Coercive influence decreases over time. Relational influence increases over time.

August 24, 2019

Parenting that is based on a deep relationship of connection, communication and collaboration will always be more powerful, stable and resilient than relationships based on authority and control.
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The old parenting model that has been passed down throughout generations uses power, threats, punishment and consequences to modify behaviour of children to fit into expectations decided on by the parent. This is doomed to fail!
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I clearly remember the day that I realized I could take any punishment my parents could dish out and I would still do whatever I wanted. That was the day they lost their influence over me and, in a way, our relationship as well.
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When we try to restrict and control our children the likely result is that they will try and be more sneaky the next time they want to do something, rather than trust ua and come to us.
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When we say NO from a place of authority we aren’t treating them as human beings with feelings, needs and autonomy. Part of the problem with saying a hard NO is that it doesn’t take their very real needs into account. Often our children’s desire for autonomy will overrule their willingness to be obedient. This is when we get resistance and rebellion.
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The other option is that their sense of their power and free will gets crushed and they capitulate to our demands. This is also not desirable as they lose a part of who they are when this happens.
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Resistance and Compliance are two sides of the same coin. Neither are authentic expressions of their being. Neither are respect nor are they thinking and making well considered decisions.
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This is why a relationship based on communication, connection and collaboration is more stable and more resilient. Instead of saying NO, let’s look into what their needs are, let’s share what ours are and find out how we both can feel satisfied. This is collaboration, this is co-problem solving. When we engage them this way kids feel heard, they feel part of the decision making process, they feel their needs are important and valued.
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When looking at the parent-child relationship I talk about three main areas that we can focus on with our kids. They are Model, Guide and Friend. I will be writing much more about this in the near future.
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MODEL:
We know from experience, and I’m sure you have observed this, that kids learn way more from what we do and who we are than from anything we say.
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This means that if we use control and force to make them behave in ways that we want them to, this is what they learn human relationships are about, and this is what they will reflect back to us.
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If however, we treat them with respect and work together to try and make sure everybody’s needs are met, then this is what they learn human relationships are about.
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This is why the modeling is so important, because if we model to them respect and kindness, they will naturally learn to model that back to us. Even if we aren’t always able to meet everyone’s needs, and of course we won’t always be able to, the consistent effort is what they will see. I often say that parents are sacred mirrors and that’s why we have this great opportunity to reflect the deepest and most profound aspects of human nature and relationship.
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The hard part, of course, is that this requires us to reflect upon ourselves. We have to be continuously asking, are we engaging with them in a way that reflects how we want them to engage with us? This is not a very popular thing because it requires a lot of change, a lot of growth and a lot of self-evaluation.
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GUIDE:
The second relationship is guide. We might encounter a guide perhaps when we’re hiking or we’re doing some rock climbing. The guide is the person who has been there before and shares with us their experience. They show us where it’s safe to put our feet, where the slippery spots are and where the danger areas are. They are primarily concerned with imparting the knowledge that will help keep us safe so that we can have the highest quality experience possible.
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If we are to be our children’s guides, it makes sense for us to inspire them to trust our guidance. If they don’t trust our guidance, then it’s very likely they will not listen to it. This means that when we guide them their consistent experience is that their lives are better for it, they feel good about the experience and they feel closer to us as a result. They feel safe, seen and accepted. It is very much the same with adults, if you don’t trust the person who’s guiding you, you’re going to have a hard time listening to what they say.
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This is why guiding from a place of empathy, kindness, understanding, patience and connection is always going to be more effective. As soon as we lose their trust in our guidance we either lose our influence or we have to use force, which has a limited lifespan and degrades our relationship with them.
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The guide also teaches important principles like collaboration and problem solving. For example if kids want to do something and we don’t want them to, instead of saying NO, it will be more effective to see if there’s a way we can say yes, even if it means being creative together and changing it to something a little bit different that works for everyone. Again it is the effort to turn a NO into a YES that helps children trust our intentions and keep coming to us.
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When this relationship is well established they will be much more willing to go along with the alternate idea which also takes our needs into account. This is what guiding is all about.
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FRIENDSHIP:
The friendship aspect is really important because it is the foundation of the other relationships. A lot of the time we hear parents say, “I’m not your friend, I’m your parent.” The problem with that is we’re trying to set up an authoritative relationship which definitely degrades over time.
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One of my sayings is:
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“Coercive influence decreases over time.
Relational influence increases over time.”
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The friendship aspect is the one that demonstrates to them that we see them as human beings, that we hold their feelings and needs as equally important as ours. It is showing them that we value their experience and their wisdom as much as we want them to value ours.
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It’s the mutuality that inspires kids to be more open to us. When the teaching/guiding/power flows all one way or mostly one way, they do not feel a respect for their humanity. They will naturally set up protective patterns and close themselves from us, which is the opposite of what we want.
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Friendship doesn’t mean “just do whatever you want”. We have the Guide and Model relationships to counteract that. Any one of these three relationships on their own might not be enough to create the kind of stable working relationship, living relationship and loving relationship that we want with our kids.
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Putting them all together however, creates a beautiful harmonious system that encourages everyone to work together, cooperate and care about each other’s needs.

Let Us Treat Our Children as Equals

February 21, 2019

“And I try to laugh
At whatever life brings
Cause when I look down
I just miss all the good stuff
When I look up
I just trip over things”
-Ani Difranco – As is

I love Ani Difranco. I took my daughter to see her when she was like 10 years old I think. @Rachel Feliz I remember you were at that concert.

At one point Ani forgot the words to her own song. She was so cool about it. She asked the audience to remind her and we all sang together. It was such a beautiful moment.

It felt like a unity in that concert hall. Her profound acceptance of herself drew us all in. We became one.

The kid and I talked about it for quite a while afterward. It made an impression on us both. I always like to follow up any experience we have. The follow up is a great way to establish a fun co-exploring co-learning relationship.

“Remember when Ani forgot the lyrics the other day. I loved that moment. I want to feel that comfortable with who I am and with my mistakes.”

“Ya me too!”

We are together.
Neither of us look up or down at each other.
There is no hierarchy between us.

This is still an uncommon thing, to relate to kids with no hierarchy, but it is a growing awareness. We don’t have to be above our kids to guide them.

Part of our role as guides is to help them learn (I say help learn instead of teach) deep values, life skills, communication and relationship skills, emotional regulation and expression skills… and the list goes on.

We can help them learn these important things and still hold them as our equals. We can work with them non-coercively. Engage with them collaboratively and cooperatively.

The thing about having a hierarchy between us is we teach them one human is above another. It doesn’t matter what the reason is. If one person is above another then one person is below.

We almost force them into looking up and down at people. Not up as in admiring a positive role model. This is up as in, I’m not as good. I’m not worthy. I’ll never be successful. I’m not enough.

Looking down, thinking that someone else is on a lower level than you is such a dangerous thought. The reason for the lower status starts out because of the parent child dynamic, but it often manifests later judgment based on race, social status, gender, sexual preference and so on.

Once the mindset is set we are prone to looking for the up and down. The up and the down come together. That means we ourselves can never be okay. We’ll always be down because someone where out there someone is up. Someone is always above us.

How often do you see someone putting another person down (most often a child, but could be anyone) and it’s so clear they’re compensating for their own lack of self-worth and self-love. I see it every time I leave the house.

I DO IT every time I leave the house. Help me Divine one I’m trying, but I was raised traditionally so I am infected with the up down mindset. This is the source of so many of my insecurities. (sorry mom. It wasn’t your fault. I know it hurts, but I love you and you were doing your best.)

I want to spare my kid from that fate.
She knows in her bones we are equals.

Recently I asked her what it would feel like if I ever said “No” to her.

We both paused and there was a silence as we tried to imagine it. Neither of us could. We both shook our heads!

She then said that if I ever did say no to her that she’d trust it because I never say no to her and if I did say no to her I would have to have a really good reason.

I want to clarify that what I mean by “I don’t say no” is I don’t say no from a place of authority. Like I’m the parent and I’m saying No you can’t have a second bowl of ice cream before dinner.

That can only happen if one person has power over another. I worked very hard to not have authority over my daughter. The concepts of authority and equals do not dance together very well. Even now at 22 I still pay close attention to how we relate to each other. After over 2 decades of practice I still have to be vigilant.

Even though I don’t say no, sometimes I will say “I can’t” when it’s honest, which is very different from no.

However it’s true that most of the time I make an effort to say yes. In the early days my parenting I used to always practice “10 yeses for every no”.

I remember when my kid got too heavy for me to spin around. I used to have a bad back. I had a collection of back braces. Those who knew me in the early days of my dancing know how broken I was physically.

Fortunately now I’m much healthier and stronger. In those days however there came a point I just couldn’t lift her and spin her around. I had to say “I Can’t”.

We both felt the grief of the loss. We both were upset I had to say I can’t. We felt it together, I empathized and spoke it out loud. Once we had travelled along the emotional journey together then we were able to think of fun replacements for that activity. We experienced it as equals.

The experience brought us closer together and she learned about how to deal with loss and grief. She had a lived experience of moving through her emotions without having to run from them. She was safe becasue she felt me with her so she could really be with her feelings.

This usually brings us out the other side into more self-understanding and integration. When parents ask about how to teach emotional regulation, this is the type of thing that does it on a deep level.

I would love to hear what you think about all this. I believe it is important for us as parents and as people to move beyond the “up down mindset” to a “collaborative relationship of equals” mindset. This is where we become life long Learning Partners. This is where harmony and community are born.

I’m not much for boundaries. Life saving ones, yes. Other than that I find they don’t serve to teach the deep lessons that I care about.

I chose the ice cream example quite on purpose!
My goal with food is to help my daughter learn to make intelligent choices for herself. Inspiring Self-Motivated Self-Regulation (SMSR) around food is so important.

Creating any kind of power struggle, coercion or shame based relationship with food or their bodies is going to work against that. The food is going to take on other meanings, like power, comfort, autonomy.

This is why I have always tried to say yes to any food request. I combine this with a comprehensive, non-coercive and hopefully quite enjoyable and connecting education and inspiration plan around caring for the body and having a positive relationship with food.

We explore the different uses for food. Health and nutrition, social interactions, enjoyment of taste and texture. We even pay attention to and appreciate the anticipation of hunger and the feeling of a full belly. Don’t forget about the magic of digestion and ELIMINATION!

There is so much we miss by saying No you can’t have ice cream till after dinner.

Expanding this concept of choosing co-exploring instead of boundary setting to every area of life creates a whole-being, whole-relationship transformation.

That is the classic approach. The idea being that we control certain aspects of our kids lives until we think they’re capable of managing it on their own.

So we put boundaries, limits and rules in place to maintain some safety, order and control.

The 2 main reasons I avoid that approach/mindset are 1) that it’s based on power and coercion and 2) it’s significantly less effective, both in the short and long term.

When looking at the implications of saying no to ice cream, I imagine putting myself in their place and think about what I’m actually learning and feeling.

I’m not learning to tune into my body and see what it wants. I’m not learning to feel into how different foods affect my body and seeing which ones feel good and which ones don’t. I’m not even learning that some foods are healthy and some aren’t, I’m just learning that my parents think some are and aren’t.

In fact at 4 I’m not even sure what nutritious means to me? Why should I care about it? Why is it more important than my freedom and joy? It certainly doesn’t make me want to pay attention to what’s nutritious and good for my body.

I really try to put myself in the 4 year old mindset/emotionset wanting ice cream and being told no.

I am learning to deny my own body intuition and feelings to follow an external authority. I am learning that my parents don’t trust my body wisdom so it must be wrong.

I am learning that I am definitely not equals with my parents. I am learning that my freedom and consent can be over ridden by someone who has more power than I, even if they say they love me.

I know all this seems harsh and I’m sorry for that. I don’t mean to be so, but if you watch for these things in your kid when they melt down in those No moments, you’ll likely see them.

The thing about this approach is there’s no way to do it without holding power over our kids. I remember being that age and feeling those feelings so clearly. My attention was always on managing the coercion in my environment. How can I get what I want? How can I preserve my power, autonomy and dignity?

From the very beginning I was aware that this was a radically different way to treat kids. Anyone who saw me interact with her had a strong reaction. It seemed irresponsible and even dangerous!

And yet the cost of not doing it felt too high to me.

Another imagination game I play is I pretend that I’m playing out a similar situation with an adult like my partner or a close friend… maybe my closest friend to make it as accurate as possible.

I look at the situation both giving and receiving the No.

Me (in my own home): I’d like some ice cream, that would make me happy right now.

My partner: I’ve just cooked and you’ll spoil your dinner. (perfectly reasonable expression of needs and concern)

Me: Well I’m going to have some anyway. I’m in the mood.

Partner: No. You can have some after dinner. I want you to eat healthy.

Me: [Gets up to get ice cream myself]

Partner: [Blocks me physically]

Now what?

With adults this is going no where pleasant. With kids it’s holding a boundary because we want to care for them.

While I know it’s terribly inconvenient at times, most of the time actually, I have always endeavoured to choose autonomy and consent over any practical concern. Again the relational cost was just too high for me.

I talk about the three relationships we’re helping our kids develop.

1) Relationship with Self
2) Relationship with Parent(s)
3) Relationship with the Environment

Even though it might seem like just an ice cream I believe that saying no from the position of authority and power has a profound and cumulutive effect. It creates stress and unhelpful patterns in all three relationships.

Eventually the boundaries get dropped in one of two ways. First we can let them go voluntarily and enter into what I call a Whole-Being Co-Learning relationship of equals with our kids. It’s scary because we are letting go of the control that is inherent in the traditional parenting paradigm.

or

Second the kid reaches a point where they realize they don’t have to listen regardless of the consequences. I still remember the day I realized I could do what I wanted. The control was suddenly gone.

In this case we’re going to be playing catch up, trying to instill positive connection and communication patterns where previously we had used our systemic power.

I can’t tell you the number of parents I’ve helped through this stage. It often appears around 7-10 yrs. Indications of it start as young as your kids, but it really settles in when they’re a bit older.

It’s still possible to establish new patterns, but the transition stage is so challenging and the work is intense.

Part of the conflict comes because when we get to those moments where parents feel they must hold a limit, we don’t have collaborative patterns set up to navigate them effectively. It’s always been a power situation.

Once the power shifts more to them, the non-collaborative patterns are still set. This is a large part of where defiance and rebellion in youth comes from.

It’s profoundly worth putting in the effort to establish stable and resilient collaboration, communication and cooperation patterns early on. The deeper we go into the non-coercive mindset the deeper our kids let us into their hearts and minds.

One of my sayings is:

Coercive influence decreases over time.
Relational influence increases over time.

In summary:
-I don’t say NO to the ice cream.
-Saying no requires power and authority
-My piority is on relationship, autonomy and consent
-I educate non-coercively through our
-Whole-Being Co-Learning relationship of equals (ie, this isn’t permissive, but deeply involved)
-This approach is, in my opinion, more human, kind and more effective.

I’m 50

December 30, 2018

I turned FIFTY years old 3 days ago on Dec 27, 2018.
When I held the birthday card from my wife and daughter in my hand, the big “50” jumped out at me.

I remembered being 19 or 20 and picking up a 50th b-day card and thinking that was so old. I couldn’t imagine myself there.

Most of the adults I knew seemed to be missing something. I remember that feeling very clearly. I was aware of this difference from very young. I think most kids are. I didn’t have a name for it, but I knew I didn’t want to lose it.

Partly because it seemed like a big loss to me. Every time an adult would assert authority of any kind I would see the loss in them. They thought they were above me.

On the one hand I ended up internalizing this mindset. Surrounded by it in my formative years I took it on as my own. That is why I have so many insecurities. Why it’s so hard for me to believe people like me. Even my closest of friends have to remind me that they like me and love me (Thank you for your patience!).

At the same time there was a part of me that saw the false hierarchical separation of value and worth that authority creates.

The thing about believing one is above others is that there will always be someone above you.

You are destined to be less than. So much of life is compensating for this “less than/greater than” mindset.

My desire to not lose this thing that I saw the adults had lost was also fueled by my thoughts of parenting. I didn’t want my kids to look at me and see that separation.

I wanted them to feel me with them. To know that I know. Or more accurately to know that I know that they know. This seemed so important to me, to maintain that feeling of deep equality with children. It has been one of the principle areas of my personal development efforts.

It is also a central theme in my parenting philosophy and practice. When I’m with kids I hold no authority over them. It is an attitude that creates trust very quickly.

When I was 20 and held that card in my hand I realized I didn’t want to inhabit the authority mindset that seemed inherent to being 50. I was determined not to let it get me!

My mother had a stroke last week and I’ve been feeling her mortality more clearly since. It’s pushing me.

I was going to say “It’s pushing me to…” but then so many things came to mind that I’m being pushed on, I realized it’s just pushing me.

Push.

My 75 year old mom, Shivani Patel has been teaching weekly self-empowerment workshops in a men’s prison for the past 6 years. In that time her 6 week program has become the most popular and sought after course in the institution. There is always a waiting list to take her course.

The institution psychologists and counselors recommend her workshops. Some even mandate the residents in their units to take the course.

They have never audited her course. They are responding purely to the effect they see when the residents complete it.

They leave there wanting a better life for themselves. They are self-motivated to find what is meaningful to them and pursue it. They believe in their own potential and are propelled by it.

Often when they walk in to the room they are skeptical. They slump down in their chairs with arms crossed or grabbing their crotch. Staring at my sweet little mother in silent challenge. Sometimes not so silent.

Almost without fail, after the first 20 minutes of listening to her talk, they are all sitting straight, leaning forward, engaged and interested.

By the end of 2 hours they’re in love. After the 6 weeks are over they would do anything for her. Many of these guys have been in and out of prisons for years. They have been through a lot of courses. They always say they’ve never experienced anything like her.

My nickname for my mom is “Little body, Big Spirit!” When she sits in front of those men she holds no authority over them. She is one with them and they feel it. She sees through their layers to the light within.

My mother has more trauma in her life than pretty much anyone I know. She’s quite weak right now due to the stroke so I’m staying over tonight to care for her. We just spent about 90 minutes talking and all these memories from her past came up.

She told me story after story. Things I’d never heard before. We were both in sort of a story telling trance.

She has witnessed and experienced more pain than I can conceive. Somehow she has avoided getting jaded. I don’t know how she did it. Even with her painful past she sees the men in front of her as whole and good, fully worthy of love, no matter what they’ve done.

They feel it and it awakens something in them.

I go in as a guest speaker on week four. I see these guys fumbling over themselves to be respectful to Shivani, to demonstrate their gratitude, to show their love.

It’s like they’ve never been seen before. And some of them argue with her. They assure her that they really are bad. She refuses to entertain it. She empathizes with them for feeling so, but her mindset doesn’t waver.

My mother teaches me about love through her example. Growing up she parented me often in a traditional manner. Yet she kept fighting it. She kept learning and growing. Even to this day she’s learning about life and about herself.

One story she told me was when she was recently in the hospital (she’s been in the hospital a lot in 2018), one nurse was thanking her for being so nice (cause that’s my mom!).

The nurse told her she’s so tired of being treated badly by people that she just shuts off. No matter how much care and empathy she gives, some people are just mean to her.

Now she starts out nice and if she’s not treated well she just does her job, but doesn’t connect.

My mom said she understood. It’s hard to be treated that way. It hurts the heart.

She then told her about her volunteer work:

“I do these prison workshops. 6 years every week. I’ve worked with hundreds of prisoners, as well as the security guards and staff… and in all that time I’ve never met a bad person.”

She says it, and she means it. This is the foundation of her course. It is what creates such a dramatic effect on the prisoners. The power of unconditional love and acceptance.

She does not tell them that they are bad. She does not tell them that they’re wrong. She doesn’t make them feel like they’re broken and they need to be fixed.

She sees them whole.
She also sees the layers of pain and fear covering their wholeness.

Seeing both she can point out the layers by pointing TO their wholeness. This is so different from pointing to the layers themselves.

From this place they feel safe and are willing to hear her, to try what she teaches and to be challenged by her. Even when she challenges them they feel loved for it.

The conscious parenting philosophy I teach is the exact same one she operates from in prison. We share the same mindset and philosophy. We discuss it every day.

If the non-punitive, non-wrongness, non-coercive, non-authoritative, collaborative, process focused, relationship focused, equal power-sharing and learning partner mindset works so well with prisoners that it’s the most recommended workshop by clinical professionals – it’s reasonable to think that it would likely be effective with children.

My mom often says that the Conscious Parenting principles I share will hopefully one day make her program obsolete.

When my daughter was born in 1997, just over 21 years ago, everyone I knew was parenting authoritatively. I had no models to follow. Even every family on TV parented from a hierarchical power structure.

I wanted no part of it.

From the beginning I worked hard to treat my daughter as an equal. I saw her wisdom as equal to mine. I always felt she had so much to teach me.

She truly has been my teacher. I learned many profound lessons from her when she was a child. I learned play, curiosity, exploration and finding wonder and joy in the simplest of things.

I wanted her to feel seen like I rarely did as a child. I wanted to meet her where she was. Kids live in their own universes. So often parents try to drag, coerce or convince kids to operate from the adult universe. I wanted to be in her universe. I knew in order to do that I had to really open my heart to my child like energy.

This is one of the greatest gifts I have received as a parent. It stays with me to this day.

Just this afternoon as I entered the lobby of my mom’s building there were three kids with their dad by the elevators. They were yelling and laughing.

They were trying to guess which elevator would open. Without a moments hesitation I jumped in with them and proclaimed that I thought it would be the middle one. The youngest kid was with me and she yelled “YA! the middle one!”

I was so excited to be in on the game that the kids accepted me as one of their own. We waited in anticipation and the older brother’s elevator on the right won. The rest of us were groaning and moaning and laughing as we piled into the elevator.

The young sister had a big happy face ball. She said she won it. She bounced it and I kicked it back to her. It went all over the elevator and everyone laughed again.

They got off at the third floor all saying “bye bye bye!” The dad had such a smile on his face as he exited the elevator. He was a bit confused, but in a connected happy way.

The whole interaction from beginning to end was probably not 5 minutes, but it was so full of joy and play. At that moment I felt grateful to my kid for that gift and I felt quite happy to be 50 and be me.

When I think about 20 year old Vivek holding that birthday card, he didn’t want to get old because he so wanted to believe in the Magic of Play and Love. As I settle into my 50th year I can confidently tell him that both are real and worth chasing!

Happy birthday to me!
Thank you for reading ❤

If you would like to learn more about the Conscious Parenting philosophy I share please like my facebook page www.facebook.com/meaningfulideas

Or my youtube channel where I have lot of helpful parenting videos.

www.youtube.com/meaningfulideas

Love,

Thanks for not forcing me to go to school

September 21, 2018

My 21 year old daughter is watching Bob’s burgers on TV. It’s an adult animated show.

One of the characters was pretending to be sick so they could school.

She paused the show and turned to me to say:

“Dad, I’m glad you never forced me to go to school.”

I said, “Me too kiddo.”

She told me about the show and said she was thinking about it and wanted to express her gratitude.

From the beginning we let our daughter choose how she wanted to do school. We took her to visit a public school, an alternative school and we talked about what homeschooling might be like. All the way along she chose to go to public school and we honoured her choice.

We had a standing principle that she could stay home from school anytime she wanted without having to give us a reason. She never had to do any homework she didn’t want to do, she never had to study for or take any tests she didn’t want. She never had to achieve any particular grade for us to be more proud or accepting of her.

We did explore together what her personal goals were and made plans of action to achieve them.

We did all her projects together, studied for all of her tests together and basically school was a family affair.

Sometimes I wonder what her memories are and today I got a little glimpse. It’s gratifying to know that at 21 she’s grateful for the freedom and respect that she was shown in her younger years.

A common question I receive is “Did she ever take advantage of it.” I have two responses.

First of all: No.
She used it when she really needed it. Right from the beginning. She never had to manipulate so her requests were always from sincere need.

Secondly: In a way the phrase “Take advantage” has no real meaning in our relationship. She could only take advantage if I had an expectation of how she should use that freedom.

The thing is, if I have that expectation, it’s not true freedom to begin with. My focus is on developing her relationship with herself. It’s not about how often she goes to school or what grades she gets.

According to the school board rules, when she turned 14 she was allowed to leave school grounds if she had a note from a parent.

The day she turned 14 I walked into the office with a letter saying that my daughter could leave school at any time for any reason and I didn’t have to be notified. I specified that she was to be given no consequence for not attending class. I also acknowledged that she was responsible for her performance.

Of course if she ever wanted to skip she would always text me and tell me. Hey dad I’m skipping and going to get a slice of pizza with some friends. Honestly could anything make me happier?

Because of this deep respect for her freedom she understands consent in a profound way. She knows how precious it is and feels grateful for the efforts my partner and I made to honour hers from the beginning.

It’s hard to go against the grain of society. Little moments like we shared today remind me that’s it’s all been worth it.

Teach Me How

August 1, 2018

Think of your house as a laboratory

September 29, 2017

I want to be free with my emotions.
I want to accept how I feel as natural and beautiful.
I don’t want to force my emotions to fit inside some little box.
A external matrix of what seems right and appropriate to society.

I don’t know where my feelings are supposed to lead. If I try and force them to look like what I’ve been led to believe is acceptable then I’ll never hear the true inner voice of my desires ringing out. I will be cut off from my heart.

This is the problem with telling kids what is right and what is wrong. When they learn that from the outside they don’t get to feel the FEELING of what is right and the FEELING of what is wrong on the inside.

That feeling is our true ethical compass.
It is what guides us moment by moment.

It is not laws and punishments that keeps Society
from everybody killing each other!
It is that inner sense.

I mean every single time I go into the Walmart
(don’t judge me!)
I could steal a candy for the ride home.
It’s easy.

I never do.
Why?
I don’t care about Walmart.
I also don’t go around stealing.
Usually doesn’t feel good.
It’s my inner sense.

And yet when I look deep and honest inside, I can feel how much I let the recipe of society control my perception. Instead of relying upon my inner sense.

I’ve been told what’s right and wrong since I was born. I’m only now untangling that knot and hearing my own Voice more clearly again.

This is why it makes the most sense to me to focus my parenting efforts on developing that sense. And that sense means helping her always to turn inward and feel what is true for her.

This can be wildly inconvenient at times.
Impossible at other times.
With practice it can become the norm.

Think of your house as a laboratory.
Your kid(s) are scientists experimenting.
They have to discover what is right and wrong in their hearts.
To find and develop deep trust in their compass.
You are simply their research assistant.

When you look through this lens everything changes.
You simply cannot force behaviour from the external anymore.

Of course sometimes we have to strap a screaming toddler into a car seat.
I am not ignoring the realities of life.

I am saying that in 90% of our interactions
with our kids we can be in the lab together.

The wonderful benefit for me as a parent is
I get to know, love and accept myself more
as I inspire my daughter to know, love and accept herself.

 

Biting Is Awesome

April 30, 2017

No Biting Please

The other day a friend of mine and I were playing with a lovely and energetic 2 year old.

At one point he was climbing all over my friend and having a great time. Suddenly he bit the guy right on the chest… Ouch!

My friend said “no biting please” in a very calm and gentle tone.

Biting is AWESOME!

Of course knowing what I know I realized that was not going to stop him from biting, but was actually going to make him want to do it more!

So immediately jumped in and said, in typical Vivek fashion…

“Biting is AWESOME!”

They both stopped for a moment and just looked at me.

Validate the Impulse – Redirect the Behaviour

I grabbed a pillow from the couch and bit it, shaking my head and growling like a dog.

The kid started laughing immediately and I gave him the pillow to bite as well. He copied me growling and shaking his head.

Then I joined him and the two of us had the same pillow and were biting the corners like dogs fighting over a piece of meat!

It was quite dramatic and hilarious.

Offer a Suggestion Once Connection is Established

At some point I said to him that biting things is awesome, it feels good. Biting people isn’t so great because it could hurt them. But there are so many things we can bite and it’s so much fun.

After a minute of this he went back to climbing on my friend.

I could see the urge to bite suddenly come upon him and he paused… He looked at me.. he grabbed a pillow and brought it to me to bite which I did so vigorously of course!

Then he grabbed it and started biting it as well.

This happened four more times over the next five or six minutes.

A 2 year old Learns Self-Regulation

Every time he went to bite my friend he remembered how much energy I gave him for his biting and how much fun we were having doing it.
I Was Myself quite amazed at how quickly and how well he took to this.

Even though I teach it, it still seems so wonderful to me how effective it is when we go with our children’s direction and what a difference it makes.

Going With

It can be challenging, but if you can try “going with” your kids impulses and directions rather than correcting them, especially in the most difficult moments, with the most difficult behaviors, you might find that things can shift in unexpected ways.

A New Way of Relating

The hard part about this is of course it goes against so much of what we’ve learned and experienced over our lifetime. We are taught that if we don’t maintain control our children will control us.

So many of our systems are built this way, the education system, our legal system, our correctional system… it’s not surprised that the family system is also modeled this way.

If we can however change our way of thinking from one of control and competition to a mindset of cooperation, collaboration and connection then we can teach our kids whole new way of relating.

This has multiple benefits of increasing the trust our kids feel with us, increasing their ability to think for themselves and also creates a much deeper and closer relationship with them.

A Response to the Statement: “I Was Spanked and I Turned Out Fine.”

October 8, 2016

a-response-to-i-was-spanked

A Response to the statement “I was spanked and I turned out fine.”

In Conscious Parenting we are generally aiming for more than fine.
As an adult I am also fine, in fact I’m awesome!

And

I’m deeply wounded inside.
I have anger and intimacy issues.
I have belonging and self-esteem issues.

These issues keep me from reaching my potential.
They keep me from the kind of expression I yearn for in my life.
They limit the depth of the intimacy and connection I can have in my relationships.

I do not know a single adult that doesn’t have some of these issues
I know many that are in denial about them,
but they wear their wounds like a banner for all to see!

I prefer to do what I can to minimize those effects in my daughter.
This is why I choose the most gentle, connected and conscious path I am able.

I am not perfect.
I make mistakes every day.
I am often not gentle, not conscious and less connected than I’d prefer.
The results of my own wounds.

This is why I analyze my interactions with my daughter daily.
I admit my mistakes. I apologize and try and learn from them.

We ALL make mistakes and when we question them and learn from them we are doing the best we can by our kids.

I also engage in vigorous self-healing work.
Learning to love myself and accept myself more every day.
Showering Little Vivek with love so he learns how worthy he is.

For that is the best way I know not to pass along the errors of my predecessors.
And ensure that my kiddo grows up to be more than fine!

Discipline and Punishment are Opposites

May 21, 2016
 PhotoGrid_1463861478970
Discipline and Punishment are Opposites
 
Discipline Inspires someone to care about others.
This care is where natural good behaviour arises from.
 
Punishment makes a person afraid of pain.
This feeling inspires a person to think of
how to avoid pain for themselves,
it does not teach them to think of others.
 
Manipulative behaviour is the result of this feeling.
 
Discipline Brings Joy
 
Anytime I’ve disciplined my kid it makes her happier,
it makes her feel more loved.
She feels my unconditional love
and my total support of her
AND she learns a lesson at the same time.
 
She does not need pain to learn because she trusts me.
She trusts me because I’ve never intentionally caused her pain
(which at its most basic form is what all punishments are)
 
I did not need to frighten her into compliance
because I believed she was a naturally a good person.
Therefore I chose to inspire rather than control.
 
Intentionally Causing Pain is Not Love
 
And often people will respond to these ideas saying
that their kids aren’t frightened of them,
that they’re in fact very close and
have a loving relationship with them.
 
That may well be true, but if you give a consequence like
withdrawing a privilege of some sort,
the only reason that works
(well it doesn’t work, but the reason we think it works)
is because it causes some sort of pain.
 
If it caused joy it wouldn’t be a punishment.
 
If someone who is supposed to LOVE you
Chooses to intentionally cause you PAIN
When it was very much in their power to bring you JOY instead,
Can you ever truly TRUST that person?
 
No.
 
Trust is eroded with every punishment,
every consequence, yelling and criticism.
 
Only consistent and unwavering love and support
can create the solid foundation of self-love
and self-esteem that will carry our kids
through the storms of life.
 

How to Get Kids to Stop Sucking their Thumbs

April 27, 2016

how to get kids to stop sucking their thumbs
A common question I get asked is about
how to get kids to stop sucking their thumbs.
Especially as they grow older
it becomes a concern to parents.

Many kids try and stop, but it’s hard
because it’s a significant source of comfort for them.

As one kid said:
“It feels good when I do it and
I don’t feel good if I don’t do it.”

My tendency is to address things under the surface
so here is how I responded to a parent
who recently asked this question on Facebook:

Watch Out For Shame

One of the most important things in situations like this
is to be careful about creating shame around the activity.

In our efforts to change a behaviour
we can unintentionally create the idea
that we disapprove of them when they are doing it.

To kids this gives the message that
we love and accept them less at those moments.
This translates into being less worthy of love and acceptance.

Let Him Know He’s Wonderful!

So I would work on letting him know that
while you may be trying to reduce the thumb sucking
you still think he’s wonderful and cute and lovely when he does it.

Let him know that the feelings he’s having
are totally natural and you love him and his feelings.

Let him know that there’s nothing wrong with him
for sucking his thumb and that
even if it takes a bit longer that’s totally okay.

We want him to feel comfortable with his inner self.

This is a very delicate time in
the building of his relationship with himself,
his self-image, his self-esteem and self-confidence.

Everything from his work to his relationships,
friendships, body image, relationship to food, drugs…
really everything is being affected by the messages
you give him during these formative years.

Not Condoning Behaviour

I know it might seem like you’re
condoning something you’d like to stop,
but in fact if he’s not anxious and
feeling judged and judgmental about it
he’s more likely able to listen to his own body
and find his natural rhythm to stop.

I hope this helps.

Peace,
Vivek