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Natural Awakenings South Jersey

Letter from Publisher

Aug 01, 2015 08:52PM

Present Parenting, this month’s theme, is undoubtedly the challenge of a lifetime. In my book, to be fully present is to accept what is as what must be dealt with—lovingly, reasonably and effectively—in this present moment. A measure of peace comes with the knowledge that the past can’t be changed and the future hasn’t yet happened, so the only influence a parent can have is by making the most of the present—the only moment that ever really exists.

I’ve worked for 18 years, since my first child was born, toward that end. Like everyone, I’ve had my share of failed attempts and moments I wished I’d handled differently. It’s helped immensely that at a fairly early point in this journey I realized I had to give myself some basic guidelines, broad strokes of parenting from a place of centered presence, if I were to succeed with any consistency.

First, I decided that present parenting doesn’t require excessive volume. Being loud, angry or volatile when my children misbehaved was a reactionary form of parenting that couldn’t be less present. I began to give myself time buffers before responding to off-base behavior or comments. After pausing for my own emotional backlash to subside, I’d take a big breath, and only then proceed to attempt to handle the facts of the situation rather than stand in emotional opposition to the dear child caught up in it.

I found that this approach enabled my children to remain calm and kept things from escalating. It gave them space, too, in which to pause and attempt to understand my point of view and why their actions may not have been optimal. What a welcome relief from the all too typical scenario when a parent goes on the attack and the child obstinately defends until finally the parent exerts their authority and resulting punishment. As we’ve all experienced, that gets us nowhere. They obeyed because we are their parent, not because they understood what they did was morally wrong or likely harmful to themselves or others. We’ve all left such encounters frustrated by the hollow victory.

Second, I try to remain present in my own life. I believe that children’s behavior stems in large part from what they observe, especially those primo role models—their parents. Parenting from a “Do as I say, not as I do” standpoint is wishful thinking. However, if a child sees parents respond to life with a peaceful demeanor, they are more likely themselves to become secure, peaceful loving beings. That’s my ultimate goal as a parent.

Lastly, I’m convinced that the only effective parenting actions originate from a place of love. This doubly applies when it appears that a child doesn’t warrant such affection. Before I became a father, I heard a memorable adage that’s served our family well: A child needs your love the most when they deserve it the least. Through many parenting mistakes, missteps, non-present moments and life’s untoward demands, that idea has stood by us.

As parents, we naturally want all that is good for our children, starting with the desire for them to be happy, healthy and properly educated. Present parenting makes it all infinitely more possible.

Please enjoy the Enlightened Parenting article on page --  Best wishes to you and yours,

Michelle + Pat Vacanti

Pat Vacanti, Publisher

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