Unfortunately most parents put themselves last and it’s a well known fact that making yourself matter, makes for better parenting and relationships.
Physical Mind Method, is a series of non-impact exercises designed by Joseph Pilates to develop strength, flexibility, balance and inner awareness. Can these concepts be applied to parenting? If so, how?
For those of you who already are parents, this series is going to strengthen the effective parenting practices you already have in place and it may stretch you in ways you had not thought of. It most likely will cause you to flex your parenting attitudes and approaches and to achieve a balance within your homes which serve you and your children well. For our current parents and for anyone out there who is considering the idea of parenthood, the principles shared will challenge your thinking in positive and productive ways. They will raise your level of inner awareness when it comes to implementing healthy roles and embracing the heavy responsibilities of being a parent. So, let’s get started with our first parenting session in our series
During the past ten years of writing and speaking about cyber bullying and screen dependence, the most important audience to reach is parent. Yes, the audience who matters the most is you - parents and guardians. Yes, you matter. Do you really know how much?
From the moment your child is born or you become the guardian or parent of a child, your life changes. You no longer are the center of your universe. Your partner, spouse, or the father/mother of your child is no longer the most significant person in your life. Why? Because your child just made you the most important person in his life.
This is important: remember your child just made you the most important person in his life.
Your child’s life depends on you. From the beginning stages of providing basic needs to the later stages of young adulthood when they leave the parental nest and begin their own lives, your children need you and deserve to have the best of you. Often times, parents begin their parenting with a strong commitment and steady involvement in their children’s lives. As their children enter into middle and high school, they back off or become less interested. Emotions frequently expressed are, “My children just don’t need me as much.” Other times, with more children coming into the family or as other challenges arise, parents grow tired, stressed, and over-worked, not only neglecting their commitment to parenting but rationalizing it in the process.
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What do you do to be present!
- First, by reminding yourself each and every day that ”I matter to my child.” Say it and write it down. ”I matter to my child.”
- Secondly, do a self-check of your parenting. If you were to give yourself a grade as a parent, how are you doing? Why? What are you doing each day to demonstrate to yourself, your children, and to others that ”I matter to my child?”
These are tough questions. For right now, think about them and then begin to answer them, honestly.
Make two columns:
- What am I doing which demonstrates “I matter to my child”?
- What do I need to work on?
Write down as many things as you can think of. Go slowly and continue adding to your list. This is a start. Remember, in this first warmup, we are developing an inner awareness of our importance as parents. As we move through our series, we will address specific areas of parenting where you will strengthen and stretch yourself.
As we continue to warm up, would you be willing to challenge yourself a bit further. How would you answer this question?
How to make your children feel they matter.
From birth until this precious being is launched into adulthood, you – in your role as a parent – will remain the most important and influential person in this child’s life. Everything you do and say will impact this child. Everything you don’t do and don’t say will impact this child. That’s a lot to take in. But do take it in. This is important.
Children learn about themselves from their primary caregivers and their environments. When parents demonstrate a healthy responsibility for taking care of their children, children develop a positive identity and sense of self. When parents or guardians do not fulfill their roles or abuse/neglect their duties as parents, children form a fractured sense of self and feel a loss of identity and worth. Thus, an excellent exercise to incorporate into our exercises is to check in periodically with your children and see if they feel like they matter. And why they do or do not.
So, age appropriately, spend a few minutes as you tuck your children in at night or when you have some quiet alone time and ask them:
- Do you feel important? Do you feel valuable? Do you feel like you matter? Why or why not?
- On a scale of 1 -10 (10 being the highest), how much do you feel like you matter? Why?
- What can I do or not do as your mom, dad, etc. which would help you to feel more valuable?
Implementing the following on a daily basis:
- Tell your children that they matter!
- Tell them they are valuable and important!
- Then, show them.
As we continue to stretch and flex, remember that children are indeed Parents and guardians, even though we may not be prepared to hear what our children have to say, our best report card on how we are doing is how they are doing resilient and flexible. They welcome change a lot easier and better than we do. Don’t beat yourself up or lather on any guilt. Release any negativity and remind yourself that any exercise program takes time to develop.
Until next time, work on your exercises. As you recommit yourself each and every day to the process, give yourself permission to put your inner awareness to work by developing a stronger sense of “mattering” for yourself and for your children.
Next session in Inner Awareness Pilates: A Parents Guide –Showing Up
Publishers Notes: Holli Kenley is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the author of “Daughters Betrayed by Their Mothers: Moving from Brokenness to Wholeness” and “Power Down & Parent Up!: Cyber Bullying, Screen Dependence & Raising Tech-Healthy Children.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.