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Unconscious Parenting

Unconscious Parenting

The Child Project’s mission of providing education, support, and encouragement to mothers and fathers who recognize the importance of conscious parenting did not take shape by accident. It was established because there was an awareness that unconscious parenting is a widespread if not epidemic problem, that it results in various forms and degrees of child abuse, and that every boy and girl in the world, from birth on, deserves the best we can offer.

If you’re reading this, no doubt you agree with this philosophy of parenting. You recognize the importance of empathy and would never dream of abusing your child in any form. This is why, when Child Project director Cathey Polly asked me to write a piece on the topic, I wondered if in saying what I had to say about this, I might not end up preaching to the choir, and felt fairly certain that those who most need to get this message would be the least likely to read it. Cathey sent me a link for example, to a video on Facebook that shows young children being accidentally knocked over by their parents, being spun around until they’re dizzy to the point of falling, taking serious spills that appear to involve the risk of head or neck injury, or otherwise being banged around while cameraman-Dad or cameraman-Mom can be heard laughing in the background. It is the same disconnected mentality that finds similar clips humorous on such shows as “America’s Funniest Videos,” where the addition of a laugh track by the production people at the mixing board nicely neutralizes the moral question implicit in entertainment at someone else’s expense. Some of the Facebook footage is truly appalling, amounting to video documentation of a parent allowing his or her child to suffer physical abuse so that a good laugh can be had by all. The problem is that this footage is not funny. And one has to wonder about the psyche of a parent who enjoys exploiting a child’s developmental weaknesses, subjecting the child to forces that he or she has no way of absorbing or managing—or even capturing on video accidental moments in which a child’s developmental limitations led to a painful or frightening or humiliating consequence. Children in tears, clearly dazed, shaken, running in fear, and so on could only be considered funny by a psyche that is deeply disconnected. Unfortunately, there are no consciousness qualifications for parenthood, which is why children are the most oppressed and abused minority in the world. This widespread condition of parental unconsciousness through which children are routinely abused and exploited, is precisely what the Child Project came into existence to remedy.

We may shake our heads at such an egregious example of adult ignorance and insensitivity. Yet the lesson extends beyond Facebook videos shot by unfeeling fathers and mothers. Good parents, and especially the good parents of school-aged children, find the thought of bullying abhorrent—but bullying can take subtle forms. A parent who tells a child to “shut up” has for that moment become a bully. Yelling at a crying infant is bullying. Forcing a child to “eat his vegetables,” which imposes the parent’s will at the expense of the child’s in a way that the child may find humiliating and suffer in silence, is abusive. Put simply, anything that flouts, ignores, marginalizes, or strong-arms a child’s humanity and right to be treated with respect and consideration contains within itself something of the misguided spirit that we see in those awful Facebook videos.

Holding firmly to the high standard of conscious parenting is not easy. You will find nothing on the Child Project site or in its methods or materials that suggests otherwise. It is far easier to give a child a “time out” after repeated warnings and physically remove him to his room than to close ranks and mine the moment for an opportunity to instill closeness and help the child practice self-control and creative problem-solving than to resort to the use of force. Punishment is easier than collaboration. Empathy and unconditional respect require far more of the parent, certainly, but there is no payoff without an investment. Parents need look no further than the Golden Rule to set the bar for conscious parenting in their household. Humor at anyone’s expense is ill-gotten and destructive and dangerous, because it sets a precedent that dehumanizes. Children who are exploited, who are made the butt of slapstick home videos by parents without empathy, are more likely to grow up exploiting and abusing others. It is a cycle that no conscious person, let alone parent, would want to see repeated.

The conscious parent is an empathetic parent, one who laughs with, not at. We are always teaching by example. When we use force, when we laugh at someone else’s misfortune, when we fail to hear what our child is telling us because we’re too distracted or too busy or too tired, we are teaching nonetheless.

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