Parenting Adults

When someone had a baby I used to always write in the card, “congratulations on your future teenager!” It seemed so fitting to me. By my mid teens the studies that emerged from my accident lead me to the conclusion that our personalities were little more than thought patterns, and while they were changeable their direction was fundamentally established quite early in life.

769 Relax and Succeed - Hardship often preparesThis is not to say we can’t become so conscious that we can’t make course alterations but the paradox is this: once you’re that aware–that conscious–then you don’t want to be anyone else. You accept that enjoying the experience of this universe means you have to choose a point of view. You have to be someone. The trick is to be that person but not take that life’s challenges as failures. Those aren’t failures–they’re just the steps required to live that life.

No matter how you parent your children there will be a yin and yang to their experience. If you’re open-minded and teach them to be, then they’ll struggle more with close-minded people than people who grew up in more combative, competitive or contrary households. If you’re very successful and functioning well above average in many areas of life, then your child may be stressed by their very normal levels of performance. Rather than enjoy their life they may strive for one that appears more impressive. So there is no point in trying to parent the right way. Every way has consequences that go every possible direction.

The most useful thing a parent can do is remember that they only have one job: to teach a child all the things they will need to know to be able to live without the parent. So don’t think about behaviour as being good or bad. Ask yourself what wiring your child’s brain will need to deal with a situation. If every time they struggle you assist them, they will be very weak when they must face any of life’s normal struggles. If their complaints of boredom are always met with offers of distraction then they be distracted, poorly motivated adults.

769 Relax and Succeed - If you wish to moveI liked hanging around the teachers I’ve worked with who were self-aware, who truly cared about the kids and who were always so generous with their wisdom. I learned a lot from them. But everyone had the same sense. That we felt the recent groups of kids had the same potential to be brilliant, but that they were all stifled by a very noticeable discomfort with making their own decisions. They seemed to guess far more than use critical thinking to draw their own conclusions, and they seemed more interested in symbols than principle. So they were more focused on their grade than their own sense of whether or not they grew. This effect increased quite strongly year over year.

The reason for this is very simple. People want to sell you things like guns or alarms or locks or insurance, and the news needs you to stay for the ads, so they show you lots of scary stories, and it’s convinced you that our very safe world is somehow much more dangerous than it really is. This false belief then creates over-protection which leads to the underdevelopment of the fundamental skills of character. What’s missing is the parent’s understanding of how truly incredible their child is.

Parents have been taught by advertising culture to constantly look at their lives for what’s missing. Because of this they live within a zeitgeist of defeat. This transfers to their childrearing and the result is like taking the notion of original sin and putting it on steroids. People feel they’re fundamentally not enough and they worry or stress their lives apart by trying to be someone other than who they are. You don’t need to be anyone else. Just be yourself in a state of mind where you love the world. That’s all the development you need.

769 Relax and Succeed - Life is like a cameraWhen I heard the brilliant interview (below) I was thrilled. Julie Lythcott-Haims was Stanford University’s Dean of Freshman and she too noticed the trend I referred to above. Her new book How to Raise an Adult lead to a recent radio interview that is worth any parent’s time. Parents are stressing themselves too much when in fact what they should be doing is far less.

I really love the world. But if anyone asks me if there’s anything I would change it’s only that I wish a much larger percentage of people would own how incredibly capable and strong and creative and courageous the core of every human being is. We always save our best for when things are at their absolute worst. I would like to see us to look less at some of humanity’s mistakes–those are very well documented. I would like is all to remember the remarkable achievements of humans as individuals and as a species.

We have good reason to believe in ourselves. And we have good reason to believe in the young people of this world.  It’s time we unleashed that potential by trading our fearful thoughts of what might go wrong, for thrilling thoughts about what might go right.

Have a wonderful day.

Interview: How to Raise an Adult vs Helicopter Parenting

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Freedom From Judgment

Why is it that so many of my clients would prefer to work at a distance? Why is it that they feel more comfortable talking to me over the phone than they would in talking in person to a psychologist in their own city? There’s reasons for that and in the end they’re pretty logical.

758 Relax and Succeed - The best gift you are ever going to giveWhat many people want to do before they embark on getting healthier is to clear their head. If they’re religious maybe they’ll formally confess to a priest, but for the secular world people like me are the non-judgmental representations of the God-perspective. They want to say who they really are out loud and not get clobbered for it.

I don’t even have clocks on my sessions let alone judgments. I can let people know where their thinking is generating pain or confusion but I have no judgment about who they’ve become with that thinking. They’re welcome to learn, leave and entirely ignore what I showed them. Once people realize I’m serious about that and they open up, which is necessary to them changing.

You’re correct about the fact that there are likely several people in your life who would not accept the real you. But that’s exactly the tension that must ultimately be removed. I’m just the first safety strap. The desire to not to disappoint others is just an extension of our insecure idea of our Selves.

758 Relax and Succeed - The greatest illusionWe have insecure thoughts which lead to insecure feelings which cause us to feel separate to the point where we all dedicate our lives to try to reconnect that separateness. But you don’t need to make connections to others–you are connected to others inextricably.

Just like the acid from your stomach could destroy other parts of your body not designed to contain it, separate parts of one whole can be individually incompatible and yet still be cooperatively part of an effective, happy and complete life experience. In short, you can have some people really not like you and you can still be leading a worthwhile and soulful life.

Can you see the paradox that is established? You’re seeking acceptance, and so you call me to confess your sins. I accept you despite whatever you say and you get the notion that it might be possible for you to be you and still be loved. From there we alter your understanding to the point where you will feel so profoundly connected to others by your shared pursuit of a good life that you will ultimately be able to meet an aspect of the universe that doesn’t like you and you’ll still be fine. You will have accepted yourself!

758 Relax and Succeed - I think I fall in loveYou will learn you can be cared for despite your history. That opens you up so much and your connections to others are so profound that by accepting the people who don’t like you, you paradoxically get to find love by accepting hate. That’s the Yin and Yang of it. You just can’t get one without the other.

It makes sense that you don’t want to present your true self to just anyone. Losing people in your lives would be painful. I’m not in your life so losing me costs almost nothing. And so with no personal price to pay you can be free. But that freedom will at first seem so foreign, so strange and so distant that it might just seem that they only way to reach it would be by phone. 😉

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Humans Racing

Everyone’s looking for relief. People used to want to find themselves or get enlightened. Today those things are merely byproducts of just finding some much-needed relief. We just need a break. For the pressure to be off. To get a moment of peace. Sheesh.

754 Relax and Succeed - Life moves pretty fastBut the world just keeps coming. The older you get the more you can relate to street people. Giving up can often look pretty appealing to an overworked Mom or Dad caring for both children and aging parents. Highly paid executives look at barista’s and think they have a great job because it doesn’t go home with them. But the barista can’t pay the executive sized prices in today’s world so he has peace of mind at work, but when he goes home he’s stressed about money plus he has no social life.

So we desperately seek. We look for solace. For comfort. For quiet. For peace. For acceptance–despite the fact that we’ve ducked out of the pressure and are sitting still. It’s not uncommon for my student/clients to come to me guiltily, as though taking time away from their overload of responsibilities to look after themselves is somehow treasonous to the human race. But they come anyway because they just can’t stand a life that just seems like a stream of obligations with almost no room for the person at the heart of it all.

You’re not wrong. Hyper consumerism has turned every moment of the day into a sales opportunity. Your phone used to be for your friends to call but even before cell phones we had all stopped because answering them because we were screening for telemarketers. Ads are on every surface asking us to do this or noting how we’re deficient in that. Your phone essentially removes your privacy because yes you can choose to not answer it, but there’ll be a price for that.

754 Relax and Succeed - The cells in your bodyAnd we just keep thinking and thinking and thinking–what is the way out of this? But in a weird way, we’re only adding to the problem with all of that. Think of thoughts as cells. They can divide and multiply to create amazing new ideas and experiences. But they can also be used to attack ourselves, others, or the state of the world in some way. But if we do that we are letting the cells multiply without control because if it was in control, why would we choose such overwhelmingly negative subjects to think about? So if we’re on long negative periods then we are allowing our thoughts to eventually lower themselves to low ground. There they mix with other negative thoughts and they start bouncing off each other and before you know it the negativity has grown.

That much thinking is like cells that are out of control. This is that spinning, frenzied, anxious thinking that you have to be anywhere but where you are. That much thinking is like cancer. It takes perfectly good space in your body and refills it with something damaging. In one case it’s out-of-control cells and in the other it’s out-of-control thoughts, but either way the effect is eventually the same–the repetitive action starts to have a debilitating effect on the person doing the thinking.

754 Relax and Succeed - The mind is its own placeI remember about 15 years or so ago there was the beginning of a bunch of studies that surprised many in the medical community when it showed that it wasn’t sick people that got depressed, but rather depressed people that got sick. It opened up a whole new area of research that has lead to the increasing popularity of positive intervention therapies, which have in turn proven to be much more effective than those used previously.

You don’t make the problems of the world go away by thinking about them. You don’t make your personal problems go away by thinking about them. Think when it’s fun and useful. But you really should maintain a general idea during the day of what you’re using your thoughts for. Because if it’s for reasoning something where reason applies, great. But if it’s just churning negativity on issues where you have no control then at least control what you do control–the direction of your thoughts.

Stay conscious. Life isn’t that hard once we learn to keep a closer eye on the choices we make all day long. Make this a day of even just slightly more conscious, slightly better choices. Do that each day and you’ll be amazed where you end up.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.