Once upon a time… a long time ago… I started what was supposed to be a parenting series on the blog, called “Connection, Direction, and Protection”. In the first post I gave a small overview and a few favorite resources for parenting; in the second, explored connecting with your child (what gets in the way, and what helps). And then… I found myself unable to complete the part of the series on “Direction”. At the time I meant to write that post I was having revelations that made me feel… well, woefully inadequate to address the topic. 🙂
The pieces of the puzzle really seem to have fallen in place for me lately on the subject of “direction”. I find it has everything to do with my state of mind. I call this state of mind, “The Parent Zone”. The parent zone is a place where I have unlimited access to the central qualities that contribute to success in directing/disciplining/training my children- wisdom, love, and lots of patience. I found the Parent Zone by coming to see that I do not “need” anything outside of me to be a good parent. We often speak of love, patience and wisdom as if they have limited availability or are stocked in some heavenly warehouse to be doled out in rations. No- they are not things to be acquired, but rather states of being to enter into. I’ve come to see patience as a place, or vibration if you will, *not* a “spiritual commodity”. To get there, I simply intend it… remember what it feels like… will to be there. I remind myself “I am patient. I am loving. I am wise. I am the only person qualified to help this child be all that he or she can be, by Divine mandate when I ‘accepted the mission’ upon conception. All of nature is striving to help me on my mission, from the sun shining down on me to the angels hovering around.” Then, whether or not I have the sensation of feeling confident, loving, and patient, I confidently claim my place within the realm of it and the feelings, they always eventually follow. Whenever I find myself slipping out of the parenting zone, or vibrating to a lower frequency than patience and love with my children, I simply purpose to return. I visualize the dark clouds of lower consciousness, stress, and confusion swirling around me; I watch as they disperse and Divine light surrounds me; and I am there again.
What is “direction”? Direction is “to manage or guide by advice, helpful information, instruction… to regulate the course of… to give authoritative instructions to” (dictionary.com). We have authority- an authority that springs from experience, having already participated in and “learned the ropes” (to a degree!). Our authority is tempered by something which Khalil Gibran explains in such an inspired way-
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Why do we need to direct our children? I am convinced we *all* have guidance along the way- whether perceived or not perceived (i.e., angelic guidance, Holy Spirit, etc). Out of love, our Creator ordained this. We are guided by inner knowing, angelic help, and Spirit. We in turn can offer the same guidance and support to those who come along the path after us. We can form a beautiful circle of support, where everyone turns to the one coming after them and offers assistance, and this energy of helping others forward/upward propels this circle, gives it a velocity all its own, so that as a community or collective we have even greater momentum in our individual and group destiny and purpose. We cultivate our relationships with our children so that this direction we offer will be well-received.
When do we direct our children? At all times. Much of our direction can be unobtrusive, because simply by being the person we were meant to be, we are providing a blueprint for our child to be observe the technique of living on purpose, being the person you are meant to be. By striving for upward growth ourselves and accepting the direction we are offered (through angelic guidance, Holy Spirit, inner knowing), we are quietly and indirectly directing our children on the path. Sometimes we will be prompted to offer more tangible, “direct” direction- and we will know to do that when we are not truly at peace with remaining silent. We also know when we have done enough- when we are no longer feeling peaceful with using words or actions- when we have the sense we are overtalking or over-reacting. It takes discipline and consciousness on our part to stay within our “place” so that we don’t burden our children with too much direction, or leave them bewildered with not enough. A good gauge for offering tangible direction are the classic three scenarios- damage to self, damage to others, damage to property. We lead away from these things, and towards abundance, because that is our true Divine nature- what we were created for.
Which way (“where“) do we direct our children? The “direction” we offer is very similar to tending a garden. The blueprints to become exactly what he or she is meant to be are already contained within the child, so it certainly is not required of me to try to orchestrate who they will become in terms of interests, vocation, destiny. An apple seed will become an apple tree, and a flower seed a flower. But I can offer the seedling conditions which will help it thrive, so that it can be an abundant and healthy apple tree or flower, and not one plagued by pests and struggling to compete for its basic needs. Like a grape vine or a pea plant, I can “train” the growth to be an upward, onward force, instead of a disorganized tangle that “spins it wheels” in producing fruit, with little to show for all its efforts. From fruit trees, to vineyards, to tomato plants- a good gardener helps the plant find the best direction for growth, carefully pruning and training for maximum productivity- to reap the most from what has been sown- towards abundance in all things.
How do I direct my child? In her book “Heaven On Earth”, Sharifa Oppenheimer reminds us that learning, for children, takes place on three levels; sensory (the senses), movement, and imitation. As mentioned previously, much of our direction comes from the simple process of providing a role model. We are wired for imitation, which is a natural way to absorb the knowledge and skills we need. Learning proceeds by degrees. We begin with focused concentration of the conscious mind. When learning to ride a bike, it takes all our effort and concentration to master the skill. But as we practice, the “knowing” penetrates the deeper reaches of the subconscious and it becomes “second nature”, or habit, and we perform the skill almost effortlessly. So, our number one way to direct is simply by being a worthy rode model- and “holding that space” open for our child to enter into with us. When my child asks me for something- for instance, a glass of water- I can answer “I’d be happy to get that for you.” And imagine the delight when I ask my child to set the table, and he or she replies, “I’d be happy to!” (yes, it happens in my house! I love it!).
In regards to movement and the senses, we need to acknowledge that our child does not share the same consciousness we do as adults. This is as it should be, and too often I see adults trying to force the child’s consciousness into a more “intellectual” adult-type consciousness. To be honest, too often I myself am guilty of this. We need to meet the child where he or she is at- because it is through fully participating in that imaginative, curious, physically active (read: neurons firing!) “childish” state that they are specially geared towards becoming a successful adult, in good time (and we need not confuse “foolish with childish”- there is a difference).
- We can infuse those moments of “direct” or tangible direction with movement and sensory stimulus. You can get very creative with this, and I don’t hesitate to share with my child that their learning is amplified by physical movement- so I might ask them to “pat your tummy while repeating what I just said- it will help you remember”.
- We can frame our instructions in positive action- “i.e., show me how you shut the door softly” vs. negative action- “don’t slam the door!”. If you want to develop and engage the will, you cannot try to squish it- you must give it a “form” to expand into.
- We can harness the power of that creative imagination children are so proficient in- “pretend you are a little mouse and tiptoe past the cat” (when you want them to do something quietly).
- We can teach through parables and stories, perhaps even using props and physical participation from our children. Jesus used parables, knowing stories can be very non-confrontational ways to reach the heart and spirit with great truths. This is where the book I mentioned in the resources section, “Healing Stories For Challenging Behaviour”, comes in.
Above all, when we offer direction, we need to banish fear and other negative emotions from our being and direct out of unselfish love…
My own experience as a child who was “spanked” clearly illustrated this for me. My parents were/are very loving human beings who truly wanted to help me be a disciplined, self-controlled person. They were never cruel- in fact, they never raised their voice at me (seriously- my mother never yelled at me- not.once). They believed spanking was a biblical mandate to help accomplish this. I’ve spent a lot of time and research coming to a place of understanding the theology behind spanking. In a nutshell, “spanking” is not in the bible, “beating with a rod” is. This was ok to do to your slave or your child, and now (in our present cultural consciousness) it is no longer acceptable to do it to your slave- or even have a slave. In context, the rod is not a flexible tree branch but a shepherds staff or king’s sceptre “shebet”, something most of us would flinch to see a child hit with, something that in Exodus 20 we see can cause death if used severely. There are several verses about the rod (most of which are found in Proverbs, a book of allegory, which could also be interpreted as a figurative use of the word meaning “authority”) used in Christian circles to justify hitting our children with hands, wooden spoons, etc. There is no such precedent for this kind of casual, commonplace hitting in the Bible. While God allowed slavery, beating, stoning, and divorce to occur, He did not, I believe, condone any of them. He simply recognized that this was where we were at as human beings living out of a lower consciousness, and made minimum requirements as to how we could deal with our problems and behave so that we would not, out of mercy, be removed from the sphere of physical existence and be transported back to spirit (as was the case for cultures who offered their infants to burn in ritual sacrifice). As we strive for higher consciousness, we find higher ways to deal with situations as God would. If God was willing to allow all of creation to fall under a curse due to man’s poor choice in order that we might have this amazing gift of free will, and then embark on the incredible task of bridging the gap between Himself and us that our choice created, between our lower nature (ie, “duality” “separateness”, “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”) and a Higher nature, why would someone seek to beat that free will out of their kid and replace it with a fear of punishment? In addition, science shows that stress hormones such as those that course through your body when you are subjected to physical pain inhibit learning (other than learning to avoid pain) and shut down your brain’s higher centers. You may learn what not to do, but you haven’t learned the more important thing- what to do.
I found myself very unable to self-govern at age 18 when I no longer needed to “fear the rod”, and it took me a long time (and many bad experiences) to come to place of self-governing out of true love for myself and honoring my own well-being as a child of God. For many years I was enticed by tempting situations that my inner knowing warned me against but my will was too under-developed and weak to avoid. This led to guilt, and guilt lowered my sense of self worth so that I did not feel worthy or capable of attracting abundance and joy into my life, and often settled for negative relationships and circumstances.
If we were to begin a new job, we would be “trained” for the task. If we failed during the training process, we would not be hit or otherwise punished; it would be ludicrous to punish someone for something you have not yet successfully taught them to do. Likewise, in directing our child, we patiently and lovingly show them how to do something by doing it ourselves as they witness (model), then invite their participation, then witness them doing it on their own. Each step may take as long as it needs to take before readiness for the next step. When it has been taken up from the focused concentration of the conscious mind to the easy breezy second nature/habit state of the subconscious mind, it has been fully mastered. If it is continually practiced, it should remain “second nature”. If it is not, we may need to begin again and retrain.
Mistakes happen, lapses of self-control occur, and these are addressed with opportunities for reflection and do-over, or “redemption”. We can’t expect our children to be fully capable of self-governing, any more than we can expect our baby to pop out of the womb and walk. Just as the infant “grows into” his body and learns mastery of it, our children are growing into their higher selves, or spirits, and learning mastery of their higher functions of self-governance.
When we are impatient and look for short-cuts, we employ what I consider to be harmful strategies- behaviour modification. This short-circuits the learning process, or creates a more “shallow” learning process, and teaches children to act for short term greed (rewards) or out of fear (punishment) rather than because it is the right thing to do. I believe punishment and reward based discipline removes our child from the state of being in tune with Spirit and higher consciousness, and instead, focuses their attention on the temporal.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction- and coming to a battle of the wills is the last thing we want to engage in because if we push our child a certain way, it is the law of the universe, of nature, of balance in all things- that they will push back the other way! Picture a tug of war, with each side becoming more set in their current stance, trying to stand their ground. As a parent, when you feel that tug of war taking place spiritually with your child, drop the rope! Take a step towards your child. Get on their side, because the battle is not between you and your child- it is between your child and their own ego/lower nature!
Granted, sometimes we are at our wits end and just need to keep our child safe or keep something from breaking. No shame, no guilt if we resort to behaviour modification in moments of stress when we have distractedly fallen out of The Parent Zone. But.. I believe there is a better way. A higher way. A way which brings greater joy to all involved, and makes parenting our children a more spiritually rewarding experience.
Enter the Parent Zone…