10:00AM PST (California time)
This is Part 2 of a free series. Watch Part 1 here
Meeting ID: 811 8229 4840
This is as good a time of year as any to consider if you have any habits that are worthy of changing. I would like to nominate a habit that most of us have in our thinking. It arises after someone else does something other than what we wanted them to do when our mind goes to a variety of options all related to judging the other person as bad or wrong or worthy of punishment. Sometimes these thoughts don’t rise to the level of consciousness but they nonetheless fuel words and actions. And this sort of judging can happen in regard to other adults or to our own beloved children.
I think it is based on an ancient tendency in thinking that says “if things don’t go the way they are supposed to, if things don’t go the way I want, then it is somebody’s fault and they have to pay somehow.”
For this post I will try to stick with adult/child interactions, but feel free to extrapolate to all your relations and interactions.
Let’s use an example for dissection purposes. Your child takes a toy from their sibling, or some other child. The other child had been playing with the toy and your child went over, took hold of the toy, and tugged. When they got the toy from the other child they walked away smiling. The other child? Not so happy.
So what happens? What happens first of all inside you? Likely you think thoughts such as: “That was wrong.” “That was bad.” “That was not appropriate.” “They shouldn’t have,” and so on…. This is Level One punishment. It is in the realm of thinking. Then you open your mouth and scolding words such as the things you had just been thinking enter the environment. This scolding is Level Two. Level Two may also include you saying such things as, “How would you like it if they did that to you?”
Level Three can go two ways. One version of Level Three is called ‘Time Out.’ It is really code for ‘punishment.’ “You have done something wrong, and now you have to go away from everyone and be by yourself.” (sometimes ‘Time Out’ can be used to create a much-needed break from interactions but is rarely used as such) The other way of Level Three is hitting, spanking, slapping, etc….all varieties of corporal punishment.
The thing is, all three levels are punishment. As soon as we begin on the path of negatively judging we have entered the realm of punishment. So, the grand ancient and deeply ingrained habit I am suggesting you consider changing is thinking judgmental thoughts, and it is not an easy feat to change this habit. But I am going to offer you three short thoughts that can help you begin to break this habit, a habit that damages connection and offers little chance of learning for both parties involved.
1. Everybody has needs and wants. Everybody! And starting when we are quite little we begin to attempt to get what we need and want. These attempts are based partly on imitation of those around us, and partly on trial and error. We see the techniques others use to get what they need and want and we copy and adapt those. If those techniques work to get us what we need and want, we keep doing them and those become our habits. So, it starts out as a strategy for attaining something, and then this repeating strategy becomes our habit. Perhaps the child who takes from the other child has the habit of taking. This habit was learned, and conditioned by experiences. This habit was solidified through interactions with you. It is a dynamic between you and your child. They continue to do the habit (of taking) because it works. Get it?
2. What if, when your child does something other than what you wanted, you try and become aware of what is the truth for you in the experience? I’d like to suggest the obvious and that is…if your child does other than what you want, your experience is the simple feeling of “I don’t like this.” That is not a judgement of right and wrong, good or bad, etc….it is simply what you are feeling.
3. Empathy means trying to walk in another’s shoes, trying to experience where their choices, actions, and words are coming from. “What lead this person to speak or act in this way?” Not to accept any and all behaviors out of empathy, but trying to understand another’s behaviors. This is empathy. Paired with compassion, empathy can be a guiding force towards changing our own habits. We can begin to experience the effects on others of our habits of judging, of seeking fault, and assessing punishment. And perhaps that can be a stimulus for our own change!
The time is right now for taking hold of ourselves and manifesting change. Only you can change you (by the way, you can’t change anyone other than you). What are you waiting for?
As I mentioned, this is no easy road, but the rewards of changing this habit of thought are enhanced connection with those you love, and less stress and anxiety in your own life. It is worth the effort.
Beyond Sticks and Carrots - True Connecting with the Young Child
Free Virtual Workshop with Steve
Saturday, January 23, 2021 at 10am California time
No preregistration - limited to first 100 participants
Here is the Zoom link. Simply log on for the event:
Meeting ID: 811 8229 4840
2020 is almost over, and what a year it has been! For everyone and everywhere!
This has been a momentous year for challenges, uncertainty and stress. To say this has been a stressful year is way beyond understatement. And as we approach the solstice, and the beginning of a new year, much of the cause of the stress is still with us. In the US, we have had turmoil surrounding the November election, and there is a raging pandemic worldwide, and the climate is still changing, continuing to create more and more severe weather patterns. Right now, layered on top of that we are in the midst of a holiday season in which most of us cannot spend time with our family members who don’t live with us. This year, our holiday traditions will not be the source of comfort they often are.
Many children and grandparents will not be spending time together during the holidays this year. So there is sadness on top of grief. What can we do to alleviate the suffering? How can we say no to accepting more stress? As adults caring for young children, we need to do things to reduce anxiety and discomfort in ourselves, and in so doing we help to lessen stress for the children. I have 3 suggestions:
1. Stillness, quiet and peace.
Create some time for stillness in your family life. Put away the electronic devices, stop talking and pause in silence together for a least a few moments several times a day. Perhaps before a meal, hold hands with each other and sit for a moment with no words, simply being and enjoying. Perhaps add a practice of speaking gratitude for the food you are about to eat and that you are able to be present with each other.
Stillness and quiet are a fertile ground for imagination and creativity. Who knows what is born in the quiet spaces? If your child complains about being bored, you can encourage them to find something to do…out of their own will and initiative. Boredom can be fertilizer for creativity.
The holiday season is often a time where we can be overwhelmed by going and doing out in the world. Especially the young children can get overwhelmed by the places we drag them to; the sounds, sights, smells and the hustle and bustle. So in a way, this pandemic year is helping avoid that sort of overwhelm for the children. It means we are spending more time at home together.
Again I suggest, create times where there is no music or media playing, where we adults put away our devices and families can simply spend time together as the creators of the soundscape for their own experience. Not all day, but try it and see what arises. Then you may find yourselves enjoying more and more time spent together in this way.
Enjoy the quiet and rejoice in the stillness.
And perhaps you will discover an inner peace arising.
2. Be aware of your own inner darkness.
At this time of year, there is a tendency for human beings, adults especially, to turn inward and wallow in regrets and sadnesses. We tend to spend a lot of time thinking about what could have been, where we went wrong and even can end up in a self-pity-party. At the very least, we humans tend towards introspection as the days grow shorter and the nights longer.
There even is a condition named S.A.D. which stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is caused by a reduction in sunlight on the body causing sadness and distress in some individuals.
A soul remedy for this, a way to maintain some balance, especially this year, is first to be aware of this possibility. And then to actively connect with levity - from listening to comedians, to reading funny stories, to reading the wisdom of sages, both modern and of old, and to opening yourself to receiving the light of the stars and planets that shines on us all the time. If we think of this light as the medium for the cosmos to transmit wisdom to human beings, perhaps we can fill ourselves with that light as an antidote to extreme inwardness.
We can start with “as if.” Act as if the light from the stars IS wisdom. And then try to actively receive the light and let it gather in our hearts where it can become intention for deeds based on love. Practice ‘as if’ until it becomes what is.
3. Nature is a healer
Even in pandemic times, we can go out in nature. We can take walks in the woods, at the beach, on the ridge tops. Nature soothes and nurtures both adults and children. Go without an agenda. Simply go into nature (again, leave your electronic devices behind). If you can find your way to a place in nature where there is moving water such as the ocean or a stream, you will find a physiological relaxation. Moving water releases negative ions which are relaxing for us.
Try grounding yourself in nature. If it is not too cold, take off your shoes so your bare feet touch the earth. It is physically grounding and a release of any positive charge you may have accumulated.
These pandemic days we are all not getting as much human touch as we like, as we need. I have often suggested we end our Zoom meetings by looking at each other, and wrapping our arms around ourselves a sort of group self-hug. It can help.
Another great way to have some touch and hugging is when you are out in nature. Look around and find a tree that is just the right size. Go up to it and give it a hug. I really mean it. Try it and let yourself feel it. Suggest your child do the same, though with a smaller tree. Try different trees with different types of bark. Become a modern tree hugger. Do it not only because you love the trees and want to protect them, but do it also because of the therapeutic benefit you receive from the trees.
I wish for you all a wonder-filled holiday season, full of warmth, light and love….and health. Merry Chrismahanukwanzmakah….and remember to hug some trees!
And some suggested further reading:
The New York Times - Stay at Home Holidays
This following words come from the quarterly journal of parent education published by the Child Study Association of America. It describes an upcoming conference sponsored by CSAA. My grandmother, Jennie L. Whitehill, was the Chair of the Board of CSAA for many years, including the time of this conference, March 1954. Nana Jennie would have been 113 years old today
Child Study Association of America is long gone but the Program Statement of the CSAA Annual Conference of March 1, 1954 resounds loudly today, 66 years later.
Courage - its roots in family and community living
In all times, the community has counted on the courage of individual men and women to maintain significant beliefs and pursue common goals. Individuals in turn have looked to one another and to the community for mutual support.
Now, as the community widens to a whole world, and united action is demanded on a huge scale, the need for personal courage and strength becomes ever more urgent.
The scene we live in and the problems we face seem remote even from those of a generation ago, they are startlingly new and sometimes overwhelming. Many of the traditions which have sustained us are under attack, so that it sometimes seems that democracy itself is scarcely understood. In the stress of today’s living, family ties are loosened, men and women are lonely, parents are bewildered. It is no wonder courage often fails us.
Yet people throughout the world do carry on their daily lives with unbelievable courage, sustained by the tradition and knowledge and the aspirations which are their heritage from the past. They are heartened by the conviction that the great majority of their fellowmen share with them the task of finding new sources of strength to meet the demands of the day.
What is this quality of courage? What are its sources? How can parents preserve their own strengths and communicate them to their children? How can they keep their own integrity and sense of individual purpose in a world that calls for collective purpose and unified direction?
The aim of this Conference is to explore the nature of, and need for, courage in our time, drawing on the contributions of psychiatry, sociology, anthropology, education and religion to shed light on these questions. It is an attempt to determine the sources of courage within the family and within the community, and the ways in which this strength can be passed on to others, especially to children.
In these strange times we each need to find the courage and strength to move ourselves forward, courage that shines from our hearts and fills us with the strength of which we are in need. We can find the wellsprings of courage inside each one of us, and we can be inspired and strengthened by community members who are walking this path with us.
The late John Lewis said, ended his final essay with these words:
I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.
When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.