So the concept of letting go of specific patterns of relating with oneself and others (releasing the habitual reaction patterns and being more in the present) is like paradigm shifting at a core level. And breathing helps you get to your center, which is a type of paradigm shifting within yourself.
Steven Covey in his book the seven habits of highly effective people gave a beautiful description of what we experience when we are able to view someone else’s world from their perspective and how that change in perspective also allows a more profound understanding of the other. In his well acclaimed book he describes a young man on a commuter train with children that are wreaking havoc and the original perception of the observer of how out of control the children were with a desire for the father to control them. Then he writes that the father reports to the observer about how he isn’t sure about what to do, the children were just returning from the service where they had buried their mother and although normally he would calm them he wants them to have an opportunity to be happy for a little bit. The observer hearing this immediately changed his perspective about the situation with increased compassion toward the father and children. Paradigm shifting is the most useful tool in relating to another person.
Asking questions and breathing help to get into the moment so that a shift in perspective can happen. I think these two tools are fundamental to effective parenting.
Paradigm shifting allows for and requires flexibility. Flexibility in how one receives the information and flexibility in how one acts, based on the information input. Flexibility is an extremely useful tool in parenting. Parenting requires a constant process of mediating between the needs of the individual and the needs of the group, and other stimuli. Parents are guiding their children to learn to live within the structure of society as well as develop unique aspects of their individual children. Often the needs of the group and the individual are in some sort of conflict and the decision of which to focus on requires some sort of hierarchy. This is where instinct comes in. Mothers talk about how they can tell their child is getting sick because ‘they are not themselves’ even pediatricians will use this as part of their evaluation process – when a mother says the child is uncooperative and this is not typical to the child’s personality the pediatrician uses this information along with other symptoms. This is a type of intuition or knowing that is outside of something tangible but is essential to navigating the needs of our children.
I think of paradigm shifting as a type of mindfulness. Fully evaluating a situation in real-time. Navigating through our everyday as parents is an interplay of many different continua: love and clarity, teaching and listening, growing and assimilating, allowing and containing, structure and freedom. Knowing when to be where on each continuum is a challenge. Mindfulness is an essential key to assessing where to be on those continua. The more we are free of our habitual reaction patterns and the more centered we are (breath) the more effective and responsive we are as parents.
It’s not all sweetness and honey – an important piece is acting quickly and fully in extinguishing a negative behavior. But knowing what to extinguish, what to question, and when it’s best to take different actions, that requires being in the present, mindfulness, flexibility, and grace.
I think the main responsibility of parents is to be a midwife to the spiritual, psychological, cognitive and physical aspects of their child; to guide and contain and help bring out the unique personality of their child while raising responsible, socialized individuals. This is a fun concept that I will write about in future blogs.
Having worked with lots of people who feel they were injured in childhood I have developed some basic concepts for guiding parents. Know you will make mistakes – there are no perfect parents. Saying I made a mistake and making a change in your own behavior is the best healing tool parents have. Doing this as soon as you figure out you made the mistake goes far to heal childhood injuries – so if you don’t figure it out until their adults then still make the adjustments – it still heals. Being willing to ask questions and learn from your children about their particular needs and setting structure – together – help to teach children that they have to develop both their internal personality and their socialized self. Be uptight less and laugh more. Try not to determine your “good parentness” from other or outside approval but rather from what you feel and see developing in your child. Teach multitasking and focus. Accept yourself and your child where you each are. And my personal favorite – Children are not always learning what you think you’re teaching – so you have to pay attention. They listen when we don’t know it and sometimes don’t listen when we are talking. It’s a conundrum.
See you tomorrow.