Saturday, July 12, 2014

How do I correct them "gently" without condoning bad behavior?

"If I don't come down hard on them and use fear, they will probably walk all over me.  I don't want to be one of those enabling parents, you know?  I don't want to create "entitlement monsters" (love that phrase that Kim John Payne used in a lecture once)."

Believe me--those have been our thoughts.  We care very much about raising conscious, conscientious kids.  (I am feeling less guilty about realizing that we also want to raise happy children.)  I want them to respect all life and live/experience true peace.

What are your family values?  This is an important part of the Simplicity Parenting work.  When I ask parents this question, I get blank looks sometimes.  It feels disarming not to immediately and easily connect with this root, and I paused for a long time considering it myself.  It's worth pondering this question.  Could you say "kindness?"  "Resilience?"  "Integrity?"  What kind of people are we striving to be, and what do we want for our children?  What made us want to have children in the beginning?  Really sit there long enough to find your compass.

Then we might wonder if we become an enabler of qualities that hinder these values.  It's a good question.

First to note is how kids learn: via imitation.  I influence more how my girls value the wide world by how I value it.  I offer peace whenever possible and lean on it.  They learn much more from how I am than by what I say.  This is good news!  It means I can be proactive rather than reactive, and it means I can work more on the plank in my own eye.

Second to note is that actual correction/teaching only happens in the safety of connection.  Children need to be free to rest in our love.  Let's look at lying.  When one of my children lies to me, I can share later how honesty helps people to be safe and at peace.  I can even share with her all the trouble that lies can bring (calmly so she can actually process the conversation, away from all fear of rejection, later after any incident that might have occurred). Erupting at a lie and putting her in fear-mode short circuits any capacity she might actually have of understanding.  It ruins any prefrontal cortex activity that might be developing and instead triggers the reptilian, emotional brain.  Fight, flight or freeze.

(It also helps to know that lying or experimenting in that way is a common part of our mental development rather than just assuming we're simply wicked for going there.  Still, if I don't want to encourage my girls to hide things and lie about their own feelings and actions, I have to make room for their transformations with unconditional love and acceptance.)

Here are a few words from Gordon Neufeld:

Just because we don't explode, doesn't mean we link up arm in arm with vice.  Strong leadership and presence doesn't have to be angry or adversarial.  It's constant and unconditional.  It's love.

I may or may not address the meritocracy issue of deserving punishment.  That's a hard one to tackle depending on one's vantage point as regards faith or religion.  I could say plenty from my own worldview, but I hate to steer too far from general experience.  Let me know if I should expand upon this theme sometime.

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