When I became a mother, everything changed. For a while, the center of my world was a warm, soft, remarkable creature that cooed and cried in my arms. The utter wonder of my baby had me totally enthralled. We existed in a velvety world of love, sleep-deprivation, short-term memory loss, and laundry. Then, of course, the baby grew up. The rest of the world emerged from its distant fog and I began the process of guiding my precious child to find his own way. Before long, I knew I was in waaaaay over my head. I needed help.
What I needed is the kind of help contained in The Caring and Connected Parenting Guide. The parent-child connection is really the building block of every other relationship we have in life. What we learn about ourselves and our place in the world when we are very young never stops affecting our experiences with others. How we were raised, for good or ill, comes to bear in a big way when it’s our turn to raise our own children. Yet the world our children will encounter is very different than the one we grew up in. And the world in which we act as parents is quite a different place than the one our parents steered us through as we came of age. All this makes the art and science of raising children a daunting proposition, and that is on a very good day!
Yet, parenting in the 21st century does have its advantages. The first is the developing body of neuroscience that allows us to undersand how human brains grow and how children develop physically and mentally over time. The second is the emergence of parenting as a series of intentional behaviors that can be learned, studied and practiced. The goal of both efforts is effective parents, thriving children, loving families and caring communities that allow us to make the very most of every opportunity. But we won’t get there by assuming we know best because we are the grown ups, and we won’t get there insisting on acceptance of “because I said so, that’s why.” If we want children who respect us, themselves, and others, we have to show them respect first. If we want children who possess strength and compassion in equal measure, we must show them strength and compassion first. If we want children who act on their concern for the welfare of others, we must act on our concern for the welfare of others first. The practice of parenting becomes, in effect, not so much about disciplining our children, but about understanding ourselves, acting consistently and intentionally in accord with our own beliefs, so that our children may learn to do the same.
It is from this perspective I hold as a parent, and as an advocate for mothers and family caregivers, that I am so pleased to pass on to you The Caring and Connected Parenting Guide. It’s helpful in practical ways, and based on what we now know about how children’s brains work. Pulling all the books off the bookshelf is not, in fact, an act of flagrant rebellion, as my husband assumed when our son was 2. Screaming in the check-out line at the grocery store is not intended to reflect poorly on you as a mother (unless of course you’re the one doing the screaming!) Decoding the behavior of our children and understanding our own is likely to lead to a calmer, happier home and a more fruitful parent/child relationship. Rather than hold us to impossible standards, the guide points out “there is no perfect parent”. Advocating a “put on your oxygen mask first” approach, the guide encourages thinking about and understanding the influences of your own childhood on your parenting. It supports the parent by stressing the importance of taking time away from the parenting role. Time and again, it reminds the reader that children are not miniature adults, and they neither think nor act the way we do. However, children do know when they are being treated with respect. If they can rely on their parents for caring, concern, and love, they will be able to express those same qualities towards themselves and others.
The Caring and Connected Parenting Guide is part of a much larger effort, the Caring Economics Campaign. The goal of economic activity is to supply people with the resources they need to reach their maximum human potential. More often than not, our society puts people in the service of the economy, which is really the wrong way round. This approach leads to bizarre results, such as smoking-related diseases and deaths generating profits for the health care industry, or the depletion of natural assets, like fossil fuels or forests full of timber, damaging the earth but being counted as an asset in our gross domestic product. While such things look like a net gain under our current system of economic measures, they actually reflect a net loss to our human potential and the sustainability of our natural world. Protecting our planet and our children means teaching them an accurate system of values and how to behave in a manner consistent with those values. Caring and connected parenting is the essential first step in that direction.
You can find out more about the Caring Economics Campaign here.
You can download the 40 page Caring and Connected Parenting Guide here.
‘Til next time,
Your (Wo)Man in Washington