A Convincing “No”

Fostering assertiveness in the complaisant

“He didn’t listen to me. He just didn’t get what I was trying to say.” She turned her face away from me, self-piteous and dejected. I reached my arms out and pulled her into an embrace. She grudgingly accepted a hug. Moments later, I felt my shoulder feel damp from her tears. I sighed. I understood her dispirited exasperation. Her father was hardly easy to convince or sway in an argument. During moments of opposition, you would need to stubbornly stand your ground, engage in a well-executed debate or raise your voice above his and push back, forcibly. It was not in her nature to do any of that. She retreats easily from confrontation, compromises readily to preserve peace, which she values supremely.

“You know what? Start today. Start saying no more often. Practice. Just say no, until people get that you really mean it. There’s little point in complaining that the other person didn’t listen to you, feel sorry for yourself and cry.” While she nodded obediently, it was apparent she was not entirely convinced. This conversation felt familiar. My mind drifted to a memory of her at the age of five. We had sessions of role-play at home; rehearsing dialogue to empower her with words to stave off the children at kindergarten from raiding her lunchbox. This reminded me of how overwhelmed and powerless she can feel during confrontation.

I looked into her watery eyes and repeated encouragingly, “Let’s start from today, ok? Start with me.” I made a promise from that day on to respect her “no”, even if was emitted with the lightness of a whisper. I would occasionally instruct her speak it louder, more convincingly; after all, she was already assured of her outcome and this was just a drill.

In the ensuing months, we spent time exploring how she felt when her wishes were not heard or respected at home. While she had initially thought she was ambivalent about most outcomes, this was not true. She gradually discovered more about herself, albeit upon reflection, that she had in fact felt more passionately about her viewpoint. During the post mortem of some incidents, the grave regret she felt, having allowed herself to give in or give up, made her recognise she did have strong preferences. This self-awareness has helped her uncover her stance on subjects and regulate the intensity of her response accordingly. As a family, we have grown to understand each other’s boundaries better.

Today when I hear her uncharacteristically roar “NO!” at her sisters without offering any reason or justification, I hear myself cheering her on in my heart. It’s a start. Equipped with self-awareness, home is a safe environment for us to spar, like boxers in a training gym. For if we cannot practice at home, how will we be ready for the big bad world?

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Workshops

PARENTING WITH MINDFULNESS AND MEDITATION (SINGAPORE)  Mallika Kripalani (from The Conscious Zone) and I are both practitioners of mindfulness. I have practiced meditation for over 20 years. Mallik…

Source: Workshops

Attitude … a Cry for Attention

Unraveling the vulnerability that lies beneath tantrums.

I have just been struck with a disrespectful, piercing one liner that stuns me immobile for a few seconds. My jaw drops, my eyes blink, I am aghast. Too slow to react or subconsciously choosing not to respond, I have no comeback. I close my mouth, take a deep breath and reluctantly, I let it pass. An image of an animated teenage girl doing the horizontal headshake appears in my mind and taunts me, “Seriously girlfriend, what’s with that attitude?” I almost laugh out loud and it disperses my fury for a brief second, before I switch back to mom-mode and I am once again exasperated by the inexcusable impertinence.

Days on, I am still unsettled, trying to understand what triggers such impudence from this child. One afternoon, I hear her obstinate voice ring in my head. I put aside the book that I’m reading. The voice speaks “I am annoyed. I am angry. I can usually handle everything, so why can’t I now? I do not need anyone’s help. I certainly do not need your help. I am fine. Leave me alone. Can’t everyone just leave me alone?” I decide to ruminate on the emotions arising and dedicate the next few minutes to explore them. I settle comfortably into my reading chair and close my eyes. This is how I connect with and listen to my intuition. I call it meditative reflection.

With eyes closed, I bring up an image in my mind of my child. I notice that I have appeared in this scene too, as a ten-year-old child, beside her. I take a few deep breaths and allow myself to be drawn in. I experience a twinge of pain in my chest. I realise it is more a feeling of frustration than anger. I can feel determination. I feel the immense weight of self-expectation. All of a sudden like an explosion, the sensation of self-worth being crushed into a pile of rubble arises. The emotions are powerful.

Unexpectedly, I am reminded of an incident during my childhood when I felt great disappointment in being unable to complete a task, to my satisfaction. I recall my mother’s consoling words “But no one expects you to….”. And my fierce retort with fists clenched, a deep frown and angry tears “I do!” In this moment of inward reflection, I feel my face contorting and my brow furrowing. My body temperature rises.

If I had the opportunity, what would I say to the younger me, at this moment? I would say that while it is important to be determined and have expectations of you, remember, be kind and forgiving too. Practice self-love.

The next time your child sucker punches you with attitude, take the time to reflect, dig deep, step into the shoes of a child and you may gain a deeper insight. It is unlikely that a child is motivated purely by insolence or disrespect. Instead, you are likely to discover during this inward reflection, that your child is seeking compassion, quiet support and assurance during times of anxiety, fear or self-doubt.

The Power and Mystic of Crystals

I could hear the sounds of stones or glass clinking together as our daughter approached me with a request, “Mom can I bring a crystal to school today? It will stay in my pocket. I promise I will bring it home.” She held out a polished amethyst in her hand.

The healing and protective influence of crystals has long been recognised in the realm of alternative therapy. While there is no scientific evidence, for thousands of years, ancient civilisations have embraced the power of crystals in healing and for enhancing physical, emotional and spiritual balance. While there is that wonderful mystical quality about them, crystals are also part of our everyday lives. They are the quartz that powers our watches, liquid crystal devices (LCD) or diamonds that adorn jewelry or used as abrasives.

My relationship with crystals has been about reconnecting with intuition and the child in me. I once believed in magic and fairies. I marvelled at how rocks and the Earth were formed. Colours fascinated me. I was curious child. I remember when I held the first crystal in my hands as an adult. I was overwhelmed with emotional sensation and my mind filled with admiration of this magnificent creation of Mother Nature. I then spent many months researching, reading and talking to friends who shared the same interest. Years later however, I find myself returning less my research notes. Instead I tune into my inner child and my heart. I listen out for thoughts or feelings that arise, as I gaze upon it, touching its surface, feeling its energy or simply lose myself in admiration of its magnificence. For significance and meaning does not always have to arise from rational mind.

Crystals fascinate boys and girls, both young and old. In their presence eyes light up, brows furrow with inquisitiveness, fingers reach out and conversations begin. People linger and connect. Crystals ignite insight, intuition and communication. For that, they are powerful.

Sisters and Warriors

Parallel journeys of self discovery and emotional growth. 

Our conversation began with a reluctant recount of a less than perfect day at school. “She is actually very good at comforting me Momma, when I feel down or sad.” she revealed of her sister. I smiled. “Ah, that’s fantastic. Tell me how does she comfort you?” I asked gently, toning down my curiosity. “She holds my hand. Sometimes she just hugs me and does not say anything. But still it makes me feel better.” And after a pause she added, “We talk. She helps me solve my issues.”

I bent my knees. Lowered my body so our eyes would connect. I reached out and took both her hands in mine. Her eyes looked watery. The sides of her mouth turned up slightly into a shy smile. I let these words out gradually, “I am so proud of you. I loved hearing you say that. Thank you for being open and sharing that with me. It is wonderful to be able to lean on each other for support.”

The ding of an electronic bell took us away from this extraordinary moment when time paused for us. The lift had arrived. She nodded quickly and looked away abruptly. She straightened her posture and lifted her chin. The features on her face toughened. My warrior child strode through the separating metal doors, confidently and assured.

She is much less guarded now. She feels deeper into her own emotions and explores connections with her heart. Her need to be rational, self-reliant and fiercely independent are foundation pillars of her resilience and personal success. In her own mind, feeling with her heart was previously interpreted as weakness. I have observed her soften with the enlightenment that sensitivity will not dilute her force. At this very moment, as I re-read this last paragraph, I wonder if the “she” I am referring to is my daughter, or me.