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Many attachment parents call me in bewilderment when their child's behavior or development does not meet their expectations. "I did everything right for her!" says a young mother, "She was born peacefully, I carried her all the time, and she is still nursing and sleeping with us. Now that she is two years old, I am just not sure what to expect, or how to deal with her many needs." Some parents have specific questions about eating, sharing, cooperation and developmental stages. Others simply aren't sure how much to limit, and how much freedom to provide. These issues can indeed be perplexing. We have no role models to follow, as most of us are not following in our parents’ footsteps.

We all love our children and want the best for them. We want to follow our hearts, our intuition, and most of all, our children's cues. At times, our own childhood may make it difficult for us. Even the best and most loving parents sometimes respond to their children in a less then loving and kind way. This often stems from past hurts being restimulated by the child. How can we learn to care for our children in a loving way, without the interference of our own past painful memories?

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For over twenty years now I have been teaching parents how to connect, validate and understand the needs behind children's emotional expressions, and allow them to feel and express themselves fully. Yet I noticed new difficult behaviors and dependencies arising as a result of these well intended endeavors. Indeed, some of the kindest parents unintentionally teach their children to feel more entitled and therefore less peaceful.

Many of us grew up emotionally lonely and confused by habitual denial of our feelings. We were told, "Don't cry, nothing happened," while inside we felt that a lot happened; or we were shut down with, "You are fine," when we were hurting inside. It is inspiring to see many of today's parents trying to give their children the compassion and validation they themselves did not receive. However, in their anxiety to be gentle, parents sometimes don't realize that they teach victimhood and neediness. They typically call for my guidance saying: "I have been so kind and responsive, why is my child so demanding, whiny, angry and even aggressive?"

How validation and talk about feelings and needs can backfire?

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...so we can raise powerful "tiger" children

Q: I have read CNN interview of Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Chua speaks of her superior Chinese parenting. Many people see her as abusive, but others think she puts much more into her children. I am feeling confused. I am here to give my children all that I can. If I give less than this "Tiger" mom does, it is because I think it is actually better to allow children to grow up on their own. But now I am not sure. We are unschooling, and my children fifteen, twelve and nine, are not practicing anything. Are they missing something? Am I depriving them of accomplishing high ranks in society?

 

A: Any mother, Chinese or not, would abandon control and manipulation, if she knew kinder ways to raise a happy child who grows up into loving, joyous and accomplished adult. Chua would be very happy if her children would be fulfilling their own passions, without oppression. She would love to never have to coerce, yell, threaten and make her home into "a war zone" (her words.) Only, she doesn't know that this is possible.

 

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My husband and I are often complimented on our children's behavior and demeanor. People think that we discipline them. We don't. It is ourselves we discipline.

Translations

We meet our children's needs, provide for their protection, and expose them to life's possibilities. We do not, however, meddle in their play, their learning, their creativity, or any other form of growth. We love, hug, feed, share, listen, respond, and participate when asked. Yet, we keep our children free of insult and manipulation resulting from "helpful" comments and ideas - influences to which children are so sensitive in their state of dependency.

Parental Self-Discipline

This type of discipline is not easy. Not only does our society not support it, but the temptation to break the "rules" lives within us. The drive to intervene in children's activities is rooted in our upbringing and reinforced in our culture.

 

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At the piano, 3-year-old Lennon plays random sounds. "Why don't you teach him to play?" asks my visitor from the East Coast, who knows that I am a pianist. "He is learning," I say. "I can never match the effectiveness of this natural way of mastering a skill." My friend looks at me doubtfully. "When you come again for a visit next year you'll see," I say. Even though I have no idea where Lennon's playing is going, I figure she'll see growth in whatever he will do as long as he is free to play.

How many parents and teachers are concerned when a day goes by with play and play and more play? "When will she learn if she plays all day?"

Is play really a waste of time? Did nature goof when all cubs, including humans, are born with a drive and an ability to play?

 

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Editor: This is a question with many ramifications but can you boil down, what is in your view, the job of a parent?

 

 

Naomi Aldort: A parent is here to escort a new soul into the experience of being human. It is a job of nurturing the process of another’s unfolding much like gardening. When we care for a flower, we don’t intervene with its being; we don’t pry its petals open or paint its colors. It is not up to us what kind of flower it is. We provide for it so it can bloom in its own magnificent way and in its own time. We don’t care for the flower if it blooms; we care for it so it can bloom. The nurturing is respectful of God, of nature’s creation and of life. It is unconditional love with utmost humility and respect toward creation.

 

Therefore the job of a parent often ends up being about her own spiritual unfolding. To care for a child with unconditional love, trust and respect, one has to unfold oneself. In a way it is a divine job, which means, it requires of us as parents to self-realize and come to be at peace so we can nurture another to be herself or himself, with love and guidance, but without interfering with creation; with who the child is.

 

Editor: Why do parents find it so hard to trust their children and their own intuition?

 

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Q: I have read your article in Mothering magazine about the harm of praise and became concerned. If I stop praising my child, he loses interest. What can I do instead of praise?

A: There is nothing to do "instead" of praise. Words that intend to make the child feel and do what we want are manipulative and carry the same price as other coercions: loss of intrinsic motivation, loss of self-trust, dependency on approval, damaged parent child relationship, lowered self-esteem, insecurity, disinterest, dishonesty, getting by with as little as possible, fear of challence, and more. This does not imply that we become indifferent; on the contrary, when free of the intent to impact the child's emotions, actions or behavior, a parent can generously express ...

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