To be in true service to our children, to all children, and to humanity is a wonderful thing. We are, of course, in constant service to our kids, and it is all too easy to get caught up in the busyness and immediate needs of our days and serve the urgent rather than the essential. We need to know, to recognize, and to remember the difference between serving a child’s wants and comforts versus their wholeness and purpose.
As we consider how to serve our children, we can ask:
Will this action help my child to grow whole and strong?
Sometimes our children need gentle presence, a sense of being rooted in our love. Sometimes they need a clear limit, the simple ‘It’s time for bed,’ or ‘No, I can’t let you push your brother.’ Sometimes they need to feel angry, helpless, sad, or uncomfortable. Sometimes they need to rise to a challenge without our help. This question will not magically tell us what to do, but it can point us toward remembering our child’s developmental purpose and work.
Will this help my child know his or her place in the world?
At all ages, people need to feel rooted in community, and we find that through family, friends, and broader groups. Much can be learned through the messy and complicated experience of spending regular, open-ended time in a self-directed way with a group of people. Learning about society, parts of the world, and social issues is important, and it begins with the direct experience of navigating human relationships. Give your child space to be bored, discover things to do, work things out, experience conflict, and learn through relationship.
Will this help my child to be happy?
People who can not tolerate and experience fear, sadness, pain, and uncertainty are not very happy. Life offers a whole range of emotions, and happiness is only one part of this. If you want your children to be happy, allow them and support them to fully experience each emotion that arises. Allow your own challenging feelings, your child's feelings, and the time it takes to be present with complicated emotions. This will support real happiness!
My life and work are guided by the these core understandings: that all beings (including me!) are capable of transformation and joy, that healthy parenting matters profoundly, and that simple practices can support each of us.