I imagine that we’ve all heard of the golden rule. Maybe as a child you noticed this message written on a banner in your school classroom or on a poster hanging on the wall at the doctor’s office. The text may have differed, but the message was always the same:
Treat other people the way you like to be treated.
As a student of psychology, of education, and as a teacher, I consciously observe behaviors. As a mother of young children I find myself in constant care, watching almost every move.
It is my greatest hope as a parent that my children will be happy, that they will be the best versions of themselves in each moment they are in. In the morning before I share my 5-year-old son with the kindergarten world, I gently remind him of what is most important: be kind to yourself and kind to others.
I lovingly offer the same message to my 3-year-old throughout our daily adventures together. And I gently tell myself the same.
As a schoolteacher I experienced the way to truly teach respect was to first give respect.
I chose to see my students as feeling people, just like me. Furthermore I needed to recognize that they didn’t always know how to process big feelings and I could give them space, and at times the guidance to do that.
It is the same in my home. I have to be what I hope my children will be. If I wish for my children to be kind then I have to be kind to them.
If I ask them to listen when I speak, then I must first offer them my attention.
If I hope they apologize for mistakes made, then I need to be willing to do the same.
If I desire that they truly forgive, then it is essential I give grace too.
Here lies what I believe to be the “golden rule of parenting:”
Treat your children the way you want them to treat others.
This also includes how they treat themselves. Parents, we have a huge responsibility as guides of life. We are the voices inside of our children’s heads until they discover their own inner voice. They are always listening and always watching.
There is no doubt that they are their own little beings and at times we wonder as parents where they came from. The questions surrounding child development and the influences of nature and nurture continue because there are many factors affecting personality and behavior. It is valuable to know that our actions do not make us who we are; they are simply movements that rise from our moving thoughts.
Parents, we are not asked to be perfect, actually we are expected to make mistakes because we are imperfect human beings. But we can choose how we receive our errors, forgive our faults, and move forward with a little more wisdom in our step.
I kindly share simple ways of being that may bring this belief to life.
First, see their experience.
You know that saying put yourself in their shoes? It can be difficult to be in another’s shoes because we receive and process information in different ways, but you can choose to see the big picture of what your child may be experiencing.
Slow down enough to be aware of what your child may be feeling, perhaps tired or afraid. Then think about how you react when you are tired or afraid. Notice if your heart and your tone soften a little with that knowing.
Then, take a deep breath.
Offer yourself a moment to connect to your calm center so that you can speak and act from a peaceful place. Know that your child is not the behavior that you are seeing but is love—a loving being reacting in a difficult moment.
Know that you are also love—a loving being navigating through a challenging situation. It may be helpful to take a deep inhale and in your mind say, “I am love.” And with the long exhale that follows, whisper to your child, “You are love.”
Speak to yourself and others from a place of love knowing that feelings flee, behaviors fade, events transform, and what will always remain will be the love that you are, and the love that you hold for others.