Everyone recognizes the increasing complexities of the culture and social structure in which we live today. In a flood of demands, parents feel embattled and frustrated. There are so many pressures that tend to weaken the family as the primary social structure for meeting the emotional needs of children.
Indeed, the world is such a busy place that many of us get caught up in the sheer busy-ness of it. Each day we rush around at great speeds trying to accomplish all the things that we feel we need to accomplish just to survive. At the end of the day, weary and tense, it is not easy to focus our attention on listening to our children.
Granted, our lives are full of technological devices which help us do everything with the greatest of ease, yet what is needed most is to bring order to the whole, to determine which goals are important, and to find realistic answers to the question "How can I raise my children properly?"
The essence of being a parent is to love your child, to be kind, compassionate, helpful and nurturing. Can there be anything more important in the world than our relationships with our children? Most of us desire harmony in our lives. But it seems as if circumstances are always intruding to make that impossible. Truly, the list of things that we are capable of being upset about is endless.
How can we feel peaceful inside no matter what is happening in the outside world?
The problems of the world - and they are chronicled daily in the headlines of violence and despair - can make any peace of mind disappear. Without peace of mind, there is no peace in facing the daily upsets involving a missed telephone message, a car that won't start, a bill that is too high, a problem with a colleague, or a child that won't settle down.
As a parent, you are free to choose either to accept or reject the values and methods of society. Is the priority to do what other people are doing, to conform to one's social circle? As long as others are doing it, must it be OK? Is it necessary to clamor for bigger, better and more?
It’s natural to want to live a comfortable life, without struggling financially. Everybody recognizes the need for basic requirements: decent shelter, transportation, food, and clothing. However, when having material possessions and spending money becomes a passionate endeavor in and of itself it does not necessarily improve the quality of life, or bring inner peace. One of the most surprising findings regarding human behavior is that beyond the basic needs, accumulation of money and material things do not appear to provide a corresponding increase in satisfaction and happiness.
In short, as societies become richer, they do not become happier. In fact, the opposite is true. People in the United States, Britain, continental Europe, and Japan have more things than they did fifty years ago, but surveys show that they are actually less happy. When the purpose of buying material goods is to create self-worth and personal happiness, it simply does not work. That is the paradox of living in a consumer-driven society.
Granted, money has power. With it, you can surround yourself with newer, bigger, better, and finer furnishings, clothing, and playthings. Money may also buy the envy of your peers or even fleeting friendship. Yet research has shown time and time again that what people need most, money cannot buy—the peace of mind that comes with moral values and meaningful pursuits.
Make an effort to escape the excessive materialism of our times. You need not purchase the latest toy, item of clothing, electronic gadget, or junk food. Children do not have to spend money that they don’t really have or buy things that they don’t really need. Don’t raise children who define their self-worth through possessions and have little or no ability to delay gratification.
Provide a little shelter from the “more is better” culture and reject the idea of creating stressed-out “super-kids” who are overscheduled with competitive activities and whose success is measured by achievement of goals that are not necessarily compatible with basic emotional enjoyment. Look for creative ways to expose children to music, literature, the arts, science, and nature without spending a lot of money. Parents can help their children reconnect to slower rhythms, nonmaterial simple pleasures, and the experience of creative, unstructured free play.
Are you available to make a major change in pursuit of peace?
Often the catalyst that makes people want to change is the sudden discovery that they can. There is awareness about new possibilities, which leads to further inquiry, a growing desire to transform, and a readiness to take action.
Admittedly, whenever we are faced with major changes in our lives, many strong emotions come up. For some of us, these emotions include a lot of fear, the concern that we will no longer be in control in areas of our lives that once seemed familiar and secure.
Yet for those others willing to let go of the fear, the changes bring much excitement, creativity and optimism.
You can change your relationship with your children by committing to peaceful communication. In fact, if your child is not behaving in a loving manner, this only means that your child is fearful and not feeling safe. Once you recognize that your child's "misbehavior", or "attacking" you, is really a call for help, then instead of defending yourself or attacking back, you can respond with love, no longer perpetuating the pattern of attack and defend. As such, you can identify conversations that have no possibilities – that is, conversations that do not lead to a peaceful future. Communications that are attacking and defensive keep us stuck in the vicious cycles of competition and confrontation.
Alleviating conflict in your family will satisfy your personal needs for a peaceful home, bringing the possibilities of compassion, love and kindness into your life and into the world. When a nurturing and loving mother is interacting with her well-fed, safe, and healthy child, their mutual joy and satisfaction show that opportunities for happiness are all around us, and that the ultimate goal of peace of mind is not as elusive as it often seems.