Have you ever watched a blacksmith working on a piece of iron? He handles it with long tongs and repeatedly passes the metal through the flames to heat it while he works on it. This tempers the iron and makes it stronger.
Life is like that with us. Some of us have to go through many painful experiences…emotional and/or physical. But when we emerge, we are stronger. Most of the time, we don’t purposely “walk into the fire”. When you think about it though, every time we step out of our “comfort zone” and learn a new skill or master a new task or take a new job or begin a new relationship, we are allowing ourselves to be tested and improved. This is lesson #4 of the pencil maker: In Life You Will Undergo Painful Sharpenings Which Will Only Make You Better.
How can we relate this to parenting? Our children look to us for guidance and direction as each day they face new experiences, develop new relationships and have to master new skills and tasks. If you think about it, young children are undergoing painful sharpenings on a daily basis.
1. We need to be good role models…you need to walk the walk, as they say, not just talk the talk. Don’t expect your children to follow one mode of behavior while you follow another.
2. We need to be caring of others…not only those we know like our friends and family. Help your children learn to reach out to others by sponsoring a child in a third world country or choosing to help out at a soup kitchen for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Make a family project of going through your children’s toys, books and clothes (and your own) and donate to a local shelter. Decide to give up going to the movies and eating out and get a free movie from your local library and have sandwiches at home instead…use the money you save to shop with your children for canned goods and bring them to a local food bank.
3. When your child experiences a sharpening in his or her life, be there in a supportive and loving role…if a beloved hamster dies, don’t make light of it even if the hamster wasn’t important to you. Treat your child’s feelings of grief and sadness with respect.
4. When you experience a sharpening in your life, such as losing a job or dealing with a serious health problem, try to be honest with your children. Young children can be tender and compassionate if you give them the opportunity and their self-esteem soars when you give them respect and listen to their suggestions.
5. We all want to protect our children from sadness or unhappiness…but these emotions are a part of life…sheltering a child from ever experiencing these feeling will not enable him to learn to cope with the challenges life will inevitably bring his way.
The frightening tragedy this past week has left many, both adults and children, dealing with a plethora of negative feelings: pain, disbelief, anger, sadness. Reading a children’s picture book will not take these feelings away, but it can open a window for discussion and allow a child to be more comfortable talking about his feelings or concerns. A few good children’s picture books for acknowledging and coping with grief and sadness are:
AFTER CHARLOTTE’S MOM DIED written by Cornelia Spelman
GOODBYE MOUSIE written by Robie Harris
Tune in tomorrow for the last lesson of the Pencil Maker: To Be The Best Pencil, You must Allow Yourself To Be Held And Guided By The Hand That Holds You.