Inspire! Don’t require.

I’m watching my daughter’s Capoeira teacher help the kids do back flips. There is not one child who is hesitant. Every single one of them trusts, respects and admires him so much that they either have no fear or are willing to push through it .
They know he’s got their backs (literally).
They know he cares.
They know he wants what’s best for them.
They know he’ll coach them to do stunts they never knew they could do.
They know he won’t ask of them what he can’t do himself.
Mestre Kinha exudes patience and kindness. He doesn’t scold. He doesn’t threaten. He doesn’t coerce. He doesn’t shame. He doesn’t even require. No child ever has do anything. If someone doesn’t want to sing, so be it. If someone doesn’t want to dance, so be it. If someone leaves the roda to sit next to him and start playing the drums, Mestre smiles and keeps on beating a rhythm of pure joy.
Some would view this as a lack of discipline and wonder what kind of a chaotic environment this Capoeira class must be. The superior results say it all.
I’ve never witnessed anything like it: two dozen kids in one small room coexisting in harmony. They follow instructions not because they have to but because they want to please him. They give their best effort because they want to make him proud. In this space, they are cherished. This class is their sanctuary. Week after week I see them shine.
They push themselves and each other to go beyond their own limitations. They encourage each other. They have fun with each other. They sing, make music and stand on their heads.

It’s always a joy to witness and the reason why, for the past four years, we’ve come back every Saturday.

I observe in awe and there is envy in my heart too. I want to parent the way Mestre Kinha teaches. I would like more patience. I would like more kindness.
I want to be a mom she trusts, respects and admires. A mom she doesn’t fear. A mom she knows has got her back!
I want her to believe that I care, that I want what’s best for her.
I want her to behave not because I make her but because she want to please me.
I want her to comply not because she’s scared but because she assumes it’s in her best interest.
I want my home to be a sanctuary, where each member of the family feels safe.
Safe to explore.
Safe to experiment.
Safe to make mistakes.
A haven where we push ourselves and each other beyond our own limitations, where we encourage each other. A place where we have fun with each other, where we sing and dance. Maybe sometimes we can even stand on our heads!

I’m not sure yet how to achieve this.
I have a feeling getting enough sleep and eating nourishing foods would be a good start. Being intentional in adding enjoyment to our daily life might help too. It’s so easy to work through the to do list without ever coming up for air. I take care of the urgent, the pressing and forget what’s important.
My seven year old is important.
Reading to her is important.
Playing with her is important.
Showing her that she’s important is important.

The to do list is here to stay but she’s not.
She’ll go to college.
She’ll go and get married.
She’ll go and have kids of her own.
One day she’ll go for good (hopefully not before me).
Now is the time I have and I want to use it wisely…
So wherever she goes, she’ll know deep in her heart that she can always come back to me.
And better yet, she’ll want to.


* The concept of “inspire, don’t require” is central to the Thomas Jefferson education. I didn’t coin the term.
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