Sunday, October 26, 2014

Healthy Human Development

What ARE the obstacles to healthy human development?  Maybe if we know what they are, we can avoid them and engage in activities that WILL be healthy and empowering.

Babies are born knowing exactly what they need.  When they are hungry, thirsty, cold, wet, lonely or afraid, they cry.  They try to get our attention so we will meet their need.  As parents, wither we meet these needs quickly and sensitively, or we don't.  The first step in normal, healthy human development is to develop secure attachment relationships and learn to trust other human beings.  The foundation for this is built in infancy.

Your child needs to be able to trust that you will always be there when they need you, and that you are going to respond to their cries.  They must learn that their needs are important, and this is the basis of good self esteem later in life.  They must learn that when they have a need, you are not going to deny them what they need.  But in our society, from the very beginning of a child's life, we do the best we can to mold them to OUR schedule, our lifestyle, our desires.  For our own convenience, we impose what WE want on our children. 

We believe that, as parents, it's our job to mold our child into something.  A good citizen, a good Christian, an obedience child.  But that's not our job. 

Our job is to support our child as they discover who they want to become.  It's not our job to dictate to our children who they are going to become or what they are going to believe. 

We need to start our children out in life affirming their worth and dignity, affirming they right to control their own lives, and affirming our complete and total acceptance of them. 

As children grow, they will start to become less dependent on us and will want to assert their independence.  They will want to make decisions about their own lives.  We need to let them.  Yes, they are going to make mistakes.  It's better for us to allow them to experiment and makers mistakes while we are still there to provide a safety net than to make them wait to practice their independence until they are on their own and they have no safety net.  That's your job as a parent:  you provide the safety net. 

It's wrong for us as parents to try and prevent our kids from making mistakes.  Failures are how we lean.  Do you remember being a child or a teen and feeling like your parents didn't trust you to take care of yourself?  We need to instill in our children the confidence to believe in their own abilities, but not pressure them to always make the right choices. 

You might remember from my page on staying mentally healthy this statement:  It's ok to be wrong.  Why do we think that always making the "right" choices is so important?  Mistakes are OK, and just a part of learning and growing.  Don't make your child feel they are a second class citizen for making mistakes.  It's better for them to make those mistakes while you are there to help them pick up the pieces, than for them to make them later on when they are on their own and perhaps have no help to put their lives back together.

What we DON'T want is for kids to grow up into adults that don't value their own thoughts, feelings and beliefs as valid.  We don't want adults who turn to substitutes like alcohol, drugs, sex, money or any other substitute for self esteem and drawing strength of shared relationship.  We don't want adults who think it's wrong to follow their own inner voice.  We want adults who know how to value themselves and others because they themselves have been grown up in a circle where they have been valued. 

You can't value someone when you are trying to control them.  You can provide opportunities to influence and model for others, but you can't and shouldn't try to control others.  Normal human development involves trying out alternatives, picking what works for you, and feeling respectful of what you have chosen for yourself as well as respectful of what others have chosen for themselves.  This healthy self esteem beings in how human beings are treated by their parents, teachers, and other mentors. 

If we are not careful in the way we speak to and treat our children, we will have children that grow up believing our institutional myths.  When people believe in and internalize their society's institutional myths, they will waste a lot of time living in a way that invalidates their own thoughts and feelings.  They will live a life of dissatisfaction and unhappiness.  We can avoid this by starting now to change how we treat our children, our spouses, our co-workers, and everyone else in our lives.  We can start to develop healthy partnership relationships

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