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Your Children Are Not Your Children

“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”

I heard this Gibran’s poem for the first time when I was a teenager. I couldn’t make any sense of it, but it intrigued me because as a young woman I believed that I belonged to my parents and that when my turn came to be a mother my children would belong to me.

Time has proven to me that Gibran was right. We don’t own our children. We don’t have any control over their exquisite lives. We are vessels for them to come into existence and models of behavior for them to learn how to negotiate the world. We give them values, beliefs and tools to grow and succeed. We give them a structure to expand and excel. We provide nurturing, safety and love, and after all is said and done we must stand out of the way and let them go. We must entrust them with their inherent freedom to live their own lives.

Being a parent is a tall order. It is about giving without expecting anything in return; perhaps the closest one could get to unconditional love.

In the month of February we are focusing on relationships and love. The relationship that we have with our children will determine the path for their journey. It will mark their experience and seal their future.

The following paragraphs are based on the book Letting Go with Love and Confidence by pediatrician Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg. In his chapter Looking in the Mirror, Dr. Ginsburg talks about four different parenting styles: authoritarian, permissive, uninvolved and authoritative. Let’s explore what this means.

Authoritarian parents expect children to conform to their rules without questions or discussion. We are all familiar with the phrase: “because I say so.” We have heard it, or admit it to yourself, said it a couple of times. Children raised by authoritarian parents miss out in the opportunity to learn how to problem solve and own their decisions. The most frightening aspect of this parenting style is that in the end, this kids end up rebelling against parental authority big time!

Permissive parents know no rules or consequences for their children; however, they shower their children with love and attention and expect to be “best friends.” Unfortunately, these young ones grow up to be self-indulged and prone to participate in high-risk behaviors because they haven’t learn how to measure the consequences of their actions.

Uninvolved parents don’t provide children with rules or emotional support. Their motto is: “kids will be kids and they need to learn from their mistakes.” Children in this environment learn how to attract attention by negative behaviors and they end up involved in all kinds of trouble: truancy, drugs, and unhealthy relationships.

The fourth parenting style is authoritative. In this style, parents balance rules, consequences, love and emotional support. Parents learn how to give in and allow their children’s self-expression and at the same time to be firm when it is necessary to take a stand and set boundaries. The authoritative style requires maturity, introspection and the desire for self-improvement. It is perhaps the most demanding on parents because it requires that you depart from the style that your parents engraved in your subconscious. It is also the most rewarding for children since it affords them the chance to learn and experiment with life while being supported and directed by the love of their parents.

I believe that in the course of our time as parents we often fluctuate from one style to the other according to the circumstances that we are in. We are imperfect and always in flux as human beings. But there should be a progression towards improvement. Take a look in the mirror like Dr. Ginsberg suggests and honestly answer the question: “how do I parent my child?”

In my every day interaction with families, I have noticed that parents have difficulty saying no to their children. Perhaps this happens as a desire to depart from the authoritarian style of their own parents, or because they feel that allowing is more enriching than restricting, or may be because they feel that by setting boundaries they may hinder their relationship with their little ones. The end result is a dysfunctional interaction between parent and child, one that will not serve the child in the future when he or she enters the world.

Guidance and structure make children feel safe. Children who grow up with loving rules and expectations from their parents are more able to cope with the demands of a world that is more complex and demanding than ever. As parents our most important role is to prepare our children to be productive and independent adults and that is the biggest love of all.



Who doesn’t want more health and happiness?

 Every year starts with the promise of being better than the previous one. It is human nature to hope for more. We yearn for more prosperity, more love, and who doesn’t want more health and happiness?

 Most everyone would agree that health and happiness are intimately connected. We cannot have one without the other.  It is also common knowledge that if we have proper nutrition, adequate exercise and sufficient rest our health would be fairly good.

 If that is the case, why are health and happiness so elusive? If all it takes is the right diet, moving around some and catching a nap here and there, why is it that we often feel tired, irritable and grouchy and fall victims of so many annoying ailments?

 Here is what some believe: the state of well-being that we call health is the result of our thoughts and feelings. I know this to be true for me and I choose to make the following my new year’s resolutions.

 I live in integrity with myself. I declare my independence from trying to please others, from keeping a front of perfection, from avoiding conflict and from trying to be liked. All these create toxic emotions that are poisonous to my body. The person that I am is valuable, capable and lovable.  

I live in the present moment. I release my attachment to memories, even the good ones. I let go off resentments and I also stop worrying about the future. Spending time in the past fills my heart with melancholy and envisioning a future that I cannot control creates unnecessary anxiety. The present is filled with endless possibilities and it is where I am most powerful and effective. 

I keep my promises, specially the ones I make to myself. I stop postponing my personal appointments, I attend to my own health with the same diligence that I attend to the health of others, and I give my mind the gift of rest and my soul the blessing of faith. My body is the temple where my mind and soul dwell and it deserves attention.

Health and happiness are not the mere absence of disease, but a state of well-being that comes from the holistic integration of body, mind and soul. Give yourself the gift of perfect health and enduring joy. Be who you are, live in the now and honor your promises to yourself.


For the parents of those hilarious and exuberant terrific two year olds

My job is fun. I get to spend time with babies, toddlers, school age kids and teenagers. In fifteen to 20 minute sessions, I spend my day traveling from the blissful state of the first few months of life to the conflict driven years of adolescence with multiple stops on the terrific twos.

The second year of life, called by many the terrible twos, is a wondrous time in the life of the child. And that is why I decided to call it the terrific twos. Many words can describe this period. Let me try a few and see if you can identify your toddler in them: rebellious, hilarious, exuberant, adventurous, frustrated, daring, frightened, annoying and delightful at the same time.

Yes, the second year of life is a dichotomy between love for life and fear of failing. Your young one cannot wait to do things by herself and refuses all supervision but at the same time internally fears that she will not get your approval. Growing up is hard work. It is not just gaining weight or stretching in inches but also mastering emotions, understanding the world around you, and conquering the fear of becoming separate from your parents. That is why the second year of life is filled with tantrums, tears and whining.

The second year is not only challenging for your child, it is also a period of growth for you as a parent. It pushes all your buttons. It triggers all your unresolved issues as a person and it challenges you as a parent. This is the parenting stage where you must explore your own upbringing to decide what is it that you value more: freedom of expression or respect for norms and conventions.

I can hear in my mind the collective answer: freedom of expression, right? So here is where I plant the seed for a future generation of loving, peaceful and generous adults. My mother always said that my freedom ended where my neighbor’s freedom began and that to keep a peaceful existence we had to respect each other. At 84 this very wise woman has many, many friends that love her very much.

That is what we hope for our children, that they grow up to be loving people and loved by many. The terrific twos is a challenging period in the life of the family. It is filled with wonder and sometimes frustration. The work of growing is arduous but rewarding.

Here are a few tips for parenting a toddler (or your own inner toddler because we all have one):

  • Know your boundaries ahead of time: there will be behaviors that you will never accept: kicking, biting, and hitting you or others.
  • Choose your battles: never argue with a toddler (she will always win) over superficial matters such as clothes or food preferences.
  • Strive for consistency and daily routines. Meal time and sleep time should be almost sacred.
  • Share your love and attention and praise her when she shares with others.

Parenting is all about creating boundaries and not about allowing the unlimited exercise of your child’s personality. The secret is to do it with love and a sincere desire to raise an adult with a generous heart.