I recently learned of the passing of one of my greatest parenting mentors and teachers: Shoki, the beautiful Arabian horse.
I know that may sound strange, that one of my greatest parenting resources was a horse. But, it’s true. When my daughter was 11 years old I had the amazing opportunity to participate in an experiential learning session at the ranch of a woman who became a close friend and mentor herself: Kim Hallin, The Unbridled Guru.
Kim will be the first person to tell you that it is her horses that are the teachers in her learning and coaching program. Kim is the coach, the facilitator, the inspirational guide. She provides interpretation, insight and support. But, it is the horses who are the actual teachers and mentors.
THE EQUINE LEARNING EXPERIENCE
When I took my daughter to the ranch, I was not quite sure what to expect. I knew that this was not a riding lesson. But, other than that I had no idea what would happen.
Some of you might be reading this and thinking… she let her child be with horses without knowing what to expect???
It’s okay. I grew up with horses and know them well enough to have faith that my daughter would not get hurt. And, while at that time Kim was a new friend, I could tell from her gentle and intelligent personality that my daughter was completely safe.
What unfolded throughout the day was beautiful and transformational!
Experiential learning is the best way to describe the process of transformation that takes place during a session at Unbridled. We started by watching the horses in their pasture. Kim explained to us how to interpret their movements both individually and with each other.
Next, Kim invited us to enter the pasture, but not approach the horses. We stood quietly. We observed them and they observed us.
Within a few minutes, Shoki came over to my daughter to “introduce” himself. What was truly amazing about this, as Kim later explained, was that Shoki did not usually choose to interact with children. Kim was interested that he chose to approach my daughter and in such a short amount of time.
That said, I wasn’t surprised. My daughter attracts animals. Her gentle and compassionate spirit is inviting to them.
Once it was established that Shoki wanted to interact with my daughter Kim moved both girl and horse over to a smaller enclosure. This is where the true parenting learning experience began.
A NEW WAY OF UNDERSTANDING
Shoki and my daughter engaged in a dance of sorts. Kim would have my daughter move to different areas of the enclosure and we would watch as Shoki moved closer or away from her.
When Shoki again established that he was comfortable being next to my daughter, Kim told her to help him brush the flies away from his legs.
This established TRUST! Or, as Kim put it, my daughter was, “making a deposit in Shoki’s trust bank.”
When my daughter showed Shoki that she cared enough about him to help him with the flies he started to nuzzle her and curve his neck around her. This is the horse’s equivalent of a hug
From that point forward the girl and the horse engaged in a mutual affection society! With the girl scratching and petting and the horse nuzzling and neck hugging.
WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT PARENTING FROM SHOKI: BUILDING TRUST
First and foremost I was reminded that trust is built and rebuilt. Kim talked about how unlike the way many people interact with their horses, she does not treat them like they must always do everything she says. She continually puts deposits in their trust banks. That way, when she needs them to do what she says, they trust her enough that they will!
The same thing can be said for parenting. We so often get into control struggles with our kids. We want them to look and act a certain way. We want them to do their chores and kiss grandma. We insist that they eat the food we serve them, whether they like it or not, or they don’t get dessert!
Of course, these are things we absolutely need to ask of our kids. But, what I learned from Shoki was that I don’t have to be in control and ask (demand?) these things all the time.
From this experience I have been able to help my clients who are struggling with control with their children. My entire coaching career I have used the old adage, “pick your battles.” But, now I can explain how we also need to put deposits in our kids’ trust banks by allowing them to wear what they want (as long as it’s appropriate), to choose what they want to eat some of the time, and to not have to kiss grandma if they do not want to! A hug will suffice.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM SHOKI: PERSONAL SPACE
I am a very affectionate parent. I believe that lots of hugs and snuggles are important to raising healthy kids. I am also an extrovert. So I hug and snuggle all the time, even in public sometimes.
Just like horses, most of the time tweens and teens (and even some younger kids) do not want other humans to run right up to them and hug them. This includes their well-meaning moms!
I learned from Shoki that it’s okay to allow the horse – oh, I mean kiddo – to approach me first sometimes. I also learned that if I do rush in for a hug or snuggle to allow my kids to say, “not right now, mom.” When I allow them to be affectionate on their own terms, my kids actually approach me and give me gives or shoulder squeezes. My daughter, who is now thirteen, even still snuggles on the couch with me! But, it’s when she wants to.
Now, don’t get me wrong… my sixteen-year-old son still stands stiffly with his arms at his sides when I hug him. He thinks it’s funny! – Rolling my eyes! But, he also will touch my shoulder as he walks by me. He will give me a hug when he’s feeling nervous. And while he won’t technically snuggle with me on the couch, he will come sit right next to me and sometimes even put his arm around my shoulders – yay mom
THE BIG PICTURE: LET PEOPLE (EVEN YOUR KIDS) INTERACT ON THEIR TERMS TOO
Notice that I used the word “too” in the sub-heading above. That is because just like Kim and her horses do not have a relationship where the horses are always in control. Nor, should human beings with each other.
It’s about building trust and respecting personal needs and desires. Just as we need to put deposits into our kids’ trust banks, they need to put deposits into ours as well. For example, when Kim needs the horses to move into a certain area, to stand still to be groomed, or to go calmly into the trailer, they do so. They are putting deposits in her trust bank. Thus, if we give our kids the trust to get a chore done by avoiding a “do it right now” demand, they, in turn, need to build our trust by actually getting it done in a timely manner.
It’s the same idea when it comes to mutual respect. Just as we need to respect our kids’ personal space and needs, they need to show us respect and awareness of our needs as well. For example, while Kim may leave the horses to their own devices much of the time, when she needs them to interact with her clients (and behave – not bite, or kick, etc.) they do so. Likewise, while we may respect our kids’ needs to have alone time. In return, when it’s family time they need to respect us and the other family members by participating in family time – hopefully also without biting or kicking!
And that, my friends, are the two BIG, BIG, parenting lessons I learned from an amazing, wise horse!
Shoki will be missed. But, the lessons he taught me will be carried with me AND shared with my clients into the future!
Are you stressed by parenting? By your relationships? Or, just in general?
Contact me HERE today.
With Warmest Regards,
And don’t forget to hop over HERE to read Kim’s Inspirational Letter of Remembrance of Shoki.
Jen Robinson is the creative force behind the wellness brand Peaceful Living Wellness which is dedicated to providing a wide-variety of high-quality wellness information. Jen is also the creator of the Peaceful Living Wellness life coaching division, Empowered Through Peace and offers workshops online workshops, individual and group coaching as well as retreats where she guides women in using Mindfulness and Mindset to build their inner strength on a foundation of inner peace. Jen also is the co-creator of the business coaching brand CEO Mindset that guides entrepreneurs in building their businesses without burning out.
The latest addition to her repertoire is that she recently signed-on as the Wellness Director for the business development company Wealthy Women Entrepreneurs . She is very excited to be leading this group of dynamic women entrepreneurs into success in their businesses and lives!
The most important part of Jen’s life are her two very active teenagers, AJ & Layna!
Jen’s Mindfulness and Mindset techniques inform her business, her parenting and her life!