Raising Children: Modern Parenting
Guest post by Shawn T. Murphy, author of Torn Between Two Worlds
It is a pity, because today more than ever the despair over the apparent meaninglessness of life has become an urgent and topical issue on a worldwide scale.
Our industrial society is out to satisfy each and every need, and our consumer society even creates some needs to satisfy them. The most important need, however, the basic need for meaning, remains-more often than not-ignored and neglected. And it is so “important” because once a man’s will to meaning is fulfilled, he becomes able and capable of suffering, of coping with frustrations and tensions, and—if need be—he is prepared to give his life. Just look at the various political resistance movements throughout history and in present times.
On the other hand, if man’s will to meaning is frustrated, he is equally inclined to take his life, and he does so in the midst, and in spite, of all the welfare and affluence surrounding him. Just look at the staggering suicide figures in typical welfare states such as Sweden and Austria.Viktor Frankl 1
As parents, Viktor Frankl paints a vivid picture of the stakes. Do we raise resilient children, able to face an ever-changing future? Or do we let them fall into despair?
A significant consequence of the Two-World Hypothesis is we cannot count on our genetics to be the only determining factor in our children as they come into the world. Besides genetics, they come into life with spiritual gifts, past-life memories, and possibly karma.
During the early formative years, we as parents can have the greatest impact on the child’s development, affecting their entire lifetime. It is the perfect time to start building resilience by helping them to find meaning.
The goal of parents should be to act as role models, coaches, and cheerleaders.
A role model is the most important of the three tasks of parents. We cannot live the lives of our children and need to accept that this is the most beneficial for our children’s lives from day one. This will be beneficial for the entire family. Also, the more virtues we can demonstrate to them, the greater the chance they will mimic this behavior and learn these virtues.
This is not always the case, as we will see. Depending on the child’s disposition, they may choose to reject the example of the parents. And guess what, it is not the fault of the parent; coaches can only do their job, and the players need to do theirs also.
The coach should be looking for the unique skills of the children and providing opportunities for them to demonstrate their capabilities. The coach encourages them to stretch themselves, explore their limits, and build resilience.
By focusing early on the strengths and aptitudes of the child, the coach can help the child to learn what success feels like while exploring what is meaningful to them. In addition, it is easier to recover from defeat in an area of strength rather than weakness.
Only after learning how to succeed and how to recover from failure should we encourage the child to attempt the tasks they are not so good at. A wise man once told me: “If you spend all your time working on weaknesses, then all you can ever be is mediocre. But if you spend time on your gifts, you can be extraordinary.”
This is not as easy as it sounds. There are social pressures and systems in place that force children to be equally proficient at many tasks. If a child’s strengths do not lie within the social norms, it is difficult for them to learn how to be successful in the way I describe.
And even if they have learned to be successful in areas not valued by society, they can still be left with a feeling of failure in the areas where most friends are successful.
The role of the coach can be awkward when the skills of your child lie outside your own expertise. But that is what other coaches are for, and a good coach can take cues from other scouts. If someone else uncovers a talent in your child, be ready to outsource that part of your coaching.
They only have two parents, but they can benefit from many coaches. There are some skills our children have that we might not be aware of ourselves or even do not appreciate. This is where the role of a cheerleader comes in; cheer them on, and push them to be the best they can be.
From the first day of a child’s life, they are capable of learning, much more than many realize. Their brains are not developed, but their spirit is fully aware and conscious.
The only real problem is babies have not yet developed the ability to express their consciousness. In her life’s work, Caroline Eliacheff demonstrated how much babies learn in their early months and discovered how to listen to them by learning to read their body language.2
I can highly suggest going through the Hoffman Process before having children. This is a way of finding out what your parents did wrong in raising you and making sure you do not pass on the same mistakes to your children. We retain many unconscious behaviors that are a product of our upbringing.
No one cannot eliminate them all, but it is prudent to be aware of them before you inadvertently pass them on to your kids.
The life work of Bob Hoffman studied the impact of the parents’ behaviors on children in the formative years. Most people that I know who have gone through the Hoffman training come away with the same question: “Why isn’t this vital information taught in school to every potential parent?”
Why don’t we learn that the first five years of life are the most impressionable and that the behaviors developed in this time period are hard to overcome?
It is the second part of the question that is most impactful. What we teach our children in the first five years of life has the greatest lasting effect on their lives. It is not reading and mathematics, but social behaviors and emotional stability that are fortified here.
These build the foundation for successful networking and relationship building that we now know are more critical for lifelong success than academic expertise.
We are all born with five main emotions: fear, anger, grief, joy, and love. When expressed in a healthy way, fear protects us, anger allows us to set healthy boundaries, and grief enables us to shed healing tears over our losses. Joy provides the enthusiasm to live life with passion, while love provides the comfort of positive relationships.
These make up our essential emotions, driving the myriad of feelings we may experience throughout the day.
However, these emotions can become blocked and unhealthy, and the one that suffers most is love. The word emotion is derived from the Latin emovere, meaning to move or emit motion. If we become e-motion-less, we stop moving, and our feelings stay stuck. It’s easy to imagine how this might happen to a child.
Not wanting to endure the pain of being left alone or feeling unloved, the young child defends itself by closing off some of its emotions. The layers become thicker as the years go on, until we find, in our adult years, that they have become almost impenetrable.
The founder of All Kinds of Minds, Dr. Mel Levine, is an inspiration and not only for parents with “difficult children.” He has specialized in “learning disabled children” and admits he has yet to find one. He says it is a failure of parents and teachers to recognize the diverse talents that children are given that causes them to assign labels.
He tells his patients that each child has a toolbox with various tools, but sometimes we are not allowed to use our entire toolbox, for instance in school. For example, kinesthetic learners are disadvantaged in classical classroom settings where they are unable to use movement to assist in their analytical process.
Levine’s methodology and strategies are successful with “learning disabled” children, but they are equally valuable for “normal” children. There are actually many techniques used for the disabled that should be used in general for all children, such as music therapy.
Certain music has positive effects on brain function and can be beneficial for mood disorders. The reason behind this positive impact has been demonstrated in the work of Dr. Emoto and Blanche Merz who independently discovered the healing of certain music composers.
When our daughter was born, I asked my wife to promise me that we would support our child, regardless of what she wanted to do. This is the hardest commitment to remain true to but turned out to be the most rewarding.
This does not mean you let them do anything they want, but you let them lead in choosing their paths in life, even if you know it will “end badly,” but then there is no bad ending to failure if they learn from it.
The first major choice our daughter made was at the age of three—she wanted a house with a pool, so we agreed as long as she learned how to swim first. By the age of eight, she was a top swimmer in every stoke.
The key is holding them to their choice over time while making sure they know the consequences of the choice, because, in the end, it is not the destination that is important, life is about the journey. By the time she was thirteen, swimming had served its purpose.
She realized that although she was highly skilled, it was not meaningful to her, yet it was the only school-wide recognition she received.
When she was six, she wanted to join the choir that her friend sang in. We told her: “If you join the choir, you need to practice daily, go to practice every Friday night, and go sing in church for two hours on Sunday.”
Neither of us can sing, so this was not an activity that we could coach, so we became cheerleaders and got to know her new coach. Singing opened the door to many other fulfilling pursuits.
Don’t be afraid to let them go as early as fourteen. If you have not demonstrated your values to them by that time, you won’t have much luck doing it in the teenage years.
We let our daughter pursue a Hollywood career at fourteen, and supported her emancipation, so she could live on her own to do this. (We lived three thousand miles away.) By seventeen she had enough, including the greatest college essay you could ask for.
The beauty of letting them go for it at a young age is they will never any regrets. She met actresses who went to college only to find out it was not for them at the age of thirty. What are a few years when they are young?
Enlightened parenting has the greatest social payoff, so when I exhausted my knowledge, I reached out to an expert in the field of early childhood development and asked for her expertise.
Dr. Anjum Babukhan is the managing director of Glendale Academy, author of ABCs of Brain Compatible Learning, and TEDx Speaker. Dr. Babukhan is an awarding-winning educationist, empowering trainer, and lifelong learner.
She provides key insights for educators, parents, and lifelong learners to navigate education in the 21st century. Contact me for a free copy of her perspective to “Develop the multi-faceted gifts of each child to unleash their full spectrum of human potential.”
 Viktor E. Frankl, The Will to Meaning: Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy (expanded ed., with a new afterword by the author) (Meridian, 1988), 167.
2 Caroline Eliacheff, Das Kind, das eine Katze sein wollte: Psychoanalytische Arbeit mit Säuglingen und Kleinkindern (Dtv, 2013).