Parenting & LOA: When Child's Joy Isn't Cool
An excellent question was posted on the GVU facebook page about law of attraction parenting:
I need some HELP. I know Abraham says to let the Children follow their joy… Parenting is the one area I have not been able to succeed with utilizing the Law of Attraction. What happens when their joy goes against “the rules”? Any advice? I find myself slipping down the emotional scales when dealing with my soon to be 5 year old. Thanks.
LOA Parenting Coach Lesley Reid Cross was kind enough to offer her thoughts on the subject.
Abraham often speaks of allowing children to follow their joy. But as a parent this can seem at odds with your expectations, the rules you live by and rules and expectations of other adults around you.
Children, in their joy, often disregard rules and sometimes outright reject them- because the rules seem to be blocking their joyous flow.
The rules, to a child in the moment, do not seem important or even valid if they prevent an activity the child finds satisfying and fulfilling.
From the parental perspective it can feel as if you’re stuck in the middle of a conflict in which you have two choices- allow your child to break the rules or force him to comply. Either choice can lead to unpleasantness- an upset child, a further problem created, or simply the disapproval of others.
Very quickly you can find yourself slipping down the emotional scale into frustration, anger or even hopelessness. Most fortunately there are alternatives.
I’m going to borrow Abraham’s much used metaphor of floating downstream for remaining in a positive vibration:
Just for a moment imagine your child’s joy as a powerful stream upon which he’s floating. It’s flowing on its way, but you can see in the distance that it meets up with another powerful stream. This is the stream of rules and adult expectations. It appears that your child’s stream of joy is flowing in opposition to the stream of rules and that it will inevitably be swallowed up in that stream. You can see quite a bit of churning water at the spot where the two flows of water first meet. And it looks like your child is heading right into rough waters. So, what to do? If you look at the two choices parents often assume- stopping the child or letting the child go on- you can easily see the problems.
By attempting to stop a child’s floating downstream before he reaches the opposing water, by reaching out from the bank and stopping him, the parent is placed in a struggle against the child’s current. By letting the child go until he’s in trouble, the parent throws herself into the stream where the water is at its roughest, where there are two opposite streams clashing it out. In either circumstance the parent is fighting the current. What I am going to suggest is that you don’t fight the current, but also not remain an idle bystander. What I suggest is that you begin by jumping into the stream with your child.
Believe it or not, at the very heart of things, you and your child want the same things.
You want your child to be happy and successful on his own terms. Your child wants to be connected with the larger world and live harmoniously. You both want enjoyable experiences and to remain heading downstream.
By jumping into the water with your child, you become a trusted ally. You are in this together. As a trusted ally and companion who has experience navigating the waters of life, you are right there and present to make and suggest smaller course corrections on your common path downstream. And you get to have fun in the process.
By joining your child in the water you also will have a better view of his intentions, which are almost assuredly positive.
Unfortunately adults are often handed variety of assumptions about children’s behavior that are neither accurate nor useful… one of them being that children break rules and express their emotions willfully, out of an impulse to cause trouble or control adults. In effect, that children are inherently bad.
When you are floating downstream with your child, it becomes easier to see how those beliefs turn you upstream. You can see that when your child is behaving in a way you or other adults may not like, that the behavior is still based in an intent for good, for growth, for experience, for learning, for joy. That positive intent may be blocked by something- a lack of knowledge or experience or perspective, perhaps. But when you see the positive intent, you can act for and with your child to remove the blocks and let the good flow.
Another advantage of being in the water with your child, of seeing yourself as part of your child’s team, is that you are able to use your adult foresight and experience, along with your understanding of what your child is looking to achieve on this ride downstream, to see the places where his stream and the stream of rules and societal expectations are not clashing, where the waters are not churning but are merging smoothly. Often these are the places where your child’s intent and the intent behind the rules are not at all in opposition.
As people, we create rules to make our lives better, more enjoyable, to help groups of people live together more harmoniously, to keep us safe. But sometimes rules backfire, creating more trouble than they prevent. This happens particularly when a rule is rigid and doesn’t allow for people to be, well, people. Which is why examining our expectations and rules for their reason, for the principle behind them, is helpful. Often the intent behind a rule and the intent behind a behavior are in alignment, or at the least are not in opposition and can flow together without conflict. And often rules are self-created. By dropping the rule making and looking instead at what you truly desire in the situation- safety, harmony, joy- you can find solutions that are much more satisfying to everyone.
But how does this work in real life?
One example I can recall of this process is a time when my son was about five years old and wanted to walk on top of a high wall.
From our side the drop was less than 2 feet. From the other side, it was about 20, a steep slope of rocks and bushes. An overlook. The wall was fairly wide. While there wasn’t a rule posted, it was my first impulse to create a rule like “no climbing on the wall.”
This was around the time I began to question the use of rules.
My son’s desire? To walk on the wall.
At this point, if I hadn’t already been “in the water” with my son, and if he had been a more impulsive child, he might have been on the wall and in danger … a situation that would have been difficult to resolve safely. But since we approached the wall together, I had other options. When I look back for his positive intention in that moment, it was likely to challenge himself, to have fun, to explore, to do something he’d never done before. My intention, the reason I had an impulse to create a rule, was to keep him safe. But keeping him off the wall was not the only way to keep him safe. There were parts of the wall where there was no drop on the other side. Those were safe.
We looked together over the wall. It was steep. It was potentially dangerous. Even as he recognized that he wouldn’t want to fall down that slope, my son was undeterred. He still wanted to walk above the overlook. “I won’t fall!” he argued. “Accidents happen and I’m not willing to take that chance.” I told him, but I also offered a possible solution. “Can I hold your hand while you walk that part?” He agreed. This was where knowing my son was key, as I knew he wasn’t going to try to pull away. There are children who would and if he was one, I might have looked at more secure alternatives- a safer wall, use the baby sling as a rope, whatever best fit the need for safety and his desire to develop confidence by doing something challenging. We both needed safety and both wanted him to have a positive experience. And instead of coming up against a rule, we found where both of our intents flowed in the same direction.
So the next time you feel at odds with your child over a rule, you can make a choice. Will you choose to fight the current? Or will you turn downstream with your child and find the places where his needs, yours, and those of the people around you are flowing together and making one exciting ride?
Lesley Reid Cross is a parent, writer, artist and life coach living and exploring among the natural and man-made wonders of central Florida. She and her work can be found online at Euphoria Life Design Studio.