The Zen of Parenting – Mission & Passion

Stop it with the annual New-Year’s resolutions already!

Do you want to be that 60-year-old still trying to run around chasing what she started at age 25?

I DO! Latching on to a bigger-than-life mission is sexy.

Some things are worth chasing for an entire lifetime. But unless your plans are bearing fruit, setting and resetting them every year should be telling you something is missing.

A couple days ago, a highly respected retired career educator came to me for the story about the explosion of parenting education on the island. That session inspired the topic for this week’s post. The interview took me as far back to the early 1990′s.

The Inspiration

Back then, a group of about thirty teachers, social workers, psychologists and administrators brainstormed on the issue of rampant youth problems. By the end of the week, they made plans to do more with our childrean and youth. That’s not a bad thing, right?

It was an eye-opener for me though. Almost everyone agreed that lack of parenting skills was the root cause of just about all that young people were faced with.

So why wasn’t parenting education included in their plans?

The Mission

Now see… you can get all bent out of shape when stuff like this happens. Or you can decide to roll up your sleeves and do what you can in your own little corner. So that’s what I decided. Right then and there, I made a personal commitment to myself to make parenting education a part of my life’s work on the island. It felt right. I had no resources. There was no support to speak of. I didn’t have any detailed plans. But I believed with every fiber of my being that until we change the parenting culture, our youth would NEVER come close to becoming all they can be.

Selling Out

A funny thing happens when you have a vision and just keep passionately plugging at it every single day… even if it was only for a few moments. Things start dropping into place one by one… slowly at first. But if you keep talking about it so much, no one can get you to shut up, progress starts cascading like rows of dominoes. Then they mushroom out of your control into something so beautiful you hardly recognize it.

First I did my research… took 4 years! There were about thirteen different good programs on the market. Only one was rich enough to use for something as long-term as “changing the parenting culture” on the entire island. I got a hold of it, ordered some of the materials out of my own meagre funds, and was delivering it to a small group of parents in one school by 2003 with no backing or financing from anyone.

Bearing Fruit

On a personal level, my own parenting improved gradually also. It was so easy once I realized two things.

First, what our culture had taught us was no longer working. It was time to work smarter. Many of the things we started doing as parents were fun and almost effortless. But we can look back now and tell you they got results.. and quickly too.

You see, I realized that taking full control of the children robs them of the chance to learn how to control their own behavior. That’s the last thing I wanted as a parent. The modern parenting skills I was teaching also gave me a new way to replace what had worked fairly well for my parents, but wasn’t as effective with my own children. When my Mom and Dad were raising eight children in the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s, the extended family culture continued to support children far into adulthood. That era is now over.

These new skills gave me a way for our children to hear our voices even when we were not around. If you do a good enough job, they will continue to heed your voice long after they become adults. It’s about putting more energy into high-quality teaching up-front. And worrying far less about controlling children after that point. It’s about working smarter in order to make a difficult job relatively easy. It was about enjoying our kids.

And by 2011, teaching parents had grown into somewhat of a movement. Government and funding agencies eventually got involved. Today every elementary school on the island, as well as the major players in secondary ed, all deliver this program. A quiet, peaceful revolution got started.

The Way Ahead

But there is a long way yet to go still. Too many teens are still losing their way unnecessarily. Parents and children are still drifting apart. More and more young adults are getting their values from the wrong places. More homes are being broken into; more youths are ending up in jail. All this is due more to sheer lack of quality information than anything else.