“It takes a village to raise a child.” ― African Proverb
Many of us may not have children or our children may already be grown, yet it doesn’t mean that we can forget about our parenting skills, because we never know when our “parent part” may be called upon to assist in raising happy and healthy kids. And, if you are a furbaby parent, as I am, the following intention-setting ideas are appropriate for our four-legged kids too.
So, in honor of Purposeful Parenting Month, I thought it was critical in order to raise the vibration for all children – the “little one” inside all of us, the ones we may have the honor of raising directly now or in the future, and the ones that we may find ourselves interacting with in a less direct relationship – that we reflect on some ways that we can foster the development of trusting, loving, and healthy kids. Below are some ideas for consideration:
- Set Boundaries. It’s important to set rules and boundaries for our kids, whether two-legged or four-legged. We all need to know how to behave in a respectful manner when interacting with others and it is up to us, the responsible adults, to model and teach our children what that means. It is also important to be consistent once a boundary is set, otherwise, we will create confusion. Children look to adults for protection and direction and setting healthy boundaries goes a long way toward making them feel safe and calm.
- Make Time for Play. Play is a basic human need – no matter how old our bodies get! Embracing this need allows us to prioritize fun in our lives and include our children. Research has also shown that it is important to play with your animals if you want to improve their behavior. Playing with children is not only good for them, but good for you as it allows you to stay connected with your own “inner child”, that part of you that wants to express its sense of creativity, stay true to your authentic self, and pursue goals with passion.
- Catch Them Doing Something You Like. Positive reinforcement has been shown to be the most powerful motivator as it makes us feel good about ourselves and more connected with others. Expressing appreciation and gratitude towards your children when you observe them doing something that brings you joy, especially when it is not expected or tied to achievement, can be especially powerful. For example, simply thanking your child for sharing with or showing kindness to another person can plant a seed for similar behaviors in the future. When it comes to our four-legged kids, a simple pat on the head when they sit down next you quietly or come to you when you call them, will create the connection that invites them to repeat such responses.
- Love Equally and Uniquely. It is important to not show favoritism, even if you feel it at times. So, recognizing that our children have different personalities and other qualities that will draw us towards and away from them at different times, find a unique way to express your love to each of your children that fits with them. Then, set the intention to use those unique expressions of love at least once a day with each child. This guidance can also be applied to our furbabies. Maybe one four-legged is a “morning” or “sunshine” baby while the other is a “nighttime” or “moonshine” baby, so you can plan to spend time with them when they most need it.
- Make Eye Contact. Providing our little ones – both human and furry – with a loving gaze produces a biochemical response that strengthens the connection, or bond between you and them. The level of the hormone oxytocin has been shown to increase in both humans and dogs after spending time looking into each other’s eyes. Oxytocin is also known as the bonding or cuddling hormone and is sometimes referred to as the love drug. It is associated with trust and that warm, fuzzy feeling when you are close to another. So, if you want to give yourself a boost of love or a sense of connection, slow down and LOOK to make eye contact with your children!