loaded the dishwasher!” “I saw that you were about to jump from that step, but you stopped. You should be really proud of yourself!” Try being as specific as possible by avoiding generic statements such as “Great job!” or “That’s wonderful!” Commenting on a child’s specific positive behavior shows that you noticed what they did and illustrates the exact behaviors that should continue.

There are two Types of consequences in positive parenting

(mother.ly.com, 2020)

  1. Natural Consequences– If a child is rough with a fragile toy, it will break. If a child does not put on warm shoes when it is cold outside, their feet will get cold. When homework is handed in that is incomplete or done incorrectly, the child will get a bad grade. Through natural consequences a child can learn how to make better choices. We can explain to our children why we think there is a better option, but there are times when we should allow our children to learn from their mistakes. This avoids you having to battle with your child, and your child is given the opportunity to figure things out for themselves.
  2. Logical Consequences-. When a consequence is given, it needs to be logical. Consequences should be given in advance as much as possible so that a child understands the outcome of their choice. It is okay to give a warning first, but there should also be a reminder of what will happen if it happens again. Some examples are: If your child leaves his toys on the floor when he is told to pick them up, those toys get taken away. If your child does not ask permission to turn on the TV, your child isn’t allowed to watch TV. There is no dessert if your child refuses to eat his food. If your child is not listening when having a playdate at a friend’s house, your child has to end the playdate.           
Logical consequences should be respectful, reasonable, and related.

Speak respectfully when giving a consequence. There is no need to say, “I told you so,” or to make the child feel shame. Additionally, consequences need to make sense and be directly related to the action. Lastly, consequences should not be extreme, such as telling your child they have to go to bed early for a month for going to bed a few minutes passed their bedtime.  If consequences are done in an unreasonable, disrespectful, or unrelated way, the child will not learn from their actions.

Expectations and rules need to be age and developmentally appropriate and clear

It is important to make sure that your child understand the rules of the house. Rules should be simple, with consequences stated ahead of time. For example, before going to the store, your child should know to stay next to you and that they are to keep their hands to themselves. Make sure that your expectations are clear and ask your child to repeat them back to you to ensure they understand.

It is important to keep the child’s age and development in mind when setting expectations. If you have a child with poor impulse control and hyperactivity, asking your child to stay next to you while you do a full grocery shopping is unrealistic. If your child will stand next to you while you pick up a few items, then state that as your expectation.  

Explaining the expectations in advance allows kids to feel prepared and ensures that everyone is on the same page. This lessens the likelihood of outburst or negative behaviors.

Additionally, the amount of language you use should vary based on the child’s age and development. Try to keep your instructions to a couple of words with a young child. It is also helpful to get down to your child’s eye level when speaking with them.  

It is a good idea to explain why you have these rules. For example, “I want you to keep your hands to yourself so nothing gets knocked off the shelves,” or, “Washing our hands before dinner helps us to stay healthy.” If your child understands the importance of these rules, they are more likely to comply.

Be consistent

Do not give a consequence unless you are willing to follow through with it. If there is a lack of follow through, it minimizes the importance of your rules and sends the message that you will continue to set consequences and not implement them. This will only increase the likelihood of unwanted behavior. You deserve to be respected and taken seriously, and therefore consistency is crucial.

positive parenting is timeless

 

 

Positive parenting is about helping children to figure out the appropriate way to behave. This type of parenting does not take place overnight, as both parents and children need to adjust. However, when working with our children, instead of combatting with them, we can build a stronger parent-child relationship. Positive parenting gives parents and kids the tools they need to flourish. 

 

 

grieving the loss of my mother

I wrote a post about grief to explain that there are many stages to the grieving process. However, this post is about the grief that I experience daily. I experience what is known as ambiguous loss. I am grieving the loss of my living mother.

AMBIGUOUS GRIEF AND LOSS

The theory of ambiguous loss was pioneered by Dr. Pauline Boss. It is used to describe a loss that is unclear and lacks closure. This takes place because the loved one is physically present but psychologically absent (for example, someone with dementia, chronic mental illness, or someone who is in active addiction) or it can be a loved one who is psychologically present but physically absent (for example, a missing person, military deployment, children leaving the home, divorce) Both types of losses are not losses in the traditional sense (Adaptedtrom Boss,P., The Contextand Process of Theory Development: The Story of Ambiguous Loss. Journal of Family Theory & Review, B, pp.269-286, 2016) .

loss types and examples

Although people who experience ambiguous grief may go through the Kubler-Ross grief stages, there may also be an added element of “hope” to it because the person is not dead. Hope can be a good thing when you are able to see the lessons you learned from your pain.

However, it can also add to your grief when you cling to false hope.

Examples of this can be hoping that a person who is an addict will become clean or that a person with dementia is going to recognize you.

I believe parents experience ambiguous loss as we adjust to the changes that come with our children getting older. We are in a sense losing the child that once was as we continue to love the person they are and will become. This unclear loss is a loss, nonetheless.

I experienced ambiguous loss/grief when my husband was drinking and taking pills. At the time, I did not realize the grief that accompanies loving someone who is an addict. In retrospect, however, I know that there is a huge sense of loss when the person that stands before you acts like a completely different person. My husband was the same physically, but he was not the man I knew. I was now married to a stranger as I gave birth to his baby and raised our child. Having to cope with that is grief in every sense of its meaning.

GRIEVING THE LOSS OF MY LIVING MOTHER

The most recent ambiguous loss that took place in my life was when I went no contact with my mother almost three years ago. My mother is alive, but she is no longer in my life. I made a decision to terminate contact with her. As a result, I am now grieving the loss of my living mother.

I explained in my prior post that I made this choice because of the childhood abuse I endured at her hands, as well as the psychological and emotional abuse that continued to take place when she would have nothing to do with me or my child as she saw fit.  

Although I made this choice, I still grieve for this loss. I grieve the loss of my mother in my life. I may hate what she did to me, but I still love my mother. I simultaneously grieve the loss of my living mother while grieving the absence of the mother I never had and so desperately wanted and needed.

ambiguous grief

The biggest struggle I face with this type of loss is that it is harder to recognize as grief. When someone dies, there is a sense of closure, no matter how painful. It is clear that person is gone. As result, the pain and various emotions that come from this loss are recognizable and more understandable. With ambiguous loss, it is indeed ambiguous. It is harder to recognize the feelings as one of grief.

Often one isn’t sure how to process or experience a loss that isn’t concrete.

There is understanding, support, and knowledge about traditional grief. There is usually some sort of spiritual or religious belief that guides us through the death of a loved one. Jobs offer bereavement leave to give people the time they need to mourn. Mourning the death of a person is also something that is considered normal and there are support groups and/or other means of professional help.

With ambiguous loss, there is a lack of knowledge and support because there isn’t a person who died. There is not a religious or spiritual process and there is no bereavement leave due to grieving the loss of your living mother. There is a lack of support and services out there to help process this loss. 

When a person’s parent dies, there is usually an outpour of sympathy and condolences. I have never received such words. There has never been any acknowledgment of the pain and loss that I feel. I have grieved alone.

People do not see my loss as a true loss because my mother is still alive.

As much as I understand the pain that comes from losing a parent, I know my grief is of a living parent. When I find out about a person’s parent dying, I want to offer my support.  I want to let them know that I feel that pain too and that they are not alone. However, I usually don’t say such things out of concern that the person might find it offensive to compare my loss to theirs.

What I feel it is crucial for others to understand is that just because a person is alive, does not mean that we do not grieve deeply. I did not sever ties with my mom over something trivial. I had to walk away from the only mom I will ever have out of necessity. That does not mean that it is not painful.  The conflict between my head and my heart is something I wrestle with constantly. Grieving the loss of my living mother means simultaneously knowing I did the right thing while still experiencing profound grief due to that choice.  This is merely one type of inner conflict that takes place with someone who experiences ambiguous loss and grief.

MY AMBIGUOUS GRIEF WITH MY MOTHER

My mother has sent me emails since going no contact. One was to tell me she was suing me for grandparents’ visits, one was to retract that threat since she cannot do so based on the legal requirements where I live, and the rest were various forms of telling me I was responsible for keeping her granddaughter away from her. None of these emails contained any acknowledgment or responsibility for what led to my decision.

With each letter, I feel various forms of grief.

grief process model

I initially feel hope that perhaps this email will be different than the others. Perhaps she will finally love me enough to want to make things right. This is the type of hope that is common and often detrimental to a person experiencing ambiguous loss. Coming to the realization that she is who she is and will never change was the hardest thing for me to accept in my life. Each letter only makes that wound of loss deeper.

After I read her letters, I feel waves of sadness and anger. I often cry and feel rage simultaneously. All of the pain comes rushing back to me. I then use every ounce of strength I possess to not respond to her email. My impulse is to explain how much it hurts me that she won’t admit that she abused me. It rips me apart that she won’t acknowledge that it isn’t okay to say that she doesn’t like me and wants nothing to do with me. I want to scream at her that I don’t understand why she doesn’t miss me enough to make things right, and why she is willing to miss out on watching her granddaughter grow up.

There are so many things I want to say, so many things I have said before, but things I know will never be understood by the woman I call my mom.

My mother is getting older, and the time will eventually come when she will leave this earth. It is then that others will say their condolences- or will they? Will I ever be seen as someone who is grieving their mother when I chose to not have her in my life while she was living?

The truth is, we all grieve. We grieve in our own ways and for our own reasons. Some types of grief are more understood than others. What I hope I have conveyed to each of you is that whatever the reason may be, grief is grief, and loss is loss. Just as we should respect and validate others’ feelings, it is important to respect and validate someone’s grief.

Loss is a void that never gets replaced. With time it becomes our new norm, but that absence is always there, and it is never forgotten. I live with that void just as much as any other person who has experienced loss. There is no competition for who grieves more or experiences loss more, but people with ambiguous loss deserve to have their grief recognized too.

I am grieving the loss of my living mom, and I kept that pain to myself for too long.

grieving the loss of my living mother closure

I hope my story provides support and understanding to those who are also experiencing ambiguous loss. I want you to know that your pain is real, and it deserves acknowledgment. First and foremost, you need to acknowledge it yourself. The person you love may not be dead, but you still need to grieve. 

Ambiguous loss is a confusing concept, but that doesn’t mean you have to grieve alone. Reach out to friends or loved ones and explain to them how you are feeling. Do not keep your feelings to yourself, and do not allow anyone to minimize your feelings. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling without permission or approval. I hope you show yourself compassion and understanding as you ride the waves of these emotions just as you would any traditional loss.

 

living life like a child

 

Being a parent has been an eye opener for me in so many ways. I have had the privilege of watching my daughter grow. It is amazing to see how my child views the world. Whether you are a parent or not, I believe we should all try to use a child’s lens more when living our lives.  This article illustrates the power and freedom of living life like a child.

WHAT IT MEANS TO LIVE LIFE LIKE A CHILD

 

(1) Kids don’t judge

They look at everything with an open mind and heart. They do not have any preconceived notions or opinions. As adults, life has jaded us in many ways. It is understandable that our prior experiences have shaped our views. However, if we try to not judge a book from its cover, perhaps we can embrace new experiences and people rather than judge them.

(2) Kids are curious

Kids want to learn and understand everything around them. They ask questions because of a genuine interest in everything. Although trying at times, it is wonderous to see how much they want to learn. As adults, we often assume we have all the answers or don’t have the time or energy to seek out information. What if we took the time to discover why the sky is blue? There is so much each of us don’t know and imagine how much there is to discover.

(3) Kids have endless enthusiasm

I laugh as I write this one, because this is something that every teacher has said about Brielle. My daughter is excited about the simplest of things. A balloon! A box! Having a playdate (since COVID I think anyone would be excited about socializing, but I am referring to once upon a time when we could socialize without fear of a deadly virus)! Living life like a child means being excited about all that life has to offer. The little and simple stuff in life is not so little and simple to a child. I think we all could learn a thing or two about that.

(4) They are innocent and without prejudice

Innocence is a difficult subject for me. Some children have no choice but to lose their innocence at a young age for reasons beyond their control. I grew up in a toxic environment, and therefore didn’t get to stay innocent for very long. I am referring to children that grow up in loving, stable, healthy environments. Living life like a child means hatred and prejudice simply don’t exist to them.

I remember the first time my daughter saw a man in a wheelchair. She asked me what it was and why he was using it. The man saw her looking at him and asking. My first thought was that her questions were making him uncomfortable. It took me a few seconds to realize that wasn’t true. I was the one who was uncomfortable.

I realized that if I shied away from her questions or told her not to ask them, it was sending her a message that others that are different than us are to be avoided. Worse, it could portray that differences are something to be disliked or feared.

I learned that people are happy to answer your questions if they are coming from a place of innocence. Brielle learned that some people aren’t able to use their legs the way that we do. She has since asked and learned about hearing aids, skin tags, Tourette’s Syndrome, muscular sclerosis, and autism.

I recall the first time my daughter met a person of color. She was very young and a man came to our house to do some construction. She said hello and immediately asked him why he was dark. He got down to her level, smiled at her, and told her that not everyone has the same skin color. He then told her that all those differences are what makes the world special. My daughter, wide eyed, nodded and took in every word. She then gave him a hug. I have never forgotten that moment.

My initial embarrassment that she asked that question turned into gratefulness. I was grateful that her innocence allowed her to learn something that I wish everyone knew and understood. I once again realized that my discomfort could have prevented her from such a profound experience.  The prevention of asking and understanding differences is what brews ignorance, and ignorance is what breeds hate. Living life like a child means embracing differences and not avoiding them.

(5) Kids find humor and joy everywhere

Living life like a child means laughing all the time. My daughter finds humor in pretty much everything. Her laugh is contagious, and I find myself laughing. There isn’t a day that goes by where she doesn’t burst into giggles or hysterical laughter. She finds joy and humor in the simplest of things.

My silly faces make her laugh, a chapter from a book makes her laugh, pumping her legs on the swings makes her laugh, and rolling down a hill makes her laugh. She sometimes laughs at her laughs. It isn’t a teasing laughter; rather, it is a laughter that comes from the heart. What a wonderful world this would be if adults laughed more at ourselves and found more humor and joy in life.

(6) Kids don’t care what others think

I am often self-conscious. On the contrary, Brielle laughs, shouts, giggles, dances, sings, and is herself without constraints. She lives her life like nobody is watching, and more importantly, she wouldn’t care if they were. Some kids are shyer than others. However, living life like a child means that when they are doing something, they aren’t worrying about what other people think. Imagine how much more enjoyable life would be if we all lived like that.

(7) Kids love to play

Adults are consumed with responsibilities. Kids, however, play. They focus on having fun and enjoying themselves. Living life like a child means connecting with others and learning through contentment.

Understandably, kids are able to enjoy themselves more because of their lack of obligations. However, kids don’t feel guilty for doing things that make them happy. They don’t feel selfish because they take the time to do things that bring them joy. Adults (myself included) should take a page from the kid handbook and incorporate hobbies and other forms of self-care into our lives without guilt.

(8) Kids feel their feelings without reservations

When a kid is happy, it is obvious. Likewise, when a child is feeling frustrated, mad, or sad, their emotions come pouring out of them. Meltdowns and temper tantrums are common among young children because of their frustrations at being unable to properly communicate or express their emotions. Children want to share how they are feeling.

Adults, however, feel the need to often hold back our feelings. Many of us were taught at a young age that it is important to “be strong” or “not cry like a baby.” Those words shaped our perceptions and in turn, many of us grew up burying our feelings. Living life like a kid means that it is okay to not be okay. Kids will freely express their emotions without reservation. It is only when adults try to constrict those emotions that kids do otherwise.

I am certainly not saying that parents shouldn’t try to calm a child down when they are having a temper tantrum. However, if we take the time to understand why a kid is behaving a certain way or struggling, it will help them to be better equipped to deal with those emotions. Most importantly, teaching them healthy coping mechanisms to handle their feelings rather than sweep them under a rug encourages kids to continue to embrace their feelings.

Kids are authentic with their feelings and emotions. We should try to live life like a child and allow ourselves to feel more and restrict ourselves less. Life would be more authentic, genuine, and real if we all freely expressed ourselves.

 

 

Kids are an example of all the things we once embodied. Their innocence, curiosity, excitement, and pleasure in the simplest of things are a reminder of how much beauty there is in this world. If each of us made a vow to try to live life like a child, we would be opening ourselves up to a world of possibilities.

There is a lot of pain and cruelty in this world, and I am not suggesting that all bells can be unrung. However, there are things right in front of us that can bring us joy, if we allow ourselves to see it. We are no longer children, but we can try to view life through a different perspective.

Lay in the grass or jump in a puddle (it really is fun!). Sing your favorite song on top of your lungs. Learn something new. Take a moment to appreciate something simple, but that brings you joy. Try to be open to something without judging it first. Living life like a child will make us better adults and better people.