Thursday, October 7, 2010

Teaching Our Children to Trust Their Instinctual Nature

A couple of weeks ago Kristin commented on this post and mentioned her desire to be mindful of the attack on our instinctual selves while parenting her girls. Her comment got me thinking: it's all well and good to talk about the way we as women (or men) can "unbind" the feet of our instinctual self and run free, but what about our children, whose feet may have not yet been bound or have only been bound for awhile? Can we as mothers and fathers parent in such a way that our children are given tools and understanding so that living out of their natural, intuitive selves is second nature?

My experience so far in talking to my kids about their intuition has shocked me. I thought I'd have to teach them about their "knowing place," but as soon as I mentioned the term and described it, they nodded and said, "Oh, yeah, I have that," as if I was kind of silly to not have known that already! :) I asked them where it was and they pointed to their chests.

Still you kind of have to wonder if my kids have heard me talking about this stuff, but I've noticed other children have similar responses. I was substitute teaching for 3 weeks in a row for a friend's kindergarten class last Spring and on the last day, when we were ready for recess early and they were sitting quietly, I asked them if they had a "knowing" inside and they all nodded. No one looked confused or asked for clarification. They acted just like my girls had and all but two of the children pointed to their chests when I asked them "where" that knowing came from. Two girls pointed to their tummies. These are kids that, without exception, have grown up in very poor homes. English is a second language to all but a couple of them. Several began learning English that year, in kindergarten. It seems this "knowing" is something people from all different backgrounds, cultures, religions and traditions understand and can identify.

One interesting conversation happened when my eldest told me she had gotten a "step" (the first step in the discipline's basically a warning that's on paper you have to have your parents sign and return) for talking out of turn. She was upset; she felt it was unfair because someone had talked to her, and then she had responded to them, but only she was given a step. When I tried to ask her why she thought she got it, what she could have done differently and what she might do differently in the future, she couldn't stop arguing and defending herself. Then I said something without thinking. I said, "O.k. Emily, so you feel it's not fair that you got a step, but did you KNOW in your knowing place, when you were talking to your friend, that you shouldn't be?" She stopped in her tracks, the arguing stopped and she said, "Well, yeah..." I said, "O.k. that's all I'm saying." We talked about how she could listen to that knowing place in the future.

I think the most interesting part for me in Emily and my conversation was the distinction she made between "obeying the rules" and "listening to your knowing." Obeying the rules is good, we decided. Listening to our knowing is also good, and perhaps even better.

So I've been asking myself, "What else can I do to foster this listening to their knowing, encourage them to trust in themselves and their inner wisdom, and stop binding their instinctual feet in the way I inevitably would if I didn't intentionally choose to do something different?"

Here is one exercise I'm going to do with my kids next Sunday when we have our family time. We are going to read, "Horton Hears a Who," discuss it in the way this article describes and then do an activity of some kind that I haven't settled on yet. I want to hear what they think about the story and how they identify with having a "knowing" about something that others don't necessarily see, hear or understand.What should we do when we "know" or "feel" something others don't? Should we persist in trying to communicate it? Should we keep it inside? When is it important to insist that others listen to us? How can kids insist that adults listen to them?

Do you have any ideas for talking to kids about their instincts, knowing and feelings? I would love to hear any ideas.

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