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Growing Character: Embracing Opportunities to Connect

This post by Positive Discipline Trainer Casey O'Roarty is part of our Growing Character series on fostering connection.

making-pancakesI try and make sure to have special time with each of my children on a regular basis.  I know that our interactions are more positive and feel more cooperative when this is happening.  But time is a funny thing, and often the week flies by before I realize once again that I missed some opportunities.  Or the scheduled time together becomes sabotaged by my controlling tendencies, leaving my kids disinterested in spending the time together.  My practice is to stay aware enough to embrace the opportunity to connect when it is presented to me, and to allow my child to take the lead.

Recently, I had this opportunity.  My husband had been called out of town and my daughter was away at a sleep over — it was just my son and I for the night.  After playing with his friends all afternoon, it was time to come in.  We were both looking forward to our evening together, with included making banana pancakes, smoothies and a candlelit dinner for two.  All accompanied by my son’s favorite Pandora station, One Direction.

I mentioned having some controlling tendencies earlier, right?  Well, this really can come out when I am trying to teach the kids to cook — it stops being fun when the teacher gets too focused on the outcome rather than the process.  I decided that this night would be different, and it was.  Mistakes were met with smiles, breakout dance sessions were encouraged, and the tablespoon was used to drop the batter into the pan to make for easier flipping.  This was taking time to train at its finest hour.

We had so much fun!  Once the table was set, we lit our candles and sat down to our feast.  It was so easy and relaxed.  Joyful.  We laughed and talked, and enjoyed being together.  This is what special time is all about.  This is how you build relationship with your children.

After dinner it came time to clean up.  I could feel a little bit of a shift in my body, as I began to focus more on the task at hand rather than the time together.  As I stood at the sink doing dishes, I reminded my son, in a voice that was becoming more on the firm side, to please clear the table…

My son looked at me and asked, “Mom, can you be like you were before?  When we were dancing…  More smiley?”

Even as I write those words I have a physical reaction to them.  This is the child who recently told me that it seemed like I was in a bad mood a lot of the time.  This sweet kid, who just had a glimpse of the mom who is so fun and connected, reminding me to be my best.  What a smart and courageous boy to be able to ask for what he needs.  What a gift.

I put the dishes down and we had another little breakout dance session.  Huge smiles on both of our faces.

So this special-time business is as much for us as it is for them.  It allows parenting to be joyful and loving.  It provides space for us all to be our best.  Jane Nelsen, author of the Positive Discipline parenting books, says, “Children do better when they feel better.”  I think this goes for grown ups too — we all do better when we feel better.

So moving forward, here is what I plan to take with me:

  • Embrace special time — You can’t always control what it looks like, but you can be present, allowing your children to lead you in the direction they want to go.  You may be surprised by how much fun you have.
  • Have more breakout dance sessions — In an article written by Steve Brown, MD in Psycology Today, he recognizes that dancing allows for “social and emotional attunement processes that accompany such physical coordination, including feelings of bonding, empathy, cooperation, and social identity.”  Sounds like pretty good reasons to get down and boogie!
  • Be more “smiley” — Lighten up!  Did you know that we can actually fool our mind with our body?  Plaster a smile on your face and your mind will be fooled into thinking you’re happy.  In another article in Psychology Today, writer Sarah Stevenson shares that “Each time you smile you throw a little feel-good party in your brain. The act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness.”  And who isn’t down with a feel-good party?

So once again, I have been reminded that my kids are my teachers.  When I am open to their schooling, I grow and stretch in ways I never realized I could.  Go and enjoy your children, have some special time together.  Do more dancing, and be more smiley — it makes life more fun!

About the Author
Casey O’Roarty is a Positive Discipline Trainer and owner of Joyful Courage, a company dedicated to training adults to create space for children to be their best selves. She is a former elementary school teacher with a master’s degree in education from the University of Washington. Casey has been sharing Positive Discipline with parents of the Skykomish Valley since 2007. She lives in Monroe, Washington, with her husband and two children, a 10-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son.

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