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

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SEVEN IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF EMPOWERMENT

1. Communicate With Your Children, Not At Them

Practicing Empowerment gives us the ability to recognize that each child is entirely unique, with his own personality, needs, and thresholds. So parenting has to be tailored to the individual. This means there are very few rules that everyone must follow, and the few rules there are will be subject to change from time to time, with the child’s involvement. New rules may be put in place and old ones deactivated. Because there is open communication, the children understand that a rule for a toddler may not apply to a seven-year-old. Things are explained, not just declared. When a child feels he has been respected enough to be a part of the rule-making process, he has a stake in the household and is more likely to follow the rules.

Martial arts expert Dawn Callan, in Awakening the Warrior Within, talks about empowerment in our culture:

“Our entire education, beginning with our parents (even those with the best intentions), and including our schools and religious systems, has taught us who we ought to be, so that we fit the accepted mold, rather than supporting us to break the mold and be ourselves. We have been taught to be controlled rather than to have our own power.”

We want to try, as much as possible, to encourage and allow our children to express and use their power appropriately, without overpowering or disempowering others in the process. We want to work in partnership with our children and teach them to be in partnership with others. If we are to do this, we have to learn to do it ourselves.

Babies and toddlers rely on their parents’ and caregivers’ reactions to learn how to respond to uncertain situations. They observe their caregivers and learn about their environment through indirect experience. If a child leaves toddlerhood without trust in his caregivers and a healthy sense of his individuality and his personal power, problems can arise later on in adjusting to social situations.

2. Privacy

Privacy is an important part of Empowerment. Each child needs things his or her own that no one else, not even Mom or Dad, is allowed access to without permission. Knocking on doors and requesting permission to enter respects privacy. Manners such as “please” and “thank you,” “may I,” “good morning,” etc., practiced consistently by parents and taught with love from infancy, help reinforce dignity and respect for oneself and for others, an important part of Empowerment.

3. Choice Making

Previously I discussed choice making, another crucial aspect of Empowerment. Use every opportunity you can to help teach your children, 1) that there are many choices in any situation; 2) which choices lead to health and happiness, feeling of self-respect and dignity; 3) that they do not have the right to make choices for others; and 4) the consequences of choices can be far reaching.

There are endless opportunities for discussion of these topics. Television shows and/or news stories are filled with them. Point out what came before an act of violence or self-destruction, and ask kids what other choices that person may have had. Underscore the idea that we always have choices and can make nonviolent, life-enhancing choices in every situation.

4. Empower Your Children to Make Healthy Choices

Dealing with food gives us plenty of opportunities to learn about choice. When my kids were little, I would let them have a sugary treat, and then later, when they got grouchy and mean, I’d point out the connection. Then I would give them a protein snack (even just a spoonful of cottage cheese) and their dispositions would radically improve. I’d point out that it was the protein making them feel better.

Eventually, they became aware thane of their options when feeling grouchy was to have some cottage cheese, nut butter or other protein, and they would feel better. They also knew they might feel jittery and bad if they chose sweets. My son, of his own volition, stopped eating chocolate altogether because he hated the “hyper” way it made him feel. He knew this wasn’t the case for everybody; it wasn’t a value judgment.The choice was purely his, from his own experience. I helped him discover the connection, and he took it from there.

5. Share Your Own Choice-Making Process

Be sure to share your own choice-making dilemmas with your kids. As they get older, ask for their opinion. Let them know clearly that you are making your own decision, but you are interested in what they think — that way they won’t feel responsible for your decisions. Then tell them what you decided and how you came to it. Show them how you get more information when you feel you don’t have enough to make a good decision. Always maintain your dignity in the role of parent, and your own personal power. It is a huge mistake to turn that power over to your kids. They want you to have already figured out some of this! They need a strong model to show them how to make appropriate choices and to point out the consequences to them.

6. Empower Your Children to Care for Others

Have the older children help take care of the younger ones. I’ll never forget how common it was in India to see a nine-year-old with a baby on his hip, and how rare it is in Western cultures for siblings to “mother” one another. This can be taught in many ways, and changed as the children grow older. An older child can massage a baby. It helps them bond and helps the older child realize this new being is a real person, a brother or sister, to be loved and protected. They can imitate your techniques, but keep it simple, with easy rubbing motions. They love getting massage oil on their hands and feeling grown-up in the way they care for the baby.

Older children can push the baby in a stroller, pull a wagon with a toddler in it, (with supervision, of course), help pick out baby items at the supermarket, or help feed the little ones. As a baby grows, the sibling bond becomes stronger, the baby is more fun to play with, and they become both friends and rivals.

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7. Teach and Model Empathy

I suggest having fairly strict rules in place about hitting, such as “in our family we never hit each other.” This statement of rules should always be given with “sinking power” — first ground yourself, relax, get powerful from your very core, and deliver the directive, eye to eye, in a way that says it is non-negotiable. This can be a powerful message that sets the stage for nonviolent conflict resolution later on.

Teaching children to respond with empathy to a younger child’s distress helps them learn to behave more selflessly later on. You can extend this outside the home, and have children help in charitable activities that have a direct and positive impact on those in need, such as visiting the elderly, making deliveries for a food bank, and raising money for charitable causes. Research has shown that children who learn to care about others and are involved, even in small ways, in helping others in need, are at a lower risk of developing depression later.

Children who learn to be empathic (to feel another’s pain and want to help them) — and learn to stand up for what they believe — perform better in adult life in their work and social lives. On the other hand, kids who are raised being disciplined by physical violence, force, humiliation, embarrassment, or withdrawal of love grow up having great difficulty feeling compassion for others. Every man who batters his wife has a skewed view of his actions; he usually believes she deserves it and it is “for her own good” (this also goes for parents who beat their kids). It is minimized in his mind because when he saw it done as a child, or when he was a victim of violence, he was told it was not abuse, it was discipline — or else he was lied to — “Mommy fell and broke her arm.” Most abusers don’t even realize their behavior is antisocial or wrong because overpowering and disempowering control was so normal in the homes of their childhood.

© 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.

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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© 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

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.

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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

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What I Changed for the Sake of My Kids | Wendy Bradford.

“Softer” is a way of being, of parenting, of thinking that I learned to embrace over this past year. I had to. For years, I had been tightly wound around the idea that rigidity and harshness were my best options in dealing with my kids.”

PARENTING WITH PRINCIPLE TWO: SLOW DOWN Part Three

Principle Two with Babies

If you have learned how to slow down by the time your baby arrives, you will have the time of your life. Your baby’s infancy will be filled with magic, with moments that turn into hours, just watching him or her being. But there are a lot of responsibilities that come with a new baby and, particularly if you also have other children, life can get even more action packed after all the drama of childbirth has passed, the relatives have gone home, the spouse has returned to work, and hormones begin adjusting to a new body structure, nursing or not.

Move slowly through your day, or make a couple of two-hour spots a time to move in slow motion. Learn yoga’s “Mountain Pose” — when you are standing, make your feet hip-width apart. Press your feet into the floor so that you stand evenly on the soles of your feet, relax your toes, so that your body is in total balance. Make your legs so that the muscles of your thighs “hug” the bones; pull in your belly, relax your shoulders. Breathe deeply, slowly. You will find that your attention is focused, you move with your baby purposefully, breathing in and enjoying every moment. Siblings will eventually learn (without really knowing) to move with you and that you don’t react or become frazzled by their demands.

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Fathers can play an integral role in learning to practice Principle Two with a new baby. Dads, don’t wait for an invitation to get involved with the care of your baby. At the hospital or birthing center or at home, during the first few days, allow the new mom to rest. Don’t let well-meaning aunts or grandmothers push you out of the way. Ask the nurses or midwives how to change, burp, take the temperature, and bathe your baby. If you and your partner have agreed, learn how to feed the baby (even breastfed babies can occasionally accept breast milk from a bottle). If your partner complains about the way you do things, don’t be defensive. Ask her to show you how she does it, and thank her. As one dad said, “After a while she’ll get tired of being the ‘baby boss’ and will relinquish more control to you.” Studies have shown that a father’s sensitive caregiving leads to a secure bond with his infant and that a warm, gratifying marital relationship supports a father’s involvement with his baby.

Fathers can walk, rock, sing to, dance with, read to, and massage their babies as well as do maintenance activities like feeding, changing, and bathing. Many people don’t realize that fathers, too, have “parenting hormones” that are activated by close contact with your baby, for your own well being as well as theirs. Slow down for the times you are with your baby; breathe deeply and move in slow motion.

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FROM THE TAO OF MOTHERHOOD:

There is no natural pouring-forth

that lasts forever. When it rains,

it stops. The wind blows,

and then it ceases.

Learn to use your words wisely,

to communicate rather than to lecture.

Speak your truth, state your feelings,

then stop.Your actions, in silence,

speak louder and will be heard.

Teach your children this:

A human being is greater than

a human doing.

Purchase THE TAO OF MOTHERHOOD:

http://www.amazon.com/Tao-Motherhood-Vimala-McClure/dp/1608680134?ref_=pe_584750_33951330

© 2015 Vimala McClure

Link

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting: A Year of Baby Steps to a Happier Family | Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources.

It’s been said that it takes twenty-one days to make or break a habit and that change comes easiest and lasts longest when it’s undertaken in small, bite-sized chunks.

PARENTING WITH PRINCIPLE TWO: SLOW DOWN

Slowing down seems contradictory to family life in Western cultures, particularly in the U.S., and especially if we have more than one child. But if you can learn to consciously slow the pace when you feel it going out of bounds, your family life will be easier, more fun, relaxed, and happy.

“As young children we were full of life, always playing or running around with our friends. We would turn from one activity to another with endless enthusiasm. Games of hide-and-seek were an opportunity for unlimited imagination, exploration, and curiosity. It seemed we never got bored or tired of whatever we were doing in the moment. For the most part, our childhoods were an endless series of positive feelings — joy, laughter, curiosity, surprise, confidence, and adventure. We had not learned yet to worry, to hold grudges, or to have regrets about the past. Most young children, in fact, are generally unstressed, full of awe and curiosity, and rarely bored. Most have enormous amounts of energy, are unconditionally loving, and seem to have boundless energy that make adults envy their innocent approach to life. These uncontaminated children live from a state of mind that we practitioners of Psychology of Mind like to call mental health. They live naturally in the moment.”
From: Carlson, Richard; Bailey, Joseph (2009-10-13). Slowing Down to the Speed of Life: How To Create a Peaceful, Simpler Life F (p. 4). HarperCollins.
As adults we still have the capacity for mental health, but we have been socialized into the busy ways of Western culture, and many of us have grown serious, analytical, stressed, depressed, and unimaginative. Beginning when we reach age five or six, and steadily progressing into adulthood, our experience of mental health declines. This decline seems to correspond with our propensity to use memory and analytical thinking more often as we get older and our creative, in-the-moment thinking less often.

When we slow down, we tap into a peaceful feeling that permeates our entire being and way of life. Rather than constantly feeling rushed, hurried, and frustrated, we feel calm, joyful, and curious. Bad things still happen when we slow down, but they never look as bad as when we’re speeded up.
As the mind slows down, we are able to see life much more clearly. We have many of the same issues to contend with, but they look different. Rather than appearing to be emergencies that are smothering us, they look like issues that need resolving or opportunities in disguise.
Feelings are a mechanism to let us know when our minds are operating too quickly and when it’s time to slow down. Just as a timer goes off to signal that dinner is ready, an internal buzzer goes off when you are thinking in an unhealthy way. If you listen to these feelings and trust what they are trying to tell you, you will begin to experience the peace and joy of your mental health. Never again will life seem like such an emergency!

The 12 Slow Habits to Help You Create a Slower Family Life

Wake Up. Practice waking up every single day to see the beauty in your life.
Release. Embrace the idea of letting go of what is not working for you any longer to create more time for what you love.
Reframe. Accept that your busy life is your beautiful life and start telling yourself a different story about how you are living.
Focus. Aim for a distraction-free life where you always try to do one thing or nothing at all.
Go Slowly. Forget rushing through and start lingering more in all areas of your day.
Do Less. Understand that the only way to have more time for the good stuff is to do less of the other stuff.
Plug-in. Reject the notion that you need to unplug and start intentionally plugging in to be more efficient with your time and life.
Unstructured. Create more free time in your family’s day to allow the wow moments to evolve and multiply.
Go Quiet. Quiet your mind and feel time expand in the process.
Savor. Take time to appreciate every little detail around you.
Abundance. Start seeing time for what it is — something to be thankful for in your life.
Make Space. Carve out physical, mental and emotional space in your life for the things you want more of in your day.

You Will Learn:

  1. To slow down and enjoy each moment.
  2. That slowing down doesn’t involve major changes in your lifestyle.
  3. That contrary to conventional wisdom, your productivity will actually increase when you slow down.
  4. That other people’s habits, attitudes, behaviors, and moods don’t have to affect the quality of your day or the speed of your life.
  5. That even though people around you or your work setting may be rushed and stressed, you can maintain a calm in the midst of their storm.
  6. That by slowing down, you will be far more prepared for the unexpected.
  7. That ordinary moments can become extraordinary.
  8. That even life’s most serious circumstances and events don’t have to be taken so seriously.
  9. That the best preparation for the future is to live your life fully in the present.
  10. That you can finally get the satisfaction you’ve been striving for.
  11. That, finally, you can be happy!

Principle Two in Pregnancy

For a woman, from the beginning of pregnancy, slowing down is a must; the energy you produce within your body is going directly through your baby’s body via the placenta. What I mean by “energy” is the life force, which the Chinese call chi and the Indians call prana, that circulates throughout your body — body your physical body and your more subtle psychic or mental body. The energy flowing through your body helps to regulate your glandular system, which produces hormones through your endocrine system. the more rapid, harried, or frenzied your energy, the more stress hormones you send through your body. If that type of energy is chronic, you are likely to chronically stress your baby, to the point where the baby’s body recognizes this type of energy as normal, and will continue producing it after birth.

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Noted physicist Dr. Bruce Lipton says,

“It is important to note that individual events of parental anger and fear do not necessarily distort the physiology of the developing child. It is specifically chronic, or continuously held emotions that prove to be detrimental during pregnancy. For example, women who sustain physical and emotional abuse during their pregnancy represent situations where adverse environmental cues surrounding the birth of the child can be passed on to the offspring. These are cases of repeated, or patterned, abuses which is entirely distinct from parents that express a transient occasional spat or emotional peak.”
Dr. Lipton’s work has focused on how a mother’s emotional experiences affect an unborn baby’s development via biochemical “signal” molecules that are released into the blood (which passes through the placenta) and activate specific receptor proteins on the surfaces of cells in tissues and organs. These serve as molecular “switches” that adjust the metabolic system and behavior of the infant. So it is important that prospective parents realize they are programming their baby, even before birth, through the chronic emotional states they experience.
Stress hormones such as cortisol chronically circulating throughout the body eventually have devastating effects on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. As women, we must understand the importance of how our energy affects our infants. To stay in what may be our own addiction to stress and drama is to deny this connection. As Dr. Lipton says, “Sustained parental anger and fear compromise the child’s development and health, as the emotional stresses chemically impact on the fetus.”
If there truly are circumstances we cannot control that put us in emotional situations, such as grief over the loss of a loved one, the key is to be sensitive to the fact that both you and your infant are going through this process together. Both of you need care, attention, and the awareness, not denial, that this stress affects both of you, and measures should be taken to slow it down and bring healing energy to it as much as possible. As Dr. Lipton says, “It should be noted that behavioral consequences of children exposed to negative or destructive attitudes during their prenatal development can be psychologically reversed, once the issues are recognized.”
The job of the baby’s father is to help you slow down and relax. This requires a lot of communication about what these concepts mean to each of you, and what is helpful and what is not. For example, criticizing a woman for not slowing down is usually not helpful. Asking if he can do tasks she usually does to help lighten her load is helpful. In addiction, learning to slow down is very helpful for the baby’s father if he is to be an integral part of his child’s life. In order to truly be with children of any age, we all must have the ability to slow ourselves down and relax into the present moment, because that is where our children live.
Practicing Controlled Belly Breathing every day during your pregnancy will help (see Principle Two, Part One). A childbirth education class should also help you, provided your teacher is aware of the more spiritual aspects of your new journey and your “coach” is a willing participant who is capable of helping to both calm and empower you. If your partner has a hard time doing this, consider getting a birthing coach. If you choose to do this, take care not to disempower the baby’s father, and be sure to include him as a member of the team so that all the bases are covered. Dad could take the role of family communicator and picture taker; getting ice chips, holding the mother’s hand, and so on. Dad and the birth coach could take turns. Make the decisions together, so everyone feels good about them.

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If you are a soon-to-be father, be sure to slow down and relax yourself so you can help your partner get through the birth more smoothly. If you can remain unruffled, and not take your partner’s expressions of fear or anger personally, you can be her rock — and believe me, she will be very grateful for it later.

Slowing Down Your Body

To slow down your body during pregnancy, do stretching exercises and squats, deep breathing, meditation, or prayer. Maintain a diet of fresh, life-enhancing foods, and practice deep relaxation to help slow down the body and mind. There are many CDs that are expressly for this purpose and can guide you through a total deep relaxation. These are all part of your job as a “grower nursery” for this new being, and will also help prepare you for the experience of giving birth. You will learn to nurture yourself and to take care of your body, mind, and spirit in a better way than before — in other words, you will have incorporated Principle Two into your life.

Pregnancy can also help you learn how to deal with day-to-day change. Your body changes, your relationships change, what you think about and are interested in changes. Tai Chi teacher Chungliang Al Huang, in his book Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain, says,

“Part of our everyday conflict is how to cope with change and how to be happy with the constant. We are usually bored with the constant and frightened by change. Moving slowly, breathing slowly, turning everything into slow motion for a while each day helps us remember the balance of these two seeming opposites.”

© 2015 Vimala McClure

PRINCIPLE TWO: SLOW DOWN — Part Two

THE OPPOSITE

When you forget to slow down, you react to whatever comes your way according to how you feel at the moment. You rush through your days, trying to be the thousand-armed Goddess or the unstoppable Hercules. You yell at your children while you struggle with your pantyhose or shave, because you are late for work or school, the phone is ringing, and you need to remind your spouse to pick up the dry cleaning; you throw food toward the dog’s bowl, clothes in the washer, and then forget your keys — and that’s only the start of your day.

You are always doing several things at once, with a nagging feeling that your soul, your spiritual being, is waiting on “hold,” and a festering fear that it may finally give up and hang up on you. Any spare moments are spent worrying about the future (that doesn’t exist) or fuming about the pst (that no longer exists) or making lists of how to make tomorrow even more stress-packed than today, so that you can finally get it all done and relax. But you are operating under the fallacy that it will all get done, and deep down inside, you know it.

In your heart, you may be terrified of relaxing. What if all those things from the past and future come up for review, tighten you up, and destroy your relaxation and connection to Spirit? So, to convince yourself you are relaxing, you schedule a grueling weekend of sports, yard work, projects, or entertaining that completely wear you out, just in time to start all over again Monday.

This may be an exaggeration for some people, but for many, unfortunately, it is not. Even if it is only partly true for you, the concept of what is not Principle Two is within your reach, within your own experience. Something I heard once has always stayed with me: If you are trying to do or be something, you are not actually doing or being it. So forget trying. Slow down. Literally. It is not a metaphor.

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See what happens if, just for one week, one day, or one hour, you slow down as if your personal movie — including your thoughts, emotions, and speech — has gone into slow motion. This slowing down has nothing to do with depression or low energy. Just slow the pace while keeping your energy positive and your head up. Allow people to notice how slow you are, and even to get impatient with you. See what happens.

Keep a journal at night, documenting the times when you slow down. At first, they may bring pain, inconvenience, and confusion. But toward the end, you will realize more about how you can incorporate this principle into your life. If you can find time to just sit alone, without fretting, and simply be who you are and face the fear that aloneness and quiet may bring, you have gotten it.

Principle Two is not rushing through the grocery checkout lane without noticing the clerk who is working hard to provide you with food and who may not be having such a great day. It is not “road rage” — the internal emotional combustion of being behind a slow-moving vehicle and wishing harm to the driver. It is not diapering your baby without making eye contact. As someone once said, “Accept the limitations of the day.”

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The Consequences of Rushing

Another way to increase your understanding of Principle Two is to look at your life for a week — say, the past week, if you weren’t rushing so fast you don’t remember it — and list all the elements of it that are not Principle Two. Then list the potential consequences of those things. For example, the potential consequence of road rage is an accident, which could cost you even more time, energy, and resources, and possibly physical, mental, and emotional pain. The potential consequence (scientifically documented) of not making eye contact with your baby is that your child will grow up unable to connect with others, and may distrust you, having never felt the love in your eyes, the windows of your soul, during the most intimate moments of your child’s infancy, at the time when all imprinting occurs. Again, the loss of this connection costs you both more time, energy, money, and physical, mental, and emotional pain down the road.

Observe an expert doing Tai Chi. Notice the slowness and deliberation of the movements, and the awareness that encompasses every movement. How can this type of awareness be brought to your everyday life?

Choosing the Speed of Your Life

In American society today, and in many others around the world, from the moment a child is of an age to do so, he or she is trained to rush, to hurry, to do, to produce, to win, to excel, to achieve. Many of these things aren’t bad in themselves. It’s when rushing, hurrying, and achieving become requirements of life that we must question why. It is when earning one’s very place as a being on this earth, regardless of personal tragedy or hardship, is normative, that we must begin to rethink what it means to be here.

Think about the speed of your life, and whether it feels comfortable to you or not. Each person has a different comfort zone. Some need more stimulation than others. This is the difference between Tai Chi and aerobics. In an aerobics class everyone moves together, on-and-two. In Tai Chi, the key to finding chi, the flow that makes it possible to do the movements correctly, is to find your own rhythm, your own internal pace and power. It is a continuous flow. A group of people doing Tai Chi properly will not be in perfect synchronization. The idea is to ask yourself if there are times in your day when you can slow down. Controlled belly breathing (described in previous posts), morning and night, can help, and increasing our awareness always helps us to control our thoughts and behavior.

It Takes Practice

When you get some time to yourself,  practice slowing down. Relaxing (Principle One) and slowing down (Principle Two) are natural mates, so both can be accomplished at once. Some ideas:

  • Do gentle, slow yoga regularly.

  • Practice Tai Chi if you can.

  • Use traffic slow-downs to help slow you down internally.

  • Wake up slowly. Get a CD player that will automatically turn on and play music or gentle sounds to wake you up gently and remind you to do your breathing, prayers, or mediation, and to move slowly. It is worth getting up fifteen minutes earlier, rather than jumping out of bed and rushing off.

  • In many parts of India, bathing is a slow-down ritual. After bathing, a prayer or song is given to the direction of the sunrise. Try it. See if you can come up with an after-shower ritual that feels uncontrived and helps you slow down and acknowledge your connection with the larger universe before beginning your day. Perhaps an affirmation or prayer, followed by greeting your sacred self in the mirror with something like they say in India, “Namaste” (meaning, “I bow to the divinity within”).

  • Use cooking time, if you cook, to slow down. Chopping vegetables is a great mini-slow-down break.

  • If you have a baby, use diapering or massage as slow-down time, and connect emotionally and spiritually with your child. With older children, a bedtime ritual is often the best slow-down time you have. Light a candle, say a prayer, look into the eyes of your child and say, “I love you,” in your own special way.

  • Use one of your breaks at work for a slow-down ritual such as Tai Chi, yoga, or simply sitting in the bathroom behind closed doors, doing five minutes of controlled belly breathing. Rather than making yourself stop moving, consciously allow your movements to subside and your body to relax.

It is my hope that Principle Two will stay with you and give you a refuge to go to during times of stress. It can prepare you for the natural slowing down that comes with growing older, and, rather than creating a sense of being useless, slowing down will bring you an experience of peace and oneness that many monastics strive for all their lives.

Next: Parenting With Principle Two: Principle Two in Pregnancy

© 2015 Vimala McClure