We all have experiences of being guided. These are not merely being taught how to do something – but actually creating experiences and memories of thinking and feeling as they tie into a certain guiding engagement.
I recall learning how to drive and having my brother as my guide. I had already learned the basics and he would take me out to country roads and sit next to me, (pretending to be) reading magazines, while I practiced, over and over, to stop, start, shift gears, turn, stay on the road etc. I could turn to him when I needed help and he said what he needed to, when necessary. We were mostly quiet, yet very much attuned with what the other was doing/contributing to the engagement.
The memory stayed with me – not only as an important part of me learning to drive a car, but I also took the following from that guiding engagement:
- I am capable and have autonomy and independence – I didn’t need to be hovered over
- My brother respected me in that way, and I respected him as the guide.
- I got information from him when I needed to – he was reliable and ‘had my back’. I felt safe.
- We would laugh together when I did silly things – he had scaffolded the situation as such, that we really couldn’t get hurt or hurt anyone else – so he could give me that freedom. He didn’t have to be super tense about it, i.e. I didn’t have to drive perfectly.
- He brought magazines, so he could relax and ‘slow down’ himself. He was ‘guide’ ready and did what he needed to not get worked up and impatient, instead he was a calming influence.
- I knew I could do hard things – if I kept practicing. This came in helpful in life and still does!
- I knew I could count on my brother to be there for me when I had to do hard things
- It was one of the many, many experiences we had together, that made us so close – till this day, despite it being a ‘driving lesson’… not an exercise in ‘bonding’ per se.
In this engagement – both my brother and I slowed everything down to be able to make the most of the engagement. It wasn’t just about me or just about him, it was about US. We were doing this ‘together’, coordinating roles, with a joint focus of attention.
As parents, our inability to slow down, is often one of our biggest obstacles to re-establishing a guiding relationship.
By slowing down we are more able to meet our kids where they are at.
We are less likely to overwhelm our kids by creating guiding activities that are way beyond their edge of competence. By slowing down, we may be more capable of seeing the demand we, or the environment, place on our kids.
Observe. Wait. Listen.
These require us to slow down and watch with fresh eyes…without expectations.
Slowing down will most likely be one of the key pieces in creating productive guiding engagements.
“By slowing down, we are more able to meet our kids where they are at”
Let me ask you this:
How willing are your kids to come to the table with you?
How motivated are they to engage with you in a dynamic way?
How much control or resistance are you seeing?
Is the control or resistance coming from you? Or them?
Set up a guiding engagement with your child in which you achieve one of the following (depending on where you are at in your relationship with your child).
- Be comfortable just BEING together.. SETTING something up ‘to do’, may in itself be way too much of a demand on you and/or your child. Just BE. E.g. sit together on the couch holding hands. Go for a slow walk together. No demands of ‘finding stuff’ on the walk or having a conversation. Just be comfortable, being together. Create a sense of ‘us’ over ‘you and me’. This builds trust: ‘I trust that you will not overwhelm me’. (‘because my overwhelm leads me to resist/control/withdraw’)
- Next you may create an opportunity for you and your child to coordinate roles. Instead of ‘I go’, you create ‘we go’. You and your child are engaged in the activity ‘together’ (neither of you are controlling the other, both of you are engaged). You both have a ‘job’ in the activity and you’re in it together. Examples may be: making the bed, cooking, folding blankets, carrying a laundry basket or a bucket of water together.
- Then you may take it a step further where you are bringing the ‘we’ and coordinating actions into a more collaborative thinking space. How do we guide our kids to think collaboratively, add dynamic ideas and actions to enhance the activity or solve problems we come up against? Examples: cooking and making a mess ‘on purpose’…cleaning up while laughing; decorating the child’s room and it doesn’t matter what it looks like; collaboratively hanging the washing and so on (people still hang washing, right?)
SLOW DOWN in all of these.
WATCH for signals and clues about how your child is perceiving the engagement (fun, confusing, demanding). Scale back if needed, add more if it is productive.
WAIT for your child to join you – don’t do anything, even when you think nothing is happening. Don’t move forward too quickly. Give more time. Either for them to join, or for them to add collaborative ideas.
LISTEN to what your child is saying verbally and non-verbally and learn from them about what they love, need, struggle with.
Learning about where you child is really at and then meeting them there, instead of where they are 'supposed' to be is the most rewarding journey. This may take time, but slow down and trust the process. Perhaps your activity doesn’t go well. Perhaps it does but you still think it didn’t.
Pay attention to that self-critical voice within you (and all of us). Try saying, ‘I know you criticize me because you are suffering'. I want to care for you.
Send yourself compassion. Soft eyes for yourself will enable you to also have soft eyes for your child. Slow down. Notice the beauty in you, your child and your relationship.