It Takes a Conscious VillageJanuary 27th, 2009 by John Wolfe
Anyone familiar with the proverb (or Hillary Clinton’s 1996 book): “It takes a village to raise a child”, will recognize my play on words in the title of this entry. While I don’t have children of my own, the psychological well-being during a child’s formative years is a cause that’s very close to my heart. I suffered with severe forms of depression, obsessions and compulsions throughout my childhood. It’s a child’s development, for better or worse, which will continue to impact them throughout the remainder of their lives, far beyond their formative years. I know, because I’m still working on healing my past.
I often talk about changing the world. If it’s true we must be the change we want to see, and I believe it is; shouldn’t that change be directed primarily towards the youngest of minds, as they will come to have the greatest impact on the direction of humanity?
The majority of psychological issues faced by most adults were exacerbated during their childhood. The sad fact: as a nation, the United States has more children with mental health issues than ever before. I’m not talking about institutionalized conditions. I’m talking about “common”, “ordinary” issues like depression, eating disorders, emotional issues, body dysmorphia, etc. If our ways of raising, educating and socializing children are working so well, why are we seeing an increase in psychological trauma?
The argument could be made that we now have more forms of communication which create a heightened sense of awareness about such issues. It also could be said doctors are label happy when it comes to making a diagnosis. While these factors could be contributing to the perceived increase, there still seems to be legitimacy to the statistics. Children are experiencing far more emotional and psychological anguish in their lives than ever before.
I believe the true cause of this resides in “our village” moving farther away from taking conscious, uplifting action as it raises children. We’re all hell bent for leather on taking action this way and that way, but how many times does that action reflect the greater good of the child?
How often are the actions we take primarily for forwarding our own blind agendas, instead of relating to children as human beings and taking into consideration their input? How often do we focus on their perceived shortcomings, instead of providing positive reinforcement of their strengths? How often does our educational system treat them like numbers or cattle, herding them through the system and stuffing uninspired curriculum down their throats? How often are they treated like property, instead of like little people who simply haven’t had a wide range of experiences?
How often is it believed they are resilient and will recover from anything because they are kids? How often do we assume they are similar to one another, regarding how they relate to life and their perceptions of the world? How often do we sell their potential short when it comes to the insights they possess? How often do we teach them to have a competitive mindset? How often do we teach them happiness is only achieved externally? How often does the educational system relate to them as “recruits” who need to be broken so they will conform?
I’m not suggesting we do away with discipline or educating children; though these two areas, as they currently stand, need large amounts of reform and change. I am suggesting we set an example in which we treat them in the exact same manner we would want to be treated. Is it that difficult to let love provide the way in which we “allow” our children to grow and flourish while we simultaneously raise them, whether we are parents, educators, coaches or mentors?
I’m suggesting we’re present with them and we be there for them in the moment (when the moment is available). I’m suggesting we allow them to feel their true feelings, instead of teaching them to bottle everything up inside and to push it all down. I’m suggesting we help them to understand how to empower themselves through feeling their emotions. I’m suggesting we show them how to lift up others instead of beating them down.
I’m suggesting we help them to understand the impact their actions can have, without always resorting to heavy handed punishments. I’m suggesting we teach by example, how to sincerely connect, instead of being fragmented and scatter brained. I’m suggesting we set an example of living life through honesty and sincerity instead of living a life based on false pretenses.
I’m suggesting we allow them to follow their own unique calling (at home and in school), rather than overlaying our own expectations about their future. I’m suggesting, more often than not, we allow them to be and we appreciate them for who they are without requiring any outcome. I’m suggesting we celebrate the unique beings that they each are. And most importantly, I’m suggesting we learn to truly love ourselves, so we can show them how to give love, accept love and be love.
This, I believe, is how our village can become more consciously connected when it comes to raising children.
While these suggestions are not cures, they would go a long way in helping our youth to once again value who they are and to know their self-worth.
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