Nurturing New Paradigm Qualities in our Children

This blog post is an excerpt from the forthcoming book “Raising Children in the Midst of Global Crisis: A Compassionate Guidebook for Parenting in Turbulent Times” by Jo delAmor

“In a very real way we are writing our own future, the future of our world, on the hearts and minds of our children. Let’s think deeply, love selflessly, and act intentionally to write messages of peace and goodness and generosity of spirit on the hearts and minds of our children, our messengers, our hope for a better tomorrow.”

— L.R. Knost, Whispers Through Time

Messages to the Future

As we come to terms with the brutal intensities of the world our children have been born into and feel all the feelings that realization stirs in us, we can begin to see our place in the world with new eyes. We can begin to see that, as parents, we are planting seeds for the future in every moment of our children’s lives. We understand that the impressions that they form as young children about the world and who they are within it will inform who they are as adults. They will create the parameters of what they think is possible and how they choose to show up in the world. We see that we are writing the future, as L.R. Knost says “on the hearts and minds of our children.”

Moving beyond the Power Over Paradigm and into the cultivation of a Life Sustaining Society will require children who grow into adults with a commitment to collective wellness and mutual thriving. Creating this future in which our children can thrive, along with the rest of the Family of Life, will call for a completely different way of thinking and behaving than the dominant paradigm that we’ve been living in. It will require a deep healing of wounds and dismantling of lies. It will require raising human beings who are not driven by fear, scarcity, trauma and patterns of woundedness. It will require creating different conditions for our children and cultivating particular qualities and strengths in them that will allow them to be capable of truly caring for the Earth, each other and themselves.

The Power Over Paradigm has obscured our perception of the world. It has caused harm and trauma and polluted our minds and hearts as much as it has polluted the water, soil and air. But it has not destroyed the beauty and brilliance in our souls and in the Soul of the World. There is so much beauty still resiliently alive and waiting to be restored. The magic of Life still exists and will persist as we bring ourselves to its loving care. As we dream into the vision of this new Life Sustaining Society let’s consider the characteristics of a paradigm and the human qualities that would sustain life, justice and wellness for all so we can nurture them in our young ones.

I’m sure the list below doesn’t cover every possible quality that the new paradigm will need but as I dream into this potentiality and reflect on the children I’ve cared for these are the qualities that come to my mind and heart. When I look at this list as a whole and imagine a generation of children within whom these qualities flourish, I see a world in which all beings can thrive. I know, from direct experience, that even here in the midst of this dysfunctional society, it’s possible for us, as parents, to influence the development of these qualities in our children. We may or may not be able to knock each and every one of these out of the park, but the more of these qualities our children develop the more resiliently they will navigate their lives and the more healing they will bring to the world.

Wonder, Awe, Reverence and Gratitude

As children of a magnificent, miraculous Universe our most natural and authentic state is awe. I love that Rachel Carson wishes she could call on the fairies to preserve this inborn sense of wonder but recognizes that, in lieu of that, the companionship of an adult who is willing to experience wonder and awe alongside the growing child is what is needed. We are those adults. We are being invited to practice awe and swim in wonder as our children grow. A person in awe is connected to the Source of Life, the sources of our strength and not one easily manipulated by the power plays of the dominant paradigm.

As we explored in our Grounding in Gratitude chapter, teaching our children how to live in a practice of radical gratitude and reverence is a powerfully subversive way to detach from the Power Over Paradigm. It is also a brilliant way to deepen our connection with Life, itself. As our children experience appreciation for the ways in which their life is sustained they learn how the sustenance of Life works and can find their role in the great Web of Life more easily.

Loving Connection, Empathy and Compassion

Children are full of love when they are little. They love their parents and siblings to the moon and back. When that love is returned and children are raised in a loving environment, with encouragement for positive connection they become capable of growing that love far beyond the edges of their immediate families. “Pro-social” human beings that are comfortable with loving connection will definitely be required in order to cultivate a Life Sustaining Society.

As our children grow it is also important to foster their natural tendencies toward empathy and compassion. Most of the children I’ve worked with display an amazing ability to feel for others and a desire to help. As we heal from the damages done by the Power Over Paradigm we need a generation of people who are willing to put themselves in each other’s shoes and help each other grow into a more equitable and mutually beneficial way of living.

Respect, Consent, Equity and Justice

From a very young age (even 1 or 2 years old) children can learn that they have autonomy over their own bodies and other people have autonomy over theirs. We can teach children that each person has a right to their own choices and that, as we make our choices, we need to consider whether they cause harm to others. Teaching our children how to ask permission before touching or taking helps our kids grow into adults that respect themselves and others. This awareness of consent protects our children from predators and keeps our children from being harmful to others.

Making the dismantling of oppression and an understanding of privilege and bias a central part of your parenting will help your children break free from the Power Over Paradigm and see the world through the lens of equity and justice. As we attempt to plant the seeds of a new paradigm in the hearts and minds of our children it is essential to reframe our orientation to power and agency so we can grow a culture in which all are empowered. This work is particularly important if you and your children are part of the dominant, privileged class or sector of a society based on the genocide, enslavement and/or disenfranchisement of others (like if you are white in the USA or Australia, for example). Raising our children to understand that we have inherited an unjust system that needs to be fixed is critical to a future of equity and justice.

Reciprocity, Cooperation and Collaboration

In our Grounding in Gratitude chapter we explored reciprocity as an expression of gratitude for the Earth and towards other people. As we raise our children within this practice we can teach our children to see themselves as being part of a team. Whether the team is made up of a single parent and a single child or it’s a whole big family or it’s a classroom or a neighborhood or the Family of Life, we’re always working with others. This orientation in teamwork helps our kids learn how to bring their gifts to the team generously and graciously receive the gifts of others in the collaboration and cooperation that’s necessary for a Life Sustaining Society.

Humility, Vulnerability and Emotional Fluency

As we move beyond the Power Over Paradigm we begin to understand that true power doesn’t come from force and dominance and that putting on a tough image doesn’t get us very far. True power is a connection to the Source of Life that comes through our intuition and emotions. We can help our children maintain and strengthen their access to these inner channels by teaching them that it is okay to be vulnerable and express their feelings.

You can create a safe environment for expression in your own home by modeling humility and vulnerability and by holding a respectful, loving space for them when they express themselves. As they get older, you can also teach them skills for regulating their energy, staying tuned in to their intuition and inner guidance and expressing their emotions effectively to others. These are the skills necessary for healthy adults and the leaders we need to guide us into a functional way of living.

Curiosity, Critical Thinking, Creativity and Innovative Problem Solving

Our world is full of seemingly unsolvable problems and we basically have to create an entirely different way of living if we are going to survive the collapse of the Power Over Paradigm. We are in need of some very creative problem solving. Fortunately, our children come into the world with a natural propensity for curiosity, critical thinking and creative problem solving. If we encourage this natural gift, rather than squelch it the way conventional education does, there is no telling what remarkably innovative responses they may have to the situation in which we find ourselves.

As our children learn and grow we can stand beside them in wonder. Instead of giving them the answers and showing off what we think we know we can stimulate meaningful inquiry by guiding them through the discovery process. We can suspend our “knowledge” momentarily while they wrestle with a new thought and see what they come up with.

Courage, Confidence, Self-worth, Honor and Dignity

Our children’s lives are not going to be easy. They will encounter many obstacles and many forces that seek to diminish them and make them feel powerless. One of the central tactics of the Power Over Paradigm is to rob its subjects of their honor and dignity. Every single one of us descends from human beings who, at one time, maybe very long ago, knew that they were brilliant, beautiful, sacred members of the Family of Life. Although people like this are wonderful stewards of a Life Sustaining Society, they are not easy to control. As the forces of oppressive empires and colonization ravaged the surface of the Earth they stripped the people of their honor and dignity in every way they possibly could.

For our children to grow beyond the constraints of this dominant paradigm and create a future that feeds Life they will need their natural honor, dignity and self-worth intact. Fortunately it is another natural endowment of every little being and can be cultivated and encouraged as they grow. Teach your children that they are needed in this world. Teach them that they have a purpose and that their lives matter so they can move forward with the courage and confidence they’ll need.

Honesty, Authenticity and Self Expression

Along with self-worth and dignity comes the ability to be honestly and authentically yourself. Each and every one of us comes to Earth with our own special gifts, our own way of seeing and understanding, our own particularities that make us who we are. The world needs each and every one of us, exactly as we are. It is in this diversity of perspective and expression that we really thrive. Diversity makes every system stronger. And, when we are not hemmed in by the prejudices and boxes of an oppressive society we can be much more powerfully beautiful stewards of Life.

There are countless ways that our Power Over Paradigm enforces these boxes and tells our children that they need to hide parts of themselves and fit into one of the pre-programmed boxes that has been designed for them. From relentless genderization and fashion trends to compliance with a consumer economy and political ideologies our kids are inundated with expectations and fabricated answers to the questions of who they are. As parents, we can insulate them to some extent from these external pressures and consciously create space in our homes and families for them to blossom as the authentically individual human beings that they are.

Resilience and Adaptability

We can’t even begin to imagine how much change our children will have to navigate in their lifetimes. All we know is that things are not going to continue on as they have. The Earth simply doesn’t have the resources to keep sustaining an extractive capitalistic human society. So, one way or another, everything is going to change and our kids will have to be resilient and adaptive in order to make it through and be of any use to the world. This is why it’s so essential for us to teach our children how to deal with challenges and hardship gracefully and healthfully. Everyone knows that facing and working through real life challenges is character building, but modern parents often have a hard time staying out of the way enough to allow their children to build character in this way.

Even if we have plenty of money, we should not bend over backwards to create a fantastical childhood of constant pleasure and gratification for our children. It doesn’t serve them at all. In fact, it interferes with their growth and development terribly and creates an unnaturally insatiable appetite for ease. As part of a healthy childhood that prepares a person for the rest of their lives a child should have to learn how to wait, give others a turn, make mistakes, fall down and get hurt, experience disappointment, get bored, etc.. That doesn’t mean we should intentionally create suffering for our children. And it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t let our kids have fun. But if we insulate them too much from the normal discomforts of life and try to make everyday and every moment a magical theme park adventure then we are actually impeding their healthy development and stunting their resilience.

Joy, Humor and Playfulness

Even as our children must struggle and learn from their struggles, they have got to have some fun too! A sense of natural joy, playfulness and an ability to see the humor in any situation may be the quality that helps our kids the most. When we feel connected to the living world and see our lives as an important, but small, part of a grand unfolding this sense of joy comes easily. Humor and lightheartedness are essential to resilience. Without an appreciation for irony, mystery and playfulness we would all be brought to our knees before we even make it through the gate. Being able to laugh at ourselves, try things out and fail, notice the ironic humor of the way life unfolds helps us make it through the more difficult moments we’ll have to face. Feeling joy and carrying joy in our hearts are also essential practices for caring for and sustaining Life.

When these qualities are cultivated in young people, the natural human spirit that is so alive in them can come through even more strongly. That doesn’t mean that every freedom fighter and youth activist had perfect parenting. It also doesn’t mean that if you nourish these qualities ‘perfectly’ in your children that they’ll save the world with their activism. This is not an all or nothing scenario. This is an opportunity to understand the power, possibility and potential of young people who are informed and supported, young people who have the confidence to be courageous, who have the critical thinking skills and creativity to address some of our biggest challenges and who deeply care about our world and feel a responsibility to Life and future generations. Whether our children’s care for the world plays out on the international stage for all to see or in small, personal, less seen ways, these qualities will guide them and support them in contributing their unique gift to the world.

This is an excerpt from the forthcoming book Raising Children in the Midst of Global Crisis: A Compassionate Guidebook for Parenting in Turbulent Times by Jo delAmor

Visit this page for more information about this book and to sign up to be notified when it is published and available for sale.

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