Set Your Children Free

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I am passionate about allowing everyone to be free to express themselves and live the lives of their dreams. Especially our children. Something I believe is lacking in our society is learning how to be parents. If we choose to become parents, that role is tantamount because we are shaping the arc of our children’s lives. This influences all of society and the world for generations. So why aren’t parenting skills part of institutionalized education? Why isn’t it a mandatory requirement? There is nothing more precious and important than our children.

I have witnessed so many well meaning parents behaving in detrimental ways that I know if they were educated, maybe they’d do better? I believe that if we truly understood the deep impact we have on our children, we would invest significantly more resources towards nurturing them. We are educated on so many other subjects which serve little purpose with insignificant impact on our growth, potential and  advancement of society, wouldn’t it be more logical to shift our learning systems to  curriculums that actually propel us forward rather than hold us back?

I didn’t become aware of this lack of parenting knowledge until I had children. That was a huge shift in my awareness which has impacted me beneficially to this day. I saw my whole existence through a different lens which catapulted me into an intense reevaluation of my life and most importantly, the way I wanted to parent our children. I remembered how I felt as a child and this helped me choose how I wanted to treat our children. I also saw how the way I was parented did not take into consideration my level of development and capabilities, or the fact that I was an individual human being who was deserving of basic rights. Parents do not own their children. Children are not mini- mes to mold and conform into our own image and bidding.

At each stage of our children’s development it caused me to look back and consider what was happening in my life when I was their age. I was often stunned by my realizations that maybe what happened in my life was not the norm, was not healthy or appropriate…or that maybe it was the “norm” and that would be even more unfortunate because that means people do not know what they are doing. And what does that mean for our children and the whole of society. That attitude of, “Well my parents raised me that way and I turned out fine.” Are we fine, really? Or would we even know? Because the way we are parented is how we believe the world at large is…it’s all we know until we leave the nest and are able to learn something more. Or until we have children ourselves, like me…that’s when I learned that we have a long way to go. For we never know what’s going on behind closed doors. My childhood family looked normal from the outside, but take a peek in and well maybe there’s room for improvement, lots of room.

I did try to improve my parenting skills and it did help, but my children’s lives have not been perfect, there are things I would have changed if I’d been more aware, but I was still learning and growing myself, so mistakes were made. For example, I was not educated on all of the issues with gender and sexuality. And I have not always kept the best boundaries, especially while divorcing. I am by no means perfect or all knowing, but I do know this. Parents and families need more education and support. There needs to be a major overhaul of societal structure to create a healthier network for our families, beginning with education first.

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If I were able to choose we would educate ourselves on basic life skills, ones that help us communicate, empathize and work together to support one another. to create a better whole. There is so much pain, unconsciousness, ignorance and dysfunction that is hidden and is therefore not being addressed. So maybe if we are educated in schools about healthy ways of relating/being, if we are taught what a healthy family looks like and acts like, then maybe we can get help to correct dysfunction at an earlier age, or at least have an awareness that what’s happening in our own family is not appropriate.

I would teach about emotional/physical boundaries along with abuse prevention, basic children’s rights/human rights, creative thinking, non-violent communication/conflict resolution/communication skills, stages of human development/what to expect, philosophy/logic/reasoning/sociology/ethics, emotional intelligence/empathy, healthy mental habits/coping skills/cognitive behavioral tools, mindfulness/meditation, developing healthy physical habits/nutrition and financial/household management skills.

I would have a comprehensive curriculum for every year of schooling at a level that is appropriate to the developmental age of the children. I would also funnel more resources into screening children for signs of abuse and for mental health and counseling for the whole family. Plus as adults provide specific parenting classes mandated during pregnancy, provided universally with support available throughout the child rearing process.

I don’t know where the money would come from, I don’t know how this could be implemented, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to try? It seems that Australia has made some headway  http://raisingchildren.net.au/   I found this USA website  http://www.more4kids.info/

And there are sites like

http://www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/parents-caregivers.aspx

https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/federal-advocacy/Pages/Federal-Advocacy.aspx

https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2017/09/positive-parenting

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/positiveparenting/index.html

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/Pages/default.aspx

It may be that our ego/fear/pride, individualistic culture, culture of family/honor, authoritarianism, patriarchy combined, plus religious influences “Spare the rod, spoil the child” , or ignorance prevent us from even considering that there may be a better way.

I adopted the attitude that the freer a child is, the more they are able to explore, be themselves, know themselves, to achieve a more happy, fulfilled, productive, satisfying life which honors their truth, unique interests, talents, capabilities which ultimately serves us all. If a child is free to be true to their own skills and passions, then possibly they can fulfill their highest unique purpose or at least have the life that is best suited for them.

So I took the role of nurturer, supporter, intervening only when necessary, like for safety and to teach healthy boundaries and mutual respect. I believed that setting a positive example is one of the best ways to parent. And I encouraged exploration of whatever their interests were. I tried to keep the view that the world is full of possibilities and I valued imagination, creativity and play. I believe that we innately know what is loving and kind, unless there is some biological glitch… but that universal knowing gets conditioned out of us, we are taught fear, hate, unhealthy ways of thinking and being.

So basically my job as parent was to gently guide, support and nurture, allowing them to be fully themselves as much as possible. I had the view that life is a celebration. And that made things flow smoothly for us for the most part and it seems to have been a success. They naturally gravitated towards self direction/motivation and are kind, respectful, creative, capable, productive and loving.

Parenting does not have to be a power struggle.

I did not shame, nag, or spank/punish them, or try to fit them into my expectations of what I wanted for them, well, because there was no need to try to shape or conform them, they were doing well as they were. They knew what to do, what they wanted, how to behave. And if there was something that concerned me, like a dirty, messy room, I helped out and told myself that it wouldn’t last forever, that it was a phase, and sure enough it got better, no need to be punitive, because it doesn’t work. Coercion may achieve something short term, but at what cost?

We never had the terrible teenage years that everyone warned us about. Maybe we’re the exception? We just got lucky? Or maybe some of  our ways of parenting do more harm than good which lead to creating a disruptive teenager?

I do know that we all could use more education and support when it comes to raising our families. Our evolving society and world depends on it.

I wonder if everyone were really honest about their childhoods, how would that change things? I mean really question if what happened in our childhood families really was of benefit?  What would I have wanted for that little girl me?  What do we really want for our children?

Put ourselves in our children’s shoes.

Do we create a punitive, fearful, harsh home for them? Does that really help?

How about we work to provide a more loving and healthy environment for our children now, in our own homes, where it means the most?

Repeating the past will create the same results. I want better for our children.

I am hoping that maybe some parents may begin questioning their parenting methods and will begin educating themselves on the most impactful role they will ever serve in their entire lives.

Being a parent is an honor and privilege. We as a society do not value this role enough.

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“Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than the parent. ” Bob Keeshan

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Michelle Miyagi

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