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The Parenting Course

applesWhile requesting permission to use The Parenting Course postcard design on my blog, I struck up an email conversation with the editors of the Relationship Central website at Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB). They asked me to write a short testimony about my experience of the parenting course. I was flattered to be asked and enjoyed the challenge of writing a piece although I struggled to know what to exclude as I learnt so much. My solution was to focus on two aspects of how the course had improved my relationship with my daughter. The editors were delighted with my article and it is now published on their website. Click on the link below to read it and I have also included the full article below. Apologies – it is longer than a normal blog post!

http://www.relationshipcentral.org/article/2013-01-07/apples-and-love-letters

Apples and Love Letters

I have discovered that my daughter loves gifts! A rose at her table place, a wild apple that I picked on my walk home or a note in her lunch box makes her feel loved. I had found giving gifts for no reason was difficult because it felt materialistic and had resisted it until I thought back to all the pebbles, the dandelions and the paper presents she has given me. We all have different love languages and during The Parenting Course we studied ‘The Five Love Languages’: affirming words, affectionate touch, time, small gifts and actions. ‘Gifts’ for Isabel is her primary love language, they don’t have to be extravagant just thoughtful. I am learning to meet this need and also to recognise this is how she expresses love.

The Parenting Course is a practical 10 week course based on biblical principles that will help you parent effectively and is written by Nicky and Sila Lee from Holy Trinity Brompton. It follows Christian principles but it does not alienate those with other beliefs. Richard and I are delighted to finally be running the Parenting Children Course. I am currently a stay-at-home mum and met Richard at Holy Trinity Brompton. In 2000 we moved to Oxfordshire where the horizon is visible. Nicholas was born in 2003 followed by Isabel and the last (we are sure about that) was Harriet. Our children are now aged 9, 6 and 4.

Even though I was leading The Parenting Course, I have learnt so much about my relationship with Isabel. Isabel will always be dreamy, distracted, creative and contrary. I have now realised that my daughter’s intrinsic character won’t change so I must not allow day-to-day struggles to destroy our relationship. I need to keep the channels of communication open and build our friendship which is worth more than a daily quarrel about welly boots. Rob Parsons said that your six-year old will test you and the conflict will be worse when she is sixteen but on the rollercoaster ride keep hold of the relationship because one day you will have a beautiful friendship with your grown-up daughter. I have learnt that I can shape Isabel and direct her strong character but I can’t push her into an ill-fitting mould.

Isabel is the child who likes to pick wildflowers and admire autumn leaves with me. She has a delightful sense of humour, can laugh at herself and is never in a hurry, bored or impatient. We will always have a dynamic relationship and are now connecting better and that is exciting because I love her so much. No doubt in a few years time I will be buying iTune gifts for my daughter.

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valuesThis was the tenth and final session of The Parenting Course and we discussed passing on our beliefs and values. We all have real values and notional values – things we ascribe to but don’t actually practice. If we rate honesty highly but your children often hear us telling ‘white lies’ honesty is just a notional value and we will not be passing it on to our children. What values are we modelling to our children? We also considered praying for our children and it is never too early or too late to start. We all have deep longings for  our children and these can turn into fears so let us rather turn them into prayers.

Even though I have been leading The Parenting Course, I have learnt so much from it and realise how much more there is to learn. I hope these blogs about the course have given you a taster of what the course entails and if you wish to know more, look for a similar course close to you. It is so much better to connect with other parents than reading a book – or a blog!

If you want to know more about The Parenting Course, click on this link to read my initial post about the course. Here is a link to the Holy Trinity Brompton website which has a video about the course www.relationshipcentral.org.

helicopterLetting Go
In this week’s parenting course we were reminded that we gradually need to let our children go and we considered symptoms of unhealthy control. We can micro-manage our children’s live which is aptly described as ‘helicopter parenting’ where we hover over every aspect of their lives and don’t allow them to learn to think for themselves. I find it hard to let go and each day as my nine-year old son cycles off independently to school I remind him to concentrate, cycle slowly and look out for cars as they don’t always look out for bikes. It is hard but I am learning to let go and he is learning to be independent.

We can be over-competitive for our children, pushing and applying pressure to achieve what we think (or what we think the neighbours think) they should be achieving.We can over-schedule our children’s lives fearing that they will be left behind. We seem to be over aspirational for our children and concerned they will be under-simulated. Actually if they are given the time and the luxury to become bored they become very creative in their play – creativity that is hard to teach at endless music, gym, ballet and football lessons.

Lastly we need to allow children to take increasing responsiblity for themselves and not rescue them or they won’t have the opportunity to learn from mistakes and make better choices next time. My friends thought I was harsh not to leap back into the car to fetch Ella’s favourite teddy which she needed to cuddle at night. I felt that she was old enough to remember the teddy and we both knew it was safe at her friend’s house and would be collected the next day.  I felt for her pain and it hurt me but her older siblings each lent her a favourite toy, I cuddled her and listened to her sorrow and shared her sadness and she is learning from a safe experience like this to be more independent and responsible.

We need to teach our children to make choices now so one day they can make big decisions wisely.

If you want to know more about The Parenting Course, click on this link to read my initial post about the course. Here is a link to the Holy Trinity Brompton website which has a video about the course www.relationshipcentral.org.

All of us and that includes our children can be divided into hedgehogs or rhinos. How do you react to anger? Do you go on the attack and express your feelings aggressively or do you protect yourself by burying your feelings and become introverted? It is helpful to work out how you react to anger but also to know whether your child is a rhino or hedgehog so that you can help them to express their frustrations appropriately and to manage their anger. It is not acceptable to go around kicking furniture and hurling abuse at younger siblings but it is equally unhealthy to skulk in a corner internalising hurt feelings. And our family…? We are a herd of five rhinos and when the rubber hits the road, things can really ‘kick off’ in our household! But Zeb and I recognise this and continually aim to control our own anger and teach the children to do likewise – a task that takes about 18 years. It is also helpful to model how to resolve conflict and for children to see the adults making friends and saying sorry to each other and also to our children if we have got it wrong.

If you want to know more about The Parenting Course, click on this link to read my initial post about the course. Here is a link to the Holy Trinity Brompton website which has a video about the course www.relationshipcentral.org.

This session of The Parenting Course was about listening to our children which is something I am not always good at. I was challenged to pay full attention when my children talk to me and stop cooking or blogging(!), turn and look at them and listen properly. If I really can’t stop my task then I need to say that I am busy but in 10 minutes I will stop and listen. And then remember to do so. The other important thing I learnt was about reflecting back and repeating back to your child what he has said to you. This will ensure that you are really hearing what they are saying and helps them give their feelings a name. It is so easy to jump in with advice or reassurance while it is far better to empathise with them – advice would be appropriate at a later stage.

If you want to know more about The Parenting Course, click on this link to read my initial post about the course. Here is a link to the Holy Trinity Brompton website which has a video about the course www.relationshipcentral.org.

One thought has haunted me since the last parenting course session – your child’s intrinsic character won’t change so don’t allow the day-to-day struggles to destroy your relationship. Keep open  the channels of communication and build your relationship with your child. As Rob Parsons said, your six-year old will test you all the way and the conflict will be worse when she is sixteen but on the rollercoaster ride keep hold of the relationship because one day you will have a beautiful friendship with your twenty-year old, your thirty-year old and your forty-year old daughter.

Sophie will always be dreamy, distracted, creative and sometimes on another planet – I can shape her but I can’t push her into an ill-fitting mould. I can direct her strong character and understanding of human nature to become a force for good. Work with who your child is, treat your child with dignity, choose your battles and keep the relationship flourishing.

If you want to know more about The Parenting Course, click on this link to read my initial post about the course. Here is a link to the Holy Trinity Brompton website which has a video about the course www.relationshipcentral.org.

As a child I remember confidently making any request of my parents and knowing that I didn’t have to work out their answer in advance. I knew that they would say no if necessary and would not feel guilty about denying my request. I can still remember how safe this made me feel. I realise now that they knew how to provide good boundaries. Firm boundaries help to develop self-discipline, a respect for authority and security for a child. Of course children like to test the boundaries – especially in a pubic place!

As parents we need to keep the boundaries firm but also remember to HALT – is your child Hungry, Anxious or Angry, Lonely or Tired – if so then cut him some slack. Or are any of the above applicable to you and are you acting reasonably? Maybe it is time for you to sit down and have a cup of tea and biscuit!

If you want to know more about The Parenting Course, click on this link to read my initial post about the course. Here is a link to the Holy Trinity Brompton website which has a video about the course www.relationshipcentral.org.