My daughter has always believed in the tooth fairy. I have always let her. The magic, excitement and fantasy of having a personal-fairy who leaves gifts has always been an irresistible draw, far surpassing the need to insert a sense of reality into her mind. And then, one day, the tables turned on me when I had my own personal fairy visit.
I still remember when, one morning, my daughter woke me from sleep with great excitement. “The fairy has left you an amazing present,” she whispered. “See what the tooth fairy left you!” I reached under the pillow and found a one dollar note, torn down the middle in exactly half. “Look! The fairy left half a dollar for you, and the other half is under daddy’s pillow.”
I was speechless. I found myself in a dilemma! On the one had she was inviting me to share in the same world of fantasy and magic that I had encouraged her to believe in. Yet, on the other hand, the voice within me wanted to shout, “money doesn’t grow on trees!”
I realized that this was a moment in which how I responded could make or break my child’s spirit. Thankfully, better sense prevailed and I chose to shelve the lesson and tell her how proud I was of that wonderful tooth fairy was so generous to share her dollar with us. My daughter’s eyes responded with a sparkle bright enough the illumine the room.
I tell this story to demonstrate how children, especially our young ones, live entirely from the heart. They are all about feelings. Unlike parents, children do not live in the mental world of intellectualization, organization, planning, or judgment. They just are. Pure being.
As parents who live in the practical world of endless doing – schedules, chores, lists and calendars – we are often at odds with our children. Teaching them to live in the world of adult rules, protocol and time tables is a challenge all of us face. A parent once shared exasperatedly, “a walk in the park takes over an hour because my daughter likes to stop and smell every flower! We are always late for school!” This exasperation is true for many parents caught in the maelstrom of getting their kids to accomplish certain goals while yet, attempting to hold onto a certain childlike sense of exploration and wonder.
Our children live in a world of endless imagination and fantasy. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t allow for their enviable capacity to dream, play and wander.
So how do we bridge this gap? How do we allow our children to hold onto their heart and magical worlds but still move to a practical beat? How do we balance the being versus the doing? Dancing this fine line between the mundane and the magical is at the heart of conscious parenting.
Young children who have not yet developed the capacity for internal regulation need our help. They need encouragement and positive reinforcement. During these years, it is the parent’s job to introduce as much fun, spontaneity, creativity and magic into the practical tasks of brushing teeth, washing faces, making beds, and doing their ABC’s. The more attuned the parent is with their child’s inner fantasies, the more successful will they be in helping their young children create a bridge between their worlds and ours.
As children grow older, they can learn to schedule their own time, mastering the valuable skills of time management and efficiency. Parents can find unique ways to reward them for these growing capacities, always remembering that the best rewards are those that are created and worked towards by the child themselves.
Children learn best when they see the fruits of their labor on their own accord. Experience is the best teacher. It is our job as their parents to provide them as many opportunities to experience self-sufficiency and self-worth. When we allow them chances to contribute toward the household in a positive manner, this immediately helps raise their sense of self, and belonging in the home. Children long to succeed; it is the onus of us parents to allow them safe avenues to witness their accomplishments. Children who feel purposeful and self-directed mature into resilient, competent and empowered adults.
Dr. Shefali Tsabary is a clinical psychologist who received her doctorate from Columbia University. As she was exposed to Eastern teachings at an early age, her specialty is in the integration of this Eastern philosophy and Western psychology. It is this blend of East and West that allows her to reach a global audience, and establishes her as one of a kind in the eld of mindfulness psychology. Dr. Shefali is the author of the award-winning Book, The Conscious Parent.
Prefaced by the Dalai Lama, this book revolutionizes the parenting paradigm.