Friday, October 29, 2010
The Yoga of Compassionate Parenting
I am learning that parenting gets more difficult, in different ways, as my children grow and develop. Whereas in the early years I was sleep deprived and physically exhausted, now that they are growing beyond toddler"dom" - I have regained my former energy and zip (well, maybe not all of it, but pretty close to all of it).
However, while I don't have to exert as much physical effort - the emotional and intellectual requirements are stiffly increasing.
It won't be long before a simple kiss and hug won't fix their boo-boo's. I already have to think more, communicate better - and in short, I am having to learn how to be a master negotiator. Pulitzer Prize nominee Ann Crittenden writes of this in her book, If You've Raised Kids, You Can Manage Anything, which asserts that more women should be managerial executives - as a result of, not in spite of, their experience in child rearing.
Parenting, I am learning, is not a dictatorship. Sure, I can run one of those for a time, but after a while - ordering them around not only won't work, but it will, I believe, backfire. It may create forced good behavior for a time, but it will not build a mutually respectful and meaningful relationship with my children. And that's exactly the type I want - a parent/child relationship with deep, loving roots.
One of my spiritual mentors told me once that he and his wife set a goal in raising their children, and he encouraged all parents to do the same. Their goal as parents was to "raise their children so that they would want to come back and visit them one day." Although on the surface it sounds trite - it really is a genius mission statement for parenting.
I never forgot his words. When my children were born, my husband and I adopted the same mission statement. If it was good enough for my spiritual mentor, I reasoned it was good enough for us.
Getting back to parenting. I am struggling. I have to admit that, and if you asked any parent and they were honest, they would admit the same. We all struggle as parents. I am not sure how to handle or how I will handle my childrens' increasingly complex (and very different) personalities. I don't want to make a mistake and leave emotional scars - so sometimes I am paralyzed with fear - not sure whether or not I am making the right decision(s) as a parent.
Since my children were born I have been steadily buying and reading books on parenting. It started with books on the anthropology of parenting, which really got me thinking about how the American way was NOT the only way and by far not the BEST way (in many cases).
After educating myself about anthropology, and with my background in neuroscience and pediatric physiological development, I realized I wanted a more compassionate approach to parenting, which led me to some of the books and resources you'll find below. But first, let me introduce a wonderful new person I have recently met, albeit virtually, online. She is an advocate, not just about compassionate parenting, but for compassionate thinking and world peace.
Her name is Dr. Riane Eisler. She is a longtime women's advocate and is co-founder of the Center for Partnership Studies and SAIV. The organizations are dedicated to "building a culture of gender and racial equity, economic justice, and sustainable environment," and stopping violence, respectively.
A few weeks ago I sat down with Dr. Eisler during a webinar on Caring Economics. The webinar was very informative and has underscored my own mission as a women's activist. Afterwards, I began to study Dr. Eisler's sites and learned more about her work. I realized that my passion for being a better parent had a lot to do with Dr. Eisler's work.
As a parent, If I discuss parenting in "yogic" (which has nothing to do with religion) terms - I would describe my desires for parenting like this:
I want my children to grow up in a safe environment without fear of violence or discrimination - and with well balanced physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual health. In other words, I want to parent non-violently and compassionately within a koshic model.
And so - in simple terms - using that model means that I teach them, on a daily basis, that with our two hands - we can accomplish great things - like taking care of the planet, helping others, and helping ourselves. Dr. Eisler's is working to carry that message across the globe, and it has been recognized and endorsed by many people.
It is in researching Dr. Eisler's sites that I came across a parenting guide she has endorsed. The Caring and Connected Parenting Guide, which has also been endorsed by renowned pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Desmond Tutu and Betty Williams, pediatrician Laura Jana, psychiatrist and author Daniel Siegel.
I hope you will enjoy reading and using the guide as much as I have. Download the free Caring and Connected Parenting Guide
Building Cultures of Peace
Investing in our Human Infrastructure
Dr. Brazelton's book, Touchpoints
Birth to 3
Dr. Siegel's book, Parenting from the Inside Out
Dr. Jana's books
Dr. Sear's and Martha Sear's Book on Early Parenting (This book challenges the typically accepted American status quo on early parenting. I loved it, and so did my kids.):
Green Mothering and Parenting
Natural Family Living, by Mothering Magazine's Peggy O'Mara
*Photo was taken of me and my oldest son, who loves to give me flowers on an (almost) daily basis.