I was pained to read a recent cover of NEW YORK magazine: THE PROBLEM WITH TEENAGERS IS THEIR PARENTS. It says to me we are not learning nature's parenting wisdom.
There is a natural flow for raising children: Nature establishes how children grow and we parents are given the job of managing the process. We need to "take our job seriously; never ourselves," because "doing our own thing" may find us swimming against the tide in raising our children.
In 1966, I founded the Hyde School in Bath, Maine to find a better way to prepare kids for life and all its challenges. By 1974, I discovered, in spite of being a boarding school, that better way required a focus on parents and the family. This focus ultimately revealed nature's powerful flow and inherent guidelines for raising children, which I summarized in a book Nature's Parenting Process: Five Simple Truths to Empower Our Children (Hyde Foundation Press, 2010.)
I believe these truths are so important, that I want to provide them to readers in a series utilizing excerpts from this book.
What is nature's parenting process? Simplified, we perceive it as being built on developing and practicing five basic concepts:
1. Parent with humility
2. Parent beyond "love"
3. Parent with principles
4. Take hold as we let go
5. Parent by example
Let me give an example of the concepts in action:
When my son, Malcolm, was 3 years old, I was late for class, and he had crawled into bed with my wife Blanche, watching me frantically trying to get dressed. I was increasingly frustrated by not finding what I needed, so when I opened the drawer filled with socks, none of which matched, I finally exploded. I started angrily throwing them on the floor: "I wish [throw] I had [throw] two socks [throw] that matched!" Whereupon Mal said, "If you act that way about it, you won't get any!" Blanche threw the sheet up over her head, and I stood there like a chastened child.
Even at age 3, Mal had internalized that principles were more important than personalities (#3), that I was reminded to fulfill my responsibilities to nature (#1) as well as to parent by example (#5.)
Practicing these five truths give our children stability, trust and help to form a deep parent-child bond giving children confidence that we parents, above all, are preparing them to be their best and ultimately become self-sufficient.
This bond is also the source of a deeper parent-child love (#2). Later that year, I was late again and had to dash out of our faculty apartment to teach my calculus class, 500 snowy yards away. Ten minutes later, the classroom door opened; there was Malcolm in his Dr. Denton pajamas, covered in snow, saying in tears, "You didn't kiss me goodbye!"
I can honestly say -- mostly thanks to my wife -- we have maintained that very close relationship with our three children throughout their lives (except possibly for the struggle that Mal and I went through when he succeeded me as CEO of our seven Hyde Schools. However, once the transition was complete, we began to get along fine. Why? Even though it might be the toughest decision he'd ever have to make, I knew he'd fire me if I got out of line -- because that's what I taught him!)
Next week: Part 1: Parent with Humility