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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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of my sayings is:
“Coercive influence decreases over time.
Relational influence increases over time.”
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.
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.
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.
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.


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.

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.
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.


The Past Tries To Control Me, The Future Tries To Scare Me!

August 2, 2015


At the moment I am in Poughkeepsie New York.
I am attending a martial arts seminar with my teacher Kacem Zoughari.
He is one of the best martial artists in the world.

I first met him in 2006 and my life has never been the same.
In fact I learned more from him in the first year I met him then I did in the previous 20!

I see him approximately two or three times a year, sometimes less.
I learn many things from him in these brief visits and then I must spend the intervening months practicing what I learned.

I also get very nervous in advance of seeing him.
I am usually quite terrified but I will not have practiced enough and he will be disappointed in my movement.

This time in particular I have put myself through a lot of stress in anticipation of experiencing his disapproval.
Of course the reason I am going to him is not for his approval but my education.
And yet the fear persists.

Once I actually arrived here I have had the most wonderful weekend.
Kiss M has given me many corrections, but he’s being extremely nice to me and I have experience nothing but kindness and love from the man.

All of my fears were in my head and not directly reflective of reality.

Oh man how I torture myself!
It seems I do not really need anyone else to torture me,
I do a pretty good job of it all on my own.

As I am fond of saying
“The past tries to control us,
the future tries to scare us
Only in the present
do we have power and choice.”

Will I learn this lesson?
Or will I freak out again the next time I’m getting ready to see my teacher?
I’ll probably freak out!

Maybe I’ll put a reminder in my phone to read this post in early October a few weeks before the next seminar.

Sigh… Change is a slow and painful process.
At least I can laugh at myself.
It makes the journey a little easier.

Hello world!

January 15, 2009

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