Kids These DaysJul 31, 2015 10:36PM ● By Mark Pirtle
"Kids these days.” How many times have we heard someone speak these words? How many times have we thought or spoken them ourselves? Adults are perfect projection machines—chastising children for their behavior while at the same time forgetting it is a reflection of our own. Every person is born with a unique temperament, however the environment of the home and culture radiates a powerfully influential force that molds them as well.
Children can be thought of as biological recording devices. They come into the world equipped to record and playback everything they experience. Children learn to feel, sit with and process their emotions only by modeling the emotional responses of those closest to them. They learn to speak kindly to others or not, depending on how kindly they are spoken to. They may learn to respect others and their feelings, but only if their own feelings are respected.
Likewise, children learn to become anxious, depressed, aggressive, distracted, impatient or disinterested through contact with others. A worrisome fact of our current medical system is that such “symptoms” are medicalized. There’s a pill for nearly every one of them. This misguided poly-pharmaceutical approach has no endgame. Pouring psychoactive chemicals into our kids is not the answer. Pills cannot take the place of an available, tuned-in, emotionally skillful parent.
Happily, there’s another alternative to taking our kids to the doctor. Humans never exhaust the capacity for growth and evolution. Meaning, grace is built into the practice of parenting. Progressing along the path toward positive change requires pulling oneself out of a routine, and learning something new. To change a child’s behavior, parents must start by working on themselves. When we learn to experience emotions more skillfully, speak more kindly and respectfully and be more compassionate, we’ll be perfectly enabled to model that skillfulness for our children.
Dr. Mark Pirtle is a meditation and mindfulness teacher who works in the recovery field. He contracts for Sierra Tucson and Miraval and is a faculty member for the Center of Integrative Medicine Fellowship Program at the University of Arizona. He teaches Skillfully Aware, a six-week class that teaches the brain science of emotional literacy and the practice of meditation and mindfulness. Connect at SkillfullyAware.com.