Seeing the best in life's challenges

Why You Shouldn’t Make Your Kindergartener Wear His Coat

When my kids were younger, I went through a period of time where I devoured parenting books.  I’ve always had this sense that I’m here for the purpose of parenting my kids specifically and I’ve taken that role really seriously.  (To be clear, I don’t read self-help stuff to figure out what I should do, as in blindly following whatever some “expert” says.  Rather, I like to gather LOTs of opinions and perspectives, consider them all, then decide what seems to fit my situation.)

One book that really resonated with me was Parenting With Love and Logic by Cline and Fay.  I think I read this about the time my oldest was in kindergarten, because that was when we were having the struggle over whether to wear a coat or not.  Ironically (synchronistically?) one of the first examples they use in the book is exactly this.

I remember the fights about the coat.  Trying to use logic and persuasion, trying to demand he wear his coat, knowing that I would be judged by teachers and other parents if he went without, reading the warnings that came home from school about dressing your child properly.

Well, when I was a kid, I did what I was told.  That was my personality.  People who have kids with this kind of personality (or no kids at all!) will just tell you that you need to control your kid and tell him what to do.  Well, they don’t know my kid.  You can’t just tell him what to do and get compliance.  He wants to make his own decisions.  (Don’t believe me?  I should just be more firm?  HAHAHAHA!!  Want to borrow him for a day??)

The authors of this book actually encourage this approach to parenting – allowing kids to make their own decisions, even if this means they fail.  So, I didn’t make him wear a coat.  I might tell him that it was going to be cold that day, but if he didn’t take the hint and wear a coat, that was his decision.

After going through this exercise, I came to see this approach as a very positive way to empower my child.  When I let him make the decision about whether to wear a coat or not, the subtle message was, “I trust you to know when you are cold and need a coat.  You are capable of making this decision.”  It also let him experience the natural consequences of not wearing a coat.

Look, the kid was not going to die if he didn’t wear a coat one day.  It might make me cringe, it might worry his teachers, but in the end, the lesson and the message were way more effective and important.  The other side benefit, not to be underestimated, was the freedom from responsibility that I gained!  He was learning to take responsibility for himself, and once the lesson was learned, I was off the hook!!

But watch out, because this approach runs counter to the prevailing culture of parenting these days.  Another person who recognizes this trend is Lenore Skenazy, who wrote the book Free Range Kids and a blog with the same name.   Lenore is always pointing out the instances where our culture’s focus on protecting our kids from harm (even statistically insignificant harm) stifles our kids.

Of course there’s a balance.  We need some rules to keep our kids from doing really dangerous or really stupid stuff.  But as they get older, we need to let them make age-appropriate mistakes.  It’s the only way they will learn how to turn experience into wisdom.  If we do all their thinking for them, they will not develop this skill.

Believe me, many times I have wished that I could just tell my kids what to do, and that they would never question me.  It would make life so much more peaceful and easier.  The interplay of strong personalities and strong opinions is exhausting.  But I’m seeing the results.

The kid is very responsible.  At age 14, he was in Rome with his grandfather, who fell and had to go to a hospital by ambulance.  The kid totally took charge of the situation, questioned the doctors about what was up, and made sure he knew exactly which meds his grandfather should take when.  At age 15, he flew home by himself on a connecting flight, and had to switch terminals in the Atlanta airport.  I understand that not all kids have the personality to do these things at these ages, but I do believe that most kids are capable of WAY more than we give them credit for.  But it doesn’t just happen overnight, it’s a process of growth.  You have to recognize the opportunities for your particular kid and encourage them in the way that works for them, at the time that is appropriate for them.

The other aspect of taking this approach is that the parent has to choose not to let fear be in control.  There is so much “fear porn” out there and it is so easy to let that drama take hold.  For me, it comes down to a choice to view the world with faith, that God is in control.  I realize I’m on the “extreme” end of the scale on this one, which works for me.  Each parent has to decide where they are comfortable being on the scale of fear vs. trust.

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Planned Parenthood: Just Sayin’ No

Yesterday’s blog post by Ryan Holiday, regarding Planned Parenthood’s rejection of a $500,000 donation by Tucker Max, provides a great example of the way the “Old Energy” paradigm is clashing with the “New Energy” paradigm.  The situation illustrates a lot of the concepts I’ve been reading and writing about.

For anyone who hasn’t been in “my loop,” let me get you up to speed briefly.  I’ve been writing about how the world is shifting, how the masculine and feminine aspects of ourselves and our society are balancing, how we can move away from judgment and the mentality of “right” and “wrong”, how each person has their own unique perspective on the world that “just is”, and how some of the crazy behavior we are seeing “out there” might be explained by this shift.

I don’t expect anyone to necessarily agree with me on this stuff.  I write primarily as an outlet for myself, and I share knowing that some might find concepts here that they find interesting to think about, and others might find nothing at all.  I have no ego attached to either case.

I’m not going to repeat too many basic ideas here, so if you want to dig, feel free to read some previous posts.  Whatever works for you.

So, here’s the basic story:

Ryan Holiday, a publicist/marketing guy, works for Tucker Max.  Tucker has a big tax liability, and asks Ryan if he has any ideas.  Ryan suggests Tucker make a big contribution to Planned Parenthood, get a clinic named after him, generate lots of good PR.  The guys figure that since PP in Texas is having a rough time financially, they win, too.  The problem is, Tucker has made some not-so-nice references to PP and their clients, and PP decides to refuse his offer.  Ryan and Tucker are not happy about this, and make a fuss about how stupid Planned Parenthood is (which, aha! brings them more publicity).

And here’s my perspective:

The Old Energy paradigm, which is weighted toward power, materialism, and control, totally explains this scenario.  This paradigm is dominated by masculine energy.  Money talks, especially when the target is poor and vulnerable, and the fear of scarcity rules.  Judgments are made about who should do what, and the approach is competitive.  There is an attitude of “I know what’s good for YOU.”  When power does not get its way, it has a temper tantrum, intended to create doubt and fear.  Marketing = Manipulation.  There’s lots of discussion about who should have done what, and who is right or wrong.  Drama is created, and the Old Energy LOVES drama.  (Some refer to this as the third dimension.)

In the New Energy paradigm, masculine and feminine approaches are balanced.  No choice is right or wrong.  Each person or group is allowed to make its own choices and those choices are respected.  (One is ALLOWED to say “no.”)  Sure, they may have to deal with consequences of those choices, but that’s the concern of the one making the choice. It’s the ultimate in personal responsibility.  There is acceptance of “what is”, no fighting reality.   (This is how a fifth dimensional world operates.)

This shift from Old to New is subtle, but it’s happening.  Just look at how the world has changed in the last decades.  And 2012 is the tipping point for the shift.  It’s going to get harder and harder for those who play by the Old Paradigm rules to navigate their way through the world.  It’s going to be increasingly frustrating, and we’re going to see a lot of kicking and screaming.

And (hooray!!) it’s finally going to “work” for those who approach the world the New way.  Those whose intentions are for the Greater Good.  Those who operate from Love and Compassion.  Those who respect others without trying to control or manipulate them.  The Old Guard will still regard us as weak and naive, and they will continue to convince themselves that they are “right”.

Our time has come, finally.

Ryan and Tucker, you should know that the New Energy will not make you “wrong”.  It will respect your right to make your own decisions, to ask for what you want, and to conduct yourselves in any way you desire.  It’s all good.  The New Energy will not judge you.  Just don’t be surprised when the New Energy neglects to get involved in the drama and ignores you, or when you don’t get the kind of reaction and cooperation you expected.  When you encounter the same roadblocks over and over again, when you get stuck and you start asking yourselves “Why isn’t this working?” just remember that you will be presented with the same lesson over and over, as many times as you like, until you learn whatever it is that life is trying to teach you.  Hey, it’s all part of the adventure of life.

To the reader:  Do you want to be successful going forward?  If what I am saying has any truth to it, it might be a good idea to learn about how this New Paradigm is going to work.  Here are some people who are talking about this stuff – do a little research and decide for yourself what YOU think:


Tom Shadyac – writer/director of Ace Ventura, The Nutty Professor, Patch Adams, etc.

Lynne McTaggart – author of The Field and The Intention Experiment, about the science of connectedness and consciousness

Lenore Skenazy – author of Free Range Kids, who writes about parenting without fear

Lee Carroll – author and channeler of Kryon’s messages about the shift

Ernie Fitzpatrick – LRC Houston, a spiritual community with Christian roots

Izzy Kalman – expert on handling bullying




The Gift of Fear

A friend gave me this book by Gavin de Becker sometime in 2007.  I know it was then because I finished reading it while visiting friends in Alameda that fall.

I was initially a little hesitant about the book, because the title seems to say that fear is a good thing, and I happen to think overcoming fear is really important.  But what I found, is that this book provides a really good analysis of the subject.  Some of what we call fear is extremely important to us, and some can be very counter-productive.

The scenario described in the beginning of the book, from the perspective of a young boy facing a scary situation, is really powerful.  De Becker has a seemingly natural ability to remained detached and unemotional when examining situations that would evoke powerful reactions from most people.  He has taken this ability and turned it into a very successful business, a “consulting firm that advises at-risk individuals on situations that might escalate to violence.”

(About the same time, I read the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.  There were some interesting overlaps in content, and I still sometimes forget what was in which book.)

The book points out that certain fears are good for us.   They help us to survive.  These are the bad feelings we get in our gut, when we are experiencing a situation or interacting with a person.

It also lists behaviors to look for, that are warning signs of impending violence.  To me these were recognizable signs of manipulative behavior.

Society teaches us rules, what we should and shouldn’t do.  Unfortunately, we are not taught to listen to our instincts or to trust ourselves.  In particular, many women are taught to be nice, to get along, not to create conflict no matter what.  Women, especially when it comes to interactions with men, learn to ignore their instincts and fear signals.

We’re talking about our built-in “shit detector” as a friend of mine calls it.

De Becker also talks about the fears that are not useful to us.  The fear of something that MIGHT happen or the expectation that bad things are coming — this is not useful fear, it is really anxiety and worry.  And anxiety and worry only distort our ability to take advantage of the gift of true fear.

For me, becoming more aware about the differences between real fear, and worry and anxiety is really helpful, especially in how I decide to raise my kids.  I’m a huge fan of Lenore Skenazy and her book Free Range Kids.  (That’s another topic I’ll have to write about…)

De Becker’s analysis is directly applicable to how we teach our kids to protect themselves.  The “helicopter” parents, who do everything to try to protect their kids from what MIGHT happen are really full of anxiety and worry, not true fear.  Unwittingly, they cripple the very children they are trying to protect, by teaching them to be anxious and worry about possibilities, rather than empowering them to recognize true fear by listening to their instincts.


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