PROMOTING PEACE: Parenting Tools
It seems almost unnatural to reach out during a heated moment, a moment of yes-no polarization, a moment when you are about to get your way, a moment when you do not want to give an inch! But that is the perfect time to do so. Use the heat of the moment as your guide: that’s the time to reconnect, not to try to get your way. It is within you to reach beyond personality, beyond fear and shame, beyond that particular moment that seems so fueled by importance. As you reach, one Goddess to another, do so with this understanding: we are stronger when united. We can create peace on Earth, right here, right now. And if mothers and daughters can’t create peace in any given moment, who can?
When Lily was 13 my hair was uncool, my jeans were uncool, her phone was more fascinating than my voice. Her friends spoke an irresistible language that was better than mine. She occasionally found it impossible not to hurl an insult at me or use an inappropriate word. It would have been so easy, then and there, to simply ground her, remove her ice cream or computer privileges, or throw her phone over the fence. But through experience, having slowed myself down when it appeared she was so ungrateful that her only option was to lash out, I have realized that what she was really feeling was a lack of power. Right when she was becoming more independent and full of her own radiant energy, the truth was, I still had the ultimate power, as her mother, to say no, to thwart her efforts to become even more powerful. When I did, she still had the power to lash out at me.
Rather than reacting to the personal insult, I would reply as though she has just declared, “I feel powerless!” This disarmed her. She felt heard. There was nothing to fight against. (Later, when we were not so heated, I would remind her that personal insults, name calling, or kicking the interior of my car, were not permitted behavior.) Holding power does not have to involve wielding power over another person. Instead, it can mean empowerment. Power includes restraint over our own demonic need to lash out.
Lily learned that the moment she felt the heat of powerlessness, the acceleration of hatred toward me, her perceived captor, that it was best to just let go, to realize it was not about me, that she didn’t truly hate me, that she was just feeling frustrated, powerless, or thwarted. We practiced. And practiced. And practiced. And it worked. Together we learned to create peace, and that knowledge has extended into our other relationships.
HONOR THE GODDESS WITHIN
When mothers and daughters are in conflict with one another, the Divine Feminine energy we share is fragmented. Here’s where I suggest beginning: notice where, when, and why you want to control your daughter’s behavior. Does her behavior reflect poorly on you? Does her behavior matter to your spouse, or to your own parents or friends? To strangers? Do you want them to have a good impression of your connection with your daughter, or is it simply that you have an idea of how you want her to behave? Then, notice where she wants to control your behavior. Does your singing embarrass her? Is it your uncool outfit, your loud voice…or your too-quiet voice? Does she want you to do things or buy things that are against your inner voice? How does it feel to be tugged by your offspring?
Enlightened parenting is yogic. It involves being strong yet flexible. Being balanced. Releasing the need to struggle. Rejecting the use of fear or shame. Being an example of ease and grace and glow. It seeks mutual power and teaches independence. It can even mean enjoying the moment of conflict, because you know it will bring growth.
Here are five tools to help mothers become fully present and bring your heated moments back into alignment:
A CODE WORD. Decide on a red flag together. Choose a word or phrase that will yank you out of conflict and draw your attention. “Can we talk about it?” was ours. It worked wonders! We experimented to find the one that worked consistently and prevented a conflict from accelerating. We were in agreement that someone had to stop our conflicts from escalating, and we were the only two there, so it had to be one of us! Typically, Lily was the one who remembered to say the magic words.
The reward was inherent in the stopping. Rather than getting what either of us wanted in the moment, we got harmony, which we both acknowledged was more satisfying than anything we could have gained individually in any given moment.
DO-OVERS. Do-overs work best—and can even be fun--when the situation is not yet overheated, when one or the other realizes that the last words said or the words she is about to say may not be the most civil. In order for do-overs to work, both of you have to truly disregard whatever was just said and start all over. It won’t work if you’re invested in proving the other person wrong. It’s about letting go. It’s an offer for--and an acceptance of--a clean start, wiping the slate clean and beginning again. Do-overs were a fun addition to our interactions. If we noticed a disharmonic state beginning, we would simply request a do-over. It worked! When the ego is willing to let go of being powerful, the willing participants in a do-over are suffused with a euphoria that is unmatched by any “win” in a conflict.
Here’s a real-life example:
“What on EARTH have you been doing in here? You said you were going to do your homework!”
“Mom, do you want to have a do-over?”
“Ok, um…Lily, I see that you’ve taken an astonishing array of your clothes out of the closet and scattered them throughout your room. I’m worried you’ll never put them back.”
“After I finished my homework, I went through all my clothes so I can give some away. These are actually organized piles. They just don’t look like it to you.” Indeed.
COMMON GROUND. What do you and your daughter agree on? What disagree on? Asking this provides an opportunity to immediately find common ground, and its opposite. In seeking common ground, you recognize you are on the same side. Identifying the area of disagreement causes it to seem smaller and more manageable and provides time to cool down from the initial heat of the disagreement. Usually, our long-term intentions were aligned, but our paths to get there diverged. This tool worked when we both felt enflamed. It paved the way for compromise.
KEY QUESTION. In a “yes-no fight,” as Lily called them, she recommends daughters ask a key question: “Is there anything I could do or say that would make you say yes?” It’s a reframing. If I say yes, I am not saying yes to her desire; I am just committing to consider. But it’s a yes that can feel good to both parties. With this question, I hear Lily saying, “I am willing to put in some effort in order to get what I want,” and I am thrilled that she is going to stop urgently pressuring me to say yes, and actually do something to move the discussion along smoothly. The question itself is empowering. It made Lily feel less a victim of my inherent power, and more like a director of her own life. Introducing this question into your daughter’s life will be mutually empowering.
TIME-OUT. Remember toddler “time-outs”? Announce a time out for yourself the minute you feel yourself going down a familiar path of reaction. Take a moment to disengage from what your daughter is doing or feeling. If you have been practicing breathing and connecting through yoga or meditation, this is merely the next step. It may be difficult, but by simply announcing, “I need a time-out!” you pull yourself out of your usual reaction. Announce in advance, in a peaceful moment, that you are going to do something new: a mother’s time-out. Ask your daughter to respect it by allowing it to unfold without protest. Assure her that it will help you both. During your time-out, evaluate whether you had been using fear, shame, or control, and remind yourself that you don’t want her to learn to be controlled with these old-paradigm mechanisms of manipulation.
Our daughters are more evolved than we were at their age, and they are inhabiting a different world. In today’s world, the most valuable parenting tool is your own consciousness. From that place, teach your daughter that she is Divine, and a powerful creator. For both mothers and daughters, this knowledge is the ultimate empowerment. Enlightenment is simply knowing that you have a choice from this moment to the next—and therein lies the power to consciously create a peaceful and loving environment and secure, loving relationships. If you are tempted to start a MoonBeams mother-daughter circle of your own, please reach out.