Updated: Sep 25
Mindfulness and Parenting: How Natural Justice and Mindfulness Interplay
This Weeks Video
One of my earliest recollections of becoming conceptually aware of the parent child dynamic, was as a teenager, while reading a poem by Kahlil Gibran which began with, “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.” This made sense given another piece of prose that my father shared with me in my youth.
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness, And not in utter nakedness, But trailing clouds of glory do we come From God, who is our home: Heaven lies about in our infancy!
from Ode-Intimations of Immortality by William Wordsworth (1802)
It’s when the child begins to understand that they are an “I” and not an “us” (the terrible ‘twos’) that the role of parenting goes from ‘challenging but cute’, to ‘challenging and where the hell did this monster come from?’ This is the time to introduce one of the most powerful parenting tools that can truly serve both you and your child, while honouring this idea that your children “are with you yet they belong not to you.” Natural Justice!
Some years ago, a distraught, stressed mother came to me to help resolve her stress through bodywork. Her 17-year-old son, for many years, had displayed disrespectful behaviour towards her and had ramped it up in his need to get the 100 hours driving time required as a learner driver. He was effectively bullying his mother. While ‘treating’ her, I introduced this idea of natural justice, which went like this.
I asked her if life-style diseases were a punishment or the natural consequence of poor lifestyle choices, to which she replied the latter. I explained that natural justice was just like that. Poor choices resulted in consequences. Better serving choices created better serving results. Touch a hot stove and you burn your finger. No one is punishing you, it’s the natural consequence of that decision. Sometimes we are fortunate enough that someone has helped us to become aware of the consequences of touching a hot stove, and being informed, we avoid getting hurt. But if we are ignorant to that piece of knowledge, we typically suffer the consequences quite naturally.
Bullying, like touching a hot stove, is all about ignorance. Burn your finger once and typically you’ll avoid doing it again. In the case of natural justice, continue to be a bully and suffer the ‘natural justice’ that accompanies that, and you’ll stop doing it. The challenge in this is working out what expression of natural justice can be applied to a behaviour, as in this case, bullying. This is where form and content need to be understood. The common denominator between the lad’s relationship to his mother and his relationship as a driver to other people on the road, is respect. These two diverse relationships dynamics are different forms of a common core issue, which is the need for respect. Respect is the content, his mother and driving are the forms in which it’s either expressed or isn’t.
To drive safely on the roads, one has to possess respect. Respect of the road rules, other drivers, driving conditions etc. because failure to be respectful will have consequences, possibly dire. If you can’t show respect on the roads, social justice demands that you lose your licence and lose the privilege to drive. I suggested to this mother that she could institute a similar approach to the lack of respect that he showed her. She could explain that since being a safe driver was grounded in respect, it would make sense that any lack of respect including what was shown to her would see him lose the privileged to drive, thus stopping him accumulating the hours he needed.
The beauty about this, it became in effect natural justice. She didn’t have to punish him, get upset at him or lose her peace. She established what the consequences would be if he was disrespectful to her and followed through. Be disrespectful once and you miss out on driving time for a day. Do it twice, three days, three times and it would be a week. She went on to define what respect was in this context, along with the consequences. The key here, as it is with all approaches to natural justice, it’s not meant be a punishment, just a natural consequence associated with the core content not the form.
Given a choice, the young man was no longer ignorant of his behaviour, he was in a position to be more mindful. As we say at EAP, true mindfulness is remembering that we have a choice to be more loving to ourselves, to others and to the planet. When something can be observed, only then can it change. When we function from ignorance, we suffer! Awareness, the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom that gives us a choice, stops our suffering. The young man was empowered to make better serving choices and the mother regained her peace. In fact, this experience was instrumental in totally changing the way this young guy related to his mum.
In finishing, I came across this picture on Facebook that I thought I would share...enjoy!
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