Kutik explains that healthy boundaries, given with warmth of heart, help a child to flourish more than if they are just given rules to abide by. This give us structure to surround the child with and, for the child, it brings a feeling of security, of being held firmly but lovingly. If we show our children that we nurture and respect ourselves they can learn from us and develop those qualities within themselves.
We also need to show our children that we value them and are interested in exploring the world together. Sharing activities nurture both the adult and the child and create special moments.
Kutik looks at how we behave and communicate with our children in a section of the book entitled ‘Helping the heart to grow’. She shows how through example, through sharing, through rewarding a kind deed with a smile this begins to build emotional resilience in the child.
Each chapter unfolds, challenging us to look at life anew, to reconnect with ourselves and the world around us, thereby creating a nurturing environment for our children. In essence this is very much about living by example, renewing ourselves to give healthy pathways for the whole family to follow.
The twelve essential qualities mentioned in the title are explored under chapter headings of Security, Self-respect, Empathy, Capacity to tolerate frustration, Independence; Gratitude; Truthfulness; Interest in the world; A well nourished soul; A sense of beauty; Connection with nature; Humour and light-heartedness. These are supported by notes, references and an index.
Together with well-spaced, easily readable, print and black and white photographs of nurturing moments, the book unfolds.
We see how children flourish with a ‘warm adult who is always there for them’. They need to be loved. They need our time and for us to be ‘present’ – how often do we see adults otherwise preoccupied, especially on mobile phones, not really ‘being there’ for the children.
Through self-respect we learn to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves, with dignity and to step away when this doesn’t happen, leading to an inner emotional resilience to meet the challenges of life.
Kutik shows the importance of valuing ourselves and not allowing ourselves to be manipulated, whilst also gaining a healthy authority through setting clear boundaries and communicating this well to others. Being consistent and being able to say no when needed is also underlined. She points out that developing our own interests, in a balanced way with the children’s needs, enables them to also develop a sense of value for us.
A chapter on Empathy shows that if a child feels really understood we can help them overcome fears and troubles and together find a way to face and overcome a difficulty. Children can be helped to understand, for example, if we feel unwell and encouraged to play gently and perhaps give us a gentle kiss and cuddle so that they learn to care as well as be cared for.
‘Capacity to tolerate frustration’ is a wonderful chapter tackling the need to show a united front. To hold your ground and accept at times children will push to get what they want to the point of tantrums but if you are firm, with kindness, they will feel secure and recover from the tantrum more easily. Children will test and challenge us but it is all right to be consistent and say no when necessary.
Kutik acknowledges that, as adults, we too can be overwhelmed at times and need to take a moment to gather ourselves adding that it helps us all if we always go to bed on a good note and begin the new day afresh.
Children love to help, to be trusted to do tasks and be independent, showing you what they have done. Doing daily tasks like sweeping the floor, putting away the cutlery and sorting out the laundry together can be made a lot of fun and takes the chore out of a task.
For older children we can help them by creating a good working time, space and atmosphere for their homework. To be available to answer specific questions and show interest is important, but equally important is allowing children to become independent. Encouraging perseverance, through finding pathways through difficulties, strengthens the developing will and social, personal and emotional skills.
There is an interesting passage in the book on swearing, as it expresses the opposite of gratitude and is not a desirable example for children to copy. Then looking at gratitude itself and how to share appreciation of each other and of plants and animals to help build inner resilience.
We do not want our children to lie to us so we need to set them an example. For example, if a child draws on the wall they need to tell us the truth, then we can explain why it is not a good idea. We can then clean up the mess together and afterwards give the child paper to draw on so they learn to draw in the right place. We need to look at ourselves and ask: do we lie to our children or do our children hear us lie to others? We need to set a right example.
Children are fascinated by all the little things in life, like the silvery track of a slug as it moves across the path. We need to stop when they want to share their delight and interest in the world. And we can be nourished by this too as such moments can reawaken the wonder of the world in us creating special moments to share.
Kutik encourages us to see that everyday work activities can become play; we can also sing and share stories together, creating a nurturing time leading towards bedtime and ending the day with a prayer or remembering all the people we love and those who love us. All this nourishes all our souls.
By creating beauty around us, caring for what we have, we develop a sense of order, as clutter and chaos do not nurture us. Natural toys and not too many of them create a space to enjoy play and appreciate what we have. We can bring beauty into our table preparation at mealtimes, creating an atmosphere of sharing and warmth and gratitude for what appears on the table.
In today’s modern world we can gain a great deal of knowledge through the media, but we also need to develop a real life connection with our world through our limbs and senses.
Do we no not feel more alive when we get out in nature and feel the wind, rain sun and snow? When we dig, or jump in puddles, get dirty and clean up afterwards, when we grow and harvest our own flowers and food, – even in a flat this is possible – we reawaken the child within us and relearn how to connect with our world; children give us that opportunity.
Kutik ends her journey with us through these twelve essential qualities with a look at humour and light-heartedness that can so ease our way through life’s challenges. Mistakes are more easily overcome with a touch of humour. We can take the time to understand the world from a child’s perspective; play and have fun but be serious when needed.
The book provides us with the opportunity to reflect and consider how to free ourselves from some of the stresses of parenting by renewing these twelve qualities within ourselves and modelling them for our children.
I am reminded of the novel The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley where Tom meets ‘Mrs. Do as you would be done by’ and learns many valuable life lessons. Parenting with Values is a worthwhile journey to take – for grandparents and carers too!
Christiane Kutik: Parenting with Values. 12 Essential Qualities your children need and how to teach them, Floris Books £ 8.99. ISBN 978-178250-482-5. Pb, 117pp, £ 8.99
Published in cooperation with newview.org.uk