One of my dear teachers, a Cherokee Bird Clan mother, taught me this vision seed. And it is such an important one. Before I start to elaborate, I refer you to Vision Seed Three: Guilty Squirrels. Whenever I have taught or discussed raising children, someone in the audience or circle has come to me feeling guilty because they raised their child in a way different from what I presented. Don’t feel guilty. It is a monumental waste of emotion. We can’t change things we have done in the past, but we can improve what we do in the future. It is difficult to raise a child. It is impossible to do so perfectly. We are human and we make mistakes. But, if we are wise, we learn from them. All too often as parents, we don’t.
I deeply believe the most destructive “old boy’s network” belief system in the world is the one that teaches: the way my parents raised me was good enough to make me okay so it is the way I am going to raise my children. If you were one of the few lucky ones who had wise, loving, understanding, encouraging, rational parents who loved you unconditionally, knew how to set reasonable boundaries on your behavior, and urged you to find and follow your life’s purpose, by all means raise your children that way. Otherwise, read on.
Think about this. It is more difficult to be a child than to raise one. With an enormous effort an infant comes out of a womb where, hopefully, he was warm, loved, cherished and deeply connected to one person, into a noisy, cold, confusing world where she is often taken away from the person with whom she’s had that nine month connection and isolated in a little box. Then he’s poked, prodded and passed around. Welcome to the world.
Another of my teachers told me that in some tribes, a mother and infant were allowed to be together for close to a month in a warm, inviting space, where all of their needs were met. This structure had fabric hanging over windows and doors, making it dark like the womb. Each day, one layer of cloth would be removed until the sun eventually shone through. Only then was the child introduced to the rest of the tribe and to the world. What a different welcome!
An infant is totally dependent on other people to have his or her needs met. Her only means of communication are facial and body movements and non-verbal sounds. His brain is not developed as it will be after around two years of life when speech and thought begin to accompany emotion. A baby has no malice or forethought in what she does. If he cries, it is from hunger, discomfort, fear or anger.
What is a good parent to do? Make sure baby is fed, comfortable, comforted and loved. Yelling at or hitting an infant is like shouting at or striking a pet: unnecessary and ineffective. Many people understand this with their pets but not with their children. All you teach with such behavior is anger and fear. These are methods of modifying behavior, but not in a healthy way.
You need to have a developed brain in order to understand cause and effect, and that understanding comes about slowly. To punish a small child for not being able to think like you do just does not make sense. Punishment might fleetingly make the frustrated parent feel better, but it will only make the baby feel and act worse. As children grow in age and understanding, life will teach them about actions and natural consequences. It is not a parent’s job to “toughen up” their child. Life has a way of doing that. Rather, it is the parent’s job to let a child know that someone is there to love and support them and their growth.
There will always be times when it is hard to unconditionally love your children. Who enjoys a temper tantrum in the middle of the supermarket or a screaming infant in a crowded plane? And what does a good parent do if these or similar situations happen? First realize that loving your child is more important than worrying about what other people are thinking.
Second, if possible remove the child from the public space. Third, discern the problem and deal with it as gently and lovingly as you can. Most of the scenarios I’ve described come about because Mom or Dad is busy, stressed out, running on an impossible schedule and dragging the child along because they have no other option. Consequently, the child is feeling the parent’s stress and additionally is probably either tired, hungry or wanting the quiet, comfort and routine of home. It does make it a lot easier to raise a healthy, happy child if you have the help of a concerned, loving village, family or tribe. Sadly, few of us have one.
That puts an inordinate amount of responsibility on the parent(s). Consequently you should consider all of this before deciding it is the right time to bring a human life into this frequently difficult world. The only good reason to have or adopt a child is because you have so much healthy love you really feel the need to share it.
If this is the case, then you will find it very easy to follow that wise clan mother’s advice and to realize the more love you give to your child, the more love your child will have to share with a world so desperately in need of it.