How to stop flapping in the wind
Do you ever feel like parenting in the New Spirituality is a little bit like flapping in the wind? I mean, in Conversations with God, God threw out all the rules and told us how we can truly live! The new constructs can read more like feel-good, motivational phrases than concepts:
We are all one!
God talks to everyone, all the time!
There’s no such thing as right and wrong!
There’s nothing you have to!
It would be understandable if you sometimes felt a little lost and without direction in your parenting. Within these concepts, if you are ready to receive it, is a wealth of loving guidance on how to parent your children. Simply start with an open heart and a willingness to connect with God, and the knowledge will follow. That might even be how you came to this online newspaper, yes? God, the Universe, Life, The All, whatever name you give to your experience of that thing that defines That Which Is, facilitates everything you need. May I suggest a starting place, a custom from which you may wish to consider all of your parenting decisions? Consistency.
Consistency is a useful habit to adopt in all of your life. One of the Core Concepts of CwG says, “The Three Basic Principles of Life are Functionality, Adaptability, and Sustainability.” To simplify, the idea is that you assess your actions to see if they are “working” as a demonstration of who you envision yourself to be (functionality). If not, you adjust your actions to make them “work” (adaptability). Then you maintain your new course for as long as it continues to “work” for you (sustainability); always with an eye toward reassessing functionality — and starting the process over again and again. Even within this concept there is a beautiful consistency: By acknowledging that we can change our minds about something, and that we are constantly evolving, we have the ability to take action because of it.
Consistency in your parenting is hard to pin down. It can be as simple as choosing which words you will use or forgo in your household – good, bad, nice, love, hate, etc. — and sticking to it. It can involve your child’s behaviors. Do you expect certain behaviors in some situations and other behaviors in other situations without explanation? Does your child even know what to expect from you? It can involve the types of foods you bring in to your family and how you present them. Are foods treated differently at times? Are they sometimes readily available, sometimes special treats, sometimes rewards, and other times off-limits? How about interactions with others? Do your children see you speak one way to another person and a different way about the same person when he or she isn’t in the room?
Children get confused by mixed messages, but they are not necessarily confused by change; these are two different things. A mixed message is when your current actions and words do not agree; while change occurs when your prior and current/future actions are not the same. You can explain change in a way which would make sense to a child: “XYZ happened, so we changed course.” But it is harder to explain a mixed message: “I know I said let’s be nice to people, but I know you saw me be mean to another person.”
Children can even handle different expectations or requests based on different situations if they are explained ahead of time. For instance, most children quickly understand the concept of inside versus outside voices and would not use the same voice, routinely, in a restaurant that they do on the playground. So they begin to understand that there is some internal consistency to a type of situation and that there can be varied consistency across different types of situations. They can even begin to interpret those situations for themselves through your guidance and example.
One of your most important roles as a parent, if there is any to be had, is to help your child feel that their world is stable, that they can know what to expect and that their parent(s) are there for them. Consistency can be crucial, then, for children to be able to trust your words and actions so that they will know that you are truly there for them to buffer and help them interpret the world. Then your children will not feel like they are flapping in the wind.
(Emily A. Filmore is the Creative Co-Director of www.cwgforparents.com. She is also the author/illustrator of the “With My Child” Series of books about bonding with your child through everyday activities. Her books are available at www.withmychildseries.com. To contact Emily, please email her at Emily@cwgforparents.com.)