Sunday, April 11, 2021

Where it Began Part Three: PARENTING TOOLS

 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. Or perhaps my voice was uncool. 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 (honestly the most tempting of those options). 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 actually 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, what she retained was...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.


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. Like yoga, 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. (I recommend using a single word, if possible.) 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 do you disagree on? Asking these questions 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.

TOOL #4 

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 to that question, I am not saying yes to her request; I am just committing to consider it. 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.

TOOL #5:

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. 

Where it Began Part Two: POWER DYNAMICS


Together, Lily and I consciously designed a paradigm for our relationship in which I was neither unbending authority nor permissive friend. Like the connection that began with her massage, our paradigm evolved as we evolved. I was thrilled that it paid dividends when she was in adolescence, and we’ve been teaching mothers and daughters to create their own paradigms in our MoonBeams Mother-Daughter Circles ever since. At first I felt unmoored, but my temporary discomfort was worth it. Be patient. It’s a process.

As Lily embarked on being a teenager, when I was asked by friends and well-meaning strangers if it had gotten harder yet, I replied that it was actually getting easier! We had created a groove using this premise: we are souls on a path together, linked permanently, and we can make our journey pleasant or unpleasant, as long as we both know we have a choice in every moment. Enlightenment simply means having a choice.


Gradually, I had to give up the power that had taken me ten years to accrue. I practiced letting go of needing to be right, needing to have the last word. I had to invent ways of smoothly releasing my power in a way that felt comfortable to both of us. I had let go of thinking I needed to teach Lily a critical life lesson during the hectic five minutes before we left for school. But I was motivated by my observation that letting go worked! Magically, after our mutual willingness to let go in any given inflamed moment, magically, we would have a moment later that evening during which she or I would remember our earlier firey episode and say, “Can we talk about it? How can we do it differently next time?” 

It truly was a miracle. I had an emotional, talkative, and occasionally offensive teenager. We were allowed to be mad at each other, but we were not allowed to blame each other, intend to hurt each other, or call each other names. And as a mother, I had to release any notion that using shame or fear to get her to behave was helpful. And, in retrospect, I see that it taught my daughter not to be susceptible to other people’s use of shame or fear to get her to do what they want her to do.

Letting go of power meant disengaging my will—right when Lily was starting to grow hers. It was almost counterintuitive. But that’s because the old script says that when the other team gets stronger, you fight even harder. 

(Look where that’s led the world.) 

We practiced—and practiced—letting go during times of conflict. It was much more difficult for me, because I had been practicing the art of holding on, of digging in, for 40-something years! I like to get my way! I have a habit of holding on to an argument—because I’m right!  Lily has inherited her share of right-ness as well, but she was more willing, in the heat and drama and attachment and escalation and resistance, to be the one to say, “Mom, let’s not do this.” She never felt like she was giving in or giving up power. This path appealed to her because it was fun and rewarding to do things in a different way.

Together we realized beyond a doubt that the only way anyone actually won was if we both let go, if we both released that ancient and undesirable feeling of digging in, of getting our way. On a larger scale, if we can’t surrender to peace in a mother-daughter relationship, how can there be peace on Earth? What would the world be like, in the future, if today’s kids learned to enjoy the peaceful art of surrender, if they learned that true power lies in mutual empowerment? Getting to the point where we truly know in each moment that we have a choice—and make a conscious one--has been our very gratifying path. 

Something about the role of mother seems to necessitate using fear and shame as behavior control. But there is a moment when it stops working--or starts working…against you. I rejected shame and fear as discipline or motivation for Lily, and I encourage other mothers to reject it with their daughters too.

Eventually Lily and I reached a new stage:  recognizing the moment of potential conflict escalation. We came to know—from experience—the heated moment was summoning us to surrender to the beauty of that moment, to the joy that potentially awaited. Today, we don’t dig in our heels; we don’t gear up to win. Before a conflict even arises, we know we are both going to win. In an ironic twist, that moment of potential conflict brings with it an element of delight—the delight of surrender. It can happen with a glance in a crowded supermarket, or with a high five in our own kitchen.

CONTINUED in Part Three

Where it Began, Part One

When Lily was five and I was taking steps to leave her father, I attended a spiritual retreat in Sedona. There were two girls in that group who were accompanying their mothers, one nine, and the other four. I was taken by the dynamics between these mothers and their daughters—their relationship seemed much more solid than ours. In addition, I wouldn’t have dreamed of taking my daughter to a retreat! I was so impressed that these little girls could witness the adults’ spiritual growth, be present while adults made key discoveries and took important steps in their adult lives, and hold space with patience and reverence.

My daughter’s not like that, I thought.  And our relationship isn’t like theirs; it’s not as deep, not as close. She prefers her dad, I realized, with regret. For the past three years he had put her to bed every night, because I simply didn’t want to anymore. We spent every day together. I had breastfed for a good long time (some even said too long), and after that, my mothering day ended when her dad arrived home from work. I would make some dinner and leave to teach yoga, a vastly more interesting activity than giving a toddler a bath. Lily and I had a certain rapport, a certain respect for each other, but I had never realized the depth of what we didn’t have until I sat in that circle with those two mothers and their daughters. When it was my turn to speak, I opened my mouth to verbalize that epiphany, to tell the 40 other people in the circle what I wished I could create with my daughter, but instead of talking, I wept. I wasn’t merely moved to tears. I wept deeply, loudly, for what I didn’t have. In retrospect, I grieved. At the end of the retreat, my intention was to return home and create what I wanted. I had no idea how; I just knew what I wanted it to look and feel like. I arrived back in Chicago open to new possibilities.

As a yoga teacher, I begin by simply being present, by listening and feeling. As a mother, I began by listening to Lily’s words, and to the feelings beneath them, wondering how we’d embark on our new path of connection. To my surprise, when I became fully present, I sensed our connection needed…a massage. I had another epiphany: I’d been giving the best of what I had to offer to my yoga clients. After Lily had stopped breastfeeding, I had relinquished the bedtime ritual to her dad, or was simply willing Lily to sleep, on the rare occasions when he was out in the evening. I sensed that just a few minutes of physical connection at the end of the day would be a gift to my daughter, just like it was to my yoga clients.  

For Lily’s first massage, I warmed the lotion in my hands, then made smooth circles on her little back. Within the first minute, she lifted her head and gazed back at me in such surprise and wonder that I too had a moment of wonder: What had I done? Were my hands too cold?

“Mommy! This feels sooo good!” She was in awe of the glory of reverent touch! It was so easy--her back was tiny, my hands comparatively large, and the connection I wanted was growing already, nonverbally. In the midst of my weeping in the Sedona circle, I didn’t imagine it would be this easy, pleasant, and fast to create what I had longed for. Our relationship grew from there. It grew from listening, from being conscious, and from teaching Lily to be conscious, rather than obedient. When asked what my “parenting style” was, I called it “enlightened parenting.”


Enlightened parenting is not the easiest path. It is certainly not well worn. It would have been easier for me to go on autopilot and parent like I was parented, with unbending authority, flavored with anger and punctuated by shame. Oh, I’m pretty good at unbending, angry authority, but I knew that in this unyielding scenario, growing girls either have to sneak around, or get in trouble if they’re caught. For other mothers, it is even easier to do the opposite: just say yes, because it causes fewer conflicts and fewer tears and no policing. That becomes their default, because isn’t life easier with a happy daughter? It can be. But what about those times when “yes” simply isn’t an option?

Sometimes, afraid to stifle her daughter’s will, a mother lets her daughter do and have what she wants. But when daughter becomes a teenager, right when the stakes are highest, she doesn’t know how to set her own limits. The mother’s goal of having an empowered daughter—a daughter whose will is not stifled--is thwarted by the daughter herself: her will to get what she wants is overdeveloped, and has become stronger than her self-discipline, her inner voice. She rushes to get what she wants, because she’s used to it. In this scenario a teenager can find herself in situations for which she is not emotionally ready.

Wherever your default parenting setting lies on the spectrum from strict to permissive, the role of “mother” is thick with expectations. I remember a significant moment when Lily was nine. I had said something she disagreed with and began to walk away. Glancing back, I noticed an expression on her face that I’d never seen before, an expression that implied, maybe you’re not actually the smartest and most beautiful woman in the world. It was arresting. It felt like the foreshadowing of adolescence that all those well-meaning strangers had warned me about. How would we navigate that? I decided then and there to do it consciously, and with support. I looked around for books, for information, for support groups, and found none. I realized then that I would have to create them!