“Miriam has been an invaluable resource for me as my partner and I discover a new way of being in relationship with each other as co-parents as well as guiding us along the parenting journey. Intuitively I knew that we needed someone who was creative, present, compassionate and conscious while grounded in child development and relationship expertise. Miriam is that and more. She listens deeply, provides creative suggestions and most importantly honors each and the whole in our family in times of both harmony and conflict. I am profoundly grateful.”
“Miriam is warm and open hearted. She helped me center in my heart and in the present moment and guide my decisions from there. Her soft yet assuring presence allowed me to feel open to let go of things I had been holding onto.”
“Miriam is deeply compassionate, respectful and skilled in her work. She helped me to recognize my core self, deepen my connection to life and see my inner beauty at a time when I felt confused and lost. In counselling with Miriam, I was able to do healing work using both talk and movement. Miriam’s strong sense of self and faith foster a beautiful process of change and growth.”
“As a counsellor, Miriam is extremely present, and her feedback is thoughtful and appropriate. Counselling with her was one of the most valuable things I did after someone I loved died. Our sessions helped me do the necessary work of facing death and grief. Our sessions also helped me to incorporate more consciousness, self-care, and authenticity into my life.”
“Miriam invited me to redefine my beliefs about my own limitations in a counselling environment that was open, flexible and deeply sincere. Her consistent competence as a counsellor was infused with a warm humanism that supported me to move forward in my life. With Gratitude”.
Here’s the third and final vignette in my three-part blog series on delightful expressions of emotional health and capacity in children, ones that surprise and hearten us amidst the journey of helping them develop emotional intelligence (you can find the first one here and the second one here). This one was shared with me by a fellow mother about her daughter:
Since she is little, Maggie loves visiting stores with cuddly, soft stuffies, pretty shiny things, cute booklets, dollies, and the wide array of beautiful, creative toys and trinkets available in certain stores – these things make their way into her heart on a weekly basis when she goes to town with her mother. For the past few years, each time they are in town, she has felt compelled to get something, one thing. Sometimes her mother has acquiesced. Other times she hasn’t. Quietly her mother has wondered (and at times worried) why her daughter feels such a need to have and get all this stuff. “Have we raised her too materialistically?” “Why this drive to consume?” “She has so much already”.
Her mother would talk to her about other realities across the planet, children playing with whatever is present in their immediate surroundings… rocks, sticks, one simple doll. She would remind her of all her beautiful and cherished things at home. She would acknowledge how her daughter felt, and also encourage her to say “bye bye” and imagine how happy the particular item was, staying in the store shelf with its “friends”. Maggie would listen. She would say “bye bye”. She tried. And she also kept on wanting and insisting.
Then one day, they are in a store and 7-year old Maggie has once again “fallen in love” with a “very special fluffy, and oh so soft and cuddly bunny”. Her mother notes how soft it is, and encourages her to come along now. She turns to walk to the door, and as she looks back to see if her daughter is following her, she notices her still standing in front of the “lovely bunny”, her focus quiet and intent, her lips moving softly, her two hands moving to her heart. Then, with easy willingness, Maggie turns to her mother and they leave the store together without another backward glance. What brought about this unexpected and welcome change?
“What did you do?” Her mother asks, curious about this sudden transformation.
“I figured out a trick for when I really want something and can’t have it”, Maggie responds.
“Oh, that sounds wonderful. Would you mind telling me your trick?” her mother inquires further, now even more intrigued.
“Sure,” Maggie replies nonchalantly. “This is what I do now every time I want something and don’t need it or can’t have it. I say to myself: ‘The whole wide world is mine — kiss — hug — God bless you’, and then I feel fine not having it. It helps me let go of it. Somehow it’s in me.”
Her mother nods, impressed, and on they go.
What a gorgeous example of emotional regulation. Of finding a creative way forward, by embracing the world in a wider circle, accepting what cannot be changed, releasing the desire and transforming it into a different experience of resolution. Giving in, but not giving up. Even blessing in the process!
And now to you: Please share your own vignettes, the little and big ways you notice your child growing up emotionally, gradually discovering how to neither disconnect from feelings nor to identify with them, but to be present with them, learn from them, regulate, and keep going.
Let’s gather stories of emotional health and intelligence – stories of our children being tender and tuned in. Let’s celebrate these gems and inspire each other.
Even as we all know that there are many stumbles along the way to emotional intelligence and wisdom (the journey to developing emotional intelligence is a long and windy one), it is so helpful to get a fuller sense of what is possible and what emotional health looks like in action.
If you’re a parent or caregiver, I invite you to join me in my 8-week online course “Parenting as a Spiritual Practice“, Oct. 13 – Dec. 8, 2014. Discover how to create the fullest, richest, most loving parenting practice. Raise the bar for how you show up as a parent, and provide your child with the very best foundation for being a loving, creative, conscious being — while discovering an unshakeable ease amidst the inevitable ups, downs, and doubts of parenting. www.integralparenting.com
This course is designed to bring to life the full potential of parenthood: a transformative vessel for evolving yourself, your child, and the future.
Here’s the second vignette from my three-part blog series about delightful expressions of emotional health and capacity in children, ones that surprise and hearten us amidst the journey of helping them develop emotional intelligence (you can read the first one here>>):
It’s a golden late summer’s day. My daughter — 11 now — steps on a lazy wasp while playing with a bundle of kittens she is fostering from the local animal shelter. Startled by the immediate and powerful sensation of pain zipping through her foot, she tries to shake it off, and gets stung a second time.
She bursts out crying, tears streaming. Still holding the kittens, she finds comfort in her father’s arms. There is a full blast eruption and release for about 30 seconds. Then quiet. Then a deep breath.
“Wow. That was intense!” she says.
She takes another deep breath, uncurls from her papa’s embrace, and gets back to playing with her kittens, as if nothing had happened to disrupt the play in the first place.
Witnessing this, my husband and I are struck by the quick flow — experience and related feeling moving through with raw intensity, the full release, allowing for a new moment to emerge.
Sometimes our children are ‘up-to-date’ with their emotions — the mellow and the intense ones — not repressing nor indulging in them, but simply able to let them pass through and integrate as they arise. Held and comforted as needed during stormy ones, they don’t layer one emotion on top of the other. When the storm erupts — be it a sadness, a frustration, an upset on any kind — it is in relation to that specific moment and experience, rather than an outlet for a whole pile-up of feelings that need expressing.
If our child cries more than we sense is warranted by a current experience (be this a physical tumble or an emotional hurt), it could be that some stored-up feelings are finding release. Knowing of this possibility can help us hold and comfort our child, as well as find meaning in simply being present until it is all out and a sense of calm returns. Sometimes as our children grow up and try to make sense of themselves and the world, feelings get tucked away, bumps seem to be overcome, but they are still there, just under the surface. Tears are such a wonderful way to let those backed-up “rivers” flow, and bring them back to integration and present time.
And then there’s us parents and adults. How “up-to-date” are we with our emotional expression and integration? How many feelings have we layered on top of each other? It is never too late to let the emotional “rivers” that have been dammed, flow. It is never too late to let go of old stories that we indulge in and flood our emotional “rivers” with. As we continue to grow into our own emotional brilliance, we can more fully hold space for our children’s emotional development. The two are intimately interwoven.
Here’s to being present to the full intensity of each emotional storm without identifying with it. Feeling fully. Deep breath. Wow, that was intense. Onward.
May we celebrate the times our children express full-bodied feeling, healthy release and onward movement. May we be present and patient with them when their tears take longer to source and flow, and have become entangled with earlier experiences. May we help them grow up with courageous, sensitive hearts.
I’ll be sharing the third vignette in this three-part series in a few days.
If you’re a parent or caregiver, I invite you to join me in my upcoming 8-week online course “Parenting as a Spiritual Practice“, starting October 13, 2014. Discover how to create the fullest, richest, most loving parenting practice. Raise the bar for how you show up as a parent, and provide your child with the very best foundation for being a loving, creative, conscious being — while discovering an unshakeable ease amidst the inevitable ups, downs, and doubts of parenting. www.integralparenting.com
This course is designed to bring to life the full potential of parenthood: a transformative vessel for evolving yourself, your child, and the future.
Children rely on our support and guidance in navigating the emotional ups and downs of life. Developing emotional intelligence takes time and is an ongoing journey for every human being. And yet our children sometimes also surprise us with delightful expressions of emotional health and capacity.
Photo credit: Yonah Wienges
Over the past few months I have witnessed a few of those and find myself heartened every time I ponder them. I’d like to share some of them with you in a three-part blog series. May these vignettes encourage you too. May they inspire you. And help you notice the gems that may be happening right in front of you.
Here’s the first one:
A family friend visited us over a long weekend with his 5-year old son. The days were filled with goodness… circus on the trampoline, running through sparkling water arcs created by a handheld hose, satisfying campfire meals, shared reading on the couch, swimming, giggling, exploring, chatting… And, as all visits do, this one eventually came to a close.
Leading up to their departure, the young lad expressed several times that he really didn’t feel like leaving. We acknowledged how hard it can be to step away from such a grand time, and reflected with him how much fun we all had together.
On the morning of their departure, he did what children do so beautifully. He lived in the moment, drank up each bit of the visit still present… from enjoying breakfast, to picking flowers for his mama, from running around with our puppy to eventually giving us each a sweet hug before climbing into the car.
During their shared morning drawing session, my daughter had made him a little card to look at once he and his dad would be driving. She told me she had made this to help him pass the time and bridge the farewell. He clutched it tightly as he followed his father, who gave him all the time he needed to climb through the back hatch, as was his preference, and was fastened into his car seat.
Then, as we stood by the car, we saw him look at the card, we noticed his bottom lip begin to tremble, tears welling up in his eyes. We could see the flood of sadness rolling through him, even as he looked at us and waved. We stood there as his papa turned the car around, we waved and blew kisses, as did he, through blurry eyes and with trembling lip. Not once did he turn away. He hadn’t resisted getting in the car when it was time to go. He remained fully engaged, heart soft and open, present with the mix of strong feelings. He also didn’t cover the sadness with anger, or hide from us to protect his vulnerable self.
I was so impressed. Touched. What a brave little lad. What a fine example of emotional intelligence at work. And how simply healthy and good that was… for him to feel what was going on in the moment, mixed feelings and all, to be held lovingly and gently by his father, to be able to express so honestly and vulnerably, to be acknowledged in his feelings and given freedom to roam and choose within parameters that remained unchangeable (they still left, the visit didn’t get prolonged).
Thank you to his parents — you know who you are — for raising a boy with such capacity to feel, to express, and to move onward and forward. My heart melts a little every time I think of him. And I am encouraged every time I think of parents around the world raising lads (and lassies) with their sensitivity and courage intact.
I’ll be sharing the second vignette in this three-part series in a few days.
If you’re a parent or caregiver, I invite you to join me in my upcoming 8-week online course “Parenting as a Spiritual Practice“, starting October 13, 2014. Discover how to create the fullest, richest, most loving parenting practice. Raise the bar for how you show up as a parent, and provide your child with the very best foundation for being a loving, creative, conscious being — while discovering an unshakeable ease amidst the inevitable ups, downs, and doubts of parenting.www.integralparenting.com
This course is designed to bring to life the full potential of parenthood: a transformative vessel for evolving yourself, your child, and the future.
Think of the times in your life you have lied. And why.
Were you afraid of what would happen if you told the truth? Worried how the other would react? Whether you’d get into trouble?
Or because you felt ashamed? Because covering up the truth seemed easier than dealing with the lie? Because you felt the other wasn’t ready to hear the truth?
Or perhaps because you didn’t even know the truth yourself, weren’t yet in touch with it? Or you just wished so very much that things were different?
Whichever the reasons may be, I invite you to keep in mind your own journey with truth-telling, its opposite, and all the in-between shades of grey, as we consider how to respond when our children lie, and how to encourage them in finding and expressing their truth, in this way building relationships that are worthy of trust — trustworthy.
When parents discover their children are lying to them, they are usually filled with keen dismay, sometimes incredulity, puzzlement or anger, and underneath it all, always, in my experience, with sadness.
We know intuitively that truth-telling is key to building and nurturing a trusting relationship. We know that without it, we quickly enter slippery ground. It becomes harder to know one another, difficult to trust. Lies get in the way of closeness, intimacy and connection.
Over the past few months this question has come up frequently in my counseling and parent coaching practice: What do we do when we find our child lying to us? How to deal with, prevent, heal and course-correct?
It is a vast topic and inquiry. In this article I share with you 13 ways to prevent, as well as to respond.
1) Listen to what is going on “underneath” the lie. One of the most profound shifts in our view of and interaction with children takes place when we realize — and I mean, truly get — that they make sense. Not necessarily “making sense” in the way of articulate reasoning, logic or clear communication. But that there is always a reason behind what they do. They don’t just do things for the heck of it. In this way, they make sense. And it is our task and responsibility as adults to decipher what that reason may be, to understand them more, to listen deeper, and to find out what that “sense making” is. While they are busy learning our language, we need to be busy learning their language. In the context of this article, what are they saying when they lie? There is a communication in that too. When we hear the message tucked in the lie, we are much better equipped to respond appropriately.
2) Consider your child’s developmental age. We — adults and children alike — grow through ages and stages. As we develop, our understanding and appreciation of fantasy and reality also develop. When dealing with a child whom we perceive is lying, it is important to include in our discernment and our response, where they are at in their developmental journey. When a 3-year-old says, “My grandma is very, very old, 200 years old! She’s gonna die soon,” he is not lying, he is simply expressing his own subjective view, as well as impressions he may have picked up, perhaps also watching for how others react to what he says. Or when a 4-year-old vehemently insists that she did “truly see a fairy peek from behind that rock over there,” she is playing with and exploring the line between the imaginary and the real. On the other hand, when an 8-year-old denies having played on his iPad when he was supposed to be finishing his homework, he is well aware of the difference between what really happened and what he is communicating. Different developmental stages require different responses.
3) Pay attention to the many ways your child expresses himself, not just the verbal ones. We can only be as honest with others as we are with ourselves. Thus, a child’s capacity to be honest is connected with his level of self-awareness and self-knowledge. Your son might say “I’m fine” or just “fine,” in response to your question, “How are you, how was our day?” not in order to fool you or to cover up what is really going on, but because the feelings are too complicated and confusing to put into words. He doesn’t actually know what he is feeling, so “fine” may be the best he can muster in the moment. This is another reason why it is so important to pay attention to the many ways a child speaks his truth — facial expression or lack thereof, gestures, body posture, art, music, energy, etc.
4) Make the connection with your child your first priority. Connection is thefoundation for truth-telling. It is the ground upon which honesty grows. A well-connected child wants to share her heart with you. She wants, even needs and is compelled to let you know what is on her heart and mind. Connection is the strongest, most reliable preventative measure you can take against lying. Make time for it. See it as the one thing that shall not be compromised on.
5) Walk the talk. Show by example, model integrity yourself. Children learn primarily through imitation, or as Robert Fulghum says, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you. Worry that they are always watching you.” So, notice whether what you say and what you do align. When you promise your child, “I’ll be back in just a few minutes,” how accurate is that? Are your speech and your actions in alignment? Try to be consistent with your integrity, and accurate in your language. If, for example, your son asks you to watch him at his baseball game on the weekend and you are not sure you can fulfill his wish, then say something like, “I will do my best to be there” or “Help me remember that we are planning this,” rather than “Sure.” View your speech as sacred and use it mindfully.
6) Teach your child, from about 6-7 years up, that freedom goes hand in hand with responsibility. The natural progression of growing up includes expansion — a growth in freedom and also increasing levels of responsibility. Let your growing children know that when they, for example, misuse their growing freedom of speech (eg. by misguiding or hurting others), there is a natural consequence: they become less trustworthy, and in a future moment/situation this could really impact them. If you find them lying to you, discuss with them how they can make good. How they can earn your trust back? Find ways for them to rebuild the broken bridge. And if you find yourself lying, apologize, take responsibility yourself and make good. Make it clear that being believed is initially granted to all, and then, as we grow older, a privilege earned.
7) Be a safe haven, a welcoming receptacle for everything. This does not mean you have to agree with everything your child tells you! It does mean that if your child senses you are closed, judgmental, anxious, or might overreact around a particular subject, she may very well choose not to divulge what is on her heart and mind. One of the best ways to ensure that your child will keep telling you what is going on in her life, is to notice where you yourself are stuck and frozen, and to deal with those topics and feelings. Face into them, unfreeze yourself — be these topics of sexuality, money, power, religion, or any area of life around which you feel contraction. This is ongoing work, and can also be done on the spot. One mother was telling me how she felt herself freeze as her 15-year old surprised her with a sexual inquiry. As she caught herself freezing, she said to her daughter, “Honey, hang on a sec, I just need a moment, and then I’d love to hear what is on your mind.” She took a few deep breaths, remembered her commitment to want to be available for all of it, and then gave her daughter her full attention and open mind, more glad to be in touch and aware of what her daughter was curious about, than to protect herself from what feelings this might bring up. The beautiful thing about this practice is that the old adage, “And the truth shall set you free…” works for all involved. The more we unfreeze, the freer we become.
8) Teach your children the value of truth-telling. Passing on values is a huge part of parenting. If you don’t do it, everything else will — peers, media, the internet, society at large. So, how do you feel about the truth? Speak openly with your child, tell him about the sacred nature of words and of agreements. Words mean something, we rely on them to know what is going on for each other. Agreements are sacred, they matter and are to be honored (unless otherwise communicated or in an exceptional situation). We need to be able to trust each other’s words, else it is very difficult to trust one another. Teach your children how much more simple it is to tell the truth. As Sir Walter Scott said perceptively, “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” It is a web that we quickly trip up and get lost in. Point this out to them when it happens, and bring awareness to the freeing effect of telling the truth, the goodness and the unburdening effect telling the truth has.
9) Dare to be vulnerable. Tell your children that you rely on them telling you the truth. You are dependent on their willingness to share. You can try to guess, but really, their truth is something they can choose to give you or not. Building trust between you takes both of you. Apologize for any times you have been out of integrity. See it as a journey you are both on.
10) Realize that there is The Truth, and then there is subjective truth. A lot of the time we are dealing with the latter, while speaking as if we are dealing with the former. If you reflect on what you deeply and truly know to be true — the without-a-doubt-deep-in-your-bones-knowing, such as “Love is good” — the list is likely not that long. Understanding this doesn’t relativize everything, but it puts it in context and helps you consider in any given moment whether what is being perceived by you as a lie may indeed simply be a differing subjective truth. And that there is space for more than one subjective truth. So, when you are feeling uncertain about whether your child is telling you the truth, don’t jump to conclusions and accusations. Inquire first. See if you can find out how and why they are “making sense” in the way they are.
11) Take time and make space to listen… to small stuff and big stuff. Sometimes the words don’t come, sometimes it’s easier to speak while walking side by side rather than sitting across from each other… find out what situation and environment works best for your child to share with you, and make time, carve out space for that.
12) Make a difference between the person and the behavior. When you find your child lying, make sure to deal with the lying, rather than calling him a liar. Labeling the person boxes them in and is more likely to lead to shame. Naming the behavior calmly, and clearly, without added charge and judgment, leads to awareness, accountability and the possibility of change. Express concern and disappointment about the behavior and simultaneously reassurance that they are a good person, with capacity to speak the truth and show up with courage and integrity. This motivates your child to improve their behavior, and helps her internalize and strengthen her self-identity as someone who can become ever more trustworthy. It is OK for your child to feel guilt — which is the feeling that she has done something wrong, and can repair it. Regret is an important part of course-correcting as we grow up. Shame, on the other hand, comes from a negative judgment about her personhood, it puts her down and makes her feel worthless and small, stagnating, possibly even reversing her growth into an empowered, joyous, truth-teller.
13) Build your village! As our children grow up and become adolescents, they may well go through a period during which they are less inclined to share openly with you, from whom they are individuating. If you have helped them connect with and trust other adults during their childhood, people who are like extended family for them, they can go to these real or “adopted” aunts and uncles in times of trouble, decision-making or simply to share what is going on for them. In this way, truth-telling can be held in a larger container, and the worry a parent may feel, is eased, knowing there are others who deeply care about and are confidantes for your child. One family makes a point of explicitly seeking out at least one such mentor and friend for each of their children before they are 12-years-old (if possible earlier), people who commit to this relationship and take this role seriously.
Once our children become older and have internalized the value and habit of speaking the truth and showing up with integrity, we can introduce them to the finer nuances of truth-telling, which include skillful means, awareness of what someone is ready to hear, and a weighing of various perspectives. As my grandfather once told me in German: “Alles was Du sagst, sei wahr; aber nicht alles was wahr ist, sage!”(Translated: “May everything you say be true, but not everything that is true needs to be said!”).
If you would like to deepen this exploration and more, I invite you to take a look at my eCourse Parenting as a Spiritual Practice — waking up through parenting and waking up for parenting — which I facilitate twice a year with a wonderfully international group of parents and caregivers: www.integralparenting.com
A few days ago, as I brought my Christmas mail to the post office, a young mother caught my eye. She was planting a quick kiss on her envelopes before dropping them in the mailbox. She did it covertly, so no one would see. But I did.
I asked her if she does this with all her mail. She nodded. We exchanged a few words and a moment of mutual recognition.
Ever since I remember, my mother has drawn a small “God bless you” cross with her forefinger on envelopes before dropping them in the mail… letters, cards, and bills. She does this to bless their voyage, encourage safe arrival, and to share a blessing with all who come in touch with the mail and especially the one receiving the mail.
I have continued this habit, also finding myself doing it when sending an important email: “May it be received in the spirit it is intended, with an open mind and heart. May it ‘land’ in the best possible of ways.”
And now my daughter continues the gesture, drawing a wee cross of blessing on envelopes as she sends them down the mailbox slot.
Seeing this woman warmed my heart, and got me thinking of all the myriad small gestures of care and blessing happening around the planet daily…
candles lit by grandmothers as they pray for their families…
kisses blown to loved ones as they drive away…
clothes smoothed and lovingly folded for our children to wear…
prayers whispered when we say, “Drive safely”…
little love messages and drawings slipped into lunch boxes…
the kind smile of the guy at the gas station…
the door held open by the 10-year-old for an elderly person before he runs off after his friends…
the lullabies sung in the middle of the night, heard only by the restless babes and their parents…
Little notes and gestures tucked and woven into the daily fabric of life.
Most of these go unseen. They are private, invisible, yet meaningful and precious. They express care, a touch of consciousness and kindness to daily occurrences.
Before this young woman and I parted, we shared a heart wink — joining with many other quiet agents of love, small gestures and rituals around the world, tucked in at the edges, silently, softly weaving worlds more whole.
I walked away encouraged. These little gestures remind me of the light in our northern hemisphere at this time of the year. How resilient and steadfast it is, even as the days are short and the nights long. A flicker, a caress and encouragement. A promise and a nudge to walk on, to keep on.
Small gestures matter. The light supports and helps get us through, however small the flame. Many small flames make a fire. Many threads weave strong fabric.
What are the little rituals, gestures and habits of care and love you share with the world? Ones passed on to you that you have adopted, perhaps adjusted? Or ones invented through the spontaneous expressions of your own heart?
May you never forget that these small gestures make a difference.
Together, may we continue offering such ripples of love, weaving a fabric of sustenance and hope.