Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Turtle and the Rabbit

You may be thinking this should be "The Tortoise and the Hare."  But, this is a different story.

Sometimes I see the strangest things on my walks in the woods.  Today's "Turtle and Rabbit" gives insight into teaching your children at different times in their lives.  Wisdom from a turtle and rabbit.

There is one spot on my walk where the woods open and there is brush on both sides of the four feet wide trail.  Often when I get about five or six steps from there, a rabbit hops across the trail in front of me.  I can't figure out why, unless it is safer on the other side and I am frightening.

Yesterday the rabbit hopped across.  But, right behind the rabbit was a baby bunny, following mom across the trail.

Learning by Following
This is so much like our children when they are young.  Unless we have done something to hurt them, they love to follow mom and dad and do the things they do.  They are growing and learning leaps and bounds (hops?) as they find joy and comfort in seeing where a parent goes and what a parent does.  It is the "I want to be like you, Dad" stage.  What power to teach by our lives.  What a responsibility.  What an opportunity.

I know you can get tired of being followed.  It goes fast.  Cherish it.  Invite them, engage them, let them do the things you do as much as you can.  And, show them your heart.  And, courage.

But, then we hit the turtle stage, usually around twelve, but it varies a lot.

I ran into a turtle on the same trail.  He looked at me as I approached.  As I took a wide loop around him, the shell stayed put, but the head and eyes watched me.  Guarded.  Your teens are watching you.  They may not be following like they did before, but they are moving their eyes and heads to see if what you believe and what you say are for real.  They may not move their shell, but know that you are impacting their hearts as they watch what you do.  Example is powerful at all ages.

Learn by Watching
I took a turn and moved closer to the turtle.  You know what he did.  When I got too close, his head went inside the shell.  On my return trip down the trail, he was gone.

Yep.  Teens often operate the same way.  However you can do it, keep your relationship open.  Instead of expecting them to follow you like the bunny did, find things they will do with you.  But, ever so gently.  If mom and dad get too close, pry too much, there is a tendency to retreat.   And, if you keep pushing, they will disappear for a while if they can.  Give them time and they will come out again when they feel it is safe.

A few years ago I asked ten parents who had great teens what they did.  Everyone said the same thing:  "we keep a bridge open," a relationship, no matter what.  It might mean not getting too close sometimes.  It might mean being careful to "pick your battles" and let some things go that really aren't that important.  But, whatever you do, keep a relationship active.

That's it.  The "Turtle and the Rabbit."  Teaching your children isn't too complicated, really.  Know what you believe and want.  Talk about it.  Be intentional but not smothering.  Know which stage your child is in. Take advantage of the rabbit years.  And, know how turtles operate.  Young ones learn by following and they all learn by watching.  Live what you want them to learn.

No comments:

Post a Comment