A Few Ideas That May Help
A friend said she would like to share my ideas regarding children and family. This is really quite challenging. On the one hand the issues are so personal and so diverse. On the other hand, there are a few simple things that will guide anyone in the best possible way through the entire adventure.
- Celebrate parenting as developmental stage of expansion and growth for YOU
You will be challenged to discover new things about yourself in the same way your child is discovering who and what they are. Embrace this precious opportunity. Appreciate the value of being open and vulnerable. If you think you have all the answers, that the child should be this or that, at this age or that stage, you are not learning. You are repeating, not discovering, not expanding. Rediscover wonder and curiosity that not knowing everything invites. Greet each day with what some call ‘beginner’s mind.’
- Focus on your behavior instead of the child’s
Appreciate that your ‘behavior’ is the knife that sculpts your child’s destiny. For example, how you treat the people you care for, how gentle or rough you are packing or unpacking groceries, how sensitive and aware you are preparing meals, the tone of your voice, the quality of affection or violence in the way you touch anything, the weight of your heart - light or heavy, full of song and laughter or conflict and frustration, day in and day out, moment by moment. Treat you child as an honored guest, leading with sensitive care and respect, much more important than the Pope or President.
- View your relationship with your child as a spiritual practice
By spiritual I mean conscious, steady and sure expressions of only the very best you can be at everything; what you think, feel, say and do, because they are watching, sensing, resonate with what you actually are and what they actually are, the model that you represent, to a great extent will shape what they become. By focusing on being your best, your children will naturally, without punishments or rewards, without comparison or coercion, do the same, be the best they can be naturally because that is the way the world for them is.
- Be passionately aware of the negative impact our social identity has on human development
This is perhaps the greatest challenge you face as a parent. We are not the social-image we think we are. What we call personality or ego is a coping mechanism or strategy to navigate the painful threats that culture, and that means parents, represent. In optimum states of learning and performance 100% of our attention is invested in the experience, leaving no attention to worry about how we look in the eyes of others, ‘what will they think of me?’ The greater our concerns regarding the score, wining, competing, needing approval of extended family, school, the less present we are and that means the less able we are to learn and grow fully and completely. For example, when the glass of milk is tipped, don’t say, ‘Look what you did.’ Say, oh my, look at the mess the milk is making.’ In this simple way, day in and day out you lessen the energy and attention that feeds the defensive social ego, the source of greed and violence. Expanding this theme, be aware that much if not most of what we call parenting is conditioning the child to conform to social-cultural norms and expectations. The child’s natural innate intelligence and capacity is far more expansive than the limitations and constraints imposed by a particular culture. One can help the child appreciate and respect the values of others without identifying and domesticating one’s identity to please the needs of others, including and most importantly your needs to be approved of by the surrounding culture. In this way you help your child become a citizen of humanity, the entire world with its vast and diverse species, instead of identifying and conforming to the neighborhood gang.
- Learn about and remain in tune with the ages and stages of human development
Each age and stage represents a different reality. It is the adult’s responsibility to rediscover the age-and-stage-specific reality the child is in and to meet the child in that unique reality. How can a child possibly trust and respect an adult who fails to do this? It is ever so clear to them that they are NOT being seen for who and what they actually are.
- Seek the company, understanding and support of a like-minded community
It does take a village or at least a few people who share your core values to raise a healthy, sane child. This is especially challenging if your heart demands that you raise your children in ways that others feel is wrong, neglectful, irresponsible and even dangerous. Having a home birth is one example. Other examples are choosing not to vaccinate, home schooling, and unschooling, not circumcising, and extended breastfeeding, not watching TV or playing brain numbing computer games. There are many others. All of these are pressures culture imposes demanding conformity through rejection first of the parent by the mediocre norm and through the parent pressuring the child to be the mediocre rather than the miracle nature designed.
- Rediscover the natural genius children call play
Life is a miracle and play is the way this miracle expresses, expands and develops. Without play life is mechanical, repetitive and dull. Every child is born into optimum state of learning and performance, what every child calls play. When adulterated adults rediscover this optimum state their relationship with the child, at any age, becomes in sync. Conflict disappears while discovery and co-learning expands.Realize that the original play state is universal and applies equally to Einstein, Mozart and great performers in sports and the arts, not to mention your cat, your six month old and teenager. Competition implies fear and fear siphons away and wastes precious energy and attention necessary to be our personal best moment by moment. By watching you gather this play-full energy and attention and invest it in true creativity instead of fear and worry each day, you child learns easily and naturally to do the same. This energy and attention is the difference that makes the difference in a mundane life or the miracle nature gifted each of us. Life and especially what we call thought and consciousness is creative play in action. To treat it otherwise is a grand and near universal delusion.
- Touch and move a lot
We miss so much of our life in a foggy day dream, the millions and billions of thoughts we have each day. During the critical early stages of a child’s life, and that means humanity’s future, this foggy day dreaming translates into ‘not here,’ to the child, not unlike having a conversation with a friend who is texting. The relationship is disassociated and that is what the child experiences. Shut up, be present, available and stress free as much as possible. Communicate with your body. Affectionately touch and carry your little treasures as much as possible.
- Tell stories and more stories
Imagination IS more important than knowledge and the only way to grow and expand developing imagination is with story, words that create pictures in the child’s mind. Animated pictures on a screen suck all the descriptive words, the imagination building nutrients, out of the experience bypassing the symbolic and metaphoric centers of the brain which are infinitely more complex than the visual center. When asked how to produce the greatest scientists in the world, Einstein remarked, tell them fairytales. Calculus is the mathematical study of change, in the same way that geometry is the study of shape. Both are abstract languages. The foundation for entering into and playing with abstract symbols and metaphors is story. NOT Disney or DreamWorks.
- Limit screen time, including social media and so called games in the first decade
What? You must think I’m crazy. Study after study dating back to television and the advertised early learning advantages of Sesame Street and Baby Einstein revealed that the children who spend the most time with media developed the least. Experiences up to age ten and eleven determine to a large extent the capacities developed for one’s lifetime. In terms of real development the 5,000 to 8,000 hours the average child spends with screens can be viewed as one experience, with a device. Forget all the ‘content’ they are supposed to be ‘learning.’ Children only retain 3% to 5% of all the nonsense we feed them in school. Why do you think computers are any different? And all that screen time displaces the full spectrum of other experiences - running, climbing trees, building things and singing, feeling the grass, watching the clouds, discovering that they are nature. The other real harm is the way interacting with technology increases narcissism, compulsive attention to one’s social image rather than developing altruistic feelings of empathy and compassion. The foundations for this are set during the very early years. Shoot the TV and don’t give your children mobile-mini-computer babysitters, which means, yes, you have to be interesting, imaginative, creative and engaging. After eleven let them have it.
- Appreciate that each moment of your life is a precious gift
Don’t allow the Niagara Falls of habitual and reflexive thought-feelings to dull your direct experience. The quieter you are inside the more alive and vivid your experiences and relationships will be. Intellect, all the things we think about, is not intelligence. With sensitive, attuned presence, most often the less ‘thinking and talking’ going on inside the more intelligence we express outside, especially with children.
- Take advantage and share the resources available at Touch the Future’ Academy
Wisdom is timeless. I have been reaching out and exploring what it means to raise healthy and sane children in a crazy world with some of the world’s most passionate and insightful authors and researchers. Each in their own way builds on these basic ideas. The more time you spend exploring these resources the more clear and obvious these principles become. The journey is exponential. Each new insight multiplies your understand and wisdom tenfold. Personally I would view and review the entire Joseph Chilton Pearce Library. Joseph Chilton Pearce is original, unique. No one has done what Joe has done: passionately and incisively exploring a view of near limitless human potential and the self-imposed limitations that inhibit and block that unfolding, describing both and how they relate.
PS. These are in addition to the suggestions offered in Magical Parent Magical Child. For more on this visit The Classroom in The Academy. Everyone is welcome.
Principle 1: Being Attentive to Being (The Model Imperative)
Adults often focus exclusively on their agenda, ignoring the actual state of their relationship. Being Attentive to Being includes both agenda and state. Bringing greater attention to the moment demands greater awareness and sensitivity. Being more present is a profound change in state, one that is less reflexive, less mechanical. Capacity expands with greater attention. Our lives and our relationships become multidimensional.
Principle 2: Safe Enough to Play (Protecting, Belonging, the Safe Place)
The phrase unconditional love describes this complete psychological safety, acceptance, and feeling of belonging. To love others unconditionally one must accept and love oneself unconditionally. Easily said, for most, and very difficult to do. We compare, judge, justify, and defend ourselves and others constantly. The Zone, state of Flow, and original Play exist in those rare moments when we feel Safe Enough to Play.
Principle 3: Invite the Unexpected (Suspending Assumptions)
To discover anything new, one must set aside or suspend the old. Again, this is easily said and often very difficult to do. We “assume” today will be pretty much like yesterday. Our relationship to the world, and just about everything in it, including our children, is based on thousands of assumptions. Intelligence, however, is fluid, dynamic, at times messy, chaotic, unpredictable. Assumptions regarding what should and should not be are, at close examination, only rough guides when dealing with intelligent, dynamic living systems, children for example. Expecting the unexpected holds our assumptions as propositions not absolutes, and this brings greater levels of adaptive creativity, reduces stress and is much more intelligent than conflict.
Principle 4: Take Your Cues from the Child
“Take your cues from the child” (or the environment) is the golden rule for Optimum Learning Relationships. To do so adults must develop deep observing and listening skills. They must become sensitive to the outward expressions a child makes and also to the ever-changing flow of inner states. Meeting children with our fixed assumptions is a betrayal of their and our own true nature. Every few days the child is born again, transformed. Emerging capacities shift his or her reality from the physical to the emotional to the increasingly abstract. In part one we outlined the different ages and stages of child development and what cues may be found for each. These general guides help adults adjust their expectations and expressions to match the developmental needs and capacities of the emerging child.
Principle 5: Respond Deeply & Completely (The Art of Listening & Observing)
Our first four principles cultivate and gather attention. We are more aware of our state of being. We feel safe enough to play and extend our “safe place” to include the child. We suspend our agenda and invite the unexpected. We listen, observe, and take our cues from the child rather than superimposing our agenda on the moment. Each of these playful practices demands greater attention, and this increased attention literally transform us and our relationships, that moment. For what, you ask? For a deep and complete response to the world and all its challenges. Real transformation of ourselves and our relationships unfolds in the response we make to this present moment.
Principle 6: Imagine
Einstein knew that imagination was more important than knowledge. He understood that our greatest discoveries and most profound works of art are created and refined first in the inner world we call imagination. Far from being a waste of time, the daydreams and fantasies of childhood build the foundation for all higher learning. Yet, imagination is rarely developed. The model imperative holds true for imagination as it does for all other capacities. Children need a well-developed adult model and enriched, challenging environment. No external model or environmental challenge, no development. Imagination allows us to step out of our habits and meet each moment with fresh, creative intelligence and this most often express as play.
Principle 7: Renew
This moment has never been before. Do we meet it with the same old pattern or with the wonder, excitement, and growth we felt as a child? Each of our principles: being attentive to being (the model imperative), safe enough to play (protecting, belonging, the safe place), inviting the unexpected (suspending assumptions), taking our cues from the child (the art of listening and observing), responding deeply and completely (authentic feelings and needs), and imagining, create a “crack” in our habits of body and mind. With that crack we become, if only for a moment, less mechanical. As if stepping foot into some new, unknown territory, we recognize that energy is there. We are attentive, alert, and curious. All our attention, and vast intelligence, is gathered, ready to meet, learn and be transformed by the moment, deeply and completely. And what strange creature do we find? A changing reflection of ourselves and of the entire species, the child or children we love, the future of humanity.