Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

The 4 Year Old Explorer

February 23, 2016


The 4 Year Old Explorer

The beautiful chaos of 4 year olds

I was at a birthday party for a 4 year old last weekend.
There were little people running all over the place.
It was pure, joyous chaos.

I really love watching the incredible variety
that little ones have in their personalities.

I love watching the way they interact with their surroundings.
The way they explore and experiment
with everything they touch.

I love watching the many conflicts arise
and seeing the way they deal with them.

Observing the parents as well

I also enjoy watching the great variety of
parenting approaches that one inevitably sees
in a room full of kids and parents.

Although this can also be difficult for me
as I am quite biased in my preferred approach.
And that’s putting it mildly!

The impulse to experiment

At one point a cute little Explorer
went up to the sound system that was set up
and started touching buttons on the mixing board.

He ended up getting his hands on the
volume slider and in one quick motion
turned it all the way up.

The whole room was rocked

The music exploded out of the speakers
and everybody in the room jumped.

The kids all had looks of terror on their faces
and screamed wildly as they
ran  into their parents arms.

It took a second or two for someone to run over and turn the music down. In that time kids were fairly traumatized.

That’ll teach him

There was a man sitting a couple chairs away from me
holding his 3 month old baby in his arms.

Throughout the afternoon I was enjoying watching
the tenderness between the two of them.

When this happened he turned to me and said
“That’ll teach him a lesson.”

I looked at him sideways and asked him
“What lesson exactly is that?”

He said “not to touch things when
you don’t know what they are.”

Are you sure?

I said to him
“Are you really sure that is the thing you
want to pass on to your kids?
That when they come upon something unfamiliar
they should avoid it for fear of
what the results will be?

Do you want them to be afraid to explore,
experiment and delve into the unknown?”

An unfamiliar response

I think he was taken aback by this
unexpected response to what probably
seemed like an obvious comment to him.

He grumbled a little bit and then said
“well ok, the lesson is if you don’t know
what something is ask someone else first.”

Are you Really Sure?

I asked him again
“Is that really the lesson
you want to give your kids?

That when they experience something unfamiliar,
before taking a chance and trying it,
before taking the risk that they might fail
and experimenting with it,
that they should ask someone else first?

It seems like that’s making them afraid to take risks
and try new things for fear of what
the consequences might be.”

This time he really grumbled and mumbled even.
He turned away and did his best to ignore me.

The friend I was sitting with asked me
how I would have dealt with it
if my kid did the same thing and then ran into my arms?

Empathy Empathy Empathy

I would start empathizing with the little one
as they would be full of tension and fear at that moment.

I would say something like “It’s okay my darling,
I know it was scary. I felt scared too.”

I would hold them close and do whatever I could
to make them feel loved and safe.

Accentuating the positive

Once I fell that their vibration
had calmed down enough
I would express to them how I
admired their willingness to
experiment with something new.

I think it’s really wonderful the way you
wanted to test what all the buttons
on that mixing board did.

Encouraging further exploration

I know that it was scary when the music got louder,
but that is what happens sometimes
when we try new things.

Sometimes they don’t go how
we expect and that’s awesome.
The main thing is that you tried
and that’s what’s important.

I think that is such a wonderful part of who you are
and I always want you to feel free and safe
to try new things like that.

I will always be here to support you and
love you no matter what happens.

Taking action

Why don’t we go to the mixing board
and take another look at what all the buttons do.

We can play with the volume slider
that you so bravely pushed all the way up
and see how it affects
the loudness of the music.”

Then I would go over there with them
and make a fun experience of playing with
as many buttons sliders and knobs as I could.

Empathize, Validate, Take Action

The process of empathizing, validating
and then following up with action is so important.

It helps kids process their experiences
in a deep and holistic way.

My own comfort with the unknown

The other learning for me from this experience
is to recognize that the message this father
instinctively wanted to give to
his kids is extremely common.

This means it is very likely
deeply inside of me as well.

I know that I have many fears programmed into me.
Fears that stop me from
venturing into the unknown at times.

I can feel it in my mind and heart
when I am faced with the unknown.

Holding myself back
Afraid to fail

Sometimes I have to really push myself
to do something that seems scary,
where I have the potential to fail.

It’s like I don’t want to take the chance
of having the music be really loud
because I wasn’t given that kind of
validation and encouragement.

Deprogram and Reprogram

So now I have the opportunity to
deprogram and reprogram myself.
To give myself that same empathy,
validation and follow through with action.

The more I do this, the more I will be free
to engage in the unfamiliar.
The more free I feel
the more I will be able to
pass that freedom on to my daughter.

Teach Children to Embrace their Mistakes

February 15, 2016


Teach Children to Embrace their Mistakes

Road Trip With Good Friends

A couple weeks ago I was on a road trip with some good friends.
We went to Buffalo for a dance workshop
and we all had a really good time.

Making a Mistake

On the way home I was given the task of navigating.
We were a bit behind schedule and the drive
was taking longer than expected.

At one point I got a little confused and
wasn’t sure exactly where we were going.

On top of that the settings had changed in the GPS
on my phone and it was giving me some bad advice!

I made an error and we ended up taking a wrong turn.

Fear Took Over

Immediately my whole body tensed up
and I became afraid.
I felt that the driver was going to get angry and
he was going to yell at me.

I also thought that the other passengers
were going to complain and think badly of me.
I felt like they wouldn’t like me and
wouldn’t want to be my friends.

Feeling Unworthy

I felt small, unworthy of friendship
and separate from the group.

All of this flashed through my mind and heart
in a space of a couple of seconds.
It was my all-consuming reality at that moment.

Reality Didn’t Match My Fearful Expectations

The real realty however was quite different.
Nobody made the slightest remark
about my error in directions.

The driver didn’t seem to be upset in the slightest.

Everyone continued to just laugh, joke
and talk as we had been
and just waited for me
to tell them which way to turn to get back on track.

In that moment I realized how
deep that reaction was and
how separate from my present reality it was.

These people are my Friends and they Love me

They didn’t care that I made a mistake.

It took me a couple of minutes to take all of this in.
I had to look into each of their eyes
and feel the love in their voices
before I could really believe
that they weren’t upset with me.

Receiving Love and Empathy

After some time has passed and I relaxed a little bit
I shared this experience with them.

The outpouring of love and empathy from them
was quite beautiful and it reinforced the fact
that they really do love and accept me.

Childhood Wounds Run Deep

This experience shows me how deep the
wounds of my childhood go.
The fear of being seen as less worthy of
love and acceptance for having made a mistake
is powerful within me.

I know it affects every aspect of my life.

It affects my decision making,
my friendships and
my willingness to take risks.

Much of the inner work that I do is geared towards
healing these fear based wounds and self-concepts
so I can believe that I am worth friendship and love.

Intellectually I know I am
and compared to myself a number of years ago
I’m so much better in this regard.

Yet the residue of my painful past lingers.

Setting parenting priorities around
acceptance and a positive attitude towards mistakes

As a parent this has always been
one of my primary areas of focus.

To make sure that my daughter knows that she is
unconditionally worthy of love, respect,
acceptance and friendship.

I wanted her to know that making mistakes
does not diminish her worth in any way.

Putting this into practice is
an intense and powerful thing

It means that I have had to watch my reaction
every time she makes what I consider a mistake.

Mistakes are to be learned from.
Mistakes are to be celebrated.
Mistakes are to be explored.
Mistakes are to be embraced.
Mistakes are to be made over
and over and over again.
Mistakes are to be made fearlessly.

Responding in a consistently positive manner

Mistakes are not to be punished in any way.
They are not to be a source of disapproval in any way.

There could not even be an expectation that
she would only make a mistake once,
learn from it and then never make it again!

Let us raise our children to embrace their mistakes

Imagine if we could raise our kids to
truly embrace their own mistakes
and use them as the wonderful learning
opportunities that they are.

Imagine if we could raise our kids to believe
that making mistakes does not diminish them in any way.

This would be a huge leap forward in their development.

It would give them a power and strength
that could last their whole lives and
allow them to follow their dreams.

It’s Hard To Give What We Didn’t Receive

The hard part is most of us were
not given that kind of completely open support
when making mistakes.

We were punished and given consequences.
Some of us were hit
and most of us at least received disapproval.

Certainly we did not experience
true celebration of mistakes
on a consistent basis.

Reprogramming Our Own Relationship to Mistakes

Therefore in order for us to do this for our children
it requires a significant rewiring of our brains
so that we can see mistakes in a totally new way.

In order for it to be really effective
we have to do this for ourselves and our children
at the same time.

Loving and accepting ourselves more
so we can love and accept our kids more.

The Challenge of Authenticity

February 7, 2016

The Challenge of Authenticity

The Challenge of Authenticity

Showing My Whole Self

Authenticity is challenging.
When I am authentic with somebody
I am exposing a deep vulnerability.

I can’t be authentic without showing
the Yin and the Yang of who I am.

If I leave out either
I am hiding myself.

Therefore it seems the degree of my authenticity
is the degree to which I’m willing to expose
both the darkness and the light of my being.

It’s bloody scary!
That’s why it’s a challenge.
That’s why authenticity is a warrior’s path.

The Payoff is Huge

And yet when I do achieve a deeper level
of authenticity and vulnerability with someone,
while it may be scary, it is also deeply fulfilling.
Almost like nothing else can be fulfilling.

Perhaps this is because these are moments
when I’m truly introduced to myself.
I see myself face to face.
And this gives me the opportunity
to really love myself.

Clearly there are a lot of benefits
to having the courage to be authentic.
I do my best to seek out deeper levels
of authenticity than I am presently able to access.

The Danger Of Being Authentic Is Very Real

The thing is though, the danger is very real
because I have genuinely been hurt in the past
for being vulnerable.
I have being betrayed.

The sting of those experiences is still with me
and makes me hesitate, makes me protect myself.
This is why authenticity is a process
and not simply a one-time decision or experience.

Raising Authentic Children

As I often do, I want to relate this concept to parenting.

I recognized early on how much I had to
fight myself and the world to be authentic.
Well maybe I didn’t have to fight the world,
but I did feel I had to fight
my version of the world
or perhaps my perception of the world.

In any case this is the belief system I had
and it played out in my life.

Recognizing that was the case for me,
I wanted the opposite from my daughter.

I wanted her to feel that
her authentic self is
completely natural and accepted.

Then it wouldn’t feel like a weakness or a risk,
but it would seem like her very core,
her strength, the very existence of who she is.

This has been a central theme in
my parenting investigations.
How can I make it feel safe and strong
for my daughter to be authentic.

Protecting Her Authenticity

I recognize that a certain amount of authenticity
diminishes over time with painful
experiences that all of us experience in life.

I believe though, that we can minimize that damage
and allow a deeper level of authenticity to be
fostered in our children than we ever had access to.

Isn’t that what evolution,
conscious evolution is about?
Helping the next generation
be greater than we ever were.

Conscious parenting isn’t easy.

There’s always a dual process occurring.

On the one hand we are trying to foster
powerful qualities in our children.

On the other hand we realize that
we must be working on those very things
in our own lives if we are
going to pass them on effectively.

Its looking inward and
looking outward simultaneously.

Quite a wonderful skill to practice
and a beautiful opportunity to practice it

Found In Your Body

February 2, 2016

Found In Your Body
Found In Your Body

A Journey Within

This past week I attended 5 day
dance intensive workshop
in Buffalo, New York.

The teacher was Alicia Grayson.

She was a masterful facilitator.
She led us brilliantly through a journey
deep into our bodies,
into our hearts and
into the dance.

A Moment of Quiet Connection

One day during lunch I was chatting with her
about a particularly intense dance that I had.

I was describing how I was able to quiet my mind
and let go of the noise that usually
keeps me from deep connection.

I said to her,
“I got lost in my body.”

She said,
“Actually Vivek, you got found in your body.”

This change in perspective dramatically altered
the way I thought about my experience.

I realized that my natural state IS being deeply connected.
Being trapped in a world of
thoughts and disconnection
is not who I am in my essence.

And yet I have become so normalized to
the idea of being disconnected from my body
I considered that state as natural.

When my mind was quiet and
I was fully in the dance
I considered it being lost.

Language Reveals Our Feelings

One might argue that it was simply
a common phrase we use,
but I believe that the language we choose
reflects the perspective and feelings we have.

Alicia pointed out that in fact this deep dance
was me finding myself,
finding my truth,
finding my nature.

She didn’t actually use all those words.
She simply said “you were found in your body.”

Great Teachers Introduce Us to Ourselves

As all great teachers do,
she touched me with a magical moment,
allowed me the freedom to process it
and draw my own conclusions.

One of the things I enjoyed most about her teaching
was that she seemed to really believe in each of us.
She knew that we had our own innate wisdom
in our bodies and in our hearts.
She was only working to put us in touch with it.

Children are Naturally Wise and Connected

When we are first born our entire reality is
centered in our bodies and in our connection
to our mother’s body.

There is a wisdom, a love and
a sense of connection
that is natural and essential to who we are.

Disconnection is an Effect of Growing Up

As we enter the world more and more
we are drawn into our heads,
into society and customs.
We are wounded, criticized
and betrayed on a regular basis.
We become distanced from the
innate wisdom that we have inside.

It gets replaced with fear and trauma based reactions.

We rely on manipulation of ourselves and
others to get what we think we want.

We end up believing that
disconnection, pain,
punishment and struggle
are normal, natural and our lot in life.

A Message of Freedom For Me and My Kid

This is not the message I want to hold in my heart.
Nor is it the message I want to pass on to my daughter.

I want us both to know that
all the wisdom and love of the universe
is available to us within our hearts
at this very moment and every moment.

I want us both to believe that
trust and intimacy with others is possible,
beautiful and worth the risk.

I want us both to feel the beauty and joy
of connection with our bodies and nature.

And I want us both to know that all of this
is natural and normal
not the exception.

This is the foundation of my self-development
and spirituality work as well as
the essence of my parenting philosophy.

Rejecting my Position as an Authority Figure

January 27, 2016


Rejecting my position as an authority figure

Yesterday I spent the whole day with my daughter.
We drove around doing errands and some shopping.

A Relationship Filled With Ease

The whole time we had a natural
rhythm to our conversation.
There was an ease in our interaction.
There was a mutual care for each other’s well-being.
There was lots of fun and laughter.

My kid is now 18 and a half years old.
Having this kind of relationship with her
is probably the most valuable thing in my life.
It fills me with so much joy.

Feeling Deep Gratitude

When we got home in the evening
I reflected on our time together.
I felt so grateful.

Relating As Equals

The quality of our relationship has developed
and deepened over the years.
One of the main reasons we are so close
is because I have always worked hard
to not hold any authority over my daughter.

We relate to each other with
no hierarchical separation between us.

The idea of authority is one thing I was
very careful about as my daughter was growing up.

I Refused to be an Authority Figure in her life

I chose to be a friend,
a guide,
a willing student…
an equal.

In our interaction yesterday
I could really see the effects of this.

She felt she could be herself

She knows she doesn’t have to
act a certain way to gain my approval.

This is one of the main messages
I have always worked at making sure she knew,
that I accepted her unconditionally.

I accept all of who she is.
The light and the dark.
I did my best to be a good friend to her.

Though I focused on
friendship based parenting
I am still her dad.

Being a friend does not mean
I abandoned my role as a father.

I am a source of wisdom and comfort for her.
I am a foundation of safety and strength that she knows she can rely on.

She comes to me for counsel when she is unsure about a big decision.
I don’t make the decision for her.
Instead I offer her things to think about when making the decision.
I also stand by her regardless of the decision she makes.

The beautiful thing is that, in her way
she does all these things for me as well.
We are learning partners.

She knows I listen to her and respect her

At one point yesterday we were speaking to someone
and they mentioned that they don’t always
take what teens say seriously.

I said that I always listen to teens.

My daughter spoke up and said:

“Well I’m the main teen you interact with and you always listen to me.”

This showed me how deeply she feels my respect.

I was calm on the outside, but jumping up and down with joy on the inside.

Parenting as equals is a tremendous challenge

It hasn’t always been easy,
parenting without authority.
To parent as an equal.
To always use communication instead of control.

So much of my programming goes against it.
Both my personal experience as a kid,
as well as generations societal norms
around how to treat kids.

It can be a constant inner battle
to do things that are so against the grain.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Competing Parenting Priorities

January 23, 2016

Competing Parenting Priorities

Competing Parenting Priorities

The Pattern of Priorities

In working with families over the years
I have noticed one of the most common
obstacles that people face is
competing or contradictory parenting priorities.

This is when faced with a situation where
2 (or more) different priorities are at play
and we must choose which one to follow.

Often the choice is between priorities that
have been programmed into us
and ones that we have chosen ourselves
through analysis, thinking and feeling.

They usually fall into 2 main categories:
Connection and Control.

For example
Independent Thinking vs Obedience
Speaking Your Truth vs Showing Respect
Deepening Relationship vs Keep the House Neat

It’s not that these things are mutually exclusive.
They can exist together.
But there will be times
many many times
When as a parent, you will have to choose between them.

Earlier today I had an interesting experience
around priority setting with my daughter.

I had plans to clean the baseboards in the kitchen.
This is a job that requires getting right down on the floor
with a bucket of water and a scrubber
and cleaning some grimy stuff.

I went into my daughter’s room to
ask her if she would help me.
She said “Yes, but in a little while after I watch my show.”

Of course I consider this a perfectly reasonable response
and I wasn’t on any kind of deadline so I said that is fine.

An hour went by, but she hadn’t
come out of her room yet.

I poked my head in a second time and
told her that I was filling up the bucket
and getting ready to start,
would you like to join me?

She said yes.
So I went about filling up the bucket,
Pouring in some Mr. Clean,
gathering the sponges and heading to the kitchen.

When I had gone to the kitchen
and she still hadn’t joined me
I knew I needed to make a decision.

Should I go back to her room and I remind her?
Should I let her make the decision
of when to come and help on her own?

The first choice focuses on ideas like responsibility,
respect, behavior and following through on
what you say you’re going to do.

The second choice is about showing her trust,
honoring her independence,
treating her as an equal rather
than as if I’m an authority figure.

If you know me at all
you know I chose the second.
I decided to just relax and
let her come when she felt like it.

I did have both inclinations inside me.
I could feel two priorities
bumping up against each other.

The Pivotal Moment of Choice

This is where I had to choose.

I chose connection.
I chose relationship.
I chose to show respect
rather than demand it.

The wonderful thing is of course
3 minutes later she came out,
hunkered down on the floor and
started scrubbing the baseboards with me.

We laughed, joked around
and generally had a good time.

When she came out she didn’t feel pressured or rushed.
She was able to make her own decision,
choose her own timing and
listen to her own feelings.

If I had pushed her then all of the things
that I would have hoped to teach I would
have actually taught the opposite.

My role as a guide isn’t to choose for you,
But to help you make and implement
Conscious choices.

When I work with parents I often tell them
that my job isn’t to choose their priorities for them.
My role is to point out the
different priorities that are available
and show them exactly what
they look like when put into action.

Each of us really is responsible for
choosing our own hierarchy of priorities.

Once we do then we have to
go about engaging in the work
of actually following them.

This is when competing priorities
force us to become conscious
and make a choice.

That is why I call this style of parenting
Conscious Parenting.
The hardest part about it is
the continuous requirement to stay conscious.

Whenever we act unconsciously
we’re no longer choosing
we are following the scripts
that we are programmed with.

When we write our own script
we are using the power of choice
that we have to direct our
lives and our relationships.

When this happens the experience of
priorities coming head to head with each other
can be seen as an opportunity instead of an obstacle.

It is an opportunity to choose love
Choose connection and
Choose healing.

Be a Parenting Ninja

January 20, 2016

Be a Parenting Ninja

Storming the Castle

When the ninja would plan
to take over a fortified castle
they would do attack on many fronts.

They would send some soldiers in to attack directly,
they would send some climbing over the wall,
some digging under the wall,
some swimming through the moat.

They would also plant spies
on the inside of the castle
months in advance.

Most likely the guy
cleaning the outhouse
or the gardener plucking weeds.

People so unimportant that
they were practically invisible.
They would keep their heads down and
just do their jobs for months…
until the moment of the strike.

Having all of these different groups attacking
in different ways on different fronts
created a havoc that was near impossible
for the guards protecting the castle to deal with.

Attack on Many Fronts

In a similar way when dealing with
any situation in life it is a good idea
to attack from many fronts.

If you work with
The physical
The mental
The emotional
and the Spiritual
all at the same time
your chances for success will increase.

This is particularly poignant in parenting

I have written many posts about
dealing with things on
the mental and emotional level,
today I want to touch on the spiritual.

Specifically I am going to talk about the use of visualization.

I believe our lines are created
from the inside out.

I am sure you have heard about
the law of attraction.

The idea is that whatever thoughts you hold
in your mind affect the circumstances of your life.

Personally I prefer to think of it as
The Law Of Creation
because attraction implies something has to
already exist and you are drawing its towards you.

There is an inherent limitation in this content.

Instead, thinking of it as the law of creation
means that even if the thing I want doesn’t exist
it will be brought into existence through spiritual means.

Visioning, as it relates to parenting
is not about drawing stuff into your life,
but it is about creating a desired circumstance.

The Mechanics of Visioning

The way it works is this,
your child is going through
some kind of situation
that is challenging or difficult.

You can of course address the situation in many ways.
You can talk it over with them,
you can help them set up a plan
and you can support them emotionally.

I do all of these and
I also like to deal with it spiritually
behind the scenes.

Create the Ideal Outcome

What I do is I imagine
what is the ideal outcome
I want for my child.

Then I spend some time
visualizing that outcome.

For example perhaps my daughter is
having a problem with a certain subject in school.

I can see that she is feeling
disheartened about that subject
and perhaps even not enjoying
her experience with the teacher.

In response I might imagine that
she is enthusiastic about the subject
and loving her teacher.

I would see her happy, smiling and laughing.

Sending Out The Vibration

What is happening is I am sending out
the vibration of that vision
and the universe responds.

When I do this visualization
I try and involve all of my senses.
What does it look like?
What does it sound like?
What does it feel like?

It is also useful to feel the emotions
present in your vision.
Actually try and feel the happiness
that you are wishing to create for your child.

The more consistently you engage in this process
the more it will affect the outcome of the situation.

Directed Meditation

This is like meditation directed specifically
at solving problems and creating
positive situations in your child’s life.

This obviously is not a replacement
for working with them on
all the other levels described,
it is something that supports it.

So be like a parenting ninja
and send out your warriors
to attack from every angle.

Your Relationship With Your Kids Will Never Be Fair

January 19, 2016

your rel with your kids will never be fair

Your Relationship With Your Kids Will Never Be Fair.

It can be beautiful, fun, peaceful and harmonious,
but fair… Not so much.

This is a source of much stress to many parents.

You Will Always Have To Do More
Emotional Work Than Your Kids.

At least for the first 20 years or so.

The reason for this is
when we meet our kids for the first time
we are already full of wounds, triggers
and layers upon layers
of emotional experiences.

On the other hand, they are in a pure state.
They do not have a lot of wounds
and trauma clouding their judgement.

Our job as parents is to nurture their inner emotional world
so they can grow up with at least a few less
inner wounds and trauma than we did.

Our Relationship Becomes More Complex As They Grow

As they grow they become more complex
emotional beings with their own thoughts,
opinions, perspective and will.

This adds to the variety of ways they can
press our buttons and suck our energy.

All of this is part of their emotional development.

Kids Have Emotional Purity, but not Emotional Maturity

Even though kids are emotionally quite pure
in their infancy they are not emotionally mature.

Emotional maturity is being able to experience
the full range of emotions and still being able
to choose our thoughts and actions.

We can choose to be swept away in our emotions
or we can choose to be rational and objective.

Young people don’t have this choice
in the same way we do
because they haven’t learned the skill.

Part of our responsibility as parents is
to teach them emotional maturity.

Modelling Emotional Maturity Requires a Lot of Inner Work

The primary way of doing this of course is by modeling it.

This is why the balance of emotional give and take
will never be fair between you and your kids.
You will always have to give much much more and
they will always take much much more.

At some point our kids mature to a level
where we are able to have a more
adult relationship with them.
When this happens the emotional
give and take can balance out.

In order for this to occur though
we have to be willing to take the lioness’s share
of the responsibility in the early years.

This means of course that we have to do
a tremendous amount of inner work.

Dealing With Our Own Triggers And Buttons

If when our buttons get pressed we
dump that emotional energy on our kids
we are not doing anybody a favour.

We have to learn to deal with our own inner stuff
in a way that doesn’t harm them.

If you can let go of seeking fairness
and instead seek harmony, connection,
communication and trust
you will find that the imbalance
in your relationship with your kids
will transform from a burden
into an honour and a joy.

You’re Pushing my Buttons

January 18, 2016


You’re pushing my buttons

An event on the elevator

The other day I was in the elevator and a family came in.

It was a mom and two kids.
The girl was probably 7
and the boy around 4.

Right away the young boy started
pressing all the buttons in the elevator.
You could see the delight in his eyes
at the shiny buttons lighting up when he touched them.

Stop being a 4 year old this instant

His mom smacked his hand and
told him to stop doing that.
He pretty much ignored her and
kept trying to push the buttons.

The girl was clearly afraid.
She was trying to stop him before
her mom got even angrier.

The whole situation was quite tense and intense

The mother looked apologetically at me
because her son had just added
five or six extra floors for us to stop on
as we were heading up.

When she made eye contact with me I saw my opportunity and I jumped in saying:

“All kids push buttons.
That’s what kids are supposed to do.
They’re so shiny and fun.
It’s how they learn and explore
the world around them.

As adults we often forget
what it was like to be a kid.
If we can remember it’s
easier for us to relate to them.”

Then I looked at the boy and said
I love pushing buttons too.
I didn’t say too much to him.
Just enough to make him feel that
I was accepting and enjoying him.

Jumping into the unknown

Whenever I take the chance to stick my nose
into someone else’s business like that
I never quite know how it’s going to turn out.

I have to just go with my gut
and trust that I’m doing the right thing.

Remembering what it was like to be a kid

In this case it worked out well.
I could see that I struck a nerve with the mom.
She seemed to let my words touch her deeply.
She took a deep breath and let her shoulders relax.

I think she suddenly remembered
herself as a young person.

Then she smiled and said
“Yes you’re right.
I see what you mean.”

After that we just rode the elevator in silence.
I smiled at the kids and they seemed
a little bit in shock themselves at what had just occurred.

They got out of the elevator on their floor and
they all waved and said goodbye.

This was a beautiful moment for all of us

The kids felt validated.
The mom seem to have an epiphany.
I felt honored to have had the opportunity
to make a small difference.

Tuning in to our kids perspective

One thing that stood out to me was
when the mom took a moment to tune into
the vibrations of her kids
she was able to clearly see things
from a different perspective.

So many of us as adults have
forgotten what it’s like
to be 3
to be 10
to be 16.

Yet those memories are inside of us and
if we take the time and effort to access them
it can make relating to our kids much easier.

Relating to them on their level helps build trust

When we show them we can relate to them
and they feel heard and understood
they are much more likely to open up to us.
They are much more likely to be
receptive to our suggestions.
They are also more likely to see us as inspiration
rather than an adversary.

The traditional adversarial parent and child relationship is not inevitable

It is possible to have a relationship
built on mutual respect and love.

It is primarily the responsibility of the parent
to create and foster this relationship
from the very beginning.

Seeing the world through the eyes of your child
and relating to them on their level,
like this womyn did in that moment on the elevator,
can make all the difference.

Kids are nuts!

This is certainly not always easy to do
because a lot of the time the way kids behave
seems insane to adults.

If we can get beyond that and accept that
the reality of a three year old is equally valid
as the reality of a 33 year old
then we are truly on our way to creating
more harmony in our families.

The Four Problems With Punishment

January 17, 2016

the four problems with punishment

I haven’t written directly about punishment in a while
so I thought it might be good to say a few words on the topic.

If you have been following my blog
you probably know that I am
significantly against punishment of any kind.

This includes consequences, removal of privileges and timeouts.

An Open Mind

If you are presently punishing your kids
in order to correct their behavior
then this article might be difficult for you to read.

I ask you to try and read it anyways,
try and read it without becoming
defensive or feeling attacked.

Take in the ideas and
think about them independently.
Think about them objectively
and draw your own conclusions.

There are many reasons for not punishing,
I’m going to briefly describe what I consider the top four

Punishment gives kids the message
that we love them conditionally
and not unconditionally.

We are telling them that we love them more
when they behave like this
and less when they behave like that.

While it may be true that we love our kids the same
whether we are punishing them or not,
in fact many people believe that
they are punishing their kids because they love them,

the fact remains that in their experience
when they are being punished
they are not feeling loved.

Therefore from their perspective
they are more worthy of love
when they meet the expectations
of the authority figures in their lives.

Love and Acceptance From An External Source

One of the effects of this is that
it puts the focus of self-love
and acceptance outside of us.

In other words, in order to feel worthy
of love and acceptance
we have to please other people.

When I think about sending
my daughter out into the world
with the strongest foundation possible,
this mindset seems in direct opposition to that.

I do not want her to spend her life
seeking acceptance from other people.

Punishment teaches kids that
the reason to do good is to avoid pain.

It does not teach the idea of
doing good for its own sake.

It does not teach the idea of
doing good to create the
best outcome for everyone.

It does not produce a mindset focused on
working towards mutual benefit.

In essence, doing good
to avoid pain for yourself
is a selfish motivation.

It also means that when there is
no threat of punishment
there is no reason to continue
doing the good thing.

Basically we are trying to get them to
behave better by making them feel worse.

The inherent contradiction in that idea seems so glaring to me.

Punishment erodes the bond of
trust and love between parent and child.

Every time we punish our children
they trust us a little bit less.

They believe in our love a little bit less.

They believe in our good intentions a little bit less.

Punishment produces the condition
in which kids are forced to lie to us.

They may not even know they are lying at times,
but this is the reaction that punishment forces upon them.

Our kids learn that they cannot simply be themselves
if they want to be loved and accepted by their parents.

This means they have to put on a false mask
so that they do not receive pain
at the hands of the people
who are supposed to love them unconditionally.

Sometimes I put myself in the mind of
a child looking at its parent.

“This being is supposed to be my support,
my foundation, the source of my very existence,
my inspiration and my protection.
And yet I can never be sure of
when they will also turn into my tormentor.”

This doesn’t only erode our kid’s sense of
love and trust with us,
but it erodes their relationship
with love and trust itself.

Punishment teaches kids how to treat others
when they have power over them.

The only reason a parent can punish their child
is because they have power over them.

We have economic,
physical and
emotional power
over our children.

The way we use that power
demonstrates to them how to treat others.

I have often said that one of the
primary causes of bullying is
the model kids have for
how to treat others from their parents.

Punishment is saying:
“Because I have this power over you
I can make you feel bad
when you do not conform to my expectations.”

It is telling our kids that
there are appropriate times
for them to cause other people pain
in order to get their way.

It is teaching them that
they do not have to consider the feelings
of other people to be
as valid and important as their own.

Punishment is an empathy killer.

Punishment is a community killer.

True empathy comes from Love
not from Fear.

I actually know a guy who claims
he taught his two year old daughter empathy
by pulling her hair every time she pulled his hair.

He genuinely believes that she learned
to love and care for him more
because she knew the pain he was feeling
when she pulled his hair.

The real lesson there is,.
if somebody hurts you
the best way to deal with it
is to hurt them back.

This is not the mindset that I want for my child.

This is not the mindset that I want for the world!

A common question I often receive at this point in my description is
How will I get my kids to behave if I do not punish them?

This is a very reasonable and valid question/concern.

Parenting without punishment is possible.

Not only is it possible,
it is more pleasant for everyone concerned.

It is also dramatically more effective
in creating a harmonious and
cooperative household community.

Transitioning from Control to Communication

If you are interested in transitioning
from a punishment model relationship with your kids
to a cooperative, collaborative, communication
and reasoning based model of interaction with your kids
I can help.

I suggest reading through some of the articles
I have written over the past year on this blog.
Click on the parenting category link
on the top right of this page
and you will have all of the articles together.

There is a lot of good information
on how to work with your kids in a non-punitive way.

It can also be very useful to receive direct support.

I am presently working with
many families and helping them
make this difficult and yet rewarding transition.

If you’re interested in working with me
and experimenting with these ideas
please contact me and we can
discuss how we can work together.

Either way I lovingly suggest giving it a try.
It will be challenging at first.

Even if you can remove 10%
of your tendency to use consequences
as a means of altering behavior
you will see a profound effect
upon the emotional and mental state of your children,
on the relationship you have with them
and on the overall positive energy in your home.

If you can increase that percentage a little at a time
you can completely transition to a relationship and interaction
based on mutual love and respect
rather than power and control.

This is a beautiful achievement that
you will value all the years of your life.