Monthly review: a nudge in the right direction

About five years ago the headmaster at the older boys’ school encouraged parents at an information evening, to not be afraid of giving our children a nudge or even a push in the right direction from time to time. He explained why this was important and how it would help the boys and it had a big impact on me. This advice saw me make a few changes with the kids and nudge them into activities that they perhaps would have not done of their own accord.

One of these activities was volunteering once a week after school for our eldest child. The first week there was some resistance to going, but after that it just became part of his week and something he actually enjoyed doing for the whole year. His commitment was recognised by the school at the end of the year, which did give him a great sense of pride and he actually thanked me for making him go the first week. He then went on to volunteer for the remainder of his time at school. This set the example for his siblings and volunteering through the school is something that all of the children will be expected to do.

Making kids do something they don’t want to do can be very hard work and with all that we have going on in family life, it can be so easy to let it go, keep the peace and reduce our work. This however is really a short term win. Longer term the kids tend to benefit from being made to feel slightly uncomfortable, to be taken out of their comfort zone and to do something that challenges them.

Of course I am not advocating over scheduling our kids and making them miserable, but as parents I think we have a pretty good idea of what is good for our kids. For me it is a matter of making the right decision and not taking the easy way out.

Through out November I nudged three of the kids into doing things they would not have chosen to do if they had been allowed to have full say. With two of the kids, my requests were made with small protests, but they did it without to much fuss and enjoyed it.

With one of the kids though, there was significant protest. I was sure that he would like the new after school activity, but he was super unhappy about even the idea of it. There were a few key objections – the day of the week, no one else had to do it and he would rather do something else. In the days leading up to the first session, he came to me a number of times with proposals to avoid going, which is really unlike him.

I once again explained the reasons why I thought it was a good idea and explained that he only had to go once and try it with a good attitude and if he still felt the same way, he wouldn’t have to do it after that. On the day he was to go, he really started to protest and I started to doubt myself and wonder had I chosen to push on the wrong thing. My gut instinct still was that he would like it, so I pushed on and I took him.

I honestly think the protest was mainly nerves and feeling uncomfortable not knowing exactly what the session would entail. Within 5 minutes of getting started he had a smile on his face and was enjoying himself. At the end of the session as soon as I saw him, he told me he would like to come again next week!

I breathed a sigh of relief and let him know how much I admired that he gave the session a go with a good attitude even thought it was something he didn’t want to do. I also told him how as he gets older there will be many more things he will have to do, that will make him feel nervous or uncomfortable and how he can remember this session and how he managed it so well.

As adults we can often look to take the known over the unknown and stay within our comfort zone, kids can be the same. Parenting requires us to give them a nudge in the right direction to help them learn to tackle new challenges, experience new situations and learn to embrace feeling uncomfortable.

Have you given your kids a nudge in the right direction lately?

My monthly review for November

HabitConnection to goal - Detach from the old and embrace the new to nurture a family spirit of adventure.Poem quoteNovember Review
Practice detachment dailyMy attachment comes from the right place in terms of wanting the best for my family and myself, but it can be founded on beliefs that I hold that are not necessarily true or helpful. Letting go of this belief and creating a new one requires me to detach.

Detaching doesn't mean I stop caring or give up but it means I acknowledge it, explore it, process it, take action to move on and let it go.

Letting go of old or untrue beliefs will mean I can focus on being more supporting and encouraging to the kids.
"For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business."
~ T.S. Eliot
This month I thought a lot about the attachment I have to the way I see myself and how others describe me. My attachment to this can at times influence my decision making, which is not a great way to make decisions.

I am going to try and observe this more to reduce the impact it has.
Develop the practice of mindful listeningSometimes listening can be hard. I think I know what the kids or others are going to say, I have things on my mind, I have something I want to say or I have things I would rather be doing than listening then and there.

Mindfully listening to others shows that you value them and it empowers them to share exactly how they are feeling. I want my kids to tell me about their dreams, their hopes, their fears and their crazy ideas. This won’t happen if I am not really listening.

“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
~ E.E. Cummings
For November I fared much better at mindful listening. Due in part again to making sure I use the same techniques I use in meditation - if I catch my mind wandering, I just acknowledge and refocus it - it really works so well!
Do something new each month with the familyI love routine and being organised and sometimes I will take the option to spend time on these activities and not leave enough time for exploring something new.

This year I want to try some big and little adventures with the family.
"Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead."
~Rose Milligan
This month we didn't do something new together, but I supported three of the kids to try something new on their own. See notes above!
Use deliberate daily practice to learn something new each monthK. Anders Ericsson, a professor of Psychology at Florida State University, is a pioneer in researching deliberate practice. One of his core findings is that becoming an expert at a skill has more to do with how you practice rather than with just performing the skill many times.

To really embrace a new skill I need to intentionally practice, not just do the skill to tick the box to say I have done it. This is a practice I really want to develop and role model for my kids.
"Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that is a ring on the door.
Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who’s there."
I swung my focus for deliberate practice to CrossFit this month. I need to engage my lats much more for both barbell and gymnastic movements, so really focused on this part of the body in my workouts and followed up with specific skills practice after class.
Develop a monthly decluttering habitOur house is relatively uncluttered but we really do have too much stuff.

All this extra stuff takes up space, time and energy - all of which I can reclaim and redirect when I declutter.
"The open space surrounding me
Clears my lungs
Makes me breath
I feel light
Vividly bright and empty
A room to dance in happily"
~Anna Elise
We decided to organise a hard rubbish collection for late in the month, so as opposed to focusing on a room in November, it was more about focusing on what big items we could declutter around the house and outside in the garden.