I love books. If I ever did one of those 100 things challenges, I would have such a hard time parting with my library (clothes, who needs ’em?). I don’t remember a time when I couldn’t read. I’ve probably blocked it out. That’s how much I love to read. I always have a couple of books going—one on my Kindle and at least one “real” book. As soon as I finish one, I start another. I don’t take any time to reflect on the content or sit with what I just experienced and learned.
I’m hoping to change that. Hence, here is my first “Book Reflection.” It will likely have some characteristics of a book review, but I hope it will go deeper.
A Little Background
As I’ve mentioned, I meet regularly with a small group of parents, mostly women, to promote social and emotional learning (SEL) and mindfulness in the local schools and in the broader community. At these meetings, I’ve been raving about The Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali and suggesting we do a book group on it.
In November, one of the members of this group sent me an email to let me know that she wouldn’t be attending an upcoming meeting. She also sent a link to Brave Parenting: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Raising Emotionally Resilient Children. “Have you read it?” she asked. “I’ve been recommending it to my sisters/friends with younger children.”
I had not read it and promptly bought it for my Kindle. (There’s no way I can not read a book with “raising emotionally resilient children” in the sub-title.)
Less Is More
The premise of the book is that we need to let our children find their way in life and not always rescue them when they experience problems. In fact, according to author Krissy Pozatec, brave parenting is doing less:
Less is more—this is the path of brave parenting. Let’s let our kids tackle their own problems. Let’s step out of the current and rest on the bank of the river.
I’ve been a fan of the “less is more” concept related to email and belongings and work hours for a while. However, I had never thought about it in the context of parenting. As soon as I read the above quote, it made all sorts of sense. If we are constantly solving our kids’ problems, they don’t develop their internal resources to problem solve, regulate their emotions, cope with distress, and adapt to change.
Happiness vs. Emotional Health
In my book, I use the phrase “healthy and happy kids” a few times to describe the ideal scenario. By happy, I really mean able to overcome adversity (a.k.a.) resilience. Brave Parenting reminded me that perhaps a terminology change is needed. Pozatec writes:
We need to step away from the notion of constant happiness and move toward a concept of emotional health.
Indeed, ever since I attended a parlor conversation with Dr. Henry Emmons, author of The Chemistry of Joy, I have been preaching this. He noted that Americans think that we’re supposed to be happy all the time. And when we’re not, we think something is wrong. We are scared of emotions perceived as “negative.” But all emotions are part of the human experience. And there are reasons for them. For example, fear is a very important emotion that can save your life. Even sadness has a purpose.
As brave parents, we don’t rush in to “make everything okay.” Rather, we provide a space for kids to be with their beautiful range of emotions. We don’t abandon them, but let them know we hear them—and that’s it’s normal to feel sad, lonely, worried, etc.
The Conscious Parent focuses heavily on figuring out how your different egos may be impacting your parenting. Brave Parenting talks about automatic responses. Explains Pozatec:
Automatic responses are part of a parent’s emotional response system, which stems from the parent’s personal story.
When treatment focuses only on the child, we miss this crucial piece. As parents, we bring our own experiences and stories into our parenting. In fact, if we pay attention, we can learn a thing or two about ourselves by how we parent our children. (Hopefully before we do too much damage.)
I believe this is one of the reasons family therapy is crucial when treating children with emotional or behavioral problems. It’s often not the child’s problem…
Contact with Nature
I was excited to see a conclusion with the title “Contact with Nature.” Then again, considering that the author has worked with wilderness therapy, I was not surprised. I include “being in nature” as a basic need in my book and Pozatec confirms this:
Children today need to have contact with the earth: to feel a sense of connection, to push up against natural limits, to explore their senses, to process their feelings, to be with the hum of the natural world instead of the electronic world.
I say amen to that. Connecting with animals counts too. In fact, the author points out that “a walk with a dog can be deeply healing…” Let’s get our kids outside, away from their devices, and connecting with nature.
There is so much more to this book than I am able to cover here. I certainly wish I’d had this knowledge when my child was young. However, even with a 17-year-old, I can apply some of the strategies, such as not rushing in to rescue.
Read it. Reflect on it. Let it guide you to be a brave parent (or grandparent or uncle or aunt or trusted adult).
And local folks, we will likely be doing a book group on this soon. Stay tuned!