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October 6, 2013 / Gul Malani

Sensitive Parents know their Child well

Dr Shefali Tsabary said in an interview with TImes of India in June 2014 –

‘ If I’m to set myself up as my child’s teacher, I must first have learned how to be self disciplined. I must have addressed, and continue to address, my own emotional immaturity. I can do this by becoming a ‘conscious parent’, someone who is true to their self. In this way my child learns from me to also be true to their heart’s deepest desires.

The goal is to raise children to be in touch with their inner being, not to force them into a mould we’ve designed for them. When children increasingly order their life for themselves, they grow up to experience satisfaction and joy in what they are doing.’

Parents, who are conscious, sensitive and observant, develop a good insight and understanding of  their child. Such parent’s focus is not on their own needs and wants but on the needs and wants of the child.

A good starting point for good and healthy up bringing is to be able to identify the inherent abilities present in our child. Most children born normal, without any unusual genetic defects, possess many inherent abilities. Unfortunately parents remain unaware of these inherent abilities and as a result, many of these abilities are destroyed unknowingly by parents while the child is growing up due to incorrect and insensitive parenting.

ID-100108573Surprisingly, these inherent abilities are observable even in infants. Listed below are some of the abilities that we have identified in infants:

-living in the present moment 

-being transparent and authentic as the child has not yet learnt to wear a mask

-being peaceful, bright and cheerful most of the time; crying only when it needs a feed, to be burped, cleaned up or put to sleep or is in pain or wants something

child’s desire to be good for the parent (from the book ‘Hold On to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D., and Gabor Maté, M.D. * 231117)

-being able to love its Mother and others too

being able to see and feel the energies that surround people and absorb information on their mood, character, health etc *

-being fearless and free from anxiety and worries

-being extremely active, creative as well as artistic in what it does

-being curious and inquisitive, and learning by observation, tasting, feeling, listening, smelling

-focusing and concentrating

As the infant grows older it also starts to

-becomes more independent by wanting to do things on its own

-use its intellect and makes its own decisions

-understand as well as forgive others

-become protective of its younger siblings

Instances that highlight few of the above abilities are given below:

#An 8 year old girl noticed a 7 year old girl standing all by herself and crying in a large mall. She immediately informed her Dad that this girl has been separated from her parents and needs help. So, the father daughter combo with the help of Facebook & Google contacted the father of the lost girl and reunited them very quickly! This is a clear case of sharp observation and understanding by the young 8 year old girl!

#A 9 month old baby girl was pulling the hair of her 6 year old cousin brother. The mother of the baby girl was admonishing her baby about this act as it could be hurting her brother. The young boy immediately told his cousin’s mother ‘ It is ok Auntie, I do not mind her doing this to me!’. This is a case of good understanding of the young lad as well as of forgiveness!

Once the specific abilities of the child have been identified, the parents can help the child to live life fully and well by helping build further capabilities on this solid foundation of the child’s existing abilities!

Unfortunately, most parenting unknowingly destroys many of the inherent abilities of the child. One of the biggest loss of the children while growing up, is the ability to peacefully and happily live life in the present moment! Most parents gradually replace this happy present moment living with a worried, anxious. fearful and stressful living in the imagined future or in the dead past.

This happened to us too and we in turn un-intelligently destroyed present moment living in our children because we did not know any better!

It is perfectly alright and good for the child to do nothing at times, or to be in a state of just being, or doing what it wants to do rather than what the parents want the child to do. This way they remain fully charged and youthful most of the time! Whereas if the child is doing only what the parents want the child to do, then its energy gets quickly dissipated with the possibility of low self esteem and other psychological problems in the future!

It is time for us, parents and grandparents, to awaken and become conscious of our own self so that we can help our children and grand children develop well and enjoy living in the present moment rather than suffer it living in the imagined future or dead past! This can be done if we, parents and grandparents, become AWARE of our own self, our thoughts, our emotions, our fears and anxieties, our beliefs, our speech and our actions. We can get some help by connecting with good Gurus/Teachers, as well as reading and understanding relevant literature on this subject. An associate blog titled www.livelifefully.in can be of help too.

Most parents are generally very careful about the physical health of the child. If the child is hurt and bleeding or if it has temperature above normal then corrective action is taken without much delay! Similarly, it would be good for our children if we, parents are also sensitive to the feelings and psychological condition of the child and quickly correct our actions to reduce or eliminate any damage to the psyche of our child.

Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish say in their book ‘How to talk so Kids will listen & listen so Kids will talk’ – Dealing with feelings (of the child) is an art not a science…….Parents, after some trial and error, can master the art. You’ll sense after a while what is helpful to your individual child and what isn’t. With practice you will soon discover what irritates and what comforts, what creates distance and what creates intimacy, what wounds and what heals. There is no substitute for your own sensitivity. 

Further, Adele & Elaine in their book quote a parent from their learning group-‘The more you try to push a child’s unhappy feelings away, the more he becomes stuck in them. The more comfortably you can accept the bad feelings, the easier it is for kids to let go of them. I guess you could say that if you want to have a happy family, you’d better be prepared to permit the expression of a lot of unhappiness.’

A father wrote to Adele & Elaine –  It’s not enough just to give lip service to what a child is feeling. Sometimes you have to go an extra step to “see things through his eyes.”

They continue to state– ‘Each time we show respect for his (child’s) feelings, each time we offer him a chance to make a choice, or give him a chance to solve a problem, he grows in confidence and self-esteem.’ 

On yet another very important aspect of up bringing, they state ‘All of the psychology courses I had taken had warned of the dangers of the self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you labeled a child as a slow learner, he could begin to see himself as a slow learner. If you saw a child as mischievous, chances are he’d start showing you just how mischievous he could be. Labeling a child was to be avoided at all costs.’ 

Most parents feel that giving love and disciplining the child are all that are required for good up-bringing of our children. The problem is that both parental love and disciplining demand that the child fulfill numerous requirements of the parents, which may not necessarily be beneficial to the child. Unfortunately we, parents are unaware that our love is very limited and conditional and it can cause damage to the psyche of the child! Disciplining without parental awareness and sensitivity can also cause damage to the psyche of the child!

Additionally we, parents bring up our children with scant or no respect for the child’s sharp intelligence which blossoms mostly in the first five years of the child’s life. Respecting the child’s intelligence is to give the child adequate time and to listen very attentively, understand the child’s point of view and act in consonance with the child’s thinking processes. Formidable up bringing is being done when we give respect to our child’s intelligence and feelings, allowing more and more decision making to the child, thereby making the child strong from within as well as making the child fully independent, slowly and steadily.

Sensitive, responsive and good up bringing will be apparent as the child will be peaceful and happy most of the time!

Each and every child is extremely precious and special as well! Let us all put in the best effort we can for all the world’s children to grow up to be happy, capable and confident adults!

An aspect of children that we have learnt recently is ‘Counterwill’ highlighted by Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D. and Gabor Mate, M.D. in their book ‘Hold On to Your Kids’. *251217

Here are a few excerpts from their book on Counterwill:

  • Counterwill in an instinctive, automatic resistance to any sense of being forced. It is triggered when a person feels controlled or pressured to do someone else’s bidding. It makes its most dramatic appearance in the second year of life–yes, the so-called terrible two’s… Counterwill appears with a vengeance during adolescence but it can be activated at any age– many adults experience it…. There is nothing abnormal about Counterwill in a child… No one likes to be pushed around, including children– or more correctly especially children.
  • Understanding counterwill can save a parent much unnecessary confusion and conflict, particularly when it comes to make sense of a peer-oriented child’s attitudes and behaviour.
  • Counterwill manifests in thousands of ways. It can show up as the reactive ‘no’ of the toddler, the ‘You aren’t my boss‘ of the young child, as balkiness when hurried, as disobedience or defiance. It is visible in the body language of the adolescent. Counterwill is also expressed through passivity, in procrastination, or in doing the opposite of what is expected. It can appear as laziness or lack of motivation. It may be communicated through negativity, belligerence, or argumentativeness, often interpreted by adults as insolence. In many children driven by counterwill we may observe a fascination with transgressing taboos and adopting antisocial attitudes. No matter what it looks like, the underlying dynamic is straightforward– instinctive resistance to being forced.
  • The very fact that something is important to us can make our children feel less like doing it. The more we pressure our children into eating their veggies, cleaning their rooms, brushing their teeth, doing their homework, minding their manners, or getting along with their siblings, the less inclined they are to comply. The more insistently we command them not to eat junk food, the more inclined they are to do it.
  • The basic human resistance to coercion is usually tempered, if not pre-empted, by attachment…We are far more likely to balk at the demands of someone we don’t feel connected with. A child who wants to be close to us will likely receive our expectations as an opportunity to measure up. Cues about how to be and what to do help such a child find favour in the parent’s eyes.
  • To give a command to a preschooler with whom one does not have a relationship is to invite being defied or, at best, being ignored. The little one has no inclination to obey someone with whom he does not feel connected.
  • For immature adolescents the dynamic is exactly the same, even if their ways of expressing it may not be nearly as cutely innocent. In situations when they are habitually told what to do by persons to whom they are not attached, counterwill can easily become entrenched as their fundamental response to the adult world.
  • Children are naturally compliant all right, but only in the context of connection and only when attachment power is sufficient.
  • It wasn’t so much that the parents were doing anything wrong as that their children’s counterwill instinct had been made pervasive–and even perverse– by peer orientation.
  • Counterwill…primary role is as a defense that repels the commands and influence of those outside the child’s attachment circle. It protects the child from being misled and coerced by strangers.
  • Counterwill also fosters the growth of the young person’s internal will and autonomy. We all begin life utterly helpless and dependent, but the outcome of natural development is the maturation of a self-motivated and self-regulated individual wilt a genuine will of her own. The long transition from infancy to adulthood begins with the very young child’s tentative moves towards separation from the parents.
  • Counterwill first appears in the toddler to help in the task of individuation. In essence, the child erects a wall of no’s. Behind this wall, the child can gradually learn her likes and dislikes, aversions and preferences, without being overwhelmed by the far more powerful will of the parent.
  • It is common to mistake counterwill for strength on the part of the child, as the child’s purposeful attempt to get his own way. The weaker the will, the more powerful the counterwill…we invite it into being every time our wish to impose something on our child exceeds his desire to connect with us.
  • The best reason for children to experience counterwill is when it arises not as automatic oppositionality, but as a healthy drive for independence. The child will resist being helped in order to do it herself; will resist being told what to do in order to find her own reasons for doing things. She will resist direction in order to find her own way; to discover her own mind, to find her own momentum and initiative. The child will resist the “shoulds” of the parent in order to discover her own preferences….genuine independence can happen only when a child is absolutely secure in his attachment to the adults in his life.
  • Counterwill is serving the purpose of protecting the child against becoming an extension of anyone else, even the parent. It helps to deliver an autonomous, emergent, independent being, full of vitality and able to function outside of attachments.
  • Peer orientation throws a monkey wrench into the natural development. Rather than serving autonomy, counterwill supports only the primitive purpose of keeping the child from being bossed around by those with whom she has no wish to be close. For peer-oriented children, those people are us–their parents and teachers…. Counterwill in the service of peer attachment, however, is vastly different from natural counterwill that supports true independence.
  • There is a foolproof way to distinguish peer-distorted counterwill from the genuine drive for autonomy: the maturing, individuating child resists coercion whatever the source may be, including pressure from peers. In healthy rebellion, true independence is the goal.
  • Adults who misread this primitive and perverted form of counterwill as healthy teenage self-assertion may prematurely back away from the parenting role…. To back off prematurely, however, is unwittingly to abandon a child who still needs us dearly but does’nt know that she does.
  • The problem with seeing our children having power is that we miss how much they truly need us. Even if a child is trying to control us, he is doing so out of a need and a dependence on us to make things work. If he was truly powerful, he would have no need to get us to do his bidding.
  • We strive to meet perceived strength with strength. Our demeanor inflates, our voices rise, and we up the ante with whatever leverage we can command. The greater the force we impose, the more counterwill our reaction will provoke… The frightened child will scurry to make it up to us and to get back into our good graces. We may believe we have attained our goal of good behaviour, but such capitulation is not without cost. The relationship will be weakened by the insecurity caused by our anger and our threats. The more force we use, the more wear and tear on the relationship. The weaker the relationship becomes, the more prone we are to being replaced– nowadays, most often by peers.
  • It is instinctive, when experiencing insufficient power for the task at hand, whether it is moving a rock or moving a child, to look for some leverage. Parental efforts to gain leverage generally take two forms: bribery or coercion…. The search for leverage is never-ending: sanctions, rewards, abrogation of privileges; forbidding of computer time, toys, or allowance, separation from the parent or separation from friends; the limitation or abolition of television time, car privileges, and so on and so on…. As our power to parent decreases, our preoccupation with leverage increases…In any other realm, we would see the use of leverage as manipulation. In parenting, such means of getting a child to follow our will have become embraced by many as normal and appropriate….We resort to leverage when we have nothing else to work with — no intrinsic motivation to tap, no attachment for us to lean on. Such tactics, if they are ever to be employed, should be the last resort, not our first response and certainly not our modus operandi.
  • Manipulation, whether in the form of rewards or punishments, may succeed in getting the child to comply temporarily, but we cannot by this method make the desired behaviour become part of anyone’s intrinsic personality…. The more the behaviour has been coerced, the less likely it is to occur voluntarily.
  • The counterwill instinct ensured that the use of force will backfire….Rewards may increase the likelihood of behaviours,” Dr. Deci writes,”but only so long as the rewards keep coming. Stop the pay, stop the play”
  • With the sense of impotence we experience when child-adult attachments are not strong enough, we begin to see our children as manipulative, controlling and even powerful.
  • If all we perceive is the resistance or the insolence, we will respond with anger, frustration, and force. We must see that the child is only reacting instinctively whenever he feels he is being pushed or pulled. Beyond the counterwill we need to recognise the weakened attachment. The defiance is not the essence of the problem; the root cause is the peer orientation that makes counterwill backfire on adults and robs it of it’s natural purpose.
  • The best response to a child’s counterwill is a stronger parental relationship and less reliance on force.

On Culture, a few excerpts from their book.

  • As long as the child is properly attaching to the adults responsible, the culture flows into the child.
  • According to Howard Gardner, a leading American developmentalist, more is spontaneously absorbed from the parents in the first four years of life than during all the rest of the person’s formal education put together.
  • If the child is helped to attain genuine individuality and a mature independence of mind, the passing down of culture from one generation to another is not a process of mindless imitation or blind obedience. Culture is a vehicle for true self-expression. The flowering of individual creativity takes place in the context of culture.
  • An evolved culture needs to have some art and music that one can grow into, symbols that convey deeper meanings to existence and models that inspire greatness. Most important of all, a culture must protect its essence and its ability to reproduce itself — the attachment of children to their parents.
  • Only in healthy relationships with adult mentors — parents, teachers, elders, artistic, musical and intellectual creators — can children receive their birthright, the universal and age-honoured cultural legacy of humankind. Only in such relationships can they fully develop their own capacities for free and individual and fresh cultural expression.

On attachment, a few more excerpts from their book.

  • When the parent is the compass point, it is the messages he or she gives that are relevant. When tragedy and trauma happen, the child looks to the parent for clues whether or not to be concerned. As long as their attachments are safe, the sky could collapse and the world fall apart, but children would be relatively protected from feeling dangerously vulnerable…. Attachment (with the parent) protects the child from the outside world.
  • Child’s idea of what his parents think of him protects him more effectively than the direct intervention of the parents in any un-wholesome situation around the child created by peers or others… On the other hand, if the parent belittles the child, shames him, pours contempt on the child, the child will be devastated. The child’s attachment to it’s parents renders him/her highly vulnerable in relationship to them but less vulnerable in relationship to others. (adapted from the book)
  • Our job as parents is to defend our children against being physically wounded. Although the bruising is not always so visible, the capacity to be hurt is even greater in the psychological area.

We have the greatest opportunity as guides to our children to point them inward to look for the answers so the shift to break old patterns can take root. So when they ask you a question that mirrors uncertainty let’s say, you can turn the question back onto them and ask “what do you think'” or “how do you feel about that” – meanwhile adding “this is a way to teach you how to trust and listen to your inner voice.-Dr Shefali Tsabary 

I believe that as infants we see and feel the energies that surround people and that we innocently absorb information about their health, mood, character and soul. But our culture does not talk about or reinforce such perceptions. By the time we are two or three, these capacities atrophy from lack of use, just as empathy, which is also an inborn capacity, will fade if not mirrored by the infant’s caregivers. – Donna Eden 

Parents unconsciously program their children to be happy when their or their child’s desires are fulfilled and to be sad and depressed when they are not! Whereas, Joy and celebration of life, free of desires, is ingrained in every child. Let us not rob our children of this priceless treasure they are born with, by our improper, inherited, desire fulfillment living – The Totality

James W. Prescott, former director of the National Institutes of Health’s section on Human Health and Child Development found that if a society physically held and loved its children and did not repress sexuality, that culture was peaceful. Peaceful cultures feature parents who maintain extensive, physical contact with their children, such as carrying their babies on their chests and backs throughout the day. – from the book ‘The Biology of Belief’ by Bruce H. Lipton Ph.D. 160817

It is amazing that every child gives instant feedback. The moment you understand the child, he/she becomes fine again! – Shalin Lele, a young mother of a 4 month old boy  061217

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