Archive for the ‘Parenting for Peace’ Category

7 Principles for Peaceful Parenting

Monday, January 13th, 2020

Is it me?? Is our world is tilting toward the brink, or are we merely witnessing normal global growing pains?

Oh how I wish the premise of my book Parenting for Peace had become obsolete in the 7+ years since it was published. But alas, the premise of my book could not be more relevant right now:

If we really want change the world, we need to raise a generation “built for peace”—hardwired at brain level with the capacities needed to foster empathic interdependence and innovative solutions in our challenged world.

At this point in human history, I guess I would dare to ask, “Why be a parent if not to try and bring a peacemaker on earth?” It might be peace through embroidery or engineering or being a CEO. Ultimately, our consciously enacted wish for our children becomes that they unfold as individuals with the heart to embrace and exemplify peacefulness, the psyche to experience joy and intimacy, the mind to innovate solutions to social and ecological challenges, and the will to enact such innovations.

That kind of human is never a genetically predetermined given, but the result of dynamic interactions between genetics and environment — with parents being the most influential environmental variable.

Yikes, that is pretty daunting, right?!

In 25 years of being a parent, a student of human development, a human in constant development, an impassioned researcher of the human sciences, and a parent counselor engaged with the challenges and triumphs of real moms and dads, I have gathered a superabundance of excellent information. But I’ve also come to recognize that one of the greatest gifts in this era of information overload is to arrive at the other side of a gazillion helpful facts to essential “nuggets” that are simplified without being simplistic.

In the spirit of today’s love of “listicles,” I offer you the seven solid-gold nuggets that beat at the heart of my book. They are informed by research in an array of fields ranging from neuroscience to theology, prenatal psychology to quantum physics.

While these 7 Principles of Parenting for Peace “accordion out” to include more basics than I have room to include here, these are the foundational principles for effective, healthy and joyful parenting.

Marcy Axness, PhD | Parenting for PeacePresence: This is the ability to be completely here, right now in the moment, fully engaged with all of you – your thoughts, feelings and attention. Connected. One of the greatest needs of the child is a regular dose of your undistracted presence. Try “Nothing Else” time: Sit on the floor, amidst the blocks, the books, the dolls… and be available to your child.

This is when you allow yourself to be taught by your child: curiosity, playfulness, spontaneity. If you can carve out 20 minutes, 15 minutes, even 10 minutes of this quality of presence in a day, it’s like a magic vitamin to the relationship mix – not just nourishing, but also buffering and protective against other disrupting elements of daily life. And it fosters the true self-esteem that flourishes with your child’s experience that she is worth your time, your attention, your presence.

Awareness: This includes the “book learning” part of the job – all the stuff you need to know to be effective as a parent. Essential parental awareness includes everything from “micro” details such as knowing when the last time your child ate some protein or essential fatty acids (brain food is essential for the ability to “keep it together”)… had some water… or got some sleep… to the kinds of “big picture” awareness like where your child is in the scheme of unfolding brain development, and the capacities unique to that stage. This includes knowing, for example, that a young child’s primary modes of learning are through sensing (seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching — indeed, lots of touching!) and doing. This understanding helps parents with a basic “discipline” issue: for a child to touch something is similar to an adult thinking about that same thing.

Another essential aspect of awareness for parents is a connected sense of our own childhood, and what parenting awakens within us in terms of our history and our story. We all travel with an entourage: us at each age we ever were! When a mother holds a baby in her arms, the baby she once was is also there, with all of the feelings she had then. Ditto the toddler, the preschooler, the kindergartner, the teen… you get the idea. This is often the biggest challenge in parenting!

Rhythm: Rhythm can be a parent’s best friend. Rhythm is one of the greatest needs of the young child, but also a fundamental human principle, often forgotten in our supercharged, 24/7 world. Young children thrive on and crave rhythmicity to their days, their weeks, even the seasons: “This is when we eat, this is when we nap, this is when we have play time… Tuesdays we go to the park, Wednesdays we go to the Farmer’s Market, Sunday we visit Grandma, and summer is beach time!”

Seems monotonous to us as adults, because we’re essentially different creatures inside our skulls. The limbic or “feeling brain” structures developing in the early years are critical to the formation of all later brain-based capacities. Rhythm’s external consistency and predictability allow the growing child to gradually internalize regulation & stability – which we now know is the foundation for all human success, including intelligence, relationships, and joy.

Example: Rudolf Steiner said that the young child is really an eye, taking in everything, registering everything, without analysis! And they imitate everything. They don’t so much hear your words, but pick up and emulate everything else.

So the question must always be, “Am I worthy of my child’s unquestioning imitation?” If you complain about chores – even just in the way you make the gesture of doing the chore – it will be emulated (perhaps not right away, but years from now). So, for example, take care that the books you read to your little one also interest you; if I read to my child forcing myself to do it, I shouldn’t be surprised later by his avoidance of reading! Also, careful about taking pleasure in matter-of-factly criticizing friends, acquaintances, politicians. By contrast, children learn important lessons from our striving to elevate our inner selves. Children take our cues about everything from our example, and become our most exquisite mirrors. Be (or strive toward) the noble qualities you dream of for your child!

Nurturance: This is the practical demonstration of love, the giving of ourselves to the other: how we cuddle them, feed them, smile at them. Everything is an opportunity for nurturance of your children, from how you choose their toys and books, their clothing, the colors for their rooms, what to feed them, even the attitude you hold while preparing their meals! Beauty, reverence, a sense of awe—these are all important ways of nurturing the young child.

And, how we discipline, keeping in mind that humans of all ages are always either in “growth or protection” mode, and that harsh reprimands – including the popular exile of “Time Out” – elicit defense/protection mode physically and psychologically, which is counterproductive on all mind/body levels. This doesn’t mean we never say “no” or set limits, but that we repair the ruptured relationship after a break happens.

Trust: It’s the most potent anti-anxiety secret, and perhaps the most subversive act on this list. Everything in our consumerist culture teaches us that we’re not quite enough, but something we can purchase will make up for our lack – like the myriad “educational” techno-gizmos marketed at anxiously devoted parents. Together with the other six principles, trust is an antidote for this anxiety. When I have a new rose that is just budding in my garden, do I tinker with the petals, or do anything with that flower to “optimize” it? No, I enrich and fertilize the soil that the rose is growing in, and I trust in the process of Life unfolding. I also trust that the rosebush can weather storms without me over-sheltering it!

Simplicity: It is the portal to joy, and joy lies at the very foundation of health, well-being and peace. Definitely with a child younger than 6 or 7, but also with older kids, the more we can simplify life, the more peace we will have in the home and woven into the fabric of the child’s developing brain; it becomes a feedback loop.

The child’s deepest need is to be seen and known. Simplifying daily life helps that to happen more: “When we overbook, we overlook.” Research has found that just simplifying dramatically reduces symptoms of clinically diagnosed ADHD. Cultivating a sense of wonder and imagination helps guarantee simplicity, because then everything becomes something amazing: wind through the trees is fairies dancing… a piece of wood becomes an alligator or a doll… a spoon becomes a great flag or a king’s scepter. Then we don’t need to constantly purchase things. And a child – or parent – who can imagine is on a path toward unlimited horizons.

Wired Wednesday: Good for Facebook Users to Know

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

Digital-Dependence-Parenting-for-Peace

I’ve been doing “Wired Wednesday” for a couple years now, writing about various concerns related to our collective digital dependence. Over that time, yes, I have become more mindful about some of my own digital dependencies. Yes, I (most nights) disable WiFi so we can sleep free of excess EMF exposure. Yes, my basic hygiene includes not looking at my smartphone when someone is speaking to me (and encouraging the same courtesy from them). But no, I have not jumped ship from Facebook.

All I can say is, if you’re a Facebook user, regardless of how infrequently, take a look at this Slate article by Katie Day Good: “Why I Printed My Facebook.” It simply describes what Good found when she decided to download and print out her entire Facebook dossier. It totaled 10,057 pages, 4,612 of which were nothing but “disembodied ‘likes'” that Good chose not to print.

Consider it as part of your own due-diligence—knowing with more specific clarity the implications of your participation in that social media juggernaut. A couple highlights:

“It seemed absurd to print something so massive, and with so much disaggregated data that I’d never want to read in full, but I was glad I did it. I had no illusions about ‘reclaiming my data’—I knew all of this was Zuckerberg’s to keep —but I felt a smidgen of empowerment in finally getting a grasp of the mountain of information I had given him.”

“Other files were less amusing. ‘Advertisers Who Uploaded a Contact List With Your Information’ was a 116-page roster of companies, most of which I had never heard of, that have used my data to try to sell me things. The document called ‘Facial Recognition Code’ was disturbingly brief and indecipherable, translating my face into a solid block of jumbled text—a code that only Facebook’s proprietary technology can unlock—about 15 rows deep.”

“Why I Printed My Facebook” by Katie Day Good

Whether you’re curious, captivated or concerned about our digital dependence and device devotion, join me on (most) Wednesdays so we can explore it together. (Sign up here if you want to be sure not to miss anything!) ….. …..

Stay in the Wired Wednesdays Loop:

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Wired Wednesday: Losing a Child to Online Extremists

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

 

Wired Wednesdays | Marcy Axness, PhD | Parenting for Peace

I did not write this. I am curating this. It is a mind-blowing article that appeared in Washingtonian magazine.

This story chillingly details a phenomenon that every parent should be aware of in today’s wired world. It sheds light on a fearful dimension of the digital age that I have not yet explored in this blog…and, in fact, of which I was unaware until I read this article.

This isn’t something that just happens to other people. The writer sounds like me, her son sounds like my son. Their family, their values, sound like ours… and, I’m guessing if you’re into Parenting for Peace stuff… maybe like yours. She writes,

“I couldn’t understand how this had happened. … My husband and I poured everything we had into nurturing an empathetic, observant child. Until then, it had seemed to be working. Teachers and family friends had always commented on Sam’s kindness and especially his gentleness toward the ‘underdog’.”

Read Anonymous’ article, “What Happened After My 13-Year-Old Son Joined the Alt-Right: A Washington family’s nightmare year” at Washingtonian’s site here.

Whether you’re curious, captivated or concerned about our digital dependence and device devotion, join me on (most) Wednesdays so we can explore it together. (Sign up here if you want to be sure not to miss anything!) ….. …..

Stay in the Wired Wednesdays Loop:

I’ll Notify You About New Posts

Photo-illustration by C.J. Burton for Washingtonian

Wired Wednesday: Saving Our Smartphone Brains

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Digital-Dependence-Parenting-for-Peace

Adoption Insight by Marcy Axness, PhD | Parenting for PeaceWhen my book Parenting for Peace came out in 2012, the handheld device revolution hadn’t yet reached its tipping point, so smartphone brain wasn’t yet a thing.

The screens I discussed in my book were DVDs in the backs of SUV seats, video games, computer screens, television and other such notions that have become quaint-sounding in just a few years.

But even before the smartphone brain era had taken hold, I posed in my book the idea that we’re faced with a “Peaceful Parenting Conundrum” that goes as follows:

  • Technology has careened forward and changed our world dramatically, even in just the past fifty years; and…
  • Human beings haven’t much changed—in how we’re built or how we function—in thousands of years!

One of the most urgent questions for parents today is, How do we most gracefully and fruitfully navigate these dual realities?! (more…)

Wired Wednesdays: Protecting Children from Device Addiction

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

Digital-Dependence-Parenting-for-Peace

Adoption Insight by Marcy Axness, PhD | Parenting for PeaceOf the many aspects of our digital dependence I’ve been writing about for over a year now, the most troubling by far is device addiction. The entire online machinery is designed to foster device addiction in us, and–more troubling–in our children, whose developing neural landscapes are more vulnerable to being fundamentally shaped by engineered device addiction.

If you’ve been following Wired Wednesdays, you already know this. But for folks who haven’t been looped in with me on that, I’ve put together a sort of Cliffs Notes blog post that pulls together threads from several installments over the past year.

I wrote it for New Earth Nation, where I’m on faculty in the School of Health & Wellness at their university. Ryan, the cool millennial who maintains the blog, included this message after he published it: “Yet another truth bomb from Dr. Marcy Axness! This one really caused me to look at my own device use and I’m already seeing a difference in my usage and self awareness around this. 🙂 Thank you so much.” (more…)

Wired Wednesdays: Curses, My Phone Won’t Wink

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

Digital-Dependence-Parenting-for-Peace

My ex-husband*, our two grown kids and I recently switched from AT&T to Verizon for our cell service. [*A marriage may end, but a family cellular plan goes on!] In the process I got a new free LG smartphone.

As I was familiarizing myself with my new phone—blessedly similar to my former Android—I was bummed to discover that it doesn’t have a notification light. You know, that little blinker that alerts you that you have notifications? Even from across the room?

I couldn’t believe it. I went online to read reviews of my smartphone, and sure enough, I saw that this was other folks’ main (and mostly only) complaint about this phone: no notification light.

Well, it only took a day or so for me to realize I was relieved to have suffered this kind of personal tech “regression.” My device would no longer be winking and blinking at me, beckoning me to “Pick me up, light me up. Press my buttons. Let me manipulate your brain chemicals!”

And as timing would have it, I stumbled upon this article that same week.

Wired Wednesdays | Marcy Axness, PhD | Parenting for Peace

Huzzah! Now I had expert corroboration that my missing blinking smartphone light (more…)

The Missing Vagina Monologue: Own Your Super-Power!

Monday, March 19th, 2018

The Missing Vagina Monologue | Marcy Axness, PhDI’ve been burying the lead, as they say, for some months now: I have joined the faculty of New Earth University, an international community that brings together creative curriculum, conscious collaboration and meaningful resources into a gorgeous, paradigm-shifting learning model.

This development really deserves its own post, and life has simply been too busy to attend to that. For now I’ll just share my latest blog at NEU–a deeply personal reflection on my disappointment 16 years ago upon seeing The Vagina Monologues, and my opportunity, finally, to put it in writing and perform it as a “Spotlight” monologue during our community’s recent V-Day run of performances. (We closed just last night!)

My thoughts clearly plucked a chord within many women in our audiences, as you can see in these Facebook comments. Their desire to pass it on to future generations is the best praise I could ever hope for! Here it is, for you:

Claiming Our Super-Power

Master of Your iDomain: Who Controls Your Attention?

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

Wired Wednesdays | Marcy Axness, PhD | Parenting for Peace At the end of each issue of my favorite weekly news digest The Week is a 2-page section called “The last word.” It features a substantive (polite word for “long”) piece of extraordinary writing. In the final issue of last year they ran this article on digital life and attention by Craig Mod, a must-read for folks mindful enough to wonder about the effects digital dependence has on something as intangible as your attention.

Neuroplasticity (the ability–nay, propensity–of our brains to change in response to experience) has been one of the most exciting scientific revelations of the past generation. It is what allows for some of our most inspiring human capacities, like emotional healing and personal reinvention.

And now, neuroplasticity is leveraged by digital engineers to guide your handheld device behavior by manipulating your neurochemistry. Think I’m being dramatic or leaning on hyperbole? Check out “Brain Hacking: Hijacking You From the Inside” featuring Anderson Cooper’s sobering 60 Minutes segment. (And if you tend toward conspiracy thinking, you might want to skip Mod’s section discussing his awareness of cunningly shifting algorithms during his Clash of Clans experience. Omg.)

I offer you this beautifully expressed article (originally from BackChannel/Wired) as a New Year’s gift — a palette-cleanser after a rough past year, and some inspiration (if even just vicarious) toward reclaiming sovereignty over something we’ve always taken for granted,  something unspeakably valuable: our attention.

How I Got My Attention Back

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iMPATIENCE and iMPULSIVENESS: Deadly Effects of Wired Life?

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

Wired Wednesdays | Marcy Axness, PhD | Parenting for Peace

This one’s personal, folks. It’s one thing to recognize the discouraging association between smartphones and impatience, and it’s a whole other thing to experience that impatience on a daily basis in a potentially deadly way.

Creeping along a clogged-up patch of the 101 freeway on a recent trip to Los Angeles, I was gob-smacked to see how many drivers around me were flagrantly texting – nothing covert or sneaky about it! Phones were right up in front of their faces, and apparently their one free hand — or maybe a knee — was steering.

I witnessed it in the lanes on either side of me, in the car in front of me, in my rear-view… seemingly all around me. It was like that classic scene out of any B horror movie: everywhere the bedeviled heroine looks, a monster looms!

But we were all moving in the same direction, we were all moving slowly, and I could change lanes to navigate away from these folks.

In the remote forest community where I live, none of those mitigating circumstances apply on the 2-lane mountain highway we all must drive to go anywhere. To the left is a particularly infamous little section called The S-Curves. But in reality, the entire road out of our village features continuous blind curves and therefore solid double yellow lines all the way.

The point of my discussion today isn’t the horribly dangerous epidemic of texting while driving, as in my above 101 Fwy example. That’s a conversation for another day. What’s been weighing heavy on my mind the past many months is the suspicion that our culture’s increasingly wired life is making (mostly young) people less patient and more impulsive in general — not just when they’re online. For example, when they’re driving our 2-lane road. (more…)

Digital Dependence: Our Ridiculous Addiction?

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

Wired Wednesdays | Marcy Axness, PhD | Parenting for Peace

This whole issue of how entranced and attached we are to our smartphones — and to the social media they link us to — is soooo challenging and touchy, isn’t it? I think because at some level we suspect that, even though the technology that has put them in our hands is extraordinarily brilliant, far from being a magnificent obsession, it’s a ridiculous addiction.

We don’t usually think in terms of ridiculous addictions. Addiction is serious. Addiction is complex. And boy is this addiction a tough one to detangle and get much of handle on.

We don’t usually think of addiction and humor going together. But in this case I think that sometimes humor can be a wonderful mirror in which we can begin to let our guard down and let some recognition in. As the saying goes, “More truth is said in jest.” Can humor help us recognize our ridiculous addiction?

Here are two recent amusing mirrors. The first are scenes from a recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy(more…)