What I Learned About Parenting From Interviewing Hundreds Of Children (Yes, Hundreds)
As parents, most of us are in a constant state of fear and anxiety when it comes to our children: Will the world be cruel to them? Will they find their meaning or purpose on this massive earth? How can we protect them from the evils that are out there?
Over the years I've committed a great deal of time to interviewing hundreds of children—spanning all ages, ethnic backgrounds, and nationalities—for my book, The Divine Child. And what was most shocking about the hundreds of interviews I conducted was unearthing the universal truths that were born with all the children I interviewed. What I discovered is that children know a great deal more than we give them credit for.
In hindsight, hearing what these children had to say made me a better parent to my son. I knew that he had a vision and direction for the person he wanted to become, and during those moments of growth I stepped back and gave him the freedom to forge his own path. Instead of being quick to write off a statement or belief of his as naive, I listened to him and sought value in everything he had to share. As a former psychotherapist, I can't even count the number of times I heard, "My parents won't listen to me" when speaking to kids. So often we forget that our children have a voice.
Was I a perfect parent? Far from it. But having this experience gave me an enlightened model for my journey through parenthood. I hope the truths I uncovered will help you do the same with your children.
1. Children are born with an innate wisdom.
I'm sure you've witnessed this in your own children: their ability to hit the nail right on the head when it comes to some of the deepest and most monumental subject matters. As mini humans, they have an innate knowledge of when their world is off-kilter (for example, Mom and Dad are angry with each other; Uncle Tom is sad; Grandma is not feeling well). My advice to you as a parent? Acknowledge this wisdom. Ask them how they're feeling about the situation, or see if they'd like to talk things through. Just because they're young doesn't mean they're unaware of the shifts in life taking place around them.
2. They're born with a spirituality that may or may not dissipate when they grow into adults.
Some of my favorite conversations with the children I interviewed were about their thoughts and ideas about where they were before life and where they would go after life. What was even more fascinating was the similarities I found in their responses. The question, "Where were you before you were in Mommy's tummy," was met with some variation of "I was in the air." When asked what would happen when they left earth, many children answered with some form of a reincarnation story, without being fully aware of the term or what it is.
Some of these children were as young as 5 years old, too young to grasp a full understanding of the concepts of conception and death, yet they were able to answer these complex questions freely. How can we encourage and accept this spirituality our children are born with? Try to allow your children to think freely, particularly when it comes to these spiritual thoughts and realizations. Who knows? They may instill some greater beliefs in you.
3. Children have a sense of purpose.
While the responses varied, a shared truth ran through, and that was each child's sense of purpose. Whether it was a desire to be a nurse, firefighter, policeman, or doctor, the majority of children I spoke with had a clear vision of what they would be as an adult. And if it wasn't what they would be, then it was a clarity on what they would do, which leads me to my next point.
4. Children have a desire to do good.
"If you had a magic wand and could do anything you wanted to change the world, what would you do?" No, it wasn't a wish to have more chocolate ice cream or toys in the world—although even as an adult I think I'd like that too! The answers I received were much deeper and more thoughtful than that. The children I spoke with wanted to end all wars and violence and treat our earth better in an effort to create a healthier, cleaner planet. Some held a desire to protect animals and keep them safe. I was amazed at the sheer goodness I encountered with these children. They want to do good, and they have smart ideas about how to do so. Ask them about it, and you'll see!
5. The younger the child, the more knowledge they shared about their experience in the womb.
This shouldn't be that much of a surprise to you, as the research has been around for decades. By weeks 25/26, a baby is able to respond to noise and voices while in the womb. The younger children I interviewed (ages 5 and 6) gave me precise descriptors when I asked what it was like in their mother's stomach. "Warm," "dark," and "lonely" were a few of the replies I received. Some children told me they kicked and kicked to get out. Others told me they felt warm and safe and wanted to stay forever. For any soon-to-be moms, this is an exciting thing to experience. Talk to your baby; play nice music—while they won't remember the specifics, a subconscious part of them may remember the overall experience!
Of course, this article won't solve all your parenting woes or prevent you from encountering challenges as your kids grow. What I hope is that it will inspire you to listen to your children and respect what they're saying. Don't overlook their thoughts and ideas as the "musings of a child." My mind was blown countless times over the years I spent interviewing children, and if you give in and allow for it, perhaps yours will be too.
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