I want to dissolve the taboo we all have about interrupting each other’s toxic parenting in public or when we’re with our friends and family. It’s a taboo only because it is so shameful how we treat our kids sometimes that being pulled out of it in the moment, the sudden raw exposure feels violating. But we NEED now at this point in our evolution as a species to empathically and constructively flag each other’s irresponsible, dumpy, coercive, domineering treatment of our children. This silent contract must end now.
I was in a queue recently at a festival and a woman behind me was holding her 4 year old boy. The kid saw a lolly on the counter and instinctively said “I want that!” He didn’t even have a whiny tinge in his tone like my kids sometimes open with. Unbelievably, the woman, like a hypnotic snaky shadow replied, “…don’t say that, that’s greedy, you don’t want to be a greedy boy…” really getting into his head – or like Jimmi Hendrix said “too many fingerprints on his brain” – and she didn’t stop there – “‘What a greedy boy’ they’ll say, and no one will want to play with you, we don’t want to play with him they’ll say’” – really hypnotic and suppressing – I felt claustrophobia course through my veins and wanted to stop her. I thought, ‘my God, imagine being that kid day after day in their home. You’d end up a murderer.’
I also get stirred up when I see parents not stepping up to give their kids boundaries because they appear to be so in need of their kids approval that they’d rather be liked than be a parent. In some realms of psychology they say that the baby learns that it is loveable because it sees itself mirrored in its mother’s loving eyes. The infant draws it’s identity as a loveable being from the mirror of the Mother’s adoring gaze, but now so many Mothers and Fathers have switched the contract on their kids and are looking into their kids’ eyes to be reassured that they themselves are loved! Avoiding giving kids boundaries and letting them rule the roost as ‘pack leaders’ breeds domineering bullies. We need to step up and up our game.
It’s time to drop the taboo on discussing irresponsible parenting and get it together. TOGETHER.
My partner Raisa busted me brilliantly recently with my girls. They were playing up in the car and after repeated semi-empty threats I finally came down with a consequence boundary and cancelled the movie that we’d all planned to watch later. It temporarily had the desired effect of shutting them up in sulky shock that a real line had been drawn. But of course, a few hours later, when we had got home, eaten, cuddled, and it was 7.30pm, there wasn’t even a wisp of the earlier drama present so I dissolved the earlier punishment and got up to put on the film. This is where having a partner as ON IT and articulate as Raisa is such a gift. She takes me aside and says “If you keep drawing boundaries like earlier and then changing your mind later, these girls won’t trust you, and they won’t trust men.” And I knew every syllable was true. I felt something shift in me and a deeper resolve to get us all as parents upping our game and making the collective decision to lift this regressive taboo on feeding back what we’re witnessing in each other’s parenting.
We’re going to have to cultivate a new relationship with our SHAME – the shame of being seen in reactive bad-parenting mode and the shame we are instilling in our kids in all the moments we can’t hold onto our own emotionally reactive beans and we leak out our dumpy, irresponsible, shaming manipulations on our kids. When we shout at our kids with a closed heart, it is toxic for them. When we rebuke in a sing-song voice through gritted teeth, it is toxic for the kids. When we vent our frustration at them for their non-compliance with our rules and instructions, or when we try and coerce them either with rewards or punishments we are confusing their minds and hearts.
This is going to require some radical rethinking of the habitual ways we control the children. Even the phrase ‘good boy’ or ‘good girl’ is an approval manipulation, meant in the best possible way, but instills a need in the kid to be good not bad, for Your love. Not because their values are in harmony but because they fear your ‘love-withhold’. As kids, when we are trained by our carers to eat and poo and walk and speak, we are rewarded with kisses and prizes when we ‘get it right’ and we don’t get the same warm gusts of approval when we ‘don’t get it right’ – so we become Approval Addicts and the moment this happens, as Anthony de Mello says ‘society can control you’. We are slaves to approval, we are all conforming to some sector of approval, to be good earners, good workers, good home-makers, good looking – the core of Facebook is LIKING things, how many approval points did you get on that post, that picture, that insight? So just as a start, if we want to cultivate Freedom, it’s more useful to call the kids’ behaviour Good and Naughty but not the kid themself good or naughty. There’s a big mental and emotional difference between “Jamie, you’re a naughty boy!” and “Jamie, that is a very naughty thing to do!” Yes, obvious to some.
There are grey areas in all this but let’s dissolve the taboo.
We parents are also the most doting, careful, clued-up generation of parents this planet has EVER seen. These are the luckiest kids that have ever been born. That’s why, this is the time, we’ve reached a point where we care enough to get Active with this stuff. We agonise over our anger, our over-indulgence, our feelings of being sometimes overwhelmed. We care about the GMO foods that we want to protect our kids from, we care about the refined sugar that has been toxifying so much of the kids digestive and immune systems to make profits for rich crooks. We care about the country’s resources and hard earned taxes not being spent on wonderful palatial schools for our kids where their Creativity is devotionally cherished and all kinds of education, NOT just Academic, but visual, sonic, movement, imagination, even spiritual – All sides of kids are valued.
If we want to build this reality for our kids we need to raise our presence with how we as parents are treating our kids. When we dissolve this taboo together within our families and within our hearts, just watch the external factors in than list above transform all by themselves. Those toxic worldly issues are perfect mirrors of our own issues with our treatment of our kids.
They had to make a law to say we can’t beat them to teach with pain?
Parents of 2013 – Stand up for your kids. Let’s gift the future generations with massively more conscious and present mental and emotional wellbeing.