So we just got our daughter her first pet. It’s a betta white and purple fish that we named Rainbow. I am excited that my wife and I are teaching our daughter how life works through having a pet. We will feed the pet every other day and change the water weekly.
Since my daughter is only 2 years old, I’m sure she doesn’t fully understand exactly what we’re doing as we care for Snowflake. Still, I like introducing her to the idea of taking care of someone else’s life. I want her to learn that life is a precious gift. This is just the beginning of showing our daughter how to care for others. It’s crazy to think that this little girl will be the apple of someone’s heart someday, that she might get married and someone else will take care of her and she’ll take care of someone else.
Looking back on my life, I didn’t really value what was given to me. So often, I thought about what I could acquire from other people, rather than providing value to others. I hope to teach my children it’s up to them to provide value to someone else. No one owes you anything besides your parents.
I grew up believing if I paid for a thing or attended an event, I expected something in return. I was always expecting something from someone. Now I realize it’s about me offering myself in these situation while also taking away bits and pieces from an interaction. I’m always taking what I’ve learned and seeing if it can be applied to someone else in a positive way, too. These days, I try to give as much as I receive during my interactions with others.
Lately, my wife and I have received comments on how sweet and giving our daughter is with others. This means the world to us to hear that comment; I’m sure any parent would be happy to hear this. Knowing that our children are watching our every move, it critical to provide a positive environment. But to be honest, we don’t do this so she can copy us and be this way with others. My wife and I are simply being mindful about how we interact with each other.
While reading about positive discipline, I learned about an Adlerian theory idea called “flipping your lid.” Picture your brain as a closed fist with your thumb covered by your fingers. The thumb is your amygdala, nicknamed the fire engine of your brain where you immediately feel big emotions like anger and fear. When Child Psychiatrist Daniel Siegel explains flipping your lid he calls this thumb the downstairs part of your brain. The fingers are called the upstairs part of the brain (or “wise leader”), and this is where thinking takes place. When we flip our lid, these two parts of the brain become disconnected, so the “brain user” can’t access upper level thinking to help douse that fire. The fire could be anything that triggers emotions, like my daughter not getting to eat a cookie before dinner.
So my wife and I have pondered the idea of flipping our lid in the context of how we interact with each other in front of our daughter. If we speak to each other in an argumentative way, it’s likely that our lids have flipped and that’s why our words are fueled with anger. When we flip our lids, our daughter might then flip her lid, too. We talk all the time about how we want our daughter to mirror our positive actions. So we try not to flip our lids in front of her. And when she flips her lid, we try to realize her thinking brain is not working at that moment, too.
Of course, we all know it’s best to try to try your cool when dealing with your children. I know this is easier said than done. We are humans full of emotions and can’t always keep our emotions intact. Those fire alarms will happen! Trust me, by no means do we have one perfect daily interaction after another with each other. Of course there are disagreements that are seen by our daughter. Then we know it’s time to calm down so we can use our thinking brain power again. So then we repair our relationship in front of our daughter, too. We know her eyes are watching and her ears are listening all the time.
Wow, buying our daughter a pet fish sure lead to some deep thinking about my parental duties. While I know my daughter will learn something from taking care of Snowflake, I’m guessing she’ll learn even more from how my wife and I interact with each other. Whew, no pressure there!