When you become a parent, you begin to think about challenges you will face like teaching your children to walk, talk, read, and write. Milestones and academics are exhausting, and we feel pressure roll over us like a storm cloud. Sometimes it feels like we are standing in the middle of a city highway with cars whirling past us. We move in slow motion while the traffic blurs. We follow all the street laws, but it’s still hard to maneuver efficiently.
We want to set our children up for success and happiness, but there is much to learn and teach. There is an excess of checklists distracting us from important character roots.
One day, I was practicing letter recognition with my daughter when I suddenly became occupied with a personal task.
“Mommy come back!”
“Evelyn, you need to be patient. Mommy is doing something right now.”
“What’s patient mommy?”
While I was teaching her how to ride a bike, the following conversation took place:
“I’m scared! I can’t do it!”
“Be brave, honey.”
I realized my expectations for my three-year-old may have been too high, considering she couldn’t yet understand most of the words I was using to encourage good character and behavior.
I needed to take a step back and make sure I was spending time empowering her spirit and teaching her lifelong lessons, rather than just setting her up to be a walking and talking checklist.
Early this week, I came across a blog that talked about happiness. I took an interest because the introduction focused on how to help implement long-term happiness from childhood and beyond. Nowhere in the blog did it mention academics, material earnings, or achievements. The core discussion was about the importance of maintaining healthy habits. This included finding ways to cope emotionally, exercising regularly, fueling the body properly with good nutrition, drinking plenty of water, and developing good character.
I hadn’t been manifesting these actions in my own life nor was I focused on teaching them. Sure, I cooked healthy meals, corrected bad habits, and set a high standard of expected behavior, but I wasn’t teaching her the why or encouraging her to make these choices on her own.
So here is what happened…
We started incorporating important words I wanted her to learn and easy meanings while we were waiting at the bus stop. I would explain a word, she would repeat it back, and then we would review the words from previous weeks. She now understands and even expresses herself with these words.
Evelyn’s Word List
In addition, we started some other healthy habits together. Whenever we eat, we talk about what we are eating and why. We discuss what food does for our bodies to make them powerful. Also, a friend recently posted information about a water tracker app that offers several daily reminders to drink water. I knew I personally needed this, but I decided to add my own twist to the reminders…
Whenever we are at home and the water alert goes off, we drink water together, do a 2-3 minute exercise (i.e. lunges, jumping jacks, quick game of tag), and then sit and practice our breathing. During the breathing exercise, we reflect on a word we choose from the word list. We do different poses each time and sometimes catch ourselves giggling instead of meditating. We are a work in progress.
Note: I don’t expect her to join me for any of these activities. I think that would defeat the purpose, so I simply offer her an invitation and set an example. My son is only a year old but sometimes enjoys joining us as well.
I have discovered being intentional about implementing these actions into our routine helps us more effectively move to the important things among the crazy traffic. Arriving at our destination isn’t as valuable as who we become in the process. My kids are learning how to manage emotions, fuel their bodies in a healthy way, build character, and, most of all, develop deep-rooted happiness. And so am I.
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