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Enjoy Vigilance

In your life
Vigilance is defined as being alert and watchful. The Bible says, "be very careful how you live, not as unwise, but as wise." Eph 5:15 This can include paying attention to what you are thinking and feeling at a constant level of heightened awareness. The extent to which you are mindful and open-eyed will influence the level of happiness you experience in life.

Be Vigilant #1:
Vigilance with young children  

Here are two Questions for You. What is the most essential behaviour for parents? What is one of the most important things anyone will ever tell you about parenting?

Answers: The behaviour of bonding to your kids. This is one of the most important ingredients in the child raising equation. It helps keep you focused on your child from the beginning.

Bond to your kids

I remember reading somewhere that it is from the smiles and unconditional acceptance by the parents that the baby forms an opinion of itself. As a parent your job is to make sure that the opinion the baby forms of itself is a good one and this only happens if you start bonding to your child from the first moments. Bonding starts during pregnancy: ideally we pay attention to the mother's physical changes, we may talk to and play music to the baby and the mother takes extra good care of herself. We let ourselves get excited about the upcoming birth. When the child is born, the first minute, the first hour, the first week, the first month etcetera are critical to communicating with, cuddling with and reassuring the baby with smiles, soft words and immediate care. The process of bonding has begun and continues. From the start the process requires focus and effort because there is always a big gap in knowledge and awareness between the parent and the child. This makes parenting a very one sided relationship, especially at first. The babies first smile, which happens well after the first month of age, is you as a parent being acknowledged as doing okay. Stay focused.

Enjoy the terrible twos

Sometimes referred to as the terrific twos, when your toddler has accomplished walking and is learning to talk, this is a time when reliance on adults can be pushed aside by strivings for independence. It's a terrific time, but only after you learn to direct this new found child energy into constructive channels.

How to do this? First off, don't be frightened by this energy and second, don't make the mistake of thinking it's cute. This is a critical time for your child when they need you to be in charge of them. Redirect this energy by moving it along. Take care to never frighten your child, just be the adult in charge. Below are ideas to try. Use variations to suit your family. Here are a few examples:
  1. Don't allow hitting.
    If your toddler hits, time them out on the stairs for 30 seconds or until they calm down enough to talk. (remember this is redirection, not punishment.) Tell them:
    • "People are not for hitting, you're not allowed to hit."
    • "Sit here until you can talk about it." As they settle, ask them:
    • "What happened there, what is the problem?"
    • "It's okay to be angry but its not okay to hit."
    The length of time on the stairs is not as critical as them settling down. If you sit on the stairs to talk to them, remember to sit below them, looking up at them. This will help them to relax. Repeat as necessary.

  2. Offer choices.
    This can be very simple: The child is playing and you say it's time to go home or go to bed and the child refuses. As you take their hand, ask them, "do you want to hold my right hand or my left." Or ask, "do you want to put your left hand in your coat sleeve first or your right hand."

    With all of the above, remember to stay or appear relaxed. None of this is punitive, make it as fun as possible. When you can, make it a game or like a game. Kids like to play.

    When talking to kids, Choose your words with care. . Word choice can be critical because their vocabulary is limited. Ask,

    • "Do you understand?" not "Okay?"

    • Tell them what to do, not what to not do. "We always walk at Grandma's," instead of "There's no running at Grandma's"

    • Sometimes saying to a child, "you're not allowed," is enough to slow them down.
  3. Choose your words.
    When talking with your child, choose your words carefully and often ask them if they understand. For example, we are going to Grandmas now. We always have fun at Grandmas, she serves ice cream, and you get to play with her dog Rover. But remember, we always walk when we're at Grandmas, do you understand?

    A final thought is to avoid the word "don't" in giving children direction. For example, at the dinner table, say, "move your glass of milk back a bit and keep it safe." This tends to work better than saying "Don't spill your milk."

  4. Use lists.
    Like all of us, kids want things all the time. Because they're dependent they ask their parents for these things. This may happen at home, or in the car, or when walking or in the store. Respond to these requests by saying, "Let's put it on the list." When you say that, pull out your notepad and while your children are watching, put it on the list.

  5. Last but not least.
    A discussion of Vigilance with young children would not be complete without mention of protection and safety. For at least the first few years of your children's lives, you need to always know where they are and who they are with. Given this, the best defences are to strive always to maintain good verbal communications with each child, encouraging them to tell you everything that is going on. Do this often, make it fun, make it a regular event. Take time to listen to them carefully from a young age.
On a Different Note. As parents, sometimes we find it difficult to spend time with our kids when we have stuff of our own we want to be working on. One way around this is to find more interesting ways to spend time with your child so that it doesn't feel like a chore. Instead you find yourself looking forward to this time together. Be creative, think of the right activity that suits you both: it will be worth the effort.

Be Vigilant #2:
Manage your money  
I believe that the purpose of money is to look after ourselves and others and to provide enjoyment and comfort in life. We need to manage it well enough so that we don't run out. If we are going to err, it's better to err on the side of caution so plan carefully and don't overspend. Plan for emergencies and unexpected expenses. Put money aside as savings. Even if you are running on a line of credit, you still want to have separate savings. A good rule is to spend less than you make in any given month or year. Be financially cautious when your children are young. Remember you are in charge and they are counting on that fact.

Some people adopt a policy where, before making a purchase of any size, they put it on a list for a month. If they still want it at the end of the month then they buy it, but not before. It's amazing how much of our impulsiveness can be curbed by the list method.

Vigilance summed up Vigilance is about personal awareness 24-7. It's about paying attention to everything, starting with your feelings. It includes attention to your health, your relationships and how you are spending your time. It's about knowing how things are going, not wondering how things are going. It's about using your time as productively as possible. That doesn't mean you can't still watch TV, it just means you can't watch it in all your spare time.
It's your choice, but with some effort, if you need to, you can restart yourself into someone who is much more aware and organized.