EQ Inspiration for Parents

EQ South Africa
Written by: Avril Kidd
We get so caught up in surviving and providing, that we sometimes miss just being with our children and loved ones. We need to look behind the masks that are worn to appear a certain way that society expects.

Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with love. [Mother Teresa]

In the wake of the past two years’ global upheaval, and also the looting and flooding disasters here in South Africa, I’ve been reflecting on my life and how it has felt raising children. My 17-year-old son is in his final year of school and hoping to go to Stellenbosch University next year. However, I still often question my ability as a mother and regret the mistakes I have made. I even question the right I have to facilitate EQ training, when I ‘mess up’ badly.

 During my considerations, I came across an amazing article by Jess Johnston, titled ‘Dear kids… when I’m not good at this’, that I had saved a while ago and wanted to share it with any other parents who feel the same way – especially while we’re living through such hugely stressful times. I hope you find the value in it that I have.

I have included some of the most pertinent points, extracts that most spoke to me, and how they spoke to me, but I encourage you to read the whole article.

Everyday I make mistakes. Sometimes I snap when I should be sensitive. Sometimes I lecture and give chores when what you needed was a hug. Sometimes I completely and utterly miss it. I know that I do. I mistake your pain for complaining or your sad heart for a bad attitude. I watch myself miss it, and later I grieve that I didn’t respond differently.

This makes me reflect on Empathy, the ability to put yourself into someone else’s shoes, to shift your viewing point and to see it from their perspective. We don’t seethe world as it really is but through our own filters. How clear are your filters, or are they full of smudges and blurred because you are judging rather than listening?

We have our own view on what we want for our children and what we assume is right for them because we are basing our view on our own past experiences. The world our children are living in now is very different to the one we grew up in and yet I know I certainly keep comparing how I grew up and behaved to how my son is. He is also a very different person to me, what I find easy, is frightening for him and yet he is excelling in other areas that I could only have dreamed about.

We need to ask ourselves: are we looking at what we want or what is right for our children? Do we ask them what happiness or success means to them, or do we make our own assumptions?

I miss it when I am tired, and you get my leftovers at the end of a long day. I wish that you didn’t, but sometimes you do. I miss it when I am scared. I am scared of big things and little things. I really thought adults had it all figured out, but I am one now, and it turns out we don’t. Sometimes fear snatches my heart and I can’t seem to think of anything else. I forget to relax and to enjoy you. I forget to smile and to laugh. I’m working on that.

How familiar does this sound? We get so caught up in surviving and providing, that we sometimes miss just being with our children and loved ones. We have to prioritize achieving balance in our lives and not living in the amygdala hijack state of fright, freeze or flee. We need to confront our fears and learn from them but also take time to recharge, to just be in the moment (not capturing the moment for our social media), actually living in it and appreciating what we have.

Living in fear of the future doesn’t change the outcome but it certainly changes our present. Our ability to navigate our emotions also plays a large part here, to be able to move past those emotions that keep us stuck and unhappy or angry or fearful.

As per the instructions we receive on an airplane – to put the oxygen mask on first before helping others, we need to make sure that we are doing the same in our every day lives so that we can be capable of supporting others.

I know that it is easy to hang on to the negative things and forget all the positive, but I want to set the record straight. When I look at you I am SO PROUD. When I look at you I see good. I see someone who is mighty. I wonder how I have been trusted with such a treasure. Your heart is pure and soft. You are gentle and kind, you are vivacious and fierce. I am forever your biggest cheerleader and your greatest fan. Please keep helping me to see you and to know you. Keep telling me when I hurt your feelings. Keep sharing with me your fears and your insecurities and we will figure it out together.

Isn’t this optimism? Seeing the potential, the possibilities and focusing on what is right? We are all aware of the stats of how many negatives a child hears in their lives, “Don’t touch that, don’t do that, stop that …” etc. Yes, we have to set firm boundaries and teach right from wrong, but we also need to consider the ratio of how often we are breaking down, focusing on the negative and taking the positive for granted.

Appreciate your children, your spouse, friends, employees for who they are and the good they do, don’t just give negative feedback. Positive feedback builds, it stimulates intrinsic motivation and feeds self-worth and self-esteem. My son has often said, “My school doesn’t see me!” Maybe I also don’t always see him – it takes courage, vulnerability and empathy to see people as they really are. We need to look behind the masks that are worn to appear a certain way that society expects.

I hope that my weakness teaches you something. I hope that when you come upon your own brokenness, tiredness, fear, and confusion, that you will be okay with it. I pray that your imperfections won’t scare you as they have me. I pray that you won’t run from them, but that you’ll wrestle with them and you will keep showing up, saying sorry, and trying again. We don’t always get it right and that’s okay.

Isn’t this what we need to teach – that making mistakes is okay? It is not the making of mistakes that should be focused on but what they are teaching us, what we can learn from them. Teaching our children that it is okay to fail, that it is how we recover from these failures that shows our strength, courage and character. This does not mean that we allow our children or our staff to keep making the same mistakes repeatedly but that we shift the focus on what they and we can learn from these mistakes. My son and I have an understanding that the best form of apology is changed behaviour. Isn’t this the best sign that learning has taken place?

It turns out I’m never, ever, going to be perfect, but I am always and forever yours, and I’m always and forever on your team. That I can promise you.

This is the best we can offer our loved ones: unconditional love and acceptance and the knowledge that we are not perfect. To our employees and colleagues: that we are on their team and we have their back.

Behind every young child who believes in himself is a parent who believed first. (Mathew Jacobson)