This is Week Four of the Empowered Families series here at My Sacred Sojourn. If this is your first time, you may want to begin by reading:
This is Week Four of our series on Empowered Families and I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying the process of thinking through these posts and practicing these skills in our home. Trust me when I say, as I share these thoughts with you, it's NOT because my husband and I have this parenting thing figured out. A lot of what I share is stuff I'm actively working through in my own heart and trying to implement with our children. I share as a fellow Mom on the journey, not as one who has arrived.
Case in point, this post is 3 days late. :) Last week I had the pleasure of attending the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) conference in Dallas, Texas. I attended several sessions that have sparked my curiosity and thought processes and I know there are several things I want to share with you later!
This week's post is about the 3rd letter in the EMPOWER acronym: "Provide opportunities to practice using those tools in a safe environment." For this post, I'm focusing on the last part of that statement, "...in a safe environment." I don't believe that creating safe environments is something that comes naturally to humans. Our first instinct is to protect ourselves. But if we're going to empower our kids, they have to know our hearts and homes are safe places. They need a safe place to experiment, practice, fail and succeed.
If we're going to create a safe home environment, children need to know what to expect. Imagine that you play on a community softball team. You arrive at a game mid-season and you're ready to play. Halfway through the game, the umpire throws you into "time out" because you didn't follow the rules. "What rules?" you ask. "You didn't dance to 3rd plate and then you walked to home base instead of skipping."
Um, what??? That would be insane, right? But we do it to our kids all. The. Time. Our kids do something that irritate us and we say, "You know you can't do it! It's against the rules!" We throw a rule in "mid-season" and get upset when they don't follow it. Creating rules out of thin air proves that we believe the lie that our children can read our minds. And as long as we believe the lie that others can read our minds, we will be continually frustrated in our relationships.
Have you ever thought, "I shouldn't have to tell her, she should just know!" "Why do I have to spell it out for them?" I'll tell you why: because they're children. And children have to be told many, many times how and why to do something before they get it. That's not rebellion and it's not stupidity, it's called being a child who is learning how to live and function in your home and life.
As an early childhood educator and a parent, I believe it's best to have very few and very simple rules and make them clear to your children. For instance, at our school the rules are "Be Kind", "Be Safe" and "Be your best." (You may recognize these because they're fairly general rules used nationwide in school settings.) We're still working on our home rules, so I don't have those to share yet. As I said, we're on a journey. But I guarantee you, we'll stick with 3 to 5 simple rules that are easy to remember and can be applied to a variety of situations.
I believe creating safe environments for our family members to grow and develop begins by making our expectations and rules very clear and by abandoning the lie that others can or should be able to read our minds. If we want to eliminate a lot of the frustration in our relationships, it starts by confronting the lies we believe, renouncing them and embracing truth.