A Simple Listening Game

There is a simple game I like to play with kids I want to share with other parents and educators. I learned about this game in my Montessori educator training and still make use of it to this day. This game requires no special tools other than your ears and the ability to sit quietly for a brief period of time.

I want to share this game with you for several reasons. Firstly, playing this game helps teach your children the principles of body and sensory awareness. Secondly, this game helps children develop an understanding and appreciation of taking time to stop and notice sensory stimulation in their environment that may otherwise go unnoticed. And last but not least, this game allows us ~ the busy, multitasking, frequently stressed out adults ~ to remember what it feels like to sit and do nothing aside from listening. Here’s how to play!

Invite your children to sit with you and tell them you are going to play a little game. Depending on the age of your children, you can set a time limit anywhere from 1 minute to 3 minutes. The time frame for the game depends on how long you think your children can quietly sit still.

Explain to your children that you are all going to sit together, close your eyes, not make any noise and pay attention to all of the sounds you hear. Tell them that you will sit for 1, 2 or 3 minutes and emphasize the importance of not making any sounds with our own bodies.

Keep loose track of the amount of time that has elapsed and, at the conclusion of your sitting and listening “session,” share with each other all of the different sounds you heard while your eyes were closed. Some of your family members or students may point out that they heard other people making noise (even though they were supposed to be silent). Others who participated might surprise you by sharing the smallest of noises that normally go undetected, like one’s own breathing or a far-off airplane.

Playing this game serves as a simple reminder that taking even just a couple of minutes out of our often-times overly busy schedules can be quite refreshing. It is a great way to share the positive effects of mediation with your family or class. By sitting in silence and paying attention only to the sounds happening around us, we demonstrate the value of quiet contemplation that too often gets overlooked by our hurried, demanding culture.KAOQ6JML93

Acceptance

 

As a parent, I find myself questioning my behaviors, my approach and my decisions on a daily basis. Was that the right way to respond to my daughter’s temper tantrum? Is it a bad idea to let my child eat her dinner on the couch while watching a movie? Am I a horrible mother because it has been two days since I gave my 13-month-old a bath? Is this non-organic apple I bought going to negatively affect my child’s development?

I reach a point in my role as mother where I have to just STOP and tell myself that enough is enough. My overactive brain and my inherent desire to provide the best, be the best and create the best for my children causes more stress and anxiety than anything else. Constant self-criticism and self-questioning becomes a catalyst for negative thoughts and feelings to build up inside. It just isn’t worth it.

As a result of wanting to let go of this cycle of self-sabotage, I began to focus on the concept of acceptance and its many intriguing facets.

Acceptance is defined as: consenting to receive, to undertake something offered or the process of being received as adequate or suitable.

I want to explore some branches that compose the full meaning of acceptance and how these concepts apply to parenting.

Self-Acceptance

As parents, adopting a mindful perspective of self-acceptance is one of the greatest gifts we can give to both ourselves and to our children. Learning to let go of whatever images or ideals we are holding onto that make us think we have to strive for perfection is a process that can ultimately generate a calmer, more genuine family dynamic.

Self-acceptance is a daily practice that we can cultivate by becoming mindful of how we criticize ourselves or how we self-judge. Notice the moments throughout your day when you feel guilty or ashamed for something about yourself or your life. Notice your critical self-talk and do your best to stop, breathe and replace the self-critical thinking with positive reinforcement. Develop a personal mantra that you can silently repeat to yourself in your mind in moments of self-judgment or self-doubt. I like to repeat in my mind: “You are okay. I love you for who you are. Everything is working out the way it’s intended.”

Acceptance of Situations

Raising children in our modern culture puts constant pressure on us as parents. We can do our best to maintain control over our lives, the structure and ideals of our family, the ins-and-outs of our day to day existence. Nevertheless, life is inherently full of unpredictable occurrences and the course of our lives can take sudden turns for which we are not always prepared.

When we try our best to be more accepting of all of life’s situations – the ups, the downs and the sporadic elements of surprise – we open ourselves to a more flexible way of thinking and experiencing all that life has to offer. Accepting everything that life throws our way is not an easy task. But again, it is a process that we can integrate into our daily routines to help alleviate excess stress and guide us to a calmer state of existence. Even something as simple as choosing not to react in a negative way the next time your child accidentally spills a full glass of grape juice all over the carpet is a step in the right direction. Or, accepting that you have a flat tire when you go out to your car in the morning to take the kids to school. By accepting that what is just IS, we open a pathway to moving on to the next step of our day.

Acceptance of Others

For me, this is the most challenging form of acceptance. I struggle every day with my efforts to accept others and their behaviors. On a personal level, it is easier for me to accept disagreeable characteristics and behaviors of loved ones as opposed to complete strangers or people I am not close with. My guess is that this is often the case with everyone, not just me!

However, I remind myself on a daily basis that learning to accept that people are who they are and that we will always come up against behaviors or attitudes we do not understand and we feel repelled by is the only way to lessen my own struggle. This does not mean that I have to agree with behaviors or attitudes that offend me. The daily practice is to simply move on from these challenging interactions with others and do my best to focus on the positive relationships I cultivate in my life.

Choosing to react to other people in a way that demonstrates self-control provides a healthy model of behavior for your children. As I mentioned already, we do not have to go around every day pretending to like everybody in the world. We do have the choice, however, to exhibit mature responses to adverse interactions with others. Your children are constantly absorbing the way you handle yourself in social situations. By providing a model that emphasizes acceptance of others, we teach our children to develop open minds and open hearts.

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The Boss of ‘Mine-Self’

Do any of you have stories about yourself as a child that you keep tucked away somewhere in your mind and access every once in awhile — especially if something happens with your own kids that triggers a connection to your own childhood story?

One of my mom’s favorite stories to tell about me when I was a 3-year-old is when she asked me to do something that I clearly did not want to do. My mom will never forget the response that I gave to her undesirable request. I firmly planted my hands on my hips, feet apart in a defiant pose and boldly exclaimed:

“I am the boss of mine-self.”

Moments like these that occur with our kids throughout their continually developing childhoods can have one of two effects. Either we choose to respond in an equally defiant way by pushing our child to carry out our request despite their apparent distaste. Or, we can choose to pause and really listen to what our child is trying to tell us through these moments of resolute audaciousness.

The next time your child demonstrates outward defiance ~ whether he is a toddler just beginning to develop an understanding of his own independence or he is a preteen on the verge of new-found self-discovery ~ I urge you to give pause to your own reaction to the situation. Take a step back and ask yourself these simple questions:

  1. What is my child trying to learn through posing this specific opposition?
  2. What are the real obstacles my child is trying to overcome through this behavior?
  3. What is my child really taking a stand for or against in his protestation?
  4. How can I shift the focus of this confrontation to defuse the intense energy and allow my child to explore and learn through his own choices and actions?

By taking the time to reflect on what your child’s challenging behavior is truly about and what it is he is tying to gain through this behavior, parents can adjust their own behaviors, environments and attitudes to create a more harmonious connection with their child.DCA2AE8FA9

 

Choice and Consequence

Each day, each moment, we make choices. Through our actions and through our words, we create an idea of a “self” that becomes our tool for interacting with the world.

I have learned through years of parenting – struggling to become the mom who I always thought I “would be” – that all we can truly control in our lives is who and how we choose to be and how we choose to live with the consequences of our choices.

As a parent, I choose to begin every single day by setting an intention. Before I start each new day, I close my eyes and create an image in my mind of who I want to be today and how I want to collaborate with my environment.

We can never truly know what each day will bring to our lives. I invite you to join me in a collaborative effort to become more mindful of the choices we make as parents and the consequences we experience through our parenting techniques.