Last weekend I stepped outside and headed to the veggie patch, as I needed some parsley for my cooking. I was surprised to see that it was turning yellow, with only a few green tufts left. Glancing around I saw that the rhubarb was bolting, the tomatoes were tiny and had been eaten by a grub, and the other plants were looking wilted. How did this happen to my once lush, productive garden? I stopped to think…..Mmmm, it had been a week since I’d been out there. No wait …. maybe it was 2, or even 3 weeks! I realised that I hadn’t tended to the garden for such a long time due to my work and personal commitments, and as a result it was neglected.
12 months ago that same garden had given me large quantities of tomatoes, parsley and zucchini which I happily shared. 12 months ago I was regularly out in the garden weeding, watering and nurturing it. What a difference!
How does this relate to parenting?
Children need to be nurtured. Just like a plant which needs good soil, water and sunshine to grow, our children also have needs. These must be satisfied in order to grow into healthy, ‘productive’ children.
Their needs are simple….. and it doesn’t involve trips to the toy store or expensive excursions to the latest theme park! Their needs centre around you. They need the basics as all humans do of food, clothing, shelter AND they need love and connection in order to thrive!
You, as parents, are the ones who can provide this. Thriving happens when children receive:
- Hugs – often! Hugs because they have fallen over, hugs because they are excited, or hugs to greet them when they come home from school. Most importantly hugs ‘to say ‘I Love You’;
- Cuddles and kisses – snuggles and cuddles when reading bedtime stories, or when they hop into bed with you in the morning; when leaving or picking them up from childcare, and any other reason you can think of;
- Kind words – children need kind words from you, both when they play or behave well, and also when they don’t. If your child has behaved inappropriately this is not the time for yelling – it’s a time to speak clearly and kindly, and to encourage them to do it differently next time. Just imagine if your boss at work yelled and was rude to you when you made an error – that would lead to anger, resentment or fear within you. People learn lessons best if the message is delivered respectfully and with kindness;
- Encouragement – Young children are learning all the time. They learn how to brush their teeth, how to hold a pencil and how to be gentle with the cat. When they are first learning, they aren’t great at that skill yet. They need your support and encouragement to continue to learn the skill. If you forcefully take over when they can’t quite get their socks on properly, you have discouraged them from even wanting to try. Instead praise their attempts with positive words eg ‘That’s great Monique – you have the sock on half way!’ If they are struggling and are beginning to get frustrated ask them IF they would like your help. Don’t assume they will.
- Your time – giving children your time is the most valuable gift. It’s the time you give when you put your phone away and play blocks with them, or build sandcastles on the beach; it’s the time when you read the same story 5 nights in a row because it’s their favourite, or the time you give when you watch them do a ‘special jump’ on the trampoline – even when you’ve already seen it before. It’s the time when you focus on them and interact positively together.
- Validation – children need to be validated and be reminded often that they are special, loved, amazing, beautiful, have a kind heart and that they are so clever. The more supportive validation they receive, the more they will believe in themselves – ie it raises their self-esteem. I will add here I’m not talking about ‘gushy’ praise, but sincere comments which will build them up.
The more you nurture and nourish your child the more they will flourish.
And, I’m heading out into my garden to do some nurturing!
Happy thriving parenting!