The question of how best to serve our children is one that could easily be a recipe for depression if we do not ask with the understanding that we’re all doing our best. I wish I was better at drawing because I can envisage a cartoon: there’s a child playing innocently on the ground while two parents create a shield upon which the full weight of an avalanche is bearing down, threatening to crush the family. The avalanche is not natural but composed of a number of dark factories labelled Big Pharma, School, Video Games, Social Media and Junk Food.
Even working in concert with my partner, the pressure to resist all of these forces is very challenging, it asks an enormous amount of us. It’s humbling to imagine what that might be like for those parenting alone. And yet, two people is not enough to be able to protect children from the unbelievable pressures exerted by society today. This is why The Genius Tree and New Paradigm Education are seeking to build a community which shares some of the same values.
How we do it at home
In our family, we are doing everything we can to stem the tide; we try to avoid poisons by eating organic food wherever possible, we try to minimise sugar to birthday cakes and occasional exceptions, we minimise the use of electronic devices, we home educate, we don’t play video games, we minimise social media access. Our three year old has never taken antibiotics, has never watched a full length movie or animation. Obviously, she will one day, and the question of the most appropriate time looms on the horizon. We trust that this will unfold naturally, we’re not manic. Although it might sound as though we’re self-righteous or fearful, we’re not creating an image of purity which backfires when children encounter the ‘real’ world. We’re grappling with the best time to introduce these dangerous influences and in what proportion. This is why we’re really hoping to find a group of people to help reinforce our shield, even to create a ring of power, a circle of adults who are connected, facing off the darker threats posed by the modern world.
Forces of darkness
Although my cartoon image began with industrial elements being represented by factories, I wonder if it would be better they were personified by a wall of arms reaching over the parent’s heads and through every gap they can find. Demonic hands thrust forward with plastic wrapped xmas gifts, mobile phones, chocolate bars, games consoles and of course, syringes.
When hosting days in the forests where I seek to create nature connection for children, plastic packaging with sugary drinks, crisp packets and chocolate bars seem out of place. It’s a challenge to make sure every last scrap of plastic goes back in their bags and not left to desecrate the woodland. I do my best to lead by example by eating home-made sandwiches and salads. Children don’t miss these details, they’re always watching. I want to create an environment where they see each other enjoying fruit and other healthy food.
Doing the best we can
That’s why parenting demands a degree of discipline such as we have never before experienced. We have brought eyes and ears into this world who notice our every move. We’ve generated our very own hypocrisy monitors. They’re looking to see if our actions match the ideals we espouse.
With total sincerity, I do not judge others for fear of walking in someone else’s footsteps. I know that we’re all doing our best. I’m not a puritanical tyrant… I abhor that. What I’m trying to do is call out to the best in ourselves… asking us to dig deeper and really do the best that we can. Serving our children is not easy… I’m trying to offer an image of how we can create a container of good habits where our children do not feel alone.
Our children are constantly comparing themselves to others, trying to see how other families do things. When they hear tales of video games and films, MacDonalds and candy floss from their peers, the idea of these things is normalised and children ask why they’re being deprived such fare.
What I would love to see is a community sharing the same values so that when our children inevitably ask each other how things operate in their homes, they find that other families follow similar rules. This is what I would most love to see for my own children… so that when they ask about video games… I can say that the other children they associate with are following the same, or similar, rules.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
We wish to be the change we want to see in the world…. don’t we?
As an adult working with children, I try my best to model the kind of person they can look up to. I sincerely treat life with respect without taking myself too seriously. I laugh at the funny things that our bodies do and the crazy. situations life presents. I try to take responsibility for my body and my health. I use technology without becoming a victim to it… although it’s not an easy balance to strike. I’m acutely aware of the areas where I fall down and do my best to work on those issues.
Here are some practical suggestions of how we can face off these global challenges together.
Let’s try not to give our children things in packets. We can tell them it’s a new policy. We do it for the environment, we do it for our bodies. No more plastic, toxic, sugar laden ‘treats’. Home made food, water, fruits for sweetness. It’s not a total ban. Occasionally, something naughty appears… we all need exposure to toxins to arm our immune systems… but not as a daily, routine phenomenon. The more we allow toxic foods in their diets, the higher price we pay in terms of emotional stress.
We advocate the natural powers of the immune system. We reinforce that by developing our own health regimes, breathing, stretching, walking, running, swimming and following good diet.
Obviously, we avoid these indoctrination centres and create another culture of positive learning, exemplified by adults whose commitment to learning and self-development is maintained.
If the dam has already burst, it may be difficult to stem the flow but an example could be a simple limitation of access. Probably no more than an hour per day, kept by a timer. The teams of psychologists dedicated to creating dopamine dependency through gaming means that a parent is pitting themselves against enemy combatants a heavily armed arsenal of highly researched psychological techniques. The reason children get so angry and frustrated, find it so difficult to focus, is often closely related to the way their brains are entrained by video games.
Probably one of the most challenging elements today and yet the Silicon Valley types lead the way by imposing blanket bans on their children’s access until the age of 16. I’m never keen to impose any all out bans because we have to learn moderation and self-discipline. And yet, I wouldn’t offer my children crack cocaine or heroin. So why would I offer them one of the most dangerous, addictive and commonly available drugs we can find today?
This post is an appeal to find other parents who also wish to create a supportive educational community where we help to afford our children as much protection as we can from the profit-hungry influences who seek only to exploit them. Serving our children is no simple thing… let us join together and mutually encourage each other to do the best that we can.