By RACHEAL KWACZ
When I created the ‘RACHEAL Method’, it was based off of years of experience working with children across different settings – from fancy lab schools to hospital rooms, and different nurseries and preschools both in the US and Malaysia, one thing that stood out again and again was that in order to raise kind, confident, compassionate, resilient little ones, they need to be led with love.
The science tells us that learning cannot happen in a developing child’s brain without feelings of safety, love and support. One of the primary ways that children feel safe is having a sense of control.
What does having a sense of control for a little one look like?
It looks like firm boundaries, when rules are established and consistent and more importantly, when the child knows what to expect and what is expected of them. It’s very similar to any organisation with great leadership, there is vision and purpose and everyone under the leader clearly knows the direction they are heading in and why.
In a parenting context it might look like:
- A consistent routine and schedule.
- A consistent set of rules that are followed through.
- A continuity in caregiving from a person or if your roles are split up, they know to expect that mama always does the feeding, daddy always does the diapering etc.
- A consistent calm built in the parent-child relationship through mutual respect, kindness, empathy, confidence and trust.
- The other key part of the equation is for little ones to feel loved and supported.
What does love and support for a little one look like?
It looks very similar to what feeling love and supported looks like for us. When another person can truly empathise and acknowledge the experience with us. When they climb in the boat with us and don’t try to fix, excuse, reason, sugarcoat, or make it all okay but instead, just sit and hold space with us.
I see you, I love you, I am with you.
Good leaders don’t come up with solutions on their own, they work as a team, making time to listen to everyone’s opinions and viewpoints, connecting and weaving the fabric together, recognising that we are always better together.
One of the primary ways to connect with your little one is through their five love languages – quality time, physical touch, acts of service, receiving gifts, and words of affirmation.
For a little one, this might look like:
Quality time: Being truly present with your little one and spending uninterrupted, unhurried, fully focused quality time with them. For some children, it might be playing a game or reading a story to them, or even a little picnic together with time to talk and connect. The crux of it being that this time together must feel like a little safe cocoon of just the both of you doing whatever it is that could be as small or as big as you would both like.
Physical touch: A big bear hug, stroking their hair, holding their hand, a kiss on their forehead, cuddles, back rubs or massages, high-fives, play wrestling, getting a piggy-back ride, getting carried or for my daughter’s favourite from the day she was born to now as a preschooler, laying on mama’s chest or getting ‘roo-ed’ in a baby carrier.
Acts of service: Changing a diaper, helping them fix a toy, making a meal, packing a lunchbox, giving them a shower, helping them put their shoes on, reading them a book, helping them clean up together, doing chores together. It’s the little things which also becomes the really big things in the long run and feel so special.
Receiving gifts: It doesn’t have to be expensive but it does have to be thoughtful and meaningful. For my little one, whenever I travel, it’s bringing home the little bar of soap from the hotel for my eco-warrior and because she always loves discovering what they may smell like! Other ideas may also be little surprises like new markers or a favourite snack from the grocery store, a book from the library or even saving my goodie bag from an event to open together.
Words of affirmation: This is one of the most powerful love languages that really become their internal dialogue. It’s noticing the little things about them and letting them hear it. Saying I love you in a million different ways that are meaningful and special to them. Acknowledging their effort, using words of encouragement, and making them feel appreciated and seen.
Respectful parenting may seem intimidating but it actually isn’t. It’s treating little ones with respect and nurturing a sense of love and belonging. It’s what we all want not only for our little ones but also for ourselves.
A question I always ask myself when I’m caught in a situation with my little one is to ask how I would want her to handle this 20 years from now in college or in a workplace when I’m not there, then give her the tools that she needs to get there but remembering always, always, to lead with love.
Editor’s note: As parents, we want to be the best role models for our children and inspire them to be kind, brave and to stand up for what is right. Why not sign up for the 21 M.A.D. Days Challenge together as a family and join this global movement to bring positive change in our communities! Click here for more info and to register – Yes, we will spread kindness like confetti!