I’m starting out today with a few quotes. The topic is conditioning … and … conditioning. What kind of conditioning were we subjected to, and what kind of conditioning are we subjecting our children to. I can’t think of many things more important than looking into who our children really are; and the “raising” of that Spirit in a body. While the little body may be us in the form of our DNA, the Spirit within is completely itself: only ours to nurture and guide, and set free.
The first quote is from the Bible’s book of Proverbs: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” There is a red flag here. We’ll get into it in a moment and see what emerges.
The second is from Frederick Douglass: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Well, of course I might add broken women here too, but other than that, it seems a pretty good thought. One thing: in all but exceptional cases it’s the broken adult who has to repair him/herself.
And finally, here’s a Chinese proverb: “A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.” Amen to that! Now how do we leave the right mark, and build strong children, and accumulate some wisdom so we can train them up in the “way they should go.”
In the consciousness movement, many of us, at one time or another, have visited the long-gone yet ever-present inner child. The experience of losing our innocence affects us in adult life as it comes up in emotions or patterns, replicating the deep feelings of abandonment or hurt or shame or restriction we experienced back then.
We work on liberating ourselves, remembering, resolving, comforting that child part … the one who experienced “harsh reality” As it comes to the surface we recognize and accept what happened, and we let it go with forgiveness; handing the responsibility over to the responsible parties, with grace.
So the point is, we know what it takes to overcome the conditioning of growing up within a culture and set of beliefs. For some it is quite traumatic, for others, childhood has a sweetness that stays with us. From my own experience I would say: even a religious childhood at the low end of the economic ladder can be sweet … if there is freedom to roam in nature, with playmates and imagination in abundance.
Question: Knowing our own process of inner child healing and overcoming conditioning, are there ways for us to not place such a burden on our own children?
For the most part, parents do the best that they can. Those of us with grown children can look back on what we did and how we behaved, and we may see times when we did disappointing things. Parenthood isn’t easy. Maybe we thought we knew—and alas, it was our ego doing its thing, or fear, or our old conditioning still in charge.
Thankfully, with love and honesty and ego in the back seat, there is still a bridge. We can talk with our grown sons and daughters, allowing things to be expressed and not taking offense. In this case we will be the exception … consciously helping to repair across a generation. If the inner child of our sons and daughters is loved and accepted by us, that’s a beautiful and healing thing—humbling for us maybe, but liberating for all.
Now let’s get to the little ones experiencing childhood, and the babies coming into life. Why are they entering at such a time as this? Can we raise them without damage to their true self, which they are going to very much need? More than that: I believe they may guide and teach us, so let’s honor the new generation, as we begin.
Where do I see the potential damages to the children who are young now? What do parents believe they are doing right that may be, in fact, something their child will have to overcome later as another generation of adults doing inner child work?
I see a culture where parents and authorities exert a great deal of control … placing the guiding hand on almost every moment of the child’s day. It seems that the conditioning culture has set it up that way for modern parents. You create the experiences of your children … you help them to adapt … you provide them every opportunity … you make sure there is always adult supervision … and you stress yourself and your pocketbook out to the max while doing it.
Today good parenting is done within a box requiring copious $$$.
I feel for the children as I look at their busy lives, remembering myself stretched out on the prairie grass, watching the clouds roll by. Nature doesn’t cost anything. Nature with playmates and imagination and inventiveness doesn’t need an adult to create experiences.
I’m sure today’s parents can see the benefit of nature, imaginative play, and less adult control … if only life offered the opportunity. Here I feel for the parents who worry about safety and supervision … what if, what if, what if. Can we let them run and play? Will they be safe? What if we’re not doing enough? What if they fall behind other kids or feel left out?
Many parents are raising their children in cities, and they’re stuck with demanding schools, planned and supervised recreation, additional classes, plus homework, and the opinions of neighbors and friends and “educational experts.” Creating an entirely new way would seem an insurmountable task, so let’s search for something surmountable … something that nurtures, guides, and sets free on a scale that is not too radical to achieve.
To do that, I’ll go back to the quote: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Do you see the red flag here? It’s the “should” word. What is the way they should go? Should they believe what you believe … desire what you desire?
How about another option of training up? Instead of setting a direction for children and looking at performance, focus on virtues. Reward them for speaking from their heart, keeping their word, practicing kindness, listening to their inner knowing of right and wrong, being charitable, having the courage to face new things … and being able to withstand a change of circumstances.
Next quote: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” How is a strong child built? Strength is called up when facing problems. Listening, communicating, advising and then allowing children to solve problems for themselves does build strength. And the parent is in the mix too: there are few inspirations more beautiful and long-lasting for a child than seeing a parent’s strength of character.
And now to the final quote: “A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.” Honoring the Spirit is possible, trusting in your decisions is possible; even as parents face external pressure to tightly control everything being written on their child’s piece of paper. As much as we might think it is, control isn’t love-based. It’s fear-based.
So let’s try to do just a tiny bit of problem solving. This culture encourages fear. Truth alleviates fear. If your child knows that you want the truth more than you want to feel comforted or pleased, and that the truth will mitigate disappointment or even punishment, then you’ve taken a step toward honoring your child. You’re polishing the jewels of the Spirit: truth and love.
I see the young ones as having the potential to reach far beyond us … in the right way. Let’s let them show us who they are and embrace that person who will one day be the inner child of an adult. Set free, our children will become adventurous, balanced and self-realized creators of a courageous new world.
This article is offered under Creative Commons license.
Ida Lawrence is an author, blogger, copywriter and editor based in Atlanta, Georgia. She has contributed to and edited two books on racial justice and human rights, and numerous articles on human rights, self-empowerment and related subjects. Her latest book is entitled The WARRIOR’S WAY TO HEAVEN ON EARTH.