Do we need a manual for parenting? Yes. There are three main ways that most parents go about figuring out HOW to parent: do the opposite of what their parents did; do what their parents did that worked; or read some books and do something totally different that sounds better than the other two. Also, most parents go to an expert when there is a problem, instead of seeing that parent education can help from the very beginning, and is something that all parents would benefit greatly from. What does a completely different paradigm of parent education look like?
Parenting young children is about creating a healthy foundation, and knowing the difference between what creates a whole, solid foundation and not just a piece of it or a few pieces. Most of us can look at ourselves and see what was fully nurtured and developed, what was only partially educated and what was left almost or totally untended. What are ALL the pieces?
- Modeling is the best way parents can help kids. We can’t teach what we can’t live. We can think of ourselves as instruments through which we parent our children. How do we make that instrument work the best? By working on our patterns, issues and bad habits and seeing how these things impact our relationship with our children, our partners, and ourselves. We have to be willing to look at what we have a hard time with, our weaknesses, places we get stuck, confused, overwhelmed, and need help with. Kids thrive on having parents who are willing to intentionally work on their issues, because they are such good role models for growth and development.
- Love, warmth, consistency in how we parent, physical affection, reliability.
- A healthy lifestyle is key in creating a solid foundation and underpinning for a child and provides the abundant, surplus energy your child needs to thrive, not just survive. A positive, balanced lifestyle helps to create physical and emotional resiliency and provides the protective factors that enable your child to handle all kinds of stressors in a way that promotes growth. 75% of ALL disease is caused by poor diet and stress. This is a huge responsibility for parents. Besides a healthy, organic, balanced diet, lifestyle includes exercise; a consistent daily routine that creates the necessary structure for children to feel safe and relaxed; and balancing the other aspects on this list.
- Giving children a personal permanent relationship to nature by consistently taking them out in nature to play and explore.
- Consistent boundaries and family values that are the same or at least agreed upon by both parents.
- Giving kids a positive relationship to work and responsibility. Young kids love to work, and they learn how to work from their parents. Even when they are young, they observe and absorb their parent’s work “energy.”
- Play! Kids discover themselves and the world through play.. They don’t need a lot of toys however, just time, different environments inside and out, safety, and freedom to explore. For young children, play and using their imagination is directly linked to forming a life long love of learning.
- Social skills. Contrary to most thinking that school should provide social skills, the foundation for healthy relating comes from parents. How the parents relate to each other is the biggest factor, then how they communicate with their children and finally how the parents take their children into positive social settings where they can learn to relate to many other people comfortably. Without a doubt kid’s relationship issues originate at home.
- Providing daily quiet alone time so that as they grow there persists an always accessible inner life. Capacity for conscious action and the development of compassion can only come from self-knowledge.
Consistency over time is critical in all of these areas. The longer the duration of consistency, the greater the solidity and depth of a child’s foundation. It is the proverbial task of “keeping all of your plates spinning at once”. In addition, it is also rare that we have all of these areas balanced and working in our own lives. Thus a comprehensive model of parent education would provide support, guidance, feedback, and practical techniques in how to develop ourselves and our children in all of the above areas. In addition, schools and teachers, who themselves would be participating in the process of self –development would be a valuable resource and assets in working closely with parents to develop and nurture the whole child.