One of my family’s weirder slogans or expressions — Self-Praise Stinketh – came into being on account of me. As the story goes, I said so many nice things about myself that they shortened it to SPS to save their breath. Later in life, I had to ask myself, “Why did I do that? Why was I constantly affirming myself?”
It dawned on me
Although my family loved me, they did not often compliment me or praise my accomplishments. When I talked to my mother about it much later in life, she said they didn’t want me to get a big head or grow up to be arrogant. But she also expressed regret and said she wished she had done it differently.
Even though a caregiver may do everything for the best of the children, providing for their needs and more, showering them with gifts– the child will experience a void unless the caregiver’s actions are accompanied by spoken words of acknowledgement.
What are our hindrances to spoken blessings?
Sometimes, it’s fear. We might fear saying the wrong things. We might fear the reaction our words will bring: rejection, embarrassment, doubt, laughter or misunderstanding.
Ironically, for many parents, it is busyness – the countless loving things parents do for their kids – getting in the way of meaningfully saying the words. Kids need to hear us say the words too.
We can learn this skill.
Educator Dr. Becky Bailey suggests five categories of what we might notice in children daily–at times like when they leave for school in the morning, before practice or rehearsal in the afternoon, at supper, before bedtime. This week, say words that:
- Affirm and approve – Cody, you held the door for Grandma. That was helpful.
- Commend and compliment –At the game I noticed how you were looking up while you were dribbling and passing the ball. Great game.
- Specifically speak love and affection – With a song you make up, “Good morning, good morning, how are you today? I love you, I love you, I love you today.”
- Invoke hope and self-confidence – Shayna, you planned the tasks involved in making that diorama. That took organizational skills. You have them.
- Answer pain and disappointment with support and faith – I can imagine you feel embarrassed and deeply hurt by what was said. I heard Taylor say some very hurtful things to you. Go tell Taylor “I don’t appreciate being called names.”
Note: The concept of the blessing is taken from John Trent’s book The Blessing. Dr. Bailey’s examples are found in her book Conscious Discipline.
- Loving acts parents do for kids can get in the way of passing on encouraging words they need to hear. Click to Tweet
- Bless children with the healing power of words. Go here for practical examples you can use right away. Click to Tweet
Readers of this blog know we focus on exploration of a child’s human spirit. Nature plays a crucial role in spiritual development and health. After all– to state the obvious– it’s our natural habitat. We are wired for it. Children need to spend time in nature– even city kids need the parks.
From nature, children…
- gain a certain perspective unattainable from any other source
- acquire neuroconnections key to brain function
Nature advances a web of life perspective
One of Alexander von Humboldt’s most important discoveries was that nature is a web of life. He found Earth to be one great living organism and a place where everything is connected. Humboldt wrote, “no single fact can be considered in isolation.”
He was the first to recognize the forest as an ecosystem. As such, he predicted devastating consequences of despoiling the face of the earth. However, though he was captivated by empirical data, he never lost his sense of wonder. He wrote that, “nature must be experienced through feeling.”
How do the children in your life “feel” nature’s web of life?
- Relationally – through a connection with their pet(s), tending vegetables in a garden, nurturing a potted plant
- Powerfully – awe and wonder of nature as far bigger than all of us, through astronomy, IMAX nature movies
- Creatively – inspiration for poetry, photography
- Experientially – sitting at the side of a lake listening to the water lap against the shore
Connections with nature build neuroconnections in the child’s brain.
From Dr. Becky Bailey’s work on Conscious Discipline, I learned more about how a child’s connections on the outside build neuroconnections on the inside. When relating to people, these outside connections come from eye contact, touch and presence.
When relating to nature, one woman describes an insight gained from sitting in a forest:
Your colleagues or supervisor at work won’t allow you to pursue your ideas. Then, you notice that a tree looks like it was initially growing in one direction, but something got in the way and now it’s growing—and thriving—in another. It’s as if the tree is saying, “Grow where you can! Send your energy to where you will be nurtured!”
A sense of peace envelops you as you lay down a fruitless struggle. Then a new creative space emerges as a more helpful question dawns on you: “Where can I grow?” (Kris Abrams)
Many great writers, thinkers, scientists, and poets have reflected extensively on nature:
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. (Albert Einstein)
Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction. (E. O. Wilson)
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. (Henry David Thoreau)
Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher. (William Wordsworth)
Children learn all living things can be our teacher.
Happy Earth Day!
- #EarthDay2016: Connections in nature build neuroconnections in a child’s brain. Click to Tweet
- #EarthDay2016: From nature, children gain a certain perspective unattainable from any other source. Click to Tweet