Raising children has changed so much in one or two generations. We speak with parents, grandparents and even Great Grandparents with our 1-on-1 Coaching Service that are currently raising children. Each generation seems to ask the same child rearing question: “What happened?” How come what worked for one generation doesn’t work for the next? What exactly has changed?
I recently read a wonderful book, The Spirit of Indian Women, by Judith and Michael Fitzgerald. The book focuses on the photographs and the words of native women who lived prior to the reservation era. What struck me most was the obvious: the concept of time. They had it
Agnes Yellowtail Deernose of the Absaroke tribe said, “Kids learned a lot through listening, watching, and then doing. Our folks didn’t lecture us much. They’d tell stories, especially on the long winter nights. That’s when we’d listen and learned what to fear, what to do, and what to respect.”
The idea of spending whole evenings with my family or extended family is novel. In my personal experience, just being able to share a dinner with children is a difficult undertaking with sports events and after school activities. But I know that having a whole evening to listen and tell stories would be enriching for everyone. One of the rare times that I did get to hear my Grandfather share stories with his peers and give them a hard time was hilarious! “You old coot,” they snapped at each other. By the end of the evening I had tears streaming down my face and my stomach hurt from laughing. This was my grandfather? He had a wild side? I found out that he’d actually won a costume contest by dressing and acting exactly like Charlie Chaplin after a few drinks. For the first time, I realized I had no idea who my grandfather was outside of the stern old man I knew and avoided. I had missed so much!
In our fast-moving society, how many of us really do get to know and learn about our relatives? What was it really like to live fifty or sixty years ago? Many of us have lost the opportunity to learn about the past and our family history, its flavor and its facts. But hearing these stories can create lasting connections and a sense of identity.
Today there is so little time. Stress and anxiety run high, and our children seem to connect more to the internet, the cell phone or computer games than to the family. What happens when our children are propped in front of a computer or TV screen for the majority of the day? What happens when parents are so concerned about giving their child every opportunity to succeed with after school activities, that there is no time left just to be? Family conversations, arguments and support can be lost, along with family values.
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I think the way we talk to our children is also important. Maria Chona of the Papago tribe said, “My father went on talking to me in a low voice. That is how our people always talk to their children, so low and quiet, the child thinks he is dreaming. But he never forgets.”
Even though there are some definite benefits to modern living, the old ways might be better in some instances. It might be worth going on vacation and leaving all the electronics at home. Somehow, the memory of sitting on my Grandmother’s lap while she shelled peas and showed me how to do it — talking in that low and quiet voice — was sweeter and more important than watching cartoons, which I don’t remember. What value do we put on family time? How important is it to stop and be quiet, no matter what the age? Raising our children continues to be paramount. How can we optimize our time with them and make constructive choices about the life lessons they learn…unplugged?