Link

In order to be relevant in your children’s lives from their early years onward, it’s important to change your parenting styles to match their temperaments as they grow.

Source: Change Your Parenting Style as Your Kids Grow, Expert Says

f parents could have their way, they would take control of their children’s lives forever. They want them to make the right decisions, get into the right schools, meet the right people, have the right (i.e. similar to their own) values. But what parents need to know is in order to stay relevant in their children’s lives, they need to relinquish some of that control they so greatly crave.

Advertisements

PARENTING WITH PRINCIPLE FOUR — BE YOURSELF

Using this principle in your everyday parenting comes naturally when you have worked to discover who you truly are. Tai Chi teacher Chungliang Al Huang summed up nicely the message we want to get across to our kids:

“What you need is an acceptance of yourself as you are. You are like a seed. You don’t know what you’re going to be when spring comes — maybe a chrysanthemum, or an orchid, or maybe just a plain dandelion. . . Be with the process and enjoy it.”

When we look at the analogy of flowering, we remember that flowers don’t bloom until near the end of the plant’s life cycle. This is especially pertinent these days, when we live so much longer than our ancestors did, when people have several careers and maybe even several families. Blooming, going dormant, and blooming again is a realistic paradigm for how our children’s lives and our lives are likely to be. It is our job to assure our children that they have many choices and that they never have to settle on just the one thing forever. Rather than pushing them into what we want for them, we help and support them as they try out many things and go with what brings them joy.

Principle Four in Pregnancy

Pregnancy, birth, and infancy are periods when you are required to make many decisions; sometimes it can be overwhelming. You get so much advice and input from relatives, friends, books, blogs, and experts that you can lose track of what your inner guidance is trying to tell you. Using Principles One and Two (Relax and Slow Down) can help you and firmly rooting yourself in Principle Three (Empower) can help you have the “sinking power” you need to communicate with others. Be Yourself requires that you act in accordance with your own deeply held values.

Only you can decide, according to what feels best to you, whether you give birth at home or in a hospital or birthing center, choose to immunize or not, breastfeed or not, whether your children wear natural fibers or not, whether or not you choose day care, how to discipline and communicate with a toddler, and so on. After doing your own research about the issues, make your decisions from a deep inner place that makes you feel like a good parent, instead of simply going with what your parents tell you or with the current cultural flow.

Over and over again, it has been shown that the current cultural flow is often wrong. At one time it was common and accepted to give babies opium to keep them quiet. At one time, mothers were told to wear masks and not to breathe on their babies or breastfeed them for fear of “contaminating” them. At one time,parents were told not to respond to an infant’s cry for fear of “spoiling” them. At one time, it was widely believed that babies didn’t feel pain and that they could not see or hear in the womb or for the first weeks of life. Take the experts with a grain of salt, and listen to your own heart about what is right for you and your family. Refrain from judging other parents and their decisions for the same reasons; you are not in their shoes.

Be Yourself with Your Baby

Before you birth your baby, you may envision yourself calmly and blissfully being a parent; or, you may be terrified that you don’t know what to do with this new human depending on you for its very existence. It is fairly easy now, with the internet, to read a lot about infants — what they need, what they don’t need, how to provide the best environment for them, how to respond to their cries and fusses and so on.

Scientific research has blossomed over the past decades, and many parenting styles of our parents’ day have been proven to be almost barbaric. Figure out how to both be yourself and provide your infant with the love, attention, and healthy environment that s/he desperately needs. Those who say, “Well, I turned out all right! The way my parents did it will work for me,” don’t recognize the many problems, physical, mental, and emotional health risks they faced or will face because of how they were raised.

If you can be firmly rooted in who you are, you will find that you can intuit the right decisions as you live with your baby. You will make mistakes, but as you relax, slow down, empower yourself with good information, and have confidence in who you are, you can correct your course as you go along. In this way, no permanent damage is done. Your child responds to you “being yourself.” Trying to parent in some way that isn’t coming from your deepest principles is confusing for your child, and damaging long-term.

© 2015 Vimala McClure

BEING YOURSELF — Part Two

The Simplicity of the Uncarved Block

Tai Chi teacher Chungliang Al Huang, in his book Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain, gives us good words to ponder:

“There are many basic concepts in Tao that emerge in Tai Chi when you practice. One is the word pu, which means the original material, before it is trimmed and modified, fixed and polished. Sometimes we translate it as “uncarved block.” It is the raw material before it is carved into artistic form, the essence that exists before you change it. Learn the grain of the wood before you carve it. Pu is the basic substance of the real you, before it’s manicured or painted over. Expose your own basic essence before you clutter it up. Don’t let all the external things blind you so that you lose the uncarved block within.”

A wonderful book that explores this subject with humor and whimsy is The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.

The simplest person, if he or she lives in that simplicity comfortably, without guile or apology, is respected by all. You don’t need complicated teachings or practices. If you can find who you are and be yourself, your children will naturally love and respect you regardless of your education, your job, your “standing” on the illusory scale of wealth, or your race and class. If you are truly yourself with dignity, you will be respected, whether you are rich, poor, or in between.

Being yourself also means you allow others to be themselves. As it says in Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain,

“When you look at nature, everything has its own motion: the tree and the rock and the running water — they somehow tie together without making a point to fit. When you watch the waves coming over the rocks, you see that the wave has wave-nature, the rock has rock-nature. They do not violate each other’s nature.”

We learn to allow our children to be who they are — not mere reflections of us or who we wish we were. We are not afraid to share ourselves and our history with our children, and show them what we have learned and what we still want to learn. We are not afraid to be wrong and apologize and to talk about the times when we have veered off course. Inside, we have determination to constantly learn and grow, and we know we learn a great deal from adversity and mistakes. When we can truly be ourselves all the time, we allow our children to learn right along with us.

In my parents’ day, anything that might have exposed a parent as vulnerable or not perfect was hidden away. So there was a duplicitous quality to their parenting. For example, many of them were closet alcoholics who were appalled when their children experimented with drugs.

The rebellion, when it came, was great. The hypocrisy of our parents’ lifestyle was suddenly repugnant to a whole generation of teenagers, who stood up together and said, “NO!” — as the children’s story goes, “The Emperor has no clothes!” All we really wanted was for our parents to be themselves. But we didn’t realize that was nearly impossible for most of them, for they had been conditioned — their minds had been scripted — in an entirely different world, where there was only one definition of “normal.” With the explosion of worldwide communications media, we discovered that there were many definitions, and that some of them were much healthier and more integrated than what we had been brought up with, and some came from age-old cultures that were about to be wiped off the earth forever by the materialism of our culture. We felt an urgency to learn how to find and be our true selves, and to apply that knowledge to our western cultures, which seemed riddled with fake values, with false faces, and no substance.

What is “Normal” Anyway?

Not long ago, in most communities, there was only one way to be “normal,” to fit in and conform. There is a Chinese story about a woman who always cut off the end of a ham, before she cooked it in her oven. Her daughter asked her why she did it, and she replied, “My mother always did it that way.” When they asked the grandmother, she said, “My mother always did it that way.” Finally, they asked great-grandmother. “I did it that way, “ she said, “because otherwise it wouldn’t fit in my little pot.”

When I was a young housewife, I folded the sheets precisely the way my mother had, and got upset when my husband didn’t fold them “right.” Finally I realized how silly it was; there was no reason for folding them that way, but my mother, and her mother, made it seem as if it had to be done in just this way. To this day, when I fold my sheets willy-nilly and stuff them in the closet so I can go do something more interesting, I smile to myself and I see my ancestors in my mind, shaking their collective heads, arms folded in consternation.

There is no such thing as some kind of “normal” behavior for any group of people that doesn’t change over time. It’s futile to try to be normal. It’s much more fun and fulfilling to be ourselves.

Share Your Journey

Being oneself is, obviously, not being a clone of one’s parents, friends, teachers, television personalities, or anyone else. It’s not conforming to anything. It isn’t requiring your children to fit into some preconceived notion of what children “at that age,” or in your neighborhood — or of your race or family history — should be.

Have the courage to find and be who you truly are, and to share yourself and your journey with your children. That doesn’t mean you don’t protect them from some parts of the adult world that may frighten or harmfully influence them. For example, it is not wise for parents to fight with each other in front of their children. The children don’t understand the complicated dynamics of marital relationships, and if you find yourselves yelling at one another, you should work with each other (or go to therapy if necessary) to find other, healthier ways to communicate — certainly for yourselves, but also to model for your children how to work through problems and differences in a healthy way; learn how to argue constructively. Don’t fight in front of the kids — but don’t, also, pretend that all is well if it isn’t.

If you are having difficulty communicating, you can explain to your children that there are some things that are just between their parents. You can reassure them of their safety and of your love for them. That is enough to keep it real without lying to them, scaring them, or involving them in problems and responsibilities that are not theirs. And, for goodness sake, make sure they understand that your problems are not their fault.

All too often when we become parents we think we need to play a role, and often the role we try to fulfill isn’t synchronized with our own values and principles, and isn’t updated to the culture we live in now.

Being yourself means being available to your loved ones in whatever condition you happen to be — not hiding away when you are hurting or imperfect, and then showing yourself only at your best, pretending you never have those human moments of vulnerability, mistakes, wrongdoing, and regret. It entails working to make your inner and outer life fully integrated with each other, so your life is a relatively open book. This requires a commitment to honesty, which is sometimes very difficult. Temptations to lie, either overtly or by withholding, are constant. My spiritual teacher once said, “In ancient India, when you found someone lying, you were surprised and shocked. These days, when you find someone who is really honest you are surprised and shocked.” You can’t expect honesty and integrity from your kids if you aren’t that way yourself.

Sometimes we get into a bind because we have a lot of “shoulds” controlling our lives that my not match our deepest needs and wants at all. So we spend important moments of our lives doing things we think we should do or acting the way we think we should act, or judging ourselves against someone else’s standards. We forego our deepest needs; we silence ourselves through these judgments and thus convey to our children that it’s not okay to be who you are and, far worse, that you will never meet the standards set for you.

© 2015 Vimala McClure

PRINCIPLE FOUR: BE YOURSELF Part 1

“I do not need to pretend that I am anyone other than myself. I do not need to feel insecure about my perceptions. The self-cultivation that I undertake is to perfect who I am, not to become someone other than who I am I pursue the spiritual because it gives me tremendous satisfaction.”

— Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Daily Meditations

Being yourself sounds so simple. But in order to understand this principle from a Taoist perspective,we have to try to understand what makes us who we are, and how much of that is our personal, conscious choice and how much of it is our cultural, social, economic, familial, and educational conditioning.

In Tai Chi, you strive to find harmony and oneness with your own chi, or vital energy, through physical movement, breathing, and meditation. There is a particular flow to it, a pattern that arises spontaneously from your own internal energy, linked with the Universal Mind or the Tao. A great many practices can help you get in touch with who you really are, beyond your ideas, philosophies, appearance, moods, or stages.

For some, sitting meditation is the best way to do this. Before I had my children, I did several hours of sitting meditation every day for about four years. I was fortunate to be working for a spiritual-social service mission that allowed me to do this, and to have the right diet and yoga postures to keep me in balance. I am so grateful for that time. I realize that very few people these days have the luxury to take that much time to “find themselves,” to get rooted in their spiritual being before becoming a parent — yet an important part of the reason for this blog is to show that much of what I learned and practice in my everyday life I learned directly from my children. They have been my best teachers.

My previous meditation experience taught me about relaxing and slowing down (Principles 1 and 2), and allowed me to see beforehand, the potential of these two new child-teachers that came into my life. I saw that if I approached parenthood with this attitude, I wouldn’t be “losing myself” in the mundane world; rather, I would continue to find myself with my children’s help. They would mirror for me, and if I could be humble enough to accept what I saw there even when  it was not what I wished it to be, there would be a tremendous amount I could learn. I could see where various kinds of conditioning — even my spiritual teachings — created prejudices and pre-conceived notions. I could see the places where my walk didn’t match my talk, where my own childhood and familial patterning ran my behavior, and I could find other, more productive choices. My children gleefully blew apart my self-absorption, ego, and attachments. They were masters at deconstructing the walls around my true Self, if I would only let them.

Especially in their early lives, children are masters of being wholly themselves, and they relate to their parents in a way that embodies the completely natural relationship between the individual soul and God. My spiritual teacher in India often pointed this out. He said, “When a child wants his mother to hold him, she can give him toy after toy, but he throws them aside, for he is one-pointed in his goal — to have his mother’s love and attention. In the same way, a spiritual aspirant accepts no substitute for oneness with the Creator.”

I learned from my children what true devotion is. I had the opportunity to learn all about attachment and non-attachment, and how radically different the true meaning of these concepts is from what I had thought about them in the quiet of my single-minded meditation. For with children comes great attachment, and you can see how important that is: countless scientific studies have proven that it is virtually essential for life. Without attachment, infants can and often do die. I discovered as a parent that the aim of spirituality was not to continually detach from everything, but rather to expand your circle of attachment so that it gradually becomes so wide it encompasses all of the universe. This is what leads to true devotion to God — not giving up or pushing away the things and people we love.

And then, just when this idea takes root, you have to learn to let your children go on to their own lives and destinies. You have to let loved ones go to their death. If during this process you are not aware of your true self — a unique individual, and yet connected to the far greater whole of creation — you get caught up in the drama of the process, attached to the results rather than the core, and you lose track of who you are.

Being yourself means being genuinely what and who you are at this moment. Children have a finely tuned radar for hypocrisy. You can try to say one thing and be another, but eventually you won’t get away with it. You can try to make your children be what you are not, but the result can be disastrous. You can try to pretend you are incapable of being wrong, you have no faults, and are always right, but in the end you will be exposed.

So the best thing is just to be who you are, and move toward who you want to be every day with integrity and honesty. In Taoism, being yourself means to be who you truly are the way a tree is a tree and does not strive to be anything else. Our true nature can be described by the metaphor of  “the uncarved block” — the being that is truly you, not enhanced, toned down, carved into something more “acceptable” or “normal.”

© 2015 Vimala McClure

PARENTING WITH PRINCIPLE THREE: EMPOWER — Part Two

THE OPPOSITE

To empower means not to overpower or disempower. We need to learn to separate ourselves from our children in order to empower them correctly. Enmeshment — too much identification with our children — can lead to tightening and anxiety as they move away and begin to be who they are.

There are many examples of situations that could be perceived as “failures” but, because of internal empowerment, are actually successes. For example, it took Thomas Edison more than twenty years and thousands of failed experiments before he invented the electric light. Many famous authors were rejected numerous times before being published. Most successful people had many failures along the way. Helpless people who are not internally empowered cannot respond to rejection and adversity in their proper context. Life may not be fair, but our response to obstacles and adversities is learned.

If you are overly concerned about what other think of you as a parent or what they think of your children, you cannot be genuine and flexible — two important aspects of empowerment. If your own sense of success and happiness is dependent upon your children behaving a certain way, making certain choices, or living up to certain standards and expectations that are predetermined and rigid, you can’t empower your children to be healthy, powerful adults who make good choices for themselves. If you feel like a failure when your children make mistakes, get bd grades, or don’t make the team — if you feel constant pressure to make them a certain way so that you feel good about yourself — you will have difficulty with this principle.

© 2015 Vimala McClure

“The best leader remains obscure, leading but drawing no personal attention. As long as the collective has direction, the leader is satisfied. Credit is not to be taken, it will be awarded when the people realize that it was the subtle influence of the leader that brought them success.”

— Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Daily Meditations

The subject of power is a huge one, worth looking at both within and outside the context of Tai Chi and Taoism. It is vitally important for parents to understand power, because the way we use or misuse it in our own lives is the way we teach our children about their power, our power, and other people’s power and that is probably the most significant lesson we teach. The right use of power results in self-respect, respect for others, confidence, fearlessness, and balance.

 32085865_ml32085864_ml

 The Tao or the Way is where all true power resides. In Tai Chi, the exercises learned with the body teach you something about chi or the life force, the power of the Tao that comes through the individual. In the Indian system of yoga, issues of power reside in the second and third chakras, located roughly in the navel area. In Tai Chi, our center of power is called the tan t’ien (in Chinese) or hara (in Japanese), and is located in essentially the same place. It is from there we get and transfer power, which is rooted in the earth, and comes up through the feet and legs.

What is the “Opponent?”

Tai Chi is a martial art as well as a spiritual practice — and certainly raising your child should not involve fighting or power struggles, and it should definitely not require hitting or striking of any kind. When we look at Tai Chi practices, it is within the metaphoric context of using our power correctly, knowing how to change the energy in a situation of potential frustration, angers, or power struggle, and knowing how to help our children learn to get in touch with and utilize their own internal power.

When I speak of your “opponent” in this context, I don’t mean your child should be perceived as an enemy, to be overpowered or controlled. Again, it is a metaphor: the “opponent” is any energy that is causing disempowerment, separation, or frustration between you and your child. Combative situations will always arise, either in your personal life that spill over into your parenting, or in your relationship with your child. As Tai Chi teacher Ron Sieh says, “To be calm in the midst of chaos cannot be accomplished by avoiding chaos. I have a choice concerning aggression and combat and I can choose from my heart, not out of fear.”

In Tai Chi, one of the first exercises practiced with an opponent is called “attaching steps.” The student paces the partner, trying to perfectly match her moves and intentions, as if he is attached to her. This requires learning how to get inside the other person’s shoes, so to speak, to be so at one with her or attuned to her that one automatically moves with the other, not a moment after. Try this with your child — mirror her moves to understand her energy.

With the aid of breathing and meditation practice, the student can then move on to what is called “listening power” — building a connection and communication with the “opponent” (in this case, your child who is in opposition) so you can then precisely detect the opponent’s level of strength, center of gravity, motivation, speed, and so on. This gives you tremendous power, as you can then anticipate an opponent’s moves and use the opponent’s own force to defeat the aggressive energy coming from her.

Another important practice for parents is called “sinking power.” The student learns to “sink,” through his chi, and use his connection with the earth in response to his partner’s attempt to uproot him. Before you respond to a child in opposition, use sinking power. Ground yourself in just a few minutes:

  1. Stand still, upright
  2. Take a deep full breath in, and a slow full breath out
  3. Press your feet into the floor, standing equally on the soles of your feet
  4. Make your thighs firm, as if the muscles are hugging the bones
  5. Relax your shoulders, pull in the belly
  6. Imagine there is a pillar of light from above, through your body, into the earth through your feet
  7. If possible, close your eyes. Breathe deeply and find that “still place” within

Now respond to your child, mirroring her movements and speaking what you perceive as her feelings.

“You don’t want to stop playing and come to dinner. . .”

“I see that you’re really upset. . .”

“You don’t want me to hold the baby right now. . .”

Continue to mirror, to listen, to allow your child to clarify.

To “empower,” in Tai Chi, involves a technique called “transferring power.” It can be used for harm, that is, to transfer your power through a slap, a spank or kick. It can also be used for good by helping your child become aware of his or her own power, without giving or loaning them yours.

SPANKING

Principle Three, empowerment, is linked intrinsically to Principle Seven, flow and let go. We will see how as we go along. The t’ui who circle exercise represents the Tao in that it seems empty and transparent. But when you utilize its power, you find it is inexhaustible. As the Taoist sage Lao Tau said, “When you follow Tao it will round off the sharp edges, untangle confusing threads, dim all glaring light. It molds and smooths the dust.”

The kind of power we seek to cultivate as parents is the power of the Tao. Like water, it is smooth, flowing, yielding, penetrable, yet strong enough to “round off the sharp edge” of things.

Won Chung-Ya, an ancient Taoist master, emphasized the importance of avoiding “double weightedness” — that is, reacting the same way every time, getting stuck on one way of responding, being always on one side of the yin/yang balance.

 YIN YANG

He had his students practice constantly moving so when they were up, they became aware of down; when they were right, they were aware of left. They learned that not responding to the “opponent” appropriately for that specific moment and that specific person and that specific interaction results in difficulty and awkwardness, which leads to defeat.

We are so accustomed to “taking a stand” that we forget the universe is constantly moving, shifting, and changing — even rock changes, over a period of time. So in our approach to our children in this ever-changing phenomenon we call the world, we must be flexible enough to remember that each child, each situation, each time, each incident, and each interaction is different from any other. Though we connect ourselves to principles that don’t change, such as unconditional love, respect, empowerment, the way we respond within those principles must be flexible according to time, place, and person.

KID WITH WORLD

© 2015 Vimala McClure

PARENTING WITH PRINCIPLE TWO: SLOW DOWN — Part Six

Slow Down During Meals

These days, few families take the time to have meals together, and I believe this is a great loss. Having at least one meal together every day has always been high on my family priority list, and though my children sometimes complained, wanting to be like their friends and eat on the run, when they were older we ate together at least one night a week, and they complained if we didn’t.

Humans are built for ritual. It is the ritual celebration of what is good in our lives, of our connection to each other, that makes life rich. If you don’t do it already, I’d like you to consider having at least one meal together every day as a family. Responsibilities for cooking, cleaning, and atmosphere can be rotated or divided up. Keep it light, let the kids have a little fun, and try to find some funny stories to tell. It’s wonderful to start the meal by saying grace, if that’s comfortable for you, or just thinking creation for food and togetherness.

When we ate together only once a week, holding hands and giving thanks for our connection, our safety, and our food was important to us all. After dinner, we sometimes watched a movie or played board games or just sat around and talked for a while. The kids’ friends and sometimes one of my friends or family members were invited and treated with the relaxed acceptance of family. It got our week started in a way that made us all feel part of something bigger, and reminded each of us how fortunate we were to be so loved, regardless of what else was going on in our lives. Small children like it when the same blessing is said every night. For children, ritual means safety, stability, and continuity. Having table decorations to celebrate holidays or the seasons added festivity and remembrance to the meal.

When the kids were adolescents, naturally rebellion had to come out around this ritual. The kids would refuse to say the blessing, or when it was their turn, say something silly. the boys would find some way, at some point in the meal, to start talking about something gross or disgusting to the adults. At first we tried to stop and control it, but that just led to a tension-filled meal that was no fun. Finally we let it go. Then it was a kind of family  joke. As the boys grew older, they would wait until the very end of the meal to bring up something totally tasteless, just to let us know they hadn’t for gotten — and we’d all laugh. Eventually that little “tradition” went by the wayside as they grew up and got more interested in the food and the positive energy of our family being together. By taking the long-term view, keeping the end in mind, I allowed them to work through this period in their lives. Sure enough, it eventually just died away.

Tai Chi teacher Chungliang Al Huang says,

“One of the best images of Tao is to be like bamboo,or a bow. You can feel the weight here on your shoulders. But instead of resisting, you bend like a bow and then spring back then the weight releases. Instead of resisting the energy, you store it up and use it as you recoil.”

Unfortunately, it often seems that just about the time life is going smoothly, we find some way to get caught up, once again, in our unhealthy thinking— speeded up, worrying about a bill, concerned about the future, regretting the past, resenting something that happened at work, or simply consumed in our to-do list for tomorrow. There are an infinite number of ways to get off track. However, they all have one thing in common: They are the result of our own thinking. When we recognize that we are thinking, however— when we remember that we are the thinker responsible for the feelings we are experiencing—we then have the capacity to wake up and bring ourselves gently back to the moment.

Slowing down allows us to see aspects of life that were previously hidden in the frenzy of a busy mind. It allows us to open to the radiant, joyful feelings that reside within . We find that beneath the vicissitudes of our thoughts lies a spaciousness, a peacefulness of being, that is incomprehensible to a mind caught up in analytical thinking or a mind operating too quickly. When our mind isn’t racing to the next series of thoughts or holding on tightly to old ones, we gain access to the peaceful feelings of our innate mental health.

Those of us who have children know how quickly they grow up. One minute they’re keeping us up at night, and in what seems like the next minute they would rather be out at night. One minute all they want to do is spend time with us, and the next we are the last people they want to be with.

Yet despite knowing how short is the time we have with them, most of us seem to speed through our parenting years, almost wishing them away. We tell ourselves, “I’ll be happier when the infant state in over”; “I’ll be relieved when we’re out of the terrible twos”; “It will be so much better when the teen years are over.” But, ironically, as our children grow up, we convince ourselves of the opposite by rewriting our personal history. “It was so much nicer when the kids were little”; “I miss the baby stage”; “I long for the days when my kids took me seriously.” In short, we miss most of the present moments of our parenting experience by focusing our attention on thoughts of the future or memories of the past. Our minds are spinning a mile a minute, trying to get everything accomplished. We go back and forth between believing that “ someday” will be better than today, and convincing ourselves that “yesterday” was better than it really was. Rather than immersing ourselves in the present moments of our experience, we keep ourselves one step removed from life with our own thoughts.

Slowing down so powerfully enhances the raising of children that parents who find raising supposedly impossible teenagers will find it as wonderful and rewarding as raising a tranquil eight-year-old. By learning to live in and appreciate this moment, regardless of how it may be unfolding, instead of reliving memories of the past or anticipating moments yet to be, you too can transform your experience of parenting into a peaceful one.

Exercise for Principle Two

  1. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and relax each part of your body.
  2. Take two deep breaths. As you inhale repeat, “slow,” and as you exhale repeat, “down.”

© 2015 Vimala McClure

A Helpful Guide to Becoming Unbusy

A Helpful Guide to Becoming Unbusy.

. . .  is the state of busy really improving our lives? Certainly not. Statistics indicate 75% of parents are too busy to read to their children at night. There is a rising number of children being placed in day cares and after-school activities. Americans are having a hard time finding opportunity for vacations these days. 33% of Americans are living with extreme stress daily. And nearly 50% of Americans say they regularly lie awake at night because of stress. This is a problem. We have become too busy.

Link

Busy Is a Sickness | Scott Dannemiller.

“In the past few years, I’ve observed an epidemic of sorts: patient after patient suffering from the same condition. The symptoms of this condition include fatigue, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, heartburn, bowel disturbances, back pain, and weight gain. There are no blood tests or X-rays diagnostic of this condition, and yet it’s easy to recognize. The condition is excessive busyness.” —– Dr. Susan Koven practices internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. 

PARENTING WITH PRINCIPLE TWO: SLOW DOWN — Part Five

Slow Down at the Grocery Store

If you decide to take your children to the grocery store, try to think of ways to apply Principle One (Relax) and Two (Slow Down).With babies between the ages of six months and three years, you must be willing to handle it when your child cries, fusses, grabs, wiggles, and wants. Our culture frowns on crying in general. If your baby cries in the supermarket, some people will be annoyed and glare at you as if you should control your child. But most are more sympathetic than you might imagine. Often they will take their cues from you.

If you smile, shrug, relax, and treat your child with love and kindness, that energy is contagious — others smile at you in sympathy, especially parents.

With older children, allow plenty of time so grocery shopping can be a teaching expedition and an adventure in making choices. Give each child an opportunity to choose between one style of beans and another, or show them how you read the labels and compare the prices and ingredients, or how to choose the freshest produce. Let them pick out some of their lunch items and treats for the week — again, using specific choices so that you are ultimately in control what gets chosen. I suggest you allow the occasional forbidden treat to de-emphasize its importance in your child’s mind. Later, I’ll talk about how to use these times to show the consequences of dietary choices in order to help your child choose foods that are nourishing.

Allow the child to pick out items for others the family, like presents. Above all, try to prevent grocery shopping from becoming associated, in the child’s mind, with pain, challenge, and power struggles. Don’t use treats as rewards, but save them to use as fun snacks for the movies or some other occasion. Listen to your children tell you what other kids have in their school lunches, and try to include some of these items, even if you don’t technically approve of them. Supporting their emotional needs is just as important as nourishing their bodies, and as long as they are getting the kinds of food you want them to have at home, a “no-no” here and there won’t do any harm. You don’t want your child to eat alone and be made fun of because she is the only one with a seaweed sandwich. On the other hand, you do want to slow down enough to take the time to educate your child about food.

Our family is vegetarian, and, while you may not agree with my choices, I think you can get an idea about the importance of teaching your child about food from the following example. I made sure my children knew from day one that they were vegetarians and most of their friends’ families were not.  I let them know it was a matter of choice, and didn’t mean people were bad or weird because they chose differently. But I also wanted to make sure that well-intentioned friends and family would not feed my kids meat when I wasn’t around.

I simply told my children the truth, right from the start — the truth about what a hamburger, hot dog, bologna, “nuggets,” and so on really are: dead animals. Didn’t give them a lot of detailed explanations, though that came later as they began to ask more sophisticated questions. I used opportunities such as commercials advertising ham, steak, and “Buffalo wings” that showed dancing pigs or cows or chickens to point out the truth  and ask the children what they thought. Did they think the pig, chicken, or cow really felt happy to be slaughtered and eaten? We would talk about it without forcing my opinions; supporting what the kids came up with and not inserting guilt or shame into the conversation. I let them know that, when they were old enough to live outside our home, they could make their own choices about this issue.

As the kids grew older, I encouraged them to use the opportunity of having to do speeches and school papers to find out more about these issues, so they felt educated about why we are vegetarians and could answer other kids’ questions. In addition, I wanted them to make their own choice about it when they were old enough, and I wanted that choice be an informed one.

Slow Down with Teens

When my daughter was in high school and editor of the school paper — and this was a rural midwestern, small town high school whose graduates were 60 percent farmers — she used the opportunity to have an editorial debate on vegetarianism with a meat-eating friend. It turned out to be a very positive experience that gained her respect at school. Kids came up to her and said, “Wow, I never knew that!” Of course, others took the opposite side and sometimes teased her about it, but her editorial was so well written that none of them could bring themselves to make much fun of her. She learned that sometimes knowledge truly is power.

TEEN 1_ml

I tell these stories to give you some examples of how you can educate your kids about your family choices. I had to slow down enough to make this issue important and help my children do their research. Another added benefit was that I could show my kids how to research their questions, find facts, statistics, and anecdotes to back up their theories and opinions, find out why the “other side” thought the way they did, and expose false information as fraudulent. Teenagers love that! If you want your kids to embrace certain values, you must slow down enough to teach as well as parent, and to back it up with more than just your opinion or experience.

Controlling Parenting Impacts Teenagers’ Future Relationships

Study Tracks Adolescents Through Nine Years

A study conducted by members of the psychology department at the University of Virginia found that parents who exercised manipulative psychological control of their teenagers hinder their child’s ability to develop close relationships later on in adulthood. The study, published in the journal Child Development, was titled “The Cascading Development of Autonomy and Relatedness from Adolescence to Adulthood.”

“Adolescents who have parents who do this learn that in close relationships it is bad to assert your opinion and you’ll hurt other people,” said Elenda Hessel, one of the doctoral candidates who worked in the research group conducting the study. “They think that this is what happens at home and so this is what must happen elsewhere.”

Throughout a nine-year time period, researchers tracked 184 teenagers from a public middle school in Virginia. The study began when the participants were 13-years-old and continued until they were 21. The group assessed the adolescents’ relationships with their parents to determine its relationship to the development of autonomy and relatedness with their friends and romantic partners.

The parents’ use of guilt, shame, withdrawing love or cultivating anxiety — all examples of psychological control — set the adolescents on a long-term trajectory toward badly functioning relationships in the future.

“We have no evidence that provides why exactly these parents do this,” Hessel said. “However, it may be possible some parents had the same relationship with their parents or that some of them are scared and anxious and don’t have good ideas so they resort to these methods.”

During each assessment period at ages 13, 18 and 21, researchers asked the participants about their psychological health, their values, their parents’ conduct and their relationships with their friends. As the participants matured, the researchers began adding more questioning pertaining to their romantic partners.

Regarding their parents’ behavior, the participants were asked to assess the degree to which their mothers and fathers used guilt, anxiety, love withdrawal and other manipulative methods.

The idea was to look at how adolescents talk about things when they disagree with one another,” said Hessel. “We think it’s a good skill to have to express yourself without damaging the relationship, and being able to say, ‘I disagree with you but I still value you.'”

Once the participants were 21, they discussed real-life issues in their relationships, such as money or budgetary problems, jealousy and communication issues. Researchers used a coding system that indicated expressions of reasoning and confidence — a sign of autonomy — and warmth and collaborativeness, a sign of relatedness.

As predicted, the researchers found that manipulative parental psychological control ultimately undermines the youth’s ability to properly express autonomy and relatedness when in disagreement with close friends and later on, romantic partners. This shows the importance of the transitional period from early adolescence to adulthood.

“The transition period from early adolescence to early adulthood is the time when the peer group matters more and determines how they are able to navigate those relationships and the expectations going into new relationships,” Hessel said.

Researchers emphasized that without the right parental guidance, adolescents will be ill-prepared to manage their relationships. “Guilt tripping your kids won’t be good for them in the long run. You can still have an influence over your kids at this age and let it be a good one.” They suggested that parents often fall into the trap of psychological control when they don’t slow down (and relax) enough to warmly engage with their kids.

We rarely have grandparents — as many indigenous cultures do — who can do this educational part for us while we go out there to make a living. It does require some sacrifice to relax and slow down enough to seriously engage with your kids. But it is a short-term sacrifice, because children are not children for long. And believe me, the time spent is well worth it when you look back on it after they are grown. The children not only have the benefit of being educated about what you want them to know, but they understand, in their very bones, that you love them enough to give your time and energy to the process, over and over again. What you get is a great feeling of pride in yourself for being the best parent you can be, leaving a positive legacy that will last for generations, and learning a great deal in the process.

© 2015 Vimala McClure