The Daily Groove

Taking Children Seriously

We live in a society that doesn't take children seriously. Sure, we care deeply about children's welfare; we do our best to help them to grow into healthy, successful adults.

But we, as a society, rarely take children seriously the way they take themselves seriously.

To children, play is serious business — channeling enormous creative energies and making huge discoveries. But to adult society, it's "just" play, so interrupting or limiting it is not a big deal.

To children, feelings are extremely important, not "just" feelings.

If you want to take your child more seriously, don't do it the conventional adult way, which is to assign weight to the child's concerns. That only teaches heaviness.

Children take lightness seriously. And when you take their lightness seriously, you benefit by learning to take yourself less seriously! :)

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In Depth and Practical...

One of my coaching clients, a single mother of a very young girl, wrote to me asking for clarification about this topic. Her email is quoted below (with permission) along with my reply...

I just had a disagreement with [my daughter's father] about how to handle putting some peroxide on her cat bite this morning. He thought I should wipe it on her arm while he was holding her down, kicking and screaming for him to put her down. I was not into doing that today. So I followed her around while she was screaming that she didn't want any peroxide, and she wanted her owwie to get worse (I was telling her why it was important) and I finally got us locked in a bathroom... She never acquiesced to letting me do it, but I was able to wipe it on her arm without having to hold her down. I didn't feel like it was a good outcome overall... But the point being... I'm still not sure how to take her needs and fears seriously while still getting her wound tended to...

Oh, and I didn't get the "weight" thing... serious lightness? huh?

Another word for "serious" is "committed" or "intensely focused." Children are naturally "committed" to lightness, to feeling good, to being in the Flow; they're intensely focused on whatever they're doing, to extract as much joy as possible from it.

Adults are usually trained to be serious in a heavy way, where there is more focus on what is unwanted than what is wanted; it's more like a commitment to avoid unwanted experiences than to create desired experiences.

In your example above, you were serious about applying the peroxide to the cat bite. There's nothing inherently heavy about that action; what made it feel heavy is the fear of a major infection (i.e., a "serious" infection). The more you amplify fears by focusing on unwanted outcomes, the more "serious" (heavy) you get about it, and the more it seems "reasonable" to resort to coercive tactics.

I'm not saying there's never a time when your path of least resistance involves some coercion, but there are usually better options that you can't see because you're too focused on what you don't want. Fear/resistance obscures the creativity and inspiration that would reveal more pleasureful paths.

So if you want to be less coercive — if you're committed to lightness, joy, partnership, etc. — you need to start by soothing your fears and talking yourself into a better-feeling state of mind before you take any action. When you say "I will take no action until I feel centered (or peaceful, or connected to Well-Being, etc.)" then you're taking lightness seriously.

In your situation, that soothing self-talk might go something like this:

"Even though an infection is possible, I understand that she is mostly in excellent health and balance — that her body is incredibly resourceful and resilient. I trust that she is well enough that there would be no harm in delaying this treatment until we all get aligned and focused on Well-Being. I trust that if immediate action was called for, my Inner Guidance would give me strong signals that would persist even as I soothed my fears... There's no hurry... All Is Well...

"Even if she got an infection, I'm sure it would be something she could fully recover from, and the experience would enhance her own desire and willingness to take simple precautions in the future... There's so much more to be gained by focusing on wellness together than fanning the flames of fear...

"I love knowing that we're establishing a pattern of trust and unconditional acceptance that will enhance this relationship for many years to come — that she won't think twice about coming to me when she's feeling hurt — that she'll think of me as someone she can count on to uplift and bring out the best in her."

When you relax and shift your focus toward wellness, new ideas for paths to wellness will come to you easily. And it's easier to help your child make a similar shift when you've already made it yourself. So it's not so much about taking her fears seriously as taking her seriously — meaning you understand that she's committed to taking action only when she feels centered, and you fully support that commitment.


Re: Taking Children Seriously

How about when children are doing or saying something that they don't mean to be funny and adults laugh at it? I know parents who make fun of much of their kid's contributions to conversations either by making a joke at the child's expense or by just laughing in a 'oh kids!' (eyes raised to the ceiling) way.

However, I end up being judgmental of many parents, and that's not very aligned with inner Well Being!

I have more to say but have to go....