Today the girls wanted some serious bike-riding, so we made an outing of it and took everyone to a local park with lovely cement pathways that wind over bridges and around play equipment. We’ve had great times at this park over the past couple of years.

Delaney and David on swings, September 2011
David has a turn on the swings along with all his daughters.

Calista on the swing, September 2011
At three-and-a-half, Calista has mastered the art of swinging herself. I give her a big push to start her going, and then she's like the Energizer Bunny!

Brioni on the merry-go-round, September 2011
Brioni enjoys working out the physics of speeding up and slowing down the merry-go-round without others' interference.

Delaney and Calista watching the ducks, September 2011
And this is why we (and most of the local families) call this popular recreational area "Duck Park"!

Calista on top of the spiderweb, September 2011
It's exciting to see that Calista's confidence has grown enough for her to climb to the top of the net without fear.

We can remember when Brioni and Aisha first climbed to the top of this web. At that time, Calista was barely walking!

Aisha waving a home-made flag, September 2011
All afternoon, the girls sought a breeze to make their home-made flag flutter.

In between our games, we snacked on strawberries and juice. When I told David that I could smell a stink bug, he looked around and pried it gently off my pants. Stink bugs use a foul-smelling odour to deter unwanted attention.

David with a stink bug, September 2011
Sailing close to the wind, David raises the stink bug to his nose to demonstrate to our girls how they can smell its odour without harming it.

As David and I watch our children’s behaviour, we are learning daily how our state of mind affects them. When Delaney becomes possessive of a punnet of strawberries, we realise that she is simply mimicking the negative behaviour that we have exhibited in limiting her access to the juicy fruit. Sure, we have a compelling desire not to waste food — but with a punnet of strawberries costing just $1, David and I are astonished that we are still inclined to sacrifice our toddler’s experience of managing the food because we hold that $1 higher than the potential learning experience!

How many mistakes have we made in the past that are our children are copying in their daily interactions? Too many. Now that we’re aware of the impact we create, we seek to guard our actions and our tongues carefully.

Lauren and Delaney, September 2011
David was *so kind* to bring out two cushions from the truck for me to sit/lie on!

Shadows, September 2011
Although the girls weren't ready to ride without their training wheels yet, they braved the hillocks of the BMX track — falling off repeatedly but still remounting and riding again!

As we were walking to the BMX track, I discovered a caterpillar on the path. Brioni is our nature-lover, and so she was delighted with her new “pet” and carefully kept it on a leaf while her sisters rode around.

When it was time to go, Brioni was distraught because she knew she couldn’t manage the caterpillar and her little bike. I offered to carry the caterpillar for her, but Brioni wanted to keep it close.

Although my first (selfish) inclination was to put my foot down and make Brioni choose between the caterpillar and her bike, I agreed to push Brioni’s bike for her. This is a awkward for me — the bike is low and the training wheels hit my ankles, and at the same time I still have to hold Delaney’s hand and manage whatever other accoutrements I needed to carry. But I swallowed my selfishness and offered myself to Brioni — in love.

As I walked over to collect the bike, Delaney rampaged through Brioni’s caterpillar’s garden home and stomped unwittingly on the critter. Brioni burst into tears and needed comfort, but the end result was that the caterpillar was no longer a prized pet and she could ride her bike back to the truck.

As I walked slowly back with Delaney, I reflected that what just happened is a fine example of how David and I have changed our parenting style — to one of saying “yes”, to gentle questioning rather than demanding obedience, to one of heartfelt serving instead of barking orders. We have chosen to model the behaviours we want our children to display — loveliness, kindness, cleanliness, gentleness — rather than insisting our children follow the rules or obey us immediately.

And the truth is that although I did say “yes” to Brioni, I never actually suffered for doing so! Written before our lives was this time when I could choose my own selfishness or demonstrate a new way — and if I chose to demonstrate a selflessness and love for my daughter, I would still not have to participate in the harder action I agreed to!

We are daily learning to say “yes”. Or at least to question why we say “no” so often. Many times the reason is because we are selfish and ultimately unloving.

Although when written down, this gentle parenting style seems to be a recipe for disaster — perhaps resulting in out-of-control, demanding kids — our experience has been that this way works in righteousness! We are blessed for our love — by love and consideration in return! We are rewarded by our serving — by children who love to help. As we daily give ourselves and our lives to our family — and also to those around us — we find life and freedom!

This is a relatively new direction for us. We’re still learning lots. But as we continue on this way, we’re certain that our children will grow in life, energy, righteousness and love!