Peace & Parenting

There is a myriad of research that provides insight in to the reverberating effects of childhood trauma in our society.  And although it is not new to hear that our childhood experiences had a tremendous impact on our emotional, psychological and intellectual development, very few of us are willing to challenge the child raising and education practices that continue to harm our development and the future of our society.

I was raised half of my life by my mother and the other half by my father.  My mother in many ways was traditional and revered obedience as the ultimate testament of good parenting.  If her children behaved and obeyed, then they were good children and she was a good parent.  My father on the other hand wasn’t so much focused on obedience, yet he didn’t provide a strong emotional foundation from which his children could engage with him either.  It took a while for me to see how the way in which I had experienced these two adults and other parental figures in my life had affected the way in which I functioned emotionally and psychologically as an adult.  I understand that both, my mother and my father carried their own challenges and that their own upbringing consciously or unconsciously taught them how to relate to me and my siblings.  Yet as I envision my life as a parent I want to make conscious choices in how I relate to my children and other children in my life.  I want to break the cycles of emotional and/or physical violence I’ve experienced within my own family.

I think one of the greatest challenges is acknowledging that we lacked healthy emotional foundations in our families.  It is really hard to admit to ourselves and others that we did not an “entirely” happy childhood.  We are afraid that our parents or family will disapprove, become defensive and alienating or that we are alone in the struggle of creating healthy emotional connections; with this further deepening the pain we experienced in our upbringing.  I have experienced those same fears.  Yet, a lot of my emphasis in wanting to find an alternative to the parenting model I was raised with doesn’t come from a place of blind judgment and hatred against my parents.  I know they did what they could and to a certain degree we are constantly struggling now to redefine our relationship.  But part of the healing process was to admit that I had had many traumas surrounding my childhood and upbringing.  That was the only way I could commit to a lifelong healing journey (see Healing the Soul).  Now I have created a relationship with my father based on love and mutual respect.  With my mother I am still struggling to create boundaries and healthy connections but I do know she loves me deeply regardless.

In my commitment to healing and to ending cycles of violence within my family and my community, I began working for the Center for Nonviolent Education and Parenting.  There I found the answers I had been looking for.  CNVEP is and established non-profit organization dedicated to caring for children with the deepest of respect for their dignity as full human beings.  [CNVEP] uses the term “nonviolent” to signify loving children unconditionally, supporting them to grow into adults who know the meaning of caring for themselves and for others.  What a revelation this was to me!  To hear that a child will become the kind of adult he or she has experienced opened my eyes to the responsibility we have in raising children.  I knew that if I wanted to connect to my future children in a loving, empathetic way I needed to do much work.  I needed to question and challenge what I had learned in terms of parenting from my own caregivers.   I needed to continue looking for ways of healing the ruptures that happened between me and my parents.  I needed to create a future in which I chose to re-parent myself to fulfill the needs that were not met in my childhood, and to heal the wounds of childhood trauma.  I needed to shift the way in which I viewed growth and emotional development (see Emotional Intelligence).  I needed to adopt a complete new paradigm!  So in CNVEP I found the “nonviolent paradigm” that is based on acknowledging the basic needs and feelings we all, including our children, have as human beings, empathy, nonviolent communication, connection, reframing the way we view and express anger and a “power with” outlook.   The goal of the nonviolent paradigm is to create emotionally intelligent children with whom we create meaningful, connected relationships.  Unconditional love and compassion replace manipulation and forceful compliance.

I know that culturally, ethnically, economically, socially, personally we face many challenges that affect the child raising and education practices we choose.  Despite these difficulties I believe that choosing to raise children in a way that respects and honors their full humanity creates strong family bonds and sets the path and foundation for them to choose nonviolent practices as they grow up.  CNVEP always asks: what kind of adult do you imagine your child to be when she or he is an adult?  Imagine the kind of world we will be creating if our children, their children, the children of their children and so forth experience what is like to be fully accepted, acknowledged, appreciated, loved and respected for who they are.  What about if they learned to extent that same courtesy to other children and adults in their lives?  Then we will really be living in a world where PEACE and compassion are possible.  We will be playing a small, yet essential part in the world future generations will inherit.

I will continue to explore the nonviolent paradigm, for this journey is an ongoing one.  Please check CNVEP’s Website for more information on this transformative paradigm and see my blogs under Parenting, Empathy, and Emotional Intelligence as I offer my discoveries and provide tools that honor our and our children’s humanity.

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