Children are a joy and an incredible gift. If you teach with respect and love they will act in kind. See the beauty and the gentleness of children and go out of your way to engage a child or to take a few minutes to play with them and encourage them. Children are hungry to please you; hungry to be nurtured and to have someone genuinely like them. Respond to children and try to see things from their perspectives. Take the time with each one to let her/him know that somehow things will work out, and that you can relate to what they are going through. With each encounter, they know that you love them and care greatly for them. Let them see their own beauty. Encourage their self- esteem, their own imagination, ideas, and thoughts about some- thing. If the ideas that they have are erroneous, gently guide with simple images and visuals for them to understand, to the correct information. If their thoughts are fearful lead them to a place that is not frightening for them.
You can teach by example with patience, kindness and gentleness. A child responds to this type of interaction more so than violence, and aggression. Yet so many parents cannot understand their child. Children do understand a lot, but more than that they feel gentleness and love, just the same way that they feel a parent or adult's rejection, and disappointment of them. Suppressed and isolated young children become lonely and depressed teenagers. An unruly teenager is just a young child acting out. They have built up some massive walls around them- selves for protection. Walls don't come down with aggression but with love, and patience. You have to find what their interests are, you have to teach them and interact with them with respect, kindness, and sometimes you have to modify your language to reach them. If they are very tough you have to be firm. You can't lose their respect. It's a game of great proportion.
Young children and teenagers need tools; to cope with situations that they find themselves in, with their emotions, to learn how to interact, and to grow spiritually and emotionally. If they don't trust you or can't relate to you, they won't receive anything from you. You can't impart any wisdom to them.
The key is getting their attention, their respect, their curiosity, and getting past their defenses and ego, in a way that catches them off guard, but they still feel safe.
Honesty: As much as possible try to speak clearly and very honestly with each of them. If you take your time and choose the right words that they will understand what is being said, and they will be able to process it emotionally with your support and presence. If you don't know something, don't lie. Be straight with them. Don't pretend to be perfect because none of us are.
Compassion: Everyone needs compassion and kindness and young children and adolescents are no exception. They need to see examples of compassion and you are the one to give them that new perspective. Be compassionate with them and the people that you encounter, and they will emulate that behavior. Show them what it is to be compassionate and caring, and involve them as often and as much as possible.
Affirmations: I teach with and use affirmations a lot. They are wonderful resources for changing thoughts, and behaviors, getting through hard situations, and building coping skills. Affirmations are simple to create, or to build on existing ones by adding a few words or phrases related to you, the child or the situation. “I'm going to get through this. " “This too shall pass. " “One day, I'll be able to make all my own decisions. I'm going to do exactly what I want. " “I don't believe my parents negative words or thoughts about me. They are not true. I don't receive them. " “I can do this. "
Self-Discovery: Children need to discover things for themselves. Even if you think that they may get hurt or that something is a little dangerous, you need to allow them to explore on their own. It is possible to talk to little children about something that is dangerous without frightening them with graphic descriptions or yanking them away without an explanation. You can make them understand in ways that are not intimidating to them but that they can still process the information in their way. You can help them be fearless by not becoming overly scared yourself. Of course if they are in immediate danger, pull them from harm, but talk to them about it, so they will understand for the next time.
A friend and her daughter were visiting me at my apartment. In the front entrance of the building there is a high stoop, about one foot high in an area. The little girl assessed the place, and decided to jump. The way she had jumped caused her to fall forward and down right on her face. Once I knew that she was okay, I started to quietly speak to the little girl about her landing, so that she could do it better the next time. Her mother, freaked out, and was screaming at me for letting her, picked up her daughter, and wiped away the blood, and was putting out all sorts of negative thoughts and creating more fear in her daughter.
My friend left us for a moment, and I talked to the little girl. “You know, I saw what you had tried to do, You were very brave, I know that you got a little scared, but it was a good try, next time you have to make sure that you clear the wall with your feet, and get your feet underneath you, so that you land on your feet. "
She looked at me with peaceful understanding, and a new aware- ness. She knew that I was not upset at her for trying something new, and I was giving her a tool so that she would not get hurt again when she tried it after that. Right there I knew she got it.
Managing thoughts: To cope, children also need to know how to manage their thoughts. Let them know that by changing their focus, from something that is causing stress or discomfort to something that is joyful, they will immediately feel better. If a task is overwhelming to them, help them to break it down into smaller units. Just because they have a thought doesn't mean that the thought can't be changed or adjusted.
Open communication: Children feel most comfortable when they can talk about what they are feeling or thinking about any subject. Nothing should be off limits, they should be able to ask ques- tions, and get solid answers, they should be able to tell you anything without punishment, and let you know about something that is happening to them, without being afraid, or disturbed that you will be upset with them or that you will not love them. Sometimes the time and place for discussion is not appropriate, but as soon as you are able, take them to a safe and quiet place and let them talk. Let them know that you are going to listen to them fully at that time. Make a commitment and do so.
Respect: You teach respect to children by example. If you don't want to be laughed at for your thoughts or your actions, don't laugh at them and don't mock them, be careful of your words. Don't call them stupid, an idiot, or unintelligent. Remember they are just a reflection of what they were taught, and what they learned. If you want a child to listen to you, you have to listen to her ideas as well. Stand up for children when they are being mistreated or bullied. That action will really make an impact in their psyche. It tells them that they are worthy. Believe them when they tell you something. Don't dismiss a child that tells you something that an adult did or is doing to them. Don't call them liars. Just because an adult said some- thing about them or told you that the child did something, don't believe the adult over your child without getting the child's side of the story. Also in that situation, don't put the child on the spot where they appear to challenge the adult. Take them to a safe place or a little away from the confrontation and ask them, without judgment, and so they will not have any fear of retribution. Have respect for their ideas. Just because you think a certain way, doesn't mean that the child thinks exactly like you. Give them a chance to have their own ideas, and let them tell you what is important to them or how they feel.
Access to wisdom: At an early age children can learn to trust themselves if they are taught to trust themselves. If you speak with children and reflect back to them what is going on, I know that they can access their own feelings, and their own wisdom. An easy question to reflect back to them might be “How do you feel?" “Does it feel nice inside your belly or your chest?" Does it make you feel happy when you think about this? Help them to begin to trust their feeling and their instincts. They will know that you can be trusted and that you can also trust them, and they can trust themselves. Children need time to process and understand what is going on around them. But they need your confidence in them to begin to evaluate things for themselves. Let them know that it is okay for them to have their own opinions and that they can find the answer inside of themselves too.
Accessing inner wisdom is also something that is taught by example. They follow your behaviors of trusting yourself too. They will also emulate your behaviors of dealing with stress, and your take on life. If you are bad-mouthing every person and every situation, children will pick up on this as well. If your built in belief system tells you that everyone is out to get you and people are predominately bad, children will get that with every fiber of their being. So be careful of what it is that you are transmitting to your children.
Balance: is very important for children and teenagers. You need to show them how to balance priorities, and their playtime. Take the time to show them how to do things well and why? Lead with examples of your own life. Balance your own time with them. Balance your work and off time. Encourage them to rest and take needed breaks sometimes. You do the same. If you teach children with love they will respond with tremendous love, affection, attention, and honor. Call them honorable too.
These little adults in the making will grow according to how you nurture and care for them. So start having a relationship now with them and watch them develop into loving beings.
Yoga Kat-aka Katheryn Hoban is a yoga teacher with twelve years experience. She teaches children's yoga ages 3-6, and 7-12 and Adults privately in NJ. She is the author the book DAUGHTER BELOVED which will come out next year. She has created a children's affirmation CD (ages 3-6) and an affirmation CD for adults. Yoga Kat is available for speaking or writing and can be reached at email@example.com or 201 970-9340