Gary B. has been using an integrated practice of positive psychology in his work with children and adolescents throughout his career as a counselor; he strongly believes we are more than the cerebral understanding taken from books and academia and that, if divested from this awareness, children grow up disconnected from their essence and sense of self.
A father to two daughters – Felicity, 10 and Elisabeth, 14 – he has enjoyed being able to approach parenting in much the same way, and witness how they each incorporate this into their individual expression.
They’re always challenging me
“Pointing out my blind spots, mistakes. They’ve learned to use the same language on me that I use to try to calm them down in charged moments. Is it always easy to swallow? Of course not, but I’m grateful they feel confident enough to directly address how my behavior affects them. Having this as a safe space to learn how to explore this kind of confrontation will empower them to be able to talk openly and honestly with their partners in the future—even when it’s something they won’t want to hear. They’ll be able to see that a good man or woman can handle the feedback, admit when they’re wrong, and apologise.”
He considers it his role as a father to prepare them to define boundaries and be able to defend themselves—both physically and emotionally. For him, this involves lessons in martial arts and practicing meditation with them; teaching them about the power of positive affirmations and helping them understand the importance of being connected to your essence, that your own source must be your guiding light. He also believes in openly allowing them to express anger and even to talk back to him when it arises naturally in challenging moments where they disagree.
They’re both sensitive, passionate young women. At this age, they can’t always control their emotions
“So even if they’re telling me they don’t like me, or even hate me, I respond with love and tell them it’s okay to let out whatever they need to. I don’t let it affect me. It’s a moment and it will pass. They need to be able to know they can show me all the sides that exist within them and I will love them just the same.”
As mixed heritage young women, Gary is also aware that this adds yet another layer into all they will confront as they get older and begin to assert themselves further into the world around them; one more reason, he says, that he has to make sure to mirror their strengths back to them as often as he can so they will know how to use them to stay grounded as things continually shift around them.
One of the most important things you can do as a father is to recognize your children’s gifts and encourage them.
Even if they don’t listen right away or believe in them yet. Repeat what you see again and again—you may not observe it make a noticeable difference, but deep down, it will help with the self-esteem and language necessary for them to respond to all the challenges ahead—both the beautiful, vital ones that can turn into opportunities and the unforgivable ones we won’t be able to protect them from someday.”