We are living in a time when good parenting may no longer be good enough. Great parenting might be what it takes, especially if you are concerned about a child whose intensity has gone awry and you suspect the world around you will be applying pressures to medicate.
There is an epidemic that has quietly gained momentum. There are so many smart, loving and ‘good’ parents who are progressively loosing traction with their children, where the relationship is insidiously slipping away, and the day-to-day reality of having things go well has long since past, let alone the prospect of enjoying uplifting and connected time together.
I contend that the mechanics of good parenting, parenting via normal, conventional and traditional methods that have surrounded and converged in our world over the long haul, are no longer even remotely a fit that is up to the task of raising the modern day child.
In fact, the mechanics of normal parenting is almost guaranteed to make things worse with the typical child who has so much more life force and intensity than children of prior generations. Something else is required. Something new and innovative that allows parents to have an approach that gives them access to the new passcodes and allows them to awaken the greatness in their child – which has really been the goal in the hearts of parents from the beginning.
Just like dial-up connectivity is no longer up to the task of our modern day lives and can make online tasks arduous and almost painful, normal parenting can under-function and even undermine the important roles of the parent.
Here’s an example. It is pretty universal that the parents of the world value respect and responsibility and we very much want our kids to be respectful and responsible. That’s what we so desire to manifest and unfold in ensuing progressing ways. However by way of conventional styles of parenting, when do we most often bring up those subjects? Traditional parenting has us teaching the importance of these values in the midst of the problems and the “problem” with that is it’s so easy for a child, especially one with a little more than their fair share of intensity and life force, to derive the impression that we are so much more available to them when problems and issues are unfolding.
That’s when we lean in and are more alive and vivid. That’s when they can smell our perfume, feel our heartbeat and often perceive the plumes of fumes coming from our frustration. The child can unfortunately interpret our aliveness with a perception that they get so much more out of negativity than for the times when they are actually being respectful and responsible.
It’s all about energy. We think we can talk to children in straightforward, logical, direct and reasonable ways – yet underneath all we say, our children are actually reading the energy. When they are being respectful and responsible we so often miss the moments in our busy lives, or by way of the mechanics of normal parenting we respond with the low energy and vague praise of good job or thank you.
We don’t often get more explicative when it comes to the good stuff but we get so darn descriptive when it comes to the bad stuff. And we are seemingly available for the bad stuff 24/7… even when we fib and say we are to busy. The truth is that we are never too busy for problems. We always show up and we don’t just show up, we really show up. That’s when we can wax poetically. What kind of poet are we when things are going well.
So let me take this further by asking a question. How not great is it when your child is disrespectful or irresponsible? Seriously…how not great is it when your child talks back, or argues, or rolls their eyes. Can you address how not great that is and talk to it for 20 seconds or even 20 minutes. It can flow so easily. We can express our disappointment, our frustrations, how it’s so clearly not okay and how it will result in all kinds of problems and issues in future jobs and relationships and how it must come to a screeching halt this very instant.
SO… can that then serve as a barometer of how indeed great it is when talking back, arguing, eyes rolling… and the many other components of disrespect are not happening?
Can we vividly go way beyond good job and thank you to the core of what that choice (and YES, it is always a choice) says about the greatness of their discernment, judgment is?
Can we descriptively open our heart energy (mechanic’s alert – the heart radiates 5,000 time the energy frequency as our cerebral energy) to expressing how great it was that this child, by not arguing or talking back, demonstrated the greatness of being thoughtful, and considerate, being kind and mindful, showing wisdom and compassion, and so much more? The choice to be respectful inherently reflects so many of these qualities and values that we want to grow. Why water the weeds? Why not simply create a drip-irrigation system to nourish what we indeed do want to grow. I like to think of it as primal nutrition and our hearts can generate all the nutritious appreciation and gratitude that changes everything, especially for the intense child.
But even the normal child needs to be stronger on the inside than ever before. We need a style of parenting that lends itself to going way beyond self-esteem to building inner wealth. I’ve come to see the beauty of an approach I’ve developed for just this purpose though it was originally designed for the intense child. It turns out that the normal child, who has their own share of pressures and demands of life, responds beautifully to primal nutrition as well. Words of deep appreciation can feel like you are actually talking to the soul of your child and you can almost see them standing an inch taller when they are acknowledged in such a stunning way:
“Billy, I love that you walked away from your sister when she annoyed you, even though it looked a little frustrating. You could have lashed out or called her names but you didn’t and that shows me respectfulness and kindness. It shows me that you wisely handled your strong feelings with thoughtfulness and it shows you are being a responsible and loving older brother.”
And you could go on if you wanted. From this point of view you can stand there for a few more minutes and explain the greatness of what it takes to be wise, thoughtful and more. You then are essentially making a different kind of assertion, that it’s not a matter of whether you can or can’t show these qualities, but rather, here you are being these qualities… these qualities of greatness.
Instead of the blah, blah, blah, yadi, yadi, yadi of our negative responses, you are engineering positivity. It is truly a creation of how you choose to see things.
We all want better broadband. We pay a lot of money each month for the best we can afford. If you cell call starts breaking up you instinctually more three feet over to find a better signal with better bandwidth. Kids who perceive better bandwidth when things are going wrong and can easily form a lifestyle based on this sense of how the world works.
But now there’s an even better broadband, one that fosters a child’s growing sense that world is a safe and supportive place that sees and appreciates them deeply and expresses that profound noticing and recognition with words of acknowledgment. Some kids are lost and want to be found and some kids are holding out to be seen profoundly before they will choose to really show up. Some kids won’t let us in until we provide the evidence that we see them appreciatively.
If the only times we see them profoundly is when they make mistakes and cross our lines then that is how they will come to show up more often and in greater ways. In contrast, if we see and express the beauty in them when they are not making mistakes and crossing our lines, then that is how they will come to show up in ever-greater ways.
Of course we still need a simple way of resetting the child and ourselves when lines are crossed, providing a sense of consequences. If we can bring ourselves to this alternative style of parenting, where we are no longer reacting to negativity and where we are being highly responsive to everything in the direction of positivity, then it actually easy. We then have the luxury of an amazingly simple way of providing highly effective limits.
Think of the video games that so many children these days throw themselves into with abandon. I am not a fan of these games but watch how they play. They not only play to win but they play to be the world’s best – next levels of greatness, mastery and accomplishment. In these games, no matter how drastic the consequences appear to be (blood spurting, bombs bursting) who is back in the game in no time at all? The game never looks the other way and always delivers. A long consequence would complicate things but because the ‘time-out’ is only a matter of seconds the child not only always successfully completes their consequence, they come back into the game ever-more determined to be the world’s best, determined not to break the rules.
The very same is possible in great parenting. By making game-in/game-on energetically powerful like these games do, endlessly confronting success, and by not undermining that energy by giving connection and relationship to negativity, then a very doable and short resets can work when rules are broken in home and school. By creating energetically clear environments children can use their intensity in clear ways.
These are the basic mechanics of the Nurtured Heart Approach. I hope you do see it as the next realm of great parenting. It’s helped many children awaken to their greatness and many parents and teachers to rekindle positive relationships with their children.
And beyond that its helped so many parents and teacher to see that intensity is a beautiful thing and not something that inevitably leads to symptoms, diagnosis and medications.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.