living with children in peace, joy and freedom

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When you think about the amount of time that your child spends playing video games do the words “obsession” and “addiction” come to mind? Do you fear for your child’s physical and mental health? Is this an issue that keeps you awake at night? This is THE hot topic among parents that I talk to. It generates a huge amount of stress for parents and conflict in families. It’s a big topic and one that is beyond the scope of one post so I am going to focus on one key issue; the fear of gaming addiction.

At the heart of this fear of addiction is the belief that there is something about gaming itself that has the capacity to overwhelm free will and draw a child into a pattern of behaviour that is genuinely harmful. This belief places the child in the role of victim and assumes that the game (or gaming in general) is inherently dangerous. This belief fits comfortably with dominant beliefs in our society about the dangers of other addictive activities and substances. We either fear the activity or substance or we fear that we have an inherent weakness (such as a genetic predisposition) that makes us susceptible to it’s dangers. Either way, if you are believing that something is inherently harmful the most common reaction is to try and control and limit it. Placing time limits on video gaming is considered a responsible practice by many parents for this reason. Some parents take the next step and ban gaming altogether.

What if gaming was not the problem, but rather part of the solution?

What if limiting gaming actually increases the likelihood of compulsive gaming and its negative side effects?

I believe that there is a great deal of confusion about the nature of addiction. I have been trying to figure it out for a long time. My childhood was strongly influenced by the heavy consumption of alcohol by close relatives. The side effects of their alcohol use on my life were not pleasant. As an adult I developed my own compulsive behaviours and attracted partners who struggled with compulsive substance use. Learning how to deal with these issues has been a big theme in my life. I used to see myself as a victim of addiction/compulsion but my understanding has changed.

I now understand that addiction is an attempt to escape from emotional pain and suffering. As Dr Gabor Maté puts it “All the substances of abuse are actually painkillers……Addiction is always about pain.” It’s about doing or consuming something to try and distract or escape from underlying issues of self-hatred, low self-worth or unresolved “stuck” feelings such as fear, grief, helplessness or rage. It can also be an escape from stress, boredom or feelings of powerlessness. It’s not about the substance or activity, it’s about how you feel inside.

There is another confusion about addiction that has taken me ages to tease apart. How come so many of the things that can be used or done compulsively are also things that are desirable or fun? Think yummy food, chocolate, sex, a drink with friends, shopping, gambling and work; they can all be desired and enjoyed in moderation by some people and become the focus of compulsive behaviour in others. Perhaps it is because they have the capacity to bring pleasure and excitement to life that they are used as a form of self-medication by some people. The key difference between a positive desire for something and an addiction or compulsion is the attitude or mindset of the person doing it. It is possible to be passionate, enthralled and deeply absorbed in something, even to the extent of it taking up a large part of your waking hours, and experience no negative side effects. And yet, if the same activity is undertaken with the mindset of escaping or dulling emotional pain then the results can be very different.

Playing video games involves a heady cocktail of positive emotions and experiences. In a recent article in Slate Jane McGonigal emphasizes the significance of play in people’s lives. She notes that the opposite of “play” is not “work,” as many people assume, but rather depression: “Most people tend to experience stronger self-confidence, increased physical energy, and powerful positive emotions, like curiosity and excitement, during play. This is a perfect contrast to depression.” She explains that video games are a form of play that hyper-stimulates the brain, particularly in the areas associated with motivation/goals and memory/learning. This is why they are so appealing and it is also why they can be so beneficial for children. Video games are challenging, exciting and fun and stretch our skills and capacities.They are often visually amazing, full of engrossing narrative and highly original. I have written more about the benefits for children of this form of play here.

A game like Minecraft is rich in all these elements and that is why it is so very, very desired and loved by children. Minecraft can also be adapted, modified and used in ways that make it infinitely customisable to each child’s particular interests and skill set. My 14 year old son who has been an avid gamer since he was 6 says; “Minecraft encourages creativity and imagination. Playing it a lot and enjoying it isn’t a bad thing.” After years of observing him pursuing his passion for gaming, through Minecraft and well beyond, I certainly agree. I have seen him blossom in confidence, resilience, learning and social skills. I couldn’t ask for a happier teenager.

When you consider the issue from this perspective it becomes clear that well-meaning attempts by parents to control or restrict access to video games can increase the likelihood of compulsive gaming or other troublesome behaviours. These are the reasons why:

  1. Blocked desire can cause immense frustration. Playing games can be frustrating for children at times (particularly if they are at the leading edge of their skills) but being told to stop when they are in the middle of exciting gameplay is much worse. A parent imposing limits or banning games can lead to strong feelings of anger and powerlessness. If unresolved, these feelings could bring on a pattern of compulsive behaviour in an attempt to soothe the child’s distress.
  2. The conflict between parent and child arising out of attempts to control can be very traumatic for all concerned and can erode the closeness and trust in the parent-child relationship. When this trust is eroded children are less likely to turn to their parent for help when they face challenges. They are also less likely to open up and express their feelings in a way that enables them to clear their distress and release the energy of their negative emotions.
  3. The child has less opportunity to engage in activity that they find stimulating, fun and exciting. Recent psychology research suggests that both the appeal and well-being effects of video games are based in their potential to satisfy basic psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Instead of being harmful, video gaming can be seen as an important way to help children practice real and meaningful skills. While a child is having fun and playing a game with a positive mindset it can’t help but be good for them. Why deny your child this opportunity for learning and feeling good?
  4. When parents send the message to their child that video games are a waste of time, harmful or serve no useful purpose they are conditioning their children to change their mindset from a positive to a negative one. Jane McGonigal explains that this can cause children become more likely to see games as an escape from reality rather than a meaningful part of their lives. The mindset of the parent is a crucial element in the way children will relate to gaming.

So what should anxious parents do?

A good place to start would be a conversation with your child about why so much of their time is spend playing video games. One suggestion is to ask your child straight out “Are you playing these games as an escape or are you having fun?” If they say that they are having fun, just relax and spend some time talking to them about what they enjoy about their games. Ask them about the skills they have developed while playing their games. The more you engage with your child and observe the learning and resilience they are picking up through this form of play, the more positive your own attitude will become.

If your child lets you know that they are playing as an escape from their daily life, be grateful that you now have this information and can do something to help them. Instead of limiting their gaming, the best thing you can do to help your child is to start playing with them. If you think you can handle the learning curve and the challenge ask if you can play a multiplayer video game alongside your child. Get involved, build a closer connection and give yourself the opportunity to see the game from your child’s perspective. As I explain in my new book “Joyful Parenting,” playing with your child can be a great way to help them resolve their own problems. The most helpful kind of adult-child play is when the child is in the lead, can choose the type of play and can demonstrate their skills. In my experience, there is nothing better than video games for putting parents at a natural disadvantage. My children find my incompetence immensely amusing and they love the power-reversal play that I encourage during our gaming sessions. The closeness developed through this kind of play opens up wonderful opportunities for a child to bring up issues that are troubling them.

The other obvious thing to do if your child is using gaming as an escape is to look for ways to make the rest of their life less stressful and more fun. If there are problems that need to be addressed there are ways of doing this that are both supportive and empowering for children and parents. Joyful Parenting focuses on skills for solving family problems and moving from conflict to closer connection.

And finally, if you are worried and stressed do whatever you can to change your mindset and your attitude to gaming and to addiction. Question your thinking. See things from your child’s perspective. Read more widely and listen to your fears less.

This may be my last post to this blog. If you have enjoyed it and would like to read more of my writing please go to my new blog and subscribe. www.freyadawson.com.au

Love
Freya

Your mindset and your well-being is important, both for you and your child.

This blog has a new home.

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Some of you will already be aware that my book “Joyful Parenting” has finally been published. It is so exciting to be able to share it at last!

Joyful Parenting is not a book of advice. It is a parent-to-parent sharing of information and experiences. I have discovered five great skills that take the whole experience of parenting to another level. It is like my secret tool kit. These skills are all about finding more joy, more fun, making it easier and having the peaceful, intimate relationships that we dream of with our children. I know that this book will bring something new and fresh to your life.

I have also launched a new website! And this blog has found a new home. I would love you to come over and check it out at www.freyadawson.com.au The blog and the new book is available there as well as my two new course offerings; the Joyful Parenting Course and the Peace Joy Freedom Workshop Series.

If you would like to keep receiving blog posts please resubscribe on the new blog page. There is a subscribe button on the right had side.

If you would like to hear about the new online courses that I have planned for next year as well as workshops and live teleclasses then make sure you sign up for my newsletter. You can do this on the home page of my website.

I am looking forward to keeping in touch and I have lots of ideas, inspiration and reflection that I would love to share with you. See you on the other side!!

Life is just so exciting

Hello Gentle Readers!

There is a whole lot happening in my life at the moment and I want to let you know about it.
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The BIG news is that I have finished writing my book “Being with Children in Peace, Joy and Freedom: A Book of Skills and Resources for Parents.”

After five years of not being particularly interested in my writing project my husband has finally agreed to read the book, give me his comments and correct my hopeless grammar. Once I have made a last round of corrections I will be moving full-steam into the process of publication. I am SO excited to be this close to having a book to share with you.

I have had some great discussions, feedback and encouragement through writing this blog over the last year and I am feeling inspired to continue writing about joyful parenting. I am sure I will get lots of new ideas when I start to run my face-to-face Skills for Joyful Parenting Course again. People ask such great questions and share their own unique perspectives. I am also looking forward to writing on some new topics.

In the last 6 months my experience of spiritual awakening has deepened greatly. I feel much more aligned with my true nature. Insights and understanding are flowing freely. I realise that one of the main themes of my life is to share the peace and bliss of recognising and knowing Oneness and to do so in a practical, down-to-earth way that doesn’t scare people off. There is so much dogma, fantasy and semi-religious teaching out there. I want to present what I know directly from my own experience – so no frilly bits. Enlightenment is so much more simple than I ever imagined.

The experience of awakening is very simple and yet it has so many implications for everyday life. At the moment it is calling me into a new understanding of activism, environmentalism and living sustainably. In the past I have been overwhelmed with anger, sadness, grief and powerlessness as I witnessed the dramatic changes that are taking place on our planet. I have devoted myself to environmental causes and agonised about decisions over energy use, travel and what, if anything, to buy in the supermarket. Now I find my perspective on these issues shifting and softening. What I once thought of as a harsh reality and a necessary struggle now seems more like a positive call to learn, expand and follow my passion. I now understand that my suffering over extinction, climate change, pollution and deforestation is not necessary or helpful. I feel drawn to write about this new perspective that is emerging and to share it through this blog. I hope some of you will find this relevant to your lives.

As I will be adding new categories to this blog I will also be changing the name. In fact, I will be relaunching this blog as part of a whole new website. I will be including information on courses and workshops that I will be running as well as selling my book in print and ebook formats.

While the new website and book are in production the blog will take a little rest.

I would love to know if my pattern of monthly posts works for you. I know that most bloggers write more often than this but this hasn’t happened for me yet. What do you think? Is once a month OK or do you want more?

Stay tuned for more peace, joy and freedom.

I have spent most of the last 14 years feeling overwhelmed by parenting. Thankfully, this has eased up a lot in the last few years but that familiar feeling still comes to visit. It feels much more subtle than it used to but it can still have me in tears and even make me feel sick. I felt the classic signs of a cold coming on this week. When I lay down and meditated I felt the familiar heaviness, exhaustion and despair that overwhelm brings.

What are the other classic signs of parental overwhelm?

I feel the urge to complain, and it is usually about my children.
I want to blame somebody, and it is usually my children.
I get grumpy, irritated and reactive towards my children.
I burst into tears at the drop of a hat.

Overwhelm has many causes. I have previously written about my tendency to get caught up in too much doing and not enough Being. Over-doing and overwhelm can be driven by a whole range of myths and confusions about parenting. Beth Berry explores some of these myths here.

My old pattern of over-doing to the point of overwhelm no longer really bothers me. I have questioned so many of the thoughts that underpinned the pattern that it has pretty much collapsed and dissolved. The piece that remains to haunt me occasionally is about over-giving. It is a habit of pushing myself to give to my children more than is comfortable or satisfying for me.

It is not so much about physical effort or even physical tiredness. Both of these are an inevitable part of parenting. It is more to do with the emotional strain and negative reactions that come when a certain threshold of giving is reached.

I think there are at least two types of giving and they have completely different energies.

The best sort of giving arises out of the natural flow of love and care for others. It is aligned with peace, joy and kindness. It does not feel like a struggle. When the flow of positive energy and intention is strong it can even carry me past my assumed physical limits. Like most parents, I have stayed up most of the night with a child in pain. I was amazed that I felt mildly euphoric and deeply satisfied to be able to give this help and comfort when under normal circumstances I completely crumble under even mild sleep deprivation.

This positive giving can easily flip into a more negative type. Sometimes the flip is so subtle that I don’t notice the change until sometime afterwards. My giving becomes strained. I sigh in resignation or roll my eyes in dismay at what is being asked of me. I feel tension building within me. I begin to feel exasperated and uptight about the situation. If I ignore these warning signs and keep giving this might progress to snapping at my child in anger or bursting into tears of frustration.

Once I experience these stressful emotions my giving has ceased to be helpful to my child. Instead of sharing true love I am polluting the the energy field that is the essence of our being with negativity. I may try to hide my stress and annoyance. But my child will always feel it. This negative energy inevitably also affects the practical, physical care and support that I offer to my child. The whole atmosphere of the moment changes.

How can transmitting negative energy ever be helpful?

The crazy thing is, sometimes even when I realise what is happening I feel compelled to keep giving anyway. Why would I do this? For the simple reason that I believe my children need me. This is the core belief that underlies my pattern of over-giving.

To many parents this belief is unassailable. “My child needs me” trumps everything else.

I hear it most often among my friends who are into attachment parenting or some variation thereof. I don’t describe myself as an attachment parent but I have undoubtedly been influenced by thinking that puts a great deal of emphasis on the needs of children, particularly when they are young. According to this thinking, if children’s needs for closeness, connection and attachment are neglected there is a risk of lifelong negative consequences.

I don’t have any argument with attachment parenting or attachment theory. My question is: attached to what? If I am caring for and giving to my child with an energy of joy, there is obviously no problem. If believe in the absolute priority of my child’s needs to the point that I reach overwhelm that child is now closely connected and attached to a stressed parent emitting negative and even toxic energy.

What is the solution?

The solution I am drawn to most strongly is to question every thought that brings stress into my life. I sometimes use the questions taught by Byron Katie (read more about this here) and I sometimes just ask my own questions and see where they lead. I know that there are no right or wrong answers. My only guide is whether my questioning ultimately results in greater calm and clarity for myself.

I have questioned the deeply entrenched belief “My child needs me” by breaking it down in to as many separate questions as I can think of. These are some of the questions that I have come up with:

Does my child really need me or do they just want me?
Is this an expression of the physical body for for food, drink, comfort, more sleep or relief from pain? Is it urgent? Can they help themselves?
Do they really need ME or can someone else help?
Can my child’s wants be met in a way that doesn’t put me under so much strain?
Do they need it right now or can it wait 10 minutes or an hour while I take care of myself?
Will my child really be scarred for life if I don’t give them what they want right now?
Are they more resilient than I think?
Is it possible that they have an innate capacity to recover from emotional upset and to heal themselves?
Am I projecting a belief in my own neediness on to my child?
Do I also have the innate capacity to examine and heal my own neediness and emotional wounds?
Does my child really need what they are demanding or is there some deeper issue wanting to be heard? Would listening attentively without reacting help to uncover this deeper, unresolved issue?
If my child wants something that I don’t want to give them can we join together to find a solution that we are both happy with? Is this possible even with very young children?

Remember: these are just questions. If they resonate with you, try them out for yourself. If not, just ignore.

When I started asking these questions I realised that I had been unconsciously projecting my own emotional neediness on to my children. I had long struggled with feelings of neediness. I had also felt the effects of clinging to people who emit strong negativity. The way to healing was to inquire into my own childhood and my beliefs about my own suffering.

I was sure that as a small baby I had needed more comfort, closeness and responsiveness than I had received. I was cared for according to the beliefs of the time (the late 1960s.) I was convinced that Dr Spock and my parents had a lot to answer for. I was filled with righteous indignation; How could they have left me to cry, all alone by myself? How could they have ignored my needs like that?

I carried this belief in my own unmet needs into adulthood and projected it onto others. Boyfriends and husbands were my particular targets. I desperately needed them to hold, comfort and care for me and I needed to be needed in return. This was not a recipe for stable, nourishing relationships. Then I had children. This intensified the pattern. On the one hand I felt more needy and vulnerable. I also unconsciously projected this neediness on to my children. My belief in my children’s neediness drove my pattern of over-giving to the point of overwhelm.

I decided to inquire deeply into my own childhood experience. I imagined myself back in the room of my babyhood. I remembered lying there crying. I asked myself “How would I be, lying in that room by myself, without the story that I needed my parents to be with me in that moment?” I meditated on that question. This is what I discovered: No matter what the circumstances, there was always a part of me that observed my distress but was not affected by it. There was always a part of me that was undisturbed and OK. When I notice this part of myself I am aware of an underlying calm. I can feel deeper into this calm. When I do, I realise that I have always been OK. My thoughts have told me otherwise, but the reality is that my needs have always been met. Lying there in that room by myself I was not only fine, I was better off. It was peaceful in there. I was not being exposed to my parent’s stressful emotions. They had, sometimes, been giving when it was no longer helpful.

Inquiring into my own neediness brought me to a deeper understanding. I am unlearning old beliefs about myself and my life. I focus less on my thoughts and more on the calm, loving presence within me.

Asking myself all of the questions above has greatly reduced my feelings of overwhelm. This process has taken time. Change didn’t happen right away, but it did happen. I recognise much more quickly when my giving is no longer helping. I take more breaks. I nap when I can. I ask for help more often. I sometimes say “No. I am not available to help you right now.” I trust that we can find solutions.

Above all, I focus on my own state of well-being. I know that my own peace and joy are the greatest gifts that I can ever give my child.

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I love to bask in the vitality and joy that my children beam out every day. I love to see how much they are enjoying life, learning and achieving their own goals. But it has not always been so rosy.

What I have seen in my children has also been confronting. There were things about them that I simply didn’t like. There were behaviours that I struggled with and dearly wished to see gone. What I have come to see clearly is that these aspects of my children that I disliked were things that I had not been able to accept in myself.

When I saw anger, violence, vanity, sensitivity to criticism, neediness or competitiveness in my children and I judged these things I was also judging myself. The urge to control or fix these things in my children mirrored my desire to be rid of these aspects of myself. I was seeing a reflection of my own self-loathing.

My attempts to fix, control and guide my children out of these things that I didn’t like always failed. My reactions and judgements only made it worse.

But how to get out of this old, unhelpful pattern? How do I own, accept and forgive my own violence, vanity and neediness?

There are lots of ways to dabble at the edges of this challenge but I wanted to get right to the bottom of it. What I eventually realized is that all of these shadow aspects of myself are the exaggerated, painful manifestations of my desire for love, approval and acceptance.

Like almost everybody, I believed for most of my life that love, approval and acceptance must be obtained from the people around me. It had to come from “out there” and it had to be worked for. What others thought of me mattered so much. I was driven by such a strong desire to please people and be loved by them.

When I didn’t get what I wanted from others I got angry. I lashed out and attacked them viciously with my mind and my tongue. I agonized about my appearance in the hope that I might get more approval and be admired. I felt the enormous stress and anxiety of performing to please others and this made me feel even more desperate for love and approval. I recoiled from criticism because it mirrored my own self-hatred and the ease with which I passed judgement on others. Competitiveness was the inevitable result of constantly comparing myself to others and desiring the approval that came with being “better than” or “best.”

All of these things were innocent expressions of my misplaced desire. They were an inevitable result of seeking love outside of myself. I believed that this was the only path to happiness and fulfillment.

Why were my desires misplaced? Because they could never be satisfied by anything “out there” for more than a passing moment. I was bringing all this suffering on myself by the simple act of focusing in the wrong direction.

I now chose to focus my desire within. I pause regularly in my day to relax, breathe and turn my attention away from my thoughts. I choose to notice that when I am not thinking, even if only for a few seconds, that I still exist. There is a calm, clear space behind my thoughts. It is aware, vibrant, conscious. It observes everything. It is presence.

I practice focusing on this calm presence. I notice that it is inseparable from the aliveness and energy flowing within my body. When I turn my attention to this inner energy-field I sense a quiet joy and peace. I don’t have to suppress my thoughts or try to stay in this peace. I notice that my thoughts arise from it. I can believe them or not. I know that my thoughts are not who I am.

Presence is not something to be worked for. I don’t have to try and find it or strive to keep it. It is always, already there. All I have to do is notice. It is a natural and effortless state of Being.

Once I connect with presence I know my true nature. I am not an isolated individual struggling and competing for love and attention. I am an expression of presence-energy and the oneness of life. I can relax. I am free to be who I really am without trying to please others. I am no longer driven to seek love outside myself. I know that I AM love.

I can forgive my anger, self-judgement and competitiveness because I know that they were generated by confusion. I know that this confusion was innocent and inevitable. Everybody I knew was believing the same things and acting it out all around me. Until recently, I passed this same legacy on to my own children. But now things have changed. My understanding of who I am has changed. I embody love and appreciation and I see this reflected in my children. I focus on what brings me joy and delight. I treasure the unique gifts of my “self” and I watch my children express their gifts too.

I still see glimpses of things I don’t like in my children but I react differently now. I don’t see them as something to be fixed or controlled. I know that my feelings of discomfort and distress are simply an alarm going off. It is telling me that there is an opportunity to learn more about myself and to dissolve more of my limiting, stressful beliefs. It is an opportunity to move further into presence and to deepen my sense of self-love and self-acceptance. What a wonderful gift.

I am getting close to finishing the book that I have been working on for the last five years and I plan on publishing it this year. It is titled Being with Children in Peace, Joy and Freedom: A book of Skills and Resources for Parents. One of the aims of the book is to bring together a list of resources on peaceful parenting. At this stage, I am asking for your help to find out if I have missed something great that I should be including in this list.

I want to include books and websites that support peaceful, joyful parenting. I exclude any resources that advocate discipline (unless it is self-discipline), punishment of any kind and parent-imposed limits or consequences. I am also excluding books and websites that focus on the parenting aspects of home education and unschooling as I wish the book to appeal to the widest possible audience.

To give you an idea of the type of resources that I am interested in, here is an outline of my book. It covers five skills:

Skill 1 is a tool for helping your children with their problems. I call it Listening in Presence. I explore what it means to be fully present with your children and share tips for noticing and dissolving your old habits of reacting. Instead of reacting and communicating out of habit you will learn new ways of actively and respectfully listening to your children that help to restore peace.

Skill 2 is called Question your Thinking. This skill is based primarily on the teachings of Byron Katie and her method of self-inquiry based on four simple questions. I describe how to use self-inquiry to open your mind about issues that have been troubling you and dissolve your stress and worries about your children. I have used this tool for finding peace and guidance and I share insights into common beliefs about children and parenting.

Skill 3 is a method to help you to ask for help from your children to get what you want. It is an adaptation of Marshall Rosenburg’s Nonviolent Communication that I call Speaking from the Heart. It is about owning your problems and asking your children for help in a peaceful and honest way.

Skill 4 is called Creative Problem Solving. It incorporates each of the three skills described above and combines them with a problem solving technique. It provides a method for dealing with situations where you are stuck in conflict with your child. This skill takes the power struggle out of parenting. It will also take you deeper into the art of asking for and receiving intuitive guidance.

Skill 5 is an invitation to play with your children and to notice and respect the importance of play in their lives. It describes how play can be a powerful tool for strengthening your relationship with your child as well as healing emotional wounds.

The books that are on my list of resources so far are these:

Marshall Rosenburg, Nonviolent Communication; The Language of Life, 2003, Puddle Dancer Press, Ca.

Thomas Gordon, Parent Effectiveness Training, 1970, Penguin, USA.

Marshall Rosenburg, Raising Children Compassionately, Parenting the Nonviolent Communication Way, 2005, Puddle Dancer Press.

Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson, Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids; 7 Keys to Turn Family Conflict into Co-operation, 2006, Puddle Dancer Press, Ca.

Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards: The trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A’s, praise, and other bribes, 1993, Houghton Mifflin, NY.

Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason, 2005, Atria Books.

Ross W. Greene, The Explosive Child; A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children, 1998, HarperCollins, USA.

Lawrence J. Cohen, Playful Parenting, 2001, Ballantine Books. NY.

Naomi Aldort, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, (2005) Book Publishers Network, WA. USA.

Jane R Hirschmann and Lela ZaphiropoulosKids, Carrots, and Candy: A Practical, Positive Approach to Raising Children Free of Food and Weight Problems, 2012, Createspace, USA.

Patty Wipfler, Listening to Children: Playlistening, (booklet) 2006, Hand in Hand, USA.

Patty Wipfler, Listening to Children: Special Time, (booklet) 2006, Hand in Hand, USA.

Patty Wipfler, Listening to Children: Crying, (booklet) 2006, Hand in Hand, USA.

Patty Wipfler, Listening to Children: Reaching for Your Angry Child, (booklet) 2006, Hand in Hand, USA.

Patty Wipfler, Listening to Children: Healing Children’s Fears, (booklet) 2006, Hand in Hand, USA.

Patty Wipfler, Listening to Children: Tantrums and Indignation, (booklet) 2006, Hand in Hand, USA.

I have also ordered some books that are currently on the way to me and may also join this list:

Lawrence J. Cohen, The Opposite of Worry: The Playful Parenting Approach to Childhood Anxieties and Fears

Alfie Kohn, The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom about Children and Parenting

Gary Chapman, Ross Campbell, The 5 Love Languages of Children

Websites that I include are:

http://www.handinhandparenting.org/

http://www.thework.com

I would love to hear of any suggestions that you have for books or websites to add to this list.

Thank you and Happy New Year!

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There are times when my fears and worries about my children have overwhelmed and overtaken me. It has helped my a great deal to identify and name my fears. I have feared failure as a parent: that my children will not be happy and healthy and that I will be judged by others. I have feared that my children will get hurt, physically or emotionally. These fears and others like them underpin many of the problems I have experienced with my children. My fear can drive a need for my child to learn certain skills or to behave in a certain way. It can drive me to control, manipulate and pressure my children. It has really helped to examine these fears closely and to question my belief in them.

One of the most liberating things that I have learned in my parenting journey is that there are two types of fear. Eckhart Tolle describes them in his book The Power of Now. On one hand there is fear of immediate physical danger. I don’t put my hand in the fire because I know that I will get burned. There is an instinctive shrinking back from true immediate danger. Then there is psychological fear. This kind of fear is always of something that might happen in the future, not of something that is happening now. Psychological fear arises in response to thoughts about a future that does not exist. It is a creation of my mind. I am imagining a fearful future. I can be completely overtaken by this kind of fear, at least for a time.

I have noticed that when I feel fear in my relationship with my children it is almost always psychological fear. For example, I feared that unless my children developed “healthy” eating habits they would have poor health as they grew up. I also feared that if they didn’t learn to read by a certain age that they would find it much harder to learn when they were older. These were fears about what might happen in the future. There was no immediate danger. At the time I experienced these fears my children were very healthy and learning happily at a pace that suited themselves. These fears were created by my imagination and yet they brought enormous stress and conflict into my relationships with my children.

The arising of these fears is a very strong reminder to bring myself back into presence. Presence is the inner consciousness that is behind or underneath my thoughts. This consciousness can witness and observe my stressful thoughts and painful emotions and sense directly that they are not who I am.

I experience presence as a state of calm, relaxed alertness. It is a space of peace, stillness and vibrant aliveness. Thoughts may appear in this space but they do not dominate. I can notice my thoughts without being overwhelmed by them. There is space between thoughts in which I experience quietness and joy. Helpful, creative thoughts have room to appear. I can choose to act on these thoughts or to remain still. It is a natural and spontaneous state of being.

If you feel overcome by fear or other painful feelings here are some ideas to help you bring yourself into presence. Choose one that suits you and go with that.

1. Sit quietly, relax your body and mind. Let go of your thoughts for a few seconds. Notice that when you are not thinking that you still exist.

2. See if you can feel your inner aliveness. Feel the energy inside your body. Focus on that energy.

3. Go out for a walk in nature (or anywhere peaceful) on your own and focus on what your senses are perceiving. Notice the touch of the air, the sound of the birds, the blue of the sky. Take your shoes off and walk in bare feet. Feel the earth supporting you with every step you take. Just notice. Put your whole attention on what is around you.

4. Notice your thoughts and feelings. Notice that you can observe them. If you are observing your thoughts and feelings then this means that they are not who you are. You are the observer. Closely observe your experience. What images come with your feelings? Where are your feelings in your body?

As I connect with presence I don’t try to get the fear to go away. This just suppresses it and locks it in deeper. I have found that it helps to allow the feeling of fear, to go towards and into it rather than to push it away. This takes courage as I also have a fear of feeling fear! Recognizing it as psychological fear that is a creation of my mind helps. I remind myself that there is no immediate danger. I listen to the fear and feel it with openness and curiosity.

Listening in presence to my own fear has often allowed it to gently dissolve. The more often I remember to connect with presence the calmer I become. If the fear continues to haunt me I write down my fearful thoughts and use the four questions taught by Byron Katie to question my thinking. Through this questioning I can see that fears obscure my awareness of what is real and true and trustworthy about Life and my true nature. Once I reconnect with this reality my urge to push, control and demand things of my children fades away. I notice that my children are fine just as they are. We can relax back into harmony and closeness.

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