I recently had my eyes opened in regards to parenting and my youngest daughter.

I am like most working mothers out there; on the go from the moment you wake up until your head hits the pillow. At any given time, you are a chauffeur, activities manager, grocery supplier and laundry queen.

I am definitely known around our house as the one who has a schedule and list for everything, as well as high expectations for me and my family. With that being said, I am never really sure where I am at with that. I often feel like I am second guessing my choice of words or actions in conversations – is this a time to be firm or is this a time to just hug it out? Do our kids feel safe? Valued? Loved? As a parent, I want my kids to be good, responsible, respectful people and always give 100% effort. I am always quick to jump to where I could have done better – I should have said this; I should have given one more cuddle. Did I use all of my GT tools effectively?

Last week the Speech and Language Pathologist was at our house for her weekly session with my youngest daughter. She has been witness to: meltdowns in our house out of frustration, good days, not so good days, and hopefully some stellar moments as well. As I help her gather her things at the end of the session she tells me “it’s always a pleasure to come to your home each week”. I think my mouth fell open. I was thinking she likely says that to all of the families; but I felt compelled to ask her “why”? She goes on to tell me that my daughter is polite, giving, respectful and always tries hard. I just smiled.

As a parent it’s always easy to envision what you want for your children and family as a whole, and all too often focus on the negative (which stays with you like Velcro) instead of all of the great things that you are doing to help nurture these people (which is more likely to slip past you like Teflon).

I was fortunate enough to be reminded that one moment (that could have gone a bit better if you used your tools appropriately), is just that – a moment. Tomorrow is a new day for you to be better or do better or celebrate! You need to appreciate the steps that your kids are currently taking, what unbelievable people they already are and have faith that you are doing the best that you can and always learning.

Both of my daughters are incredible…. sometimes you just need a little perspective.

– Melanie Loroff, Associate Executive Director

Why Gentleness Comes First

In Gentle Teaching there are always two components coming into play. Gentleness and Teaching. The two need to work hand in hand to build a strong relationship. As in any relationship we need to work on building a strong foundation first. There is no time limit as to how long this takes. We need to teach others that it is not our goal to change them, to comply, or to conform them into someone we want them to be. By loving them and being there for them we teach them that they are special, unique and their own person. Often there is a trust barrier we need to break through, as many people come and go through the lives of those we serve, and it is our goal to show them by our unconditional love and acceptance that we are there with them and for them no matter what. Once our friends feel that they are safe and loved they will exhibit signs to indicate that they feel safe with us, they will draw themselves towards us, seek us out and confide in us. As John McGee used to say, “we gentle our way into the lives of others”.

Once we know we have a strong foundation of safe and loved, it is paramount that we begin to teach. Often times this is overlooked as we don’t want to upset others or we get comfortable in the relationship. Teaching takes the person from where they are to where they could be. It could be as simple as teaching a new life skill, learning the difference between mine and yours, or setting a personal boundary for us or them. Whatever the situation, we need to be in the mindset of teaching, while never negating from safe and loved.

The beauty of this approach is that once we build on a strong foundation, we actually have authority to teach. If we don’t take the time to build the relationship, we have no right to teach.

If people flipped it around, and began to teach before they take the time to build a solid foundation, it will hinder the relationship and supports will be seen as demanding, threatening and unkind. If teaching comes first, people will actually feel unsafe and unloved.

As we move forward in creating a strong culture of Gentleness let us always focus on the good of the people we serve, learning how we can assist them and support them to grow and mature in their lives. Also may we learn the art of balance between gentleness and teaching.

– Darcy VanLoon, Mentorship & Support Specialist

Rolling Out of Bed, Happy

I was a man without a path until I found SAI.

I was a coaster in high school. Grades meant absolutely nothing – really just laughing and having a good time was why I went to school (well I guess the girls had a little part in it too). University wasn’t on my radar, and making a significant amount of money wasn’t either. I was just looking for something that was fulfilling and something that made me smile when I rolled out of bed in the morning.

I went to broadcasting school and did my practicum at a radio station in North Battleford in the early 2000’s. It was fun, but I’m not the best reader and I came to realize that there is a lot of reading in radio. When I accidentally played a Christmas Allan Jackson song in the middle of April, well, my radio career was all but over.

My path took me right to SAI after a few years of supporting at other agencies. I was supporting an individual out of his home, and we were lucky enough to both move over to SAI. Before moving over, the perception of SAI (to the uninformed outside world) was a hippy hug fest. Now don’t get me wrong, a hippy hug fest can be a great thing, but there was so much more that SAI offered.

First, the individuals were happy and at the centre of their own world. Totally 100% person centred. Beautiful! Secondly, there was trust, respect and a true friendship between fellow supports and also with the management team. To find these 2 things was a dream come true. It’s something, not only did I think I wouldn’t find, but something I didn’t think existed. The philosophy matched up perfectly with my, “life’s too short, let’s enjoy everyday” type of thinking.

All of these things and more are why I continue to smile when I roll out of bed in the morning, even with 2 screaming kids at 5:35am!

-Tyson Elliott, Home Supports Coordinator

Communication Between Souls

I had the good fortune of being introduced to Gentle Teaching when the philosophy had already caught fire. Many caregivers before me have blazed a trail of love and mutual respect; I was thrilled to jump on this path. Gentle teaching has allowed me to make connections and friendships that I never thought possible and is now, how I chose to live my everyday life.

One relationship that I often think of was very brief, but also something very special. It was with a baby elephant I met in Thailand. I had watched many tourists fail to make any connections with these gentle giants and was leery of paying the $10 fee to wade in the ocean with someone who didn’t want to be there. I laughed as each person got a blast of trunk water to the face and was disappointed when the animals would get yelled at when they did not respond to being poked and prodded. Most, if not all, left upset that they didn’t get their ride, and some were still choking on salty trunk spray.

I wanted that ride. When I met my elephant, I introduced myself. I made sure to show him my eyes and I gently pet him to show him I was his friend; we were safe together. Even though we did not understand one another verbally, I used my presence and gentleness to communicate and eventually the baby understood it was good to be with me. After a couple of minutes, the elephant knelt down and guided me up onto his back with his trunk. High and mighty we strolled out into the water. We had to be pried from each other when our time was up. We said our goodbyes on the shore and someone else tagged in. I giggled as I watched my friend spray the new guy in the face when he tried to step on the elephant’s head. Amateur.

Gentle teaching to me is communicating with the soul. You don’t have to speak the same language; you don’t even have to be the same species. I am very thankful that I have found a career where it is part of my day to give love. The trade off is that in doing so, it’s almost impossible not to receive it back. Sounds like a good deal to me.

– Jacine Gyug, Vocational Coordinator