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“Through your eyes…” Parenting is the best life-long learning experience in the world

Written by Chronicle Staff. Posted in Featured, Health & Wellness

Published on September 24, 2019 with No Comments

By Linda Long, Director of Operations

Hilltop Neighborhood House

Linda Long was a volunteer for Hilltop prior to becoming its Director of Operations in fall 2018. She has been a longtime supporter of the Hilltop neighborhood since coming to Valparaiso as a student in the 1970s. She is a graduate of the University as well as its law school, University of Chicago and Northwestern. She brings her experience as a parent of five children, teacher, attorney, consultant and ecclesiastical officer to Hilltop.

Who do you see when you look at children in your family circle? Reflections of you?  Visions of who they may be someday?  Sprouts growing into trees?  Strangers who live with you?  All of those? Parenting is an active verb, and never easy.  But it’s the best life-long learning experience in the world.  And working daily in early childhood education keeps me learning long after my own children have grown.  “Parents as Teachers” is not only the name of an excellent local program, but a core perspective for parenting.  Sometimes lessons from preschoolers inform parenting young adults and mid-career professionals as well.

Tina Payne Bryson brought me new, useful thinking this summer through her presentation in our community sponsored by Porter Starke on The Yes Brain, her book with Daniel Siegel.  Solidly based upon neuroscience, she teaches complex concepts in memorable sound bites:

  • We want to build up our “Yes Brain”as parents, teachers and children to be more open to new experiences, relatable, curious, resilient, relying upon our maturing inner sense of right and wrong.
  • We want to reduce our “No Brain”that reacts with fear, rigidity, requires external approval, focuses on pleasing others.

How do we cultivate more Yes Brain and less No Brain?  Her keys are balance, resilience, insight and empathy.  But how?  Where do you sense a need to pay attention?

  • Get enough sleep - parents and children.  How simple, but backed by neuroscience.
  • Keep a balanced schedule– time for play, work, shared meals, cuddling, restful sleep.
  • Look for the unspoken messagesin bad behavior, then respond in a way to build better skills.  Perhaps “use your words” or “what are other choices?” or “what do you think should happen next?”
  • Own your own emotionsand invite others to do the same, i.e. “I feel sad when I see you hurting yourself and your friends with words” instead of “You make me mad when you don’t do as I say!”  Would a shift in perspective from being a victim to being empowered with words or options for other actions make a difference?
  • Model self-insight, reflect on your own thoughts, feelings and behaviors in order to invite and teach your children to do the same.  She says, “The power is in the pausethat lets us choosehow we respond to a situation.”  It gives time for thoughts and choice to manage behaviors, rather than being driven by emotion alone.
  • Remember that “me” is also part of “we.”  In spite of striving for individuality, we are all connected.  Paying attention to the perspective of others and caring enough about community to use positive words and caring actions to make a difference is good parenting.  It may even help us get past our stuck places in troubled relationships or world politics.

Linda Long was a volunteer for Hilltop prior to becoming its Director of Operations in fall 2018.  She has been a longtime supporter of the Hilltop neighborhood since coming to Valparaiso as a student in the 1970s.  She is a graduate of the University as well as its law school, University of Chicago and Northwestern.  She brings her experience as a parent of five children, teacher, attorney, consultant and ecclesiastical officer to Hilltop.

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