There is an old Buddhist tale about "The Grateful Bull" that explains perfectly the mindfulness concepts of patience, trust and letting go. All three of these concepts are crucial when embarking on a self-compassionate parenting path. Patience, trust and letting go of both our kids mistakes and behaviors and our own mistakes and behaviors is crucial to find peace both with each other and inside ourselves. Here is the story.
Delightful was a big strong bull who lived on Farmer Bruni's farm. Farmer Bruni was a poor but kind man. Everyday Farmer Bruni did kind and loving things for Delightful and for all his animals. He was a good owner. Because of this Delightful was very grateful for Farmer Bruni and he wanted to thank him.
As Farmer Bruni and Delightful were going out to the fields to work he said to the farmer, "You have always been so kind to me all these years. I want to do something to repay you and I have thought of an idea. I would like to challenge Amos, our wealthy neighbor's strongest bull to a tug of war contest. We could have a prize for the winner, and I am sure that I could win the contest for you." The farmer loved the idea and that afternoon went over to Farmer Chang's to propose the idea to him. Farmer Chang also loved the idea and suggested that the prize needed to be very good, "A hundred gold pieces would make an excellent prize for the winner." he said greedily. This was a lot of money for Farmer Bruni, but he trusted in Delightful and his great strength.
News of the contest spread far and wide and when the day came for it there were many farmers who had come to watch. The two big bulls stood in the middle of the field with a rope stretched between them, tied to their harnesses. Farmer Bruni held his arm in the air and said to the bulls "When I lower my arm on the count of three, I want you to both pull as hard as you can. One, Two, Three, go!" and the bulls immediately began to pull. They pulled the rope tight between them and heaved and strained against each other but neither of the bulls seemed to be able to tug the other more than a little way. After a couple of minutes Farmer Bruni thought to himself, "Delightful should be winning by now." and he began to worry that his bull was going to lose. Panicking, he picked up a stick from the ground and hit Delightful on his back. "Pull harder, you lazy bull!" he shouted, "Put your back into it or you will lose!"
Delightful was so shocked and upset by the farmer's words and actions that he just stopped pulling all together and did not even try at all. "This was my idea to help the farmer," he thought. I have never done anything bad to him, so why is he hitting and insulting me?" Seeing that Delightful had stopped pulling, Amos, the other bull pulled harder and Delightful was dragged forward until Amos won the contest. Farmer Chang cheered and patted his bull triumphantly while Farmer Bruni painfully counted out the one hundred gold pieces and handed them over to Farmer Chang. Then he walked over to Delightful and shouted, "You gave up! You didn't even try, and now I've lost one hundred gold pieces! Are you trying to ruin me?!" Delightful shook his head and said sadly, "But you called me lazy, and you beat me with a stick. What have I done to deserve such treatment?" This question shocked the farmer, when he thought about what he had said and done he realized that he had wronged Delightful. He hung his head in shame and said "I'm so sorry. I panicked because I was frightened you would lose." Delightful considered this for a moment and he felt sorry for the farmer. "I understand and I forgive you." "We can still win though! Go to Farmer Chang and suggest another contest with an even bigger prize of two hundred gold pieces. But you must promise to be kind to me." Full of admiration for Delightful's compassion, Farmer Bruni arranged with the greedy Farmer Chang to have another tug of war between the two bulls.
The day of the second contest came and this time Farmer Bruni really encouraged Delightful. He cheered him on calling, "Come on Delightful! You can do it, my strong, wise bull!" and he patted him on the back to show his affection and support. Delightful pulled with all his might, and slowly and gradually he pulled the exhausted Amos over the line to win. Farmer Bruni jumped with joy and hugged his kind bull. "Thank you for doing this for me. I am so proud of you." he exclaimed while Farmer Chang stood frowning and looking shocked at having lost the contest.
After the prize money was collected by Farmer Bruni, the first thing he did was to go and buy a cozy, warm blanket for Delightful to keep him warm at night. That evening they held a big party to celebrate their good fortune and the farmer promised to never mistreat Delightful again.
It can be so easy to lose our patience with our loved ones, especially if we become panicked that their behavior might be embarrassing or make us look bad. But if we can remember that showing kindness and compassion is the most effective way to bring out the best in others we will find more peace with each other and within ourselves.