By Lelia Schott
Parenting is a huge responsibility and a liberating experience if we understand nature and nurture it to be so.
We are naturally nurturers at heart. We are hardwired for attachment and authenticity. Sometimes, as parents, the conditions we find ourselves in are harsh, and we forget to nurture ourselves as we survive to nurture the hearts of our children.
Parenting does not require perfection. In fact, it requires the acknowledgment of our imperfections, the daily practice of self-regulation and conscious-love, and a belief that we all grow in self-acceptance and resilience through belonging and restful relationships.
As we move our attention away from patterns of control and manipulation and move with intention towards practices to connect and inspire our children, we liberate ourselves and restore the conditions we all need to grow.
No longer ashamed, resting in trust, our innate heart-intuition ignites, and we are free, despite our vulnerability and imperfection.
We can self-nurture as we nurture others and grow individually and collectively. It doesn’t matter anymore how our life looks to others because it feels acceptable to us.
Parenting still feels heavy at times, but through empathy, we are empowered to carry the weight of it. Each time we feel weary we can grow curious about what it is we are needing, feeling, or believing. It feels more natural to respond without blame and shame now that we are free to nurture what is needed to grow.
No amount of nurturing is ever wasted. When we invest time and energy weeding (unlearning hurtful behaviour) and nurturing (empathising, regulating, connecting, practising compassionate communication, loving limits, self-care, etc) our hearts and homes are strengthened. We plant eternal seeds that will flourish and multiply with time and through time.
Even if the seeds we plant are only sufficiently watered in the successive generations, we have succeeded in beginning the process of weeding and nurturing our way to an imperfectly beautiful garden, with every best effort to be gentler with ourselves and our children.
Punishment erodes the soil in our personal and relational gardens. Nurturing grows trust, which is the essential nutrient for authenticity and attachment in the gardens of our hearts and relationships.
We can weed and plant new seeds at any stage. However, trust needs to be worked into the soil intentionally and consistently for restful growth to begin.
I love metaphors, words that rhyme, and story-telling to remind myself of my parenting intentions.
This is a little real-life story that captures the essence of why trust-based relationships are fertile environments for growth. I call it “Strengthened Through Gentleness.”
She asked, “Mum, what made you decide not to punish us?”
I replied, “Because I believe in you. And I want you to believe in yourself too. You are capable of choosing right because it feels right, even when no-one is looking. Punishment and rewards don’t teach that.”
She replied, “I see it’s hard work but I want to raise my children this way too. It feels good Mama, to be trusted. Thank you.”
I explained the effects of punishment and shame so she could understand it better.
She mentioned other people in her life who believe that children need punishment to learn that there is a consequence to actions. We agreed that there are always consequences.
I asked her how she felt after making a mistake or doing wrong. She said, “I feel awful inside. Especially if I’ve been grumpy with someone or forgotten to do something important. It makes me feel sick sometimes. Like I wish I could go back in time and do it better. It makes me want to do better next time.”