“There is no such thing as a perfect parent. So just be a real one.” ~ Sue Atkins
Being a parent is not an easy task, we all know that. It is challenging, but at the same time it’s can be a beautiful rewarding journey. While we do our best to raise our child/children in the most suitable environment to the best of our ability, a shift in perspective can bring about a radical change in our approach to parenthood.
During my early childhood teacher training at a Waldorf center, my entire perspective underwent a major transformation. I realised that our role as a parent can be compared to the role of a shaman, who guides people on their individual path. Children too are ‘little people’ who according to Rudolph Steiner have chosen their parents to help them find their true purpose.
Create the Environment
A shaman creates the environment for the individual to be completely immersed in their journey. During a ceremony the shaman will probably light candles, burn sacred herbs/incense, sing, drum, include elements of nature and so on. All this put together (along with other factors) creates the environment to do inner work.
Similarly, parents have to create the environment for the child to flourish, nurture his developmental and spiritual needs. If the environment is conducive and healthy, the child too will become a balanced individual.
Children act like mirrors reflecting our emotions and moods. For instance, few months ago our 6-year old son was showing very cold behaviour in school and at home, ‘I don’t care’ attitude, lack of reverence and not listening to his teacher or his parents.
The teacher brought this to our attention and also asked us about his home environment. On introspection we realised that we were exhibiting the same kind of behaviour at home (due to work and a financial situation), and this was reflecting on him.
Children can sense much more than we can imagine and it doesn’t mean perfection, but rather honesty with ourselves and children sense that. When the home environment improved, so did his behaviour. This was an awakening of sorts that made me realise the importance of being conscious of my actions, emotions and behaviour.
Hold Space for your child
“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.” ~ Goethe
Parents have to hold space for the child, just how the shaman holds space for the participants in a ceremony. The shaman doesn’t give instructions of behaving in a certain way or being dressed in this fashion, but merely guides with his actions (of course there are certain guidelines before entering a ceremony).
Nowadays parents are only heard giving instructions or sermons on how to behave or what values to adopt, do this, don’t do that, follow this etc etc. Children don’t need lessons, they imitate, they learn by observing the environment and people around them. Parents can only lead by example.
“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals.” ~ Pema Chödrön
Provide a compassionate support system that can give the child courage to bear the burdens that every one has to carry. Holding space is a valuable blessing. To feel what they should feel. Be open, attuned, flexible, and compassionate to our children and to ourselves. Guide them with modesty and thoughtfulness, just how a shaman would.
Sing to them on their journey
Often shamans sing icaros and traditional healing songs during rituals that help the participants in his individual process. Similarly, a mother sings songs to her child while putting him to sleep to guide them to a different realm and space.
This routine instantly comforts a child and takes them to their dream world. Even in their waking life, songs and music puts a child at ease and is a wonderful way to bond with the little ones.
Keep the labels away
“Your kids require you most of all to love them for who they are, not to spend your whole time trying to correct them.” ~ Bill Ayers
A shaman is non judgmental and refrains from labeling the individual, no matter how he/she reacts in the ceremony.
If parents do the same, life would become much easier for the entire family. Labeling a child naughty or good or bad is just the society’s way of ignoring the beauty and uniqueness of each child.
Its not only restricting but can also have a detrimental effect on the child. Learn to embrace their uniqueness. Parents must offer support to their children while encouraging them to find their own path.
Working with the Inner Self
Shamans have to do their own inner work which is always quite intense. Before they can heal others they have to go through years of initiation because only when you heal yourself can you heal others.
Being parents gives us the opportunity to heal ourselves. Children have this uncanny ability to bring those repressed emotions or hidden wounds to the surface (yes, they do if you pay close attention). Better than any zen master or therapist, our children draw out our fears and anger.
Only when we address those unhealed aspects of us that are buried deep within and transform them into something more meaningful can we be better parents. Each day is an opportunity for learning, growing, and loving more deeply. Don’t shy away from that intense inner work to not only become better individuals but also mindful parents.