Parenting vs Exampling

It is extremely common for parents to come to me with what they feel are problem children. They talk about behavioral issues, worrisome friends, disrespect, aloofness, bad grades, or casual sex etc. Certainly there’s almost always at least a few kids in my roster who genuinely need some serious help from me, but I’m happy to report that most don’t need much. In fact, in most cases the kid barely needs me at all. Because the issue actually isn’t with the kid. And it’s not with the parents either. But it is with the parenting.

549 Relax and Succeed - The kids who need the most loveAgain: this isn’t to say the parents are bad. Their dedication isn’t an issue, and all of them are intelligent, successful people in whatever life path they pursued. They bring their kids to me because they love them and want them to do well. They’ve invested time and money and effort and endured all kinds of things before they meet me. And always, the kid in front of me is—despite their issues—impressive in all sorts of ways. So the parents have overwhelmingly succeeded, despite a few lingering concerns. In the end, the problem is really very simple: it’s just that most people don’t parent as consciously as they believe they do, so once I help them become more conscious they certainly don’t need any advice from me.

Parents will believe they’re putting a lot into their parenting by giving a lot of thought to their kid’s development and their “issues.” And they are putting a lot in, in a way. But it’s largely wasted energy because their parenting is choosing and inflating those issues unconsciously as a reflective or reciprocal resp0nse to the parenting they got. So if you feel like your life would have gone better if you paid more attention in school and your parents never pushed you in school, then you will be more urgent about trying to get your children to do well in class. But it’s also logical that if you did well in school and that brought rewards, then you will also urge your child to do really well so they can have those rewards too. Yet at the same time, it makes sense that a kid who is 549 Relax and Succeed - Make the ordinary come alivepushed too hard could crater and drop out from the pressure, even though they’re smart. The point is, you’ll act a lot like your parents, or a lot like the opposite of your parents, and you’ll do this in super subtle ways that you will find largely invisible, except for a few key issues (“Oh my God, I sound like my Mother!!”)

So most parenting is based in fear, and on the act of trying to prevent bad things from happening, and the parents choose the bad things they’re most afraid of based on their own lives and the parenting they got. If your mother’s sister died from drowning then you can bet that you’ll be taught to be extra wary when you’re near water. Or if your dad was never home because he was always working, you will have unconsciously learned to leave work exactly on time for the rest of your life, because you want to get home to your kids. Those are the kinds of motivations that create unconscious parenting.

Can you see how that’s like a crazy chain of misinformation and misunderstanding? You don’t need to manage a kid’s life like you’re their agent. There’s little need to focus on individual areas of a child if they feel fully actualized by parents who are parenting under the automatic assumption that their kid will be a successful human being. Not in an egotistical, materialistic 549 Relax and Succeed - The best security blanketway, but rather they will be confident enough to do as well as they should at whatever they try. So some things they’ll be built for, other things not so much, but they’ll feel secure doing either. We’re all crappy at some things, so if a parent’s focused on their child’s weak points, the child will soon have no self esteem and that is the worst blow of all.

If you really want to have an effect, the most effective form of parenting is exampling. If you and your spouse yell at each other, then you have no business telling your kid not to yell. That’s ridiculous. So they have to live to a higher standard than you? No wonder they’re sassy; you’re a hypocrite. And if you’re constantly focused on their bad classes and wanting them to do great in every subject, then again—they’re doomed. No one is good at everything. 80% of the world believes they are bad a math. For God’s sake, let them be a human. They’re allowed not to be good at things and so are you. Everyone gets that by birth.

School and sports have become like the stock market. They drive people insane. The book publishing industry was historically a 4-6% profit business. But then big international media companies bought all the publishers and because they were publicly traded, they wanted the same 15% a year that all their other businesses are whipped into providing—as though 6% is a failure. But of course, the desire of the market to make 15% does not change the state of the world any more than the existence of schools and classes means that kids should be good at 549 Relax and Succeed - The educational systemevery subject that gets invented. It doesn’t matter if you want 15% or A’s, sometimes 6% and C’s are all that’s available. And it seems cruel to whip a zebra because it’s not a horse.

Most people are much, much smarter than they give themselves credit for. But they limit themselves with narratives that they’re stupid or incapable. And those scripts come from responding to the demands of parents. You don’t want to push a kid into a subject, you want them to be inspired toward it. And for the few things they’ll suck at, you can use those as life lessons about how everyone has things they struggle at and that’s okay.

So the best thing you can do is, if you want your kids to focus, focus yourself. If you want them to speak respectfully, then speak respectfully yourself. If you want them to be kind to others, then be kind to others 549 Relax and Succeed - Behind every great kidyourself. If you want them to get their stuff done, get your stuff done. And if you want them to care about something, don’t demand it. Care about it yourself. Because you don’t build a kid. You nurture one, and they’ll grow toward the light.

Forget talk-parenting. Forget lessons. Take some responsibility for their behaviour. Example what you want to see. Show it to them and they’ll amaze you.

I normally would have stopped at the previous paragraph but I want to take a moment to stress that the example above is common. A lot of my current and past clients read the blog regularly and it’s remarkable to me how often they all constantly believe a blog is about them specifically. It shows how much we’re all the same. These are always amalgamations and re-creations of many experiences. So if you’re insecure about you’re parenting, this truly isn’t about any individual, it’s about you the human being. And I do hope it helps de-stress you so that you and your child can more fully enjoy each other’s company. Because I’m confident you’re doing a better job than you think you are.

with love, s

Principled Parenting

There’s a curious irony to my practice in that, if a couple is sitting in front of me concerned about their child, I will almost invariably meet a solid young person who might be struggling with understanding the world, but they’re working from a strong and sturdy foundation provided by good parents. They can reason and they have a good understanding of value. These are children whose parents have always reacted proactively to concerns.

441 Relax and Succeed - Create a lifeBeing responsible in that way, those sorts of parents have generally raised their children using principles rather than rules. Because assumptions and opinion and learning are not the same as discovery, reason and understanding, the parents raising wise kids aren’t worried about what other people will think of them for bringing to them to someone like me—they have the kid’s interests first. So if there’s a way to achieve better reasoning and understanding, they promote that.

Now it’s important to point out that these aren’t groups of good parents and bad parents. These are equal people who approach parenting from two different perspectives and one perspective quite logically and naturally leads to calm, self-reliant, patient, tolerant and strong people, and the other approach is far more likely to lead to drama, neediness, impatience, intolerance and weakness. The current addiction to ego that the Western world is suffering under is amplifying the number of people in the latter group. No one wants to discipline their kid because they don’t want to admit their kid isn’t already perfect. Because life today is no longer about being real and growing. It’s about pretending to already be perfect. If you’ve ever untagged yourself from an unflattering facebook photo then you know what I mean.

I was shovelling snow once with my Dad and I was thinking about a guy at school who had gotten his girlfriend pregnant. It made me realize that the physical world was ready for me to be a dad, but my mind hadn’t even imagined that possibility until my buddy’s situation. So I 441 Relax and Succeed - Life itself is your teacherasked my Dad how a parent is supposed to know what to do to raise their kid? And my Dad’s answer was, “You just teach them what they need to know to live without you.” It was simple and elegant and humble and just like my Dad. From there, the only question is how far you take the qualifier: “need to know.” Because some parents think their kids need to know sports stats, or how fix computers, or that they have to have a college degree. But others are focused on principles.

What’s a principle versus what’s a belief that you’re essentially taught to believe? Here’s some examples that might pertain to kids of different ages:

  • A kid can be taught the belief that some genre of music is stupid or bad or brilliant or good, versus teaching them the components of music, exposing them to a lot of different forms, and then let them find out what appeals to them as individuals.

  • That a kid should vote in this or that way because it’s smarter, when that doesn’t even make sense in a democracy. The idea isn’t that one group is right and the other group is wrong. It’s that everyone has strengths and useful perspectives and we’ll make wiser decisions if we take them all into account, and so the principled kids should vote for whoever is taking the most people into account, not for some specific person or party.

  • 441 Relax and Succeed - Who we are can not be separatedSome kids are taught they have a right to scream, irritate, damage or even destroy the value in someone else’s time or space, wheres other kids understand that society is made up of how everyone treats everyone else, and that if we want a healthy society then we all have to do our part by modelling cooperative behaviour even when it might not be convenient for us personally. It’s like the rules of the road. They’re not there to be tyrannical. They’re not there because we’re stupid. They’re a set of principles that allow us all to function well together as a group.

  • That you should never have to wait for anything versus the idea that that world will absolutely leave you waiting all over the place. If you don’t develop the brain wiring for waiting, then you grow into one of those insane 50 year olds who beats the crap out of the inside of their car during traffic jams. Waiting is part of life and it’s a skill parents need to both exhibit and demand to ensure that the child learns the necessary skills to exist in the world as it is.

You have two routes: you can teach your children to make the same decisions you make, or you can teach your children how the world works and then they can make up their own mind about how to function successfully within it. It’s like memorizing math tables versus actually understanding what the concept of multiplication means. In one the child is simply repeating what they were told and in the other they actually understand. One group cannot adapt or change or accommodate other views, whereas the latter group is open, humble and flexible.

In the taught group there are right and wrong answers and a kid can be disciplined for getting the wrong answer. In the discovery group a kid can only misunderstand and so nothing more than further explanation/discovery is required. It’s not that the kid was wrong, it was only that their 441 Relax and Succeed - The greatest enemy of knowledgeunderstanding had been limited by experience. To increase experience is to increase understanding. So we don’t raise successful kids by telling them how the world works and by telling them what decisions to make. We raise successful kids by showing them how the world works and then let them make their own choices based on  wisdom and common sense.

Your kids are amazing. They are capable. They are naturally cooperative and generous and compassionate. Don’t teach them to hate others, don’t teach them to expect or demand or want. This life isn’t about achievement, it’s about experience. Teach them to be fully alive in this world and you will have introduced them to a way of being that will lead to the best kind of life possible.

I recently read a couple of blogs that discussed other important aspects of parenting and so I’m including links to them below. But just remember, healthy kids aren’t built they’re raised. They’re not taught they’re exposed to knowledge. They don’t know the rules, they understand how things work. So don’t teach kids what you know. Instead discover the world together with them. It’ll be good for both of you.

Have a great day with your kids.

peace. s

Wall Street Journal: Why French Parents Are Superior

5 Reasons Modern Day Parenting Is In Crisis

Other Perspectives #24

432 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - Mother someone who will love you

Now some nice mother or father or child created this graphic as a way of celebrating motherhood and mothers. And that’s an awesome idea, but the downside is that there are in reality tons and tons and tons of terrible, awful, even dangerous mothers. Maybe they’re ill, poorly informed or very mean spirited, but regardless of the motivation, there are definitely large numbers of children who are suffering at the hands of their mothers and their fathers. So yeah, if you have great parents be super grateful. Because a huge number of people don’t, but those people end up feeling lonely and separate because quotes like this one lead them to believe that most people have parents from a TV sitcom. 25% of people have addictions. 50% of marriages fail and there’s a lot of fighting before they do. Mom’s are busy also being daughters and wives and employees. The new millennium is a busy place and it’s machinery chews some people up. If you happen to have a mother who didn’t mother, don’t let that hold you back at all because that is a huge percentage of the population. Large enough that you don’t even have to begin thinking of it as a problem for you. If anything it can build strengths others do not have. So again, it’s awesome if you’re like me and are fortunate enough to have great parents. But there’s lots of parents who got that way by accident and they never did take it very seriously, and that’s just the reality of it. So if you’re one of the people whose mom was neglectful, don’t let it hold you back. You’re in fantastic company. You belong to the entire Human Race.

peace. s

Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offense to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.