Wonder is Beginning of Wisdom

Insight Coaching for Parents Newsletter

Wonder is the Beginning of Wisdom

True. Kind. Necessary.

There’s so much to talk about as we dive headlong into the winter season. I truly love this time of year. Mostly because my daughter was born in mid December, but also because it’s when we move into the dark, both literally and figuratively. The days get shorter, and colder; we move activity inside; we bundle under layers of clothes and physically and energetically fold inward. This is the time of year when assorted cultures and religions celebrate some variation of the light within the darkness: Winter Solstice, Hannukah, Kwansa, Christmas, Bodhi Day, Sadeh to name just a few.

It’s a great time to nurture the light within our selves.
… and of course, in our children too.

So how do we cultivate and protect the light within our children?

Of course, there are many ways, but one VITAL way is by acting as a “filter” for our young children. Because they cannot do this for themselves, we must do it for them.

Children are regularly offered too much adult information, too much emotional untidiness, before they have built the foundation within themselves to process it. This has been on my mind a lot, particularly in the days and weeks after Hurricane Sandy.

As much as I wanted to share with my daughter the larger conversation of global warming, poverty and community responsibility, I knew that exposing her to these real-world dilemmas (even watered down) was not in her best interest, at least not now.

I grew up in a family where ideas and feelings around politics, religion, and social justice were regularly and passionately discussed and explored. I believe that it shaped (in a good way!) my vision and my spirit, both personally and politically. I am so proud of that legacy. It also helped to form my belief that small children deserve to grow up unencumbered by real-world problems. They will come to know them soon enough.

Protecting children’s innocence, or inner light,
IS a way to solve the world’s problems.

When kids are free from the weight of adult concerns, we are giving them a chance to develop slowly and at their own pace. When they have room to unfold, without the pressure of “faster”, “sooner” and “better” (something I find especially widespread in the NYC parenting world) they truly thrive with more ease and confidence. How incredibly lucky to have that opportunity for our children. Most of the world does not have a choice. Here is a beautiful quote that sums this concept up nicely:

I am struck by the fact that the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think that the same is true of human beings. We do not wish to see children precocious, making great strides in their early years like sprouts, producing a soft and perishable timber, but better if they expand slowly at first, as if contending with difficulties, and so are solidified and perfected. Such trees continue to expand with nearly equal rapidity to extreme old age.

~ Henry David Thoreau

Exposing young children to adult conversation, to T.V., to news on the radio, is simply too much real-world information and does not prepare children for the grown-up world. Rather, it paralyzes them. With good intentions, we speak about environmental decay and global poverty – and we may believe we are helping to create young activists, but early childhood is not a time for these anxieties.

In his amazing book, Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne offers a great tool to help parents figure out the adult filter. It’s a simple rule. When sharing information and talking around young children, ask yourself:

Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

Is it true?
Can you be sure that what you’re saying is accurate? How do you know it’s true? We easily convince ourselves about the rightness of a thing, but when pressed, cannot prove its exact certainty. Gossip and hearsay fail this test nearly every time, and yet we often bring into our homes the unsubstantiated, hurtful, mean things that people say.

Is it kind?
Does what you’re saying model kindness to a particular person or people? Is what you’re saying accusative or inquisitive? Is it dehumanizing or humanizing? Even if it passes the TRUE test, does it still need to be said? Even hard truths can be expressed in kindness.

Is it necessary?
Do your children REALLY need to hear this? How will it serve them? Is the information you’re providing necessary for them, or does it add noise to an already deafening world?

This is obvious, I know. But as children grow older, the filters evolve. What I share and how I talk with my 5 year old is really different than what I would say to her when she was 4, or 3. All the while, even as she grows, my intention is to protect and nurture the light within. All parents recognize this immeasurable, magical light within their children. It’s the innocence and natural wonder that we all have in us when we are new, which eventually transforms into something else as we get older. My intention is not to keep her “naive” as I’ve heard some people claim, but to let her unfold into this world gently. They will learn soon enough how troubled the world is. For now, it can be a good and just place.


The Power of Intuition

Like weddings, parenting has become big business — filled with experts, baby trainers, books, blogs, articles and opinions flooding the market. In many ways, this is amazing. Parents have access to different perspectives, ideas and resources like never before. On the other hand, all this information has created a lot of self-doubt and fear. Parents want what is best for their children, so it is easy to worry that your decisions will fall short, or cause harm. As a coach, I work to clear the clutter in the parent’s mind so they can identify and listen to their own intuition. It’s truly THE most powerful tool you have as a parent.

When you tap into your innate wisdom as mothers and fathers, you’re better equipped to navigate the complex waters of information overload and find suitable ground to land. When you trust and value your own judgment, you inspire your children to trust and value theirs. This may not feel so critical when your kids are small (they naturally trust themselves!), but by the time they are teenagers, you will be glad they have confidence in their own voice and not blindly follow the direction of others.
Just listen to the news! Fear and self-doubt permeate our culture, especially when it comes to parenting; here are just a few scenarios that come to mind:

• Your reactions, responses and choices are motivated by a concern for what other people think of you, your child or your parenting.

• You worry that you’ll offend family, friends or even strangers, so you go along with another way of parenting that you don’t necessarily agree with.

• When faced with a difference of opinion, you easily second-guess your judgment.

• You ignore your gut instinct about your child because you think your pediatrician, teacher or child professional will know better.

• Intuition is not rooted in research, facts or reason, and therefore of no real value.

As a parent, I have faced all of these and then some. I am no stranger to insecurity and I have definitely felt vulnerable in identifying and trusting my vision as a parent. This is simply part of the road we are all on. But what I have learned, and feel passionate about sharing with you, is that trusting my gut is THE most powerful tool I have used as a parent.

When I listen to my intuition and forget about what I “should” do, or what everyone else around me is doing, I feel connected to myself, my child and the vision I have as a family. I respond better to my child, my daughter responds better to me, and there is a flow and ease that otherwise would not be there.

However, Intuition may not be enough for bringing up a child in our modern society. More importantly, how do you know what is intuitive and what is learned and habitual? Not without inquiring will you get clear on the difference. Just because something seems right and familiar, or the way “everyone” does it, does not make it intuitive.

Here are three quick tips on how to identify and trust your intuition:

1. Listen to your body. Social conditioning teaches us to be logical and “use our heads.” When you only use your head, your experience of yourself and the world is limited. You miss out on the vital information the rest of your body, heart and soul is giving you. Quite literally, listen to your gut. Does the thought of “it” make you feel physically off? If your body tells you it doesn’t feel right, then it’s not right.

2. Notice the negative voices in your head. Each of us has our very own special saboteur. The saboteur is the voice in your head that says, “Who am I to question the expert?,” “Everyone will think I’m a bad parent,” or “Her kids behave better, so she must be right.” Notice how the inner critic drives the choices and decisions you make.
When you learn to recognize your own voice from that of the saboteur you can start to listen and trust yourself.

3. Identify your held beliefs and fears. We each carry a set of beliefs and fears that we live by. Some you hold consciously, while others are mainly unconscious. Some beliefs and fears that you develop limit your ability to trust your intuition. Learning to notice a limiting belief allows you to become conscious of it, and then change it. You, rather than the fear, make the choices that are right for you and your family.

Many parents already know what they want for their children, for their family and for themselves but struggle to manifest it. Decisions are often shaped by what they think they “should” do, instead of what they really want to do. When we explore our own deeper motivations we can make informed decisions and are less likely to parent from a place of fear and self-doubt. Learning to trust your intuition can be the difference between struggle and ease in your day-to-day parenting experience.

To be FREE or not to be … that is the question

As we round the corner of Summer and the new school season begins to slip into view, I find myself summing up what the last couple of months has meant to me, my daughter, our family. The one word that keeps coming to mind is freedom.

Raising a kid in the city, the word freedom does not initially suggest itself. But no matter where I am, I equate summer with a shifting of the usual routines, a time to shake up the regular rhythms of life. Gone are the steady bedtimes, ice cream is regularly consumed, and a new set of summer time customs invade our day-to-day existence.

In my household, we spend our summer visiting family in New England and as work slows in August, we take a vacation to Upstate New York. It’s within these flashes of time when I leave behind the hot pavement, the noise, and the smells of the city that my sense of freedom really sets in. To see Adelaide run far into the distance on a long stretch of beach, or scramble unassisted over rocks in cool streams in search of toads and snakes makes me doubt my obligation to my city. She is free to be in space in a way that is impossible to replicate in an urban environment. She spends hours outside, liberated from my watchful gaze, released into in her own, wondrous world. To me, that is FREEDOM for both her and me.But I know this is simply one form of liberty and there are other, indeed more essential ways, for children and parents to be emancipated.

I recently received a newsletter from my acupuncturist Margaret Hallisey that spoke of the Bantu Tribe in Africa. She wrote that when the Bantu children fall asleep, the parents say a simple prayer over each sleeping child: “May you be you”. This moved me greatly. I think about the pain of how much we struggle to be something other than what we are, and the pain we cause our children wishing they could be different.

There is tremendous inner freedom to be found in accepting who we are, and who our children are — in that moment, in this phase of development. Acceptance doesn’t mean we stand idly by while they refuse to brush their teeth, or fight with each other or behave unkindly. Acceptance doesn’t mean that as parents we stop trying to stretch and grow. Acceptance is not passive, it’s BIG.

May You Be You.

Now that’s freedom.

Ritual Magic

Rituals are an AMAZING way to connect to your kids. They smooth transitions, cement daily routines, help us mark the importance of something, and so much more. Inviting a ritual practice into your life is a powerful tool that can help YOU and your kids shift from one state of mind to the next.

Rituals come in many shapes and sizes. They can be simple or complex. They can be carried out alone or with a group. They can last minutes or hours. As parents, it’s hard to imagine adding another thing to our never-ending to do list. But simple, short rituals have been invaluable to my family.

You can create a ritual specifically around situations that are predictably stressful or need special attention.

This VERY simple ritual truly helps us clear the air and transition us into a more positive mental space.

As you can see, it’s also done in a way that children can take a central role. This makes it fun and more meaningful for them.

Rituals can be incorporated into in many situations, here are just a few:

* Transitions Create a ritual to help your child leave the park, get ready for bed, or ease into the unknown.
* Daily Routines By inventing fun and simple rituals, you can help make brushing teeth, shampooing hair and getting dressed more interesting and self directed.
* Intentions Use a ritual to set an intention to have a calm dinner experience, a peaceful play date or a cooperative trip to the grocery store.

There are many ways to create rituals for yourself and your family!

What are some of YOUR rituals?