Posts Tagged ‘simplicity’

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.

The Power of Example = 3 Cool Mothering Hacks

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Spring Simplicity SeriesIt seem that we moms are always seeking more of something: more harmony with our children, more calm & confidence in our parenting, more connection with our partner, more uninterrupted sleep. (That last one is its own entire book, but…) You can get surprising traction on the rest by putting the power of example to work for you in a few simple ways!

Example — principle #4 of Parenting for Peace — is the ultimate mode of teaching and learning. Meaning, we are most influenced by example. In my book I focus mostly on ways to teach and influence your child through your own example, but let’s zoom out one step and use example to influence YOU. (Which, in a sneaky twist of paradox, is truly the best way to influence others!) {Read on at mothering.com}

 

Three Simple Ways to Nurture Yourself

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Spring Simplicity SeriesI’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” So very true!

Children feed on our consciousness, so our mood state becomes the unspoken (but potent) back-beat for everything that takes place between us and them. The more we can nurture ourselves, the more easeful our day-to-day life with our children becomes — and the more healthy their development! Here are three simple ways to nurture yourself. {Read about them at mothering.com}

 

Got Trust? The Antidote for Insecurity & Stress

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

One fundamental intention in parenting for peace is to foster trust and hope within your child from the very beginning. When we nurture trust in our children’s souls, it can unfold into an unending arc of confidence — in themselves, in you, in their fellow humans, in Life.

By trust I mean a calm reliance upon things that you cannot necessarily perceive much less control. (What a quaint notion in this era when we can perceive pretty much everything by virtue of our many technological devices!)

Insecurity, the antithesis of trust, carries a scent akin to fear — it repels and undermines the connection and collaboration required to be a person of peace and innovation. By contrast, trust is the great attractor; it is possible to tame the most powerful forces simply with deep and abiding trust.

Spring Simplicity Series

But how do we foster trust within our children if we ourselves suffer from a drastic lack of trust? After all, our children learn mostly from how we are rather than things we say. Here are a few tried and true ways to fill your inner reservoir of trust. {Read more at mothering.com}

Tame Back-To-School Stress with Simplicity

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Four Ideas for Simplifying Life While Enriching Education

I’ll start by apologizing for even mentioning the BTS-word while summer is still (imho) in full flower. But by now it’s a quaint, old-fashioned notion that vacation extends until Labor Day — ha! These days some students have to devote that three-day weekend to cranking out their first papers or projects.

In my day [best stated in crochety, old-lady voice], we were very excited for back-to-school, in large part, I think, because summer’s pace was soooooo much slower than it tends to be these days. There weren’t all the summer programs, the series of vacations, the catch-up tutoring. There were long, hot days filled with swimming, catching pollywogs, reading comics and Nancy Drew, and walking to the corner store for candy. Maybe a horseback riding or dance lesson sprinkled in occasionally, or a family outing to the river. Rinse and repeat, for 75 days, and you are ready for the refreshing rigor of school. {Read more at mothering.com}