Kidraising for Fun and Profit
Article ID: 11630
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Bob Makransky
Posted: June 17th. 2007
Times Viewed: 5,013
It isn’t all that hard to be a good parent. We all want to be good parents; we all try to be good parents; so with that motivation we’re bound to succeed. Being a good parent is simply a matter of: 1) following our own hearts, and 2) ignoring everything society has taught us about child raising.
Fundamentally, it’s not our job as parents to teach our kids how to get along in society – to worry about their achievements or how well they’re doing socially – much less to chastise them for not “measuring up”. Society has its Gestapo of teachers, coaches, clergymen, scout leaders, etc. – not to mention the pressure of peers, advertisers, and the media – to whip kids into line, to teach them to be “good citizens” and “team players”, to “fit in” and “belong”. So kids don’t need more of that when they get home.
What kids need from their parents is love. They don’t need criticism, blame, or guilt; they don’t need unfavorable comparisons with other kids; they don’t need to be belittled or patronized, or to be treated rudely because their parent had a bad day at work.
When our kids come home with a lousy report card, or when they’ve committed some other atrocity against society, do we chastise them and make them feel bad; or do we commiserate with them and try to make them feel good?
They already feel bad at having transgressed society’s expectations (even if they feign defiance). Therefore, to clamp down on them, to try to impose our will on them is not going to help them any; and if they have any gumption at all, some day they’ll spit it all back in our faces.
Babies do not come into this world grumpy and truculent and spoiling for a fight. Babies come into this world too spaced-out and vulnerable to be pugnacious. Therefore, if there is anger and fighting going on in a parent-child relationship, then it is logical to assume that the parent is 100% to blame for the situation.
Parents are confused, they are cowed and daunted by the sanctions society has in place if they fail in their role as taskmasters. Parents have to understand that it’s okay if their kids are failing their grade or getting into fights or doing drugs or are unmarried and pregnant.
If the kids are doing antisocial things or inviting dire consequences by their behavior, then obviously they’re unhappy and out of kilter with their environment. It’s a parent’s duty then to say, “Hey, what’s bugging you?” rather then “Shape up or ship out!” And if they don’t want to talk to you, then you leave them alone. You give them space; respect their feelings and their right to make their own decisions.
Parents have to stop worrying about how their kids’ behavior and achievements reflect back on them. Who cares what the teachers and the neighbors think? Our kids’ feelings are more important. It’s not a question of taking sides with the kids, but rather entails seeing things from the kids’ point of view. It’s not so much a matter of standing up for the kids, as standing by them. The teacher has the whole system backing him or her up; surely the kids deserve an impartial advocate, even if they’re guilty as hell.
Society drives a wedge of guilt into the parent-child relationship even before the kids are born. The common fear (particularly with a first baby) that our kid might be born crippled or handicapped or something is actually fear that we won’t be able to love the baby if it doesn’t fulfill society’s expectations.
Society puts a lot of heavy guilt trips on parents to make them feel ashamed of their kids (“Have you heard what Sarah’s boy has done now?”); and parents pass those same guilt and shame trips on to their kids (“You have failed me, son.”). Parents have to be reassured that no matter how their kids turn out, it doesn’t mean that they failed as parents.
Even if the kids turn out to be like Heliogabalus, if the parents gave them true love, then they did their job well. Even if the kids are truly weird or nasty – even if they masturbate publicly or torch the neighbor’s cats – that is not the parents’ fault, responsibility, or problem.
It’s the kids’ problem.
It is not the parents’ job to mold kids’ characters or guide their development or to see that they have all the advantages or to teach them how to compete and succeed. The parents’ only job is to love their kids, to be able to say to them, “Well, you certainly screwed up there, but don’t take it to heart. You learned a lesson, you’ll go on living and breathing, etc. etc.” – whatever the kids need to hear at that moment to cheer up, to recover their sense of self-worth.
That’s what kids need from their parents, and it’s the only thing they need – ultimate acceptance, no matter what they’ve done. And it’s the parents’ job to supply this.
We’re not talking about indulging kids, letting them run rampant. In a “normal” parent-child relationship, the kids are taught to fear the parents’ disapproval. But there are some parents who reverse the usual roles, and fear their kids’ disapproval. Usually these kids become real hellions and grow up drunk with power, with little respect for other people’s space. We’re not talking about switching approval / disapproval roles; we’re talking about dispensing with approval / disapproval altogether. Approval is as damaging as disapproval.
To say to a kid, “I love you because you fulfill my expectations and make other parents envy me.” is as nasty a thing to say to a kid as, “I don’t love you because you bring me no glory.” To discipline our kids, all we have to do is say to them, “Hey, I don’t like what you did there for these reasons … .” Period. Say it once, calmly, as you would do with another adult. Don’t hammer at the kids and wipe your bad vibes all over them.
We must be willing to apologize to our kids when we’ve overstepped ourselves and made them feel bad needlessly; and this doesn’t mean a half-hearted, “Oh well, maybe I overreacted there, but still you shouldn’t have … .” It means a full, complete cop: “Sorry. I guess I got on your case about nothing.”
The way we can tell if we’re blowing it is: if we feel annoyed or disappointed in our kids, then we’re wrong. If we ever feel anything other than good about our kids, accepting of our kids, sympathetic to our kids, then we’re wrong. If we can’t feel good about our kids at all times, then we’re blowing it. This is why raising kids is such a terrific spiritual reality check – it shows us precisely how far away we are from enlightenment.
The trick is to tell kids what they’re doing wrong calmly and collectedly, without releasing a dart of anger, impatience, or annoyance. Of course, to be able to do this we have to have our own self-importance under control – to be light and detached (rather than to permit ourselves to be sucked into our kids’ bad moods).
If parents were enlightened beings, perhaps then they would have a moral right to interfere in their kids’ lives. If parents were exalted beings (as their kids believe them to be), maybe then their approval or disapproval would have value. But the fact is that parents don’t have any more of a clue as to what’s really going on than their kids do. The only guide they’ve got is what their own parents drummed into them: fear of disapproval.
We should act towards our kids exactly the same way that we wished our parents had done for us when we were kids. It’s trite to say it, but inevitably, 100% of the time, when we are angry at our kids about something, what we are angry at is precisely what our parents used to get angry with us about.
From whom did we learn that this behavior (what our kid is doing) is unacceptable? Why does this behavior anger us? Not the ostensible reason – what we are telling the kid and ourselves – but rather the actual reason why we find such-and-such a behavior objectionable: what our kid is doing openly that our parents forced us to repress. See, we all tell ourselves that we’re angry with our kids because of this or that very valid reason. We all have impeccably logical reasons why we must bend our kids out of shape; close our hearts to them by labeling their feelings “acceptable” or “unacceptable”; force them to knuckle under to us in exactly the same fashion that our parents forced us to knuckle under to them.
We thereby pass our own anger at our parents for having forced us to knuckle under on to our kids, as if to say to our parents, “See, Mommy and Daddy! I forgive you for having closed your hearts to me and having put more importance on your images than on my true feelings – my need as a completely vulnerable infant for the greatest tenderness, delicacy, and respect – for I have done the same thing to my own children!”
And so it goes: the torch of self-hatred is handed down from generation to generation. It only stops if we quit getting angry with our kids altogether, no matter what they do or don’t do. This is not all that hard to do once we make the connection that in spite of all our wonderful logic and self-justification, all we’re doing when we’re angry with our kids is upholding that side of our own parents which we despised the most.
To a kid his parents are God incarnate. If a kid feels he can trust his parents, then later on he’ll naturally trust in God. Another way of saying this is, upon becoming parents we take upon ourselves the mantle of Godhood willy-nilly. This is a very serious presumption and responsibility. Most of us blow it. But the point is, since we are masquerading as God, we should at least do a good job of faking it.
This means giving our kids 100% acceptance and forgiveness, no matter what they’ve done (just as God does for us). Check out how God deals with us: when we screw up, does God dramatically appear in a burning bush and give us hell? No, God doesn’t do that; God leaves us alone to stew in our own juice and to figure things out for ourselves. To treat our kids like God treats us means not making them feel worse about themselves, but rather better, as if they were still worthwhile beings, worthy of salvation and redemption, no matter how sinful they may have been. It means not being angry with them but rather tender with them; feeling what they feel instead of trying to make them feel our feelings (agree with us).
Most parents have truly loving impulses; but society sends parents the wrong messages – it makes them feel guilty about being “weak” or “soft-hearted” or “spoiling” kids. Parents just have to know that feeling with their kids – withholding all negative judgment, criticism, and blame, is okay; that it’s fine to be completely tender and sympathetic all the time; that it’s not a sign of weakness to understand things from the kids’ viewpoint.
When you get annoyed with your kids, think of this: if they were to die in the next moment, would you still give a damn about whatever you are angry at them about? Is that what you would want your last message to them to be – annoyance over some stupid triviality?
The next time you jump on your kids for something, think about how you would feel if they were to die in your arms in the next moment; and ask yourself if whatever you’re on their case about is worth trashing the short time you will spend on this earth together.
(excerpted from Bob Makransky’s book Magical Living)
More of Bob Makransky’s articles are posted at: www.dearbrutus.com
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Copyright: Copyright 2001 by Bob Makransky
Location: Coban, Guatemala
Bio: Bob Makransky is a systems analyst, programmer, and professional astrologer. For the past 30 years he has lived on a farm in highland Guatemala where he is a Mayan priest and is head of the local blueberry growers association.
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