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parenting

In sickness and in health – such is the commitment to care, nurturing and to love that each parent makes towards a child.

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Eyes Of A Child

Eyes Of A Child

The greatest art any parent needs to develop to support the graceful unfolding of a child's unique seedpower is the art of listening. Not only can it help you learn from each child what you need to know at any moment in time to help heal, guide and nurture him, it can also help you rediscover the joy of living within yourself - a sense which we as busy, responsible adults so often lose. Children make the greatest teachers when we are willing to enter their worlds, lay aside our preconceived ideas and learn about how each of them views life. It is only in doing this that a real relationship develops between you and your child, and it is in honest and vital relationships that the power to rear Nature's child easily and gracefully lies. Looking at the world through the eyes of a child transforms humdrum reality into a magical land of the unexpected. It can also teach you a lot about how your child thinks and grows emotionally. `Cigars are fattening,' my eight-year-old son Jesse announced one day. `I know because all the men who smoke them are fat.' Children have incredible wit and freshness. Everything is new to them. The most trivial event can bring to a child the kind of pleasure we adults spend a lot of money searching for. But that's not all. In subtle ways, they are able to teach us truths that we might otherwise never learn. Once, when we were experiencing gale-force winds, five year old Jesse sat at the window watching what the wind did to the trees. Finally he turned to me and said, `Reflexible trees are stronger than ordinary trees. Do you think reflexible people are stronger than other people?' I was slow to answer as I couldn't imagine what he was talking about. `Jesse, what are reflexible trees?' I asked. `They're the kind that bend all the way to the ground when the wind blows instead of pushing against it,' he said. `The reflexible ones don't get cracked like the others.' `Yes,' I replied, `I guess you're right. Reflexible trees and reflexible people really are stronger than the rest.' Through thirty four years of motherhood, plus years working with young children in nursery school, I have never stopped learning from them. I know it is supposed to be the other way around - and I have always done my best to explain the intricacies of life to my children and pupils - but in the meantime, they have taught me lessons I won't soon forget: lessons in courtesy, humor, responsibility. They have shown me how to be angry and how to forgive, how to care for another and still demand my own right to separateness. Most of all, through knowing and watching them, I've begun learning how to love - an art that, on too many occasions during these years, I had almost forgotten.

Principle Guidelines

Principle Guidelines

The important thing is to build your own menus around what you yourself like best and then share your own enthusiasm with your growing child. Enthusiasm about anything tends to be contagious. the health makers Fresh fruits, especially eaten raw Fresh vegetables, preferably organic - especially eaten raw 100% whole grain bread and pastas - dark and delicious whole grain cereals such as porridge made from steel-cut oats, muesli and granola (but read the labels and watch out for hidden sugars) Fresh fruit and vegetable juices Pulses Low-fat cheeses like cottage cheese, ricotta and Edam in moderate quantities (provided no milk allergies are present) Dried fruits (naturally dried, not sulfur dried) such as raisins, dates, sultanas, apricots Nuts (make sure they are ground to a powder for young children) Free range eggs Fish Free range chicken Game Butter Olive oil the health breakers White bread, rolls, pastries and pies Pasta - spaghetti, macaroni, etc Sugar and anything containing it Biscuits made from white flour Jelly Jams Tinned fruits Packet and tinned soups Chips Crisps Fizzy drinks containing sugar or artificial sweeteners Greasy fried foods Chocolate and sweets Artificial fruit drinks Ice cream (except homemade) Margarine Processed oils such as the golden varieties you find on supermarket shelves.

Trust Yourself

Trust Yourself

It is important to realize that no matter how inadequate you feel, your best is likely to be better than anybody else's in raising your child, simply because he is your child. But you will not be perfect. Nobody ever was. You will make mistakes. So will your child. Mistake making and forgiveness on both sides needs to be worked into all agreements between you. It is important to remember that you are not here to sacrifice your life for the child, nor is he meant to sacrifice his for you. You are here to give the best you can, and to do what you believe is right, whether or not this or that particular thing happens to coincide with your child's own wishes. When a parent's relationship with his or her child is honest, without guilt, free of any need to be loved or approved of, then the conflicts that arise between you, instead of being destructive, become positive forces in the growth of your relationship - the child's moving toward independence, and your continuing to grow in confidence and self respect. Raising Nature's child by no means demands that you become a servant or slave. There will come times when you have to put your foot down. This may be the twenty-third time your baby throws his fluffy duck out of the play pen and shouts in a demanding way for you to pick it up and put it back in again. It may be later when your child steps off a curb without looking and you have to grab him by the shirt collar and yank him out of the way of an oncoming bus. Such occasions are no time for `parenting classes'. You have to trust your instincts and take action. He or she won't like it. That is too bad, because it is the right thing to do. I remember when my children first started going to the local church discos. I agreed that they could go but insisted that they be home by 10 o'clock. That was important to me. An early return from nights out was written into a lot of our agreements, probably because as a child I lived in a family where nobody cared what time I came home and I interpreted that to mean they didn't care about me. Each of us has our idiosyncrasies. `But Mummy,' my daughter used to say, `everybody gets to stay out until midnight - it's not fair.' `I am sorry Susannah,' I would reply, `I never said I would always be fair. I want you home by 10 o'clock. Frankly, I don't care in the least what everybody else gets to do. It is home at 10 or you don't go.' nurturing seedpower The remarkable thing about a seed is that you don't have to sit and watch it every minute, nor do you have to buy a lot of expensive paraphernalia to get it to grow beautifully. Far from it. You need to supply very little for a seed to develop into a good plant: some healthy earth; the sun - not too much or the young leaves will burn; enough water - again, not too much, or the seed will rot. These simple things create the environment in which, thanks to the inner wisdom of seedpower and of Nature herself, the tiny seed will develop steadily and gracefully into a full-blown flower. So it is with each baby. Your child is much like a small plant. It needs a safe, healthy environment which allows its unfolding to take place, and of course the trust of its guardian - namely you - in allowing this to happen. Coming to trust this power for unfolding in your own child, learning to listen with your intuition and mind and heart to what a child is telling you and making use of some simple techniques for feeding, encouraging play and creativity, and helping your child's body heal himself whenever he is ill, is about all it takes to nurture a child the gentle way. By doing so, you encourage the full development of an individual into whatever he or she is genetically and spiritually designed to become. It doesn't cost a lot of money and it doesn't require that you become some superhuman parent. cut out commercialism In our society, babies are big business. Television, newspapers, magazines - even the little pamphlets they give you free at mother and baby clinics - are full of advice about what you should do and information about products: from bottled baby foods, to special so-called educational toys - which, they tell you, you simply cannot be without if you are to raise a healthy, happy and well adjusted child (whatever that is). All of them have been created by special interest groups. So has a lot of the information about health, diet and child care that appears in the media. Its sources include drug companies intent upon selling immunization serums, purveyors of baby clothes and goods keen to enhance their profits, and baby food manufacturers determined to convince you the best foods for your child come in miniature glass jars. They are all designed to serve their own interests. And they all, to a greater or lesser degree, exploit parents. By preying on our fears of inadequacy and our desire to do the best we can for our children, they can make us feel powerless. Such propaganda not only induces you to spend a lot more money than you need to on a baby or child, it shifts the emphasis of parenthood away from the enormously rich, challenging and fascinating realm of relationship between you and your child, where it belongs, towards a goal of amassing a lot of material junk. I am often horrified by the quantities of shiny plastic rubbish modern parents can collect around their babies and children - toys that never get played with, clothes that never get worn and convenience foods which should never be eaten since they have little capacity to nourish any child. nurturing the seed What your child really needs is what every child in every culture throughout the world has needed for the last million years - simple wholesome food, physical warmth, play, the opportunity slowly and gently to learn about the world around him and about the culture into which he has been born, as well as a parent - or maybe two - who not only makes sure he is safe but delights in his presence. Many parents worry that having a baby will restrict their lives enormously by making them stay home all the time. It does for a while but it needn't always. Traveling with a baby who is breast-fed is just about the easiest thing in the world to do. All he needs is his mother plus a few nappies. He does not need the full range of newfangled travel gear from a slick baby shop. I have traveled with all my children - by car, by rail, by plane - all my life. I not only find it easy, I enjoy having their companionship - especially when you are stuck in some foreign city with no friends in one of those faceless hotel rooms. It is good then to have a friend. A Nature's Child can be just about the best friend you will ever have.

Nature's Child: Allergy Awareness

Nature's Child: Allergy Awareness

The curious thing about food sensitivities is that whatever a child happens to be allergic to, whether it be wheat or milk - the two most common culprits - or chocolate or what have you, he will have a craving for it. If a child is sensitive to, say, milk products, he will want more and more milk, yogurt, cream, butter and cheese. Here is how it works. By now, just about every parent knows that food colorings and flavorings in convenience foods, squashes and drinks have been implicated in the development of behavioral problems such as hyperactivity in children. This is another reason why they are best avoided. Food allergies have a similar effect on some children. Sometimes called a food sensitivity, intolerance to specific foods are increasing all the time largely, too, as a result of the mass consumption of highly processed foods. Such sensitivities can occur because a baby or child does not have the enzymes he needs to digest a certain food, because the total stress on his system is simply too high, or because his digestive system is confused and sensitized from feeding on junk foods. When you are allergic to a food on first contact you react negatively to it. If you use it continually, however, these first negative symptoms - such as catarrh or coughing, or behavior changes like banging the head or crying in children - become `masked' so they become less frequent. Instead you will develop a craving or addiction to the food. For so long as you continue to expose yourself to it, you can avoid much of the unpleasant allergic response you had first time round. This is such a strange and unexpected phenomenon that many parents are not even conscious that their children, who suffer constant catarrh or act out fear or aggression in their behavior, may be suffering from a food or chemical sensitivity. If you suspect your child is sensitive to something or if he demonstrates an inordinate desire for a particular food (i.e. addiction) try taking him off it altogether for a fortnight. See if his behavior changes or if his physical condition improves (but be prepared for it to get worse at first while the substance or food to which he is allergic is in the process of clearing from his system). Then you can try reintroducing it one day into his diet and see if this changes him. You may find that once you have helped him break the addiction/allergy bond to a particular food he will be able to eat the food, say once a week, with no problem. One of my sons is like this. He is allergic to milk products. If he takes them too often he develops the symptoms of a cold. However we have found he can have a bowl of yogurt or a piece of cheese once a week and get away with it. milk - not the perfect food A word about cow's milk. There is some long-standing assumption that to be healthy and to develop strong bones children have to drink plenty of it. This is not the case. Children eating a good mixed diet of fresh vegetables, whole grains, pulses and protein foods get plenty of calcium and protein. They do not need extra milk. Milk is highly mucous-forming, and tends to create a lot of catarrh in children - to some extent this may be because even the milk and milk products we buy these days are highly processed and by no means the same natural wholesome food our grandmothers went to the local farmer each morning to buy. Certainly if your child is ill, every tradition of natural health counsels not to give him milk or any milk products until he recovers. I have always found it good advice. I also find that using a lot of raw foods - for breakfasts, drinks, sandwich fillings and salads - helps protect children from frequent illnesses and encourages healing when illness strikes. Just in case you think children don't like salads, take a look at the recipe for what my youngest has dubbed `Spiderman Salad.' It is simple to make, delicious, and can be spread on toast or crackers.

Out Of The Mouth Of Babes

Out Of The Mouth Of Babes

Children are extraordinary people - neither the dewy-eyed little darlings we put on our Christmas cards nor the wild savages we fear will grow up to be criminals if not disciplined properly. And Nature's child is indeed wild - wild because he doesn't fit into our idea of what is and isn't done, wild because he hasn't learned the subtle art of concealment and hypocrisy we cultivate as adults, wild because no matter how much we try to make him conform to our will, if he is lucky he never will, so strongly directed from within is he by his own destiny. As adults, most of us can't help trying. When we try too hard, we succeed only in turning our children into the same hypocrites we ourselves have learned to be. It was a little girl named Jill - a freckle-faced, runny-nosed, redheaded three year old - and two of her nursery-school friends who first made me aware of my own hypocrisy. Jill and a friend were setting up an imaginary tea party. They had carefully laid the small table with battered plastic cups, filled the cracked teapot and put wadded-up pieces of paper in a paper cup for sugar cubes. During all of this the two girls chattered in obvious imitation of their mothers. `Who else is coming to tea?' asked Jill. `Oh, you know that awful old Mrs Simpson - the one who always has her hair in curlers,' replied her friend. `Do you know she doesn't even bother to put a coat over her nightgown when she goes out for the milk?' So the conversation went as the two girls, unaware that anyone was listening, prepared for their guest. When the table was all set, Jill leaned out the window and told a third little girl she could come to the party now. She entered the play house and was greeted with exclamations of: `Why, dear Mrs Simpson, how very nice of you to come. It is so lovely to see you.' I thought to myself how often a scene similar to the one I was witnessing takes place. I was trying to remember the last time I'd been guilty of this kind of two-faced behavior, when my thoughts were interrupted by `Mrs Simpson,' who had been seated at the table. Suddenly she rose, dumped her `tea' back into the cracked teapot, and said very slowly and deliberately: `I heard what you said about me from under the window, and I don't like it. I'm not going to be your old Mrs Simpson any more no matter how nice you are to me, so there!' Young children hate being patronized. They react strongly when someone is false with them. The less privileged the family background of the child, the easier it seems to be for him to see through superficial geniality - and the more demanding he becomes of true, undivided attention and real relationships with adults.

Nature's Child: Breakfast

Nature's Child: Breakfast

live muesli This recipe is similar to the original muesli developed by the famous Swiss physician, Max Bircher-Benner. Unlike packaged muesli, which usually contains too much sugar and is heavy and hard to digest, the bulk of this muesli is made up of fresh fruit. Kids love it. You can make it for yourself and for them. It also turns into a fine puree for a baby. 1-2 heaped tbsp oat flakes A handful of raisins or sultanas 1 apple or firm pear, grated or diced 2 tsp fresh orange juice 1 small banana, finely chopped 2 tbsp yoghurt - sheep's or goat's milk yogurt is excellent 1 tsp honey or stevia to taste 1 tbsp chopped nuts or sunflower seeds 1/2 tsp powdered cinnamon or ginger Soak the grain flakes overnight in a little water or fruit juice to help break the starch down into sugars, along with the raisins or sultanas. In the morning, combine the soaked grain flakes and raisins with the apple/pear and banana, and add the orange juice to prevent the fruit from browning and to aid digestion. Top with the yogurt, then drizzle with honey or a little stevia if desired. Sprinkle with chopped nuts or sunflower seeds and spices. Serves 2. You can prepare countless variations of Live Muesli by using different types of fresh fruit, such as strawberries, peaches, pitted cherries or pineapple, depending on what's available. When your choice of fresh fruit is limited, use soaked dried fruit, such as apricots, dates, more sultanas, figs or pears. For extra goodness, sprinkle the muesli with a tablespoon of wheatgerm. shakes Kids in a hurry love breakfast shakes. You simply put all the ingredients you want into a blender or food processor and whip them up in seconds to create a wholesome instant drink. A shake is easy to digest and packed with goodness - the ideal breakfast for instant and sustained energy. yogurt shake 1 cup plain yogurt 1 ripe banana a few drops vanilla essence 1 tsp honey or natural stevia to taste 1 tsp coconut (optional) Combine the ingredients thoroughly in a blender. As a variation try replacing the banana with a handful of berries, half a papaya or mango, or a few chunks of fresh pineapple. You can replace the yogurt with Soya milk too. nut milk (almond) Nut milks are simple to make, highly nutritious and easy to digest. They can replace cow's milk in certain dishes and can be made from various different nuts - cashews are particularly good, but you may find you need a little more water. Almond milk is my favorite. I remove the almond skins as they are rather bitter and contain a high quantity of prussic acid which should be avoided. Some people blanch the almonds first, but I find it easiest to prepare the milk with unskinned almonds and then strain it through a fine sieve or piece of cheesecloth to remove the skins and pulp. As a general rule you need 1 part nuts to 3 parts water. The quantities below serve 2. 1-11/2  cups almonds 4 cups water Honey or natural stevia to sweeten Dash of cinnamon or nutmeg Vanilla essence (optional) Combine almonds and water in your blender and process really well for a minute or so until the mixture is very smooth. Add the honey, cinnamon or nutmeg and vanilla. Strain and serve. As a variation, blend a ripe banana with the almond milk. nut milk shake For extra goodness add a tablespoon of wheatgerm, or the yolk of an egg, and blend well. 1/3 cup almonds (blanched) 2/3 cup water 5 pitted dates A few drops vanilla essence 1 tsp honey Blend the almonds and the water really well until the mixture is smooth. You can use unblanched almonds and strain the mixture at this point to remove the ground-up husks. Add the other ingredients and process well. Serve immediately. yogurt If you are using yogurt, why not try making your own? It's very simple and much cheaper than the bought variety, and doesn't require a lot of equipment either. The easiest way to make it is in a wide-mouthed flask, but an earthenware crock or dish kept in a warm place will do just as well. I use two methods - the traditional one where you warm your milk to blood heat, and a simplified method that calls for warm water and powdered skimmed milk. I prefer to use goat's milk to cow's because it is richer in vitamins and minerals, and because its fats are emulsified which makes it easier to digest. In fact, many people who are allergic to cow's milk can take goat's or sheep's milk quite comfortably. 2 pints (about a liter) milk (preferably goat's or sheep's) 2 heaped tablespoons plain natural yogurt (starter) Warm in a saucepan to just above blood heat. Pour into a flask or crock and add 2 heaped tablespoons of plain natural yogurt. This can be cow's or goat's yogurt, but it is important that it is live yogurt, and that it doesn't have any fruit or sugar in it. Read the label to be sure that it contains a real yogurt culture which is needed to transform the milk (lots of so-called yogurts don't). Stir the starter in well and replace the lid of the thermos flask. If you are using a non-insulated container, wrap it in a blanket and place it in an airing cupboard or on top of a radiator. If you have an Aga or Rayburn, place the dish on a wire cooling tray on top of it. Otherwise you can heat an oven for ten minutes as hot as it can go and then switch it off. Put the container inside and leave it, without opening the door, overnight. After 6-8 hours you will have cultured yogurt. Transfer the yogurt to the fridge and use if for muesli, drinks, soups, dressings, frozen desserts etc. You can then use this yogurt as the starter for your next batch and go on indefinitely. If your yogurt goes sour, you'll have to buy another starter and begin afresh. instant low-fat yogurt One of the very simplest methods for making yogurt is to use low-fat skimmed milk powder. Make up two pints (about a liter) of milk in a blender, using one and a half times the amount of powdered milk suggested on the packet. If you use boiling water from a kettle and add cold water to it you can get just the temperature of milk you need and don't have to bother heating your milk in a saucepan. Add the two tablespoons of plain yogurt as in the ordinary method and leave in a suitable container for about eight hours. If you want a really thick yogurt, e.g. for dips, simply add more skimmed milk powder when you make up the milk.

Inner Child

Inner Child

Children have astonishing potential for creativity built into their genes. In fact, the innate capacities of the human mind are almost limitless. Yet brain research shows that even when we grow up, we use only a small portion of the brain's capacity. And our society is peopled with children of all ages who have never fully grown up - never become whole - never experienced the joy of simply being who they are and the excitement of facing each day ahead as though it were their last. Why? Just as physical growth is determined through DNA coding, so does there appear to be a finely coordinated plan for each child's inner development - the growth of his intelligence and emotional reactions, and the expanding of his creativity. This too is all part of his own individual seedpower unfolding so it eventually comes into full flower. However, it is a plan of which most of us as parents are not only unaware, but which we often unknowingly disrupt - sometimes with disastrous results - from loss of discipline in our children and a greater incidence of brain damage and schizophrenia in childhood, to the growth in infantile autism and widespread aggression - all of which we see growing in the societies around us year by year. I believe that we will only begin to be able to deal with such problems once we understand a bit more about Nature's biological plan for a child's inner development, and have enough trust and respect to work with it rather than against it.

Child-Raising—Trust In Nature

Child-Raising—Trust In Nature

"Your children are not your children," wrote the Lebanese poet Kahil Gibran, "They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself...You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth." It is a quote I like, not only because—having raised four children by four different men on my own—I believe it to be just about the most accurate description of parenthood I have ever come across, but also because it emphasizes the 'lightness' which develops when you give up trying to be perfect and come to trust the processes of Nature—in feeding, in healing, in guiding you and your child towards what is best for his or her development at any moment in time. SEEDPOWER HAS WISDOM Like the seed of a plant that has encoded within its genetic material the characteristics that will in time produce the full-grown flower, every baby comes into this world carrying a package of as yet unrealized, but incredibly rich, potential. Within each child is nestled his or her very own brand of unique seedpower, encompassing far greater physical, creative and spiritual potential than he or she could realize in ten lifetimes. Your child is like the brush stroke the zen painter uses to represent one leaf on a shaft of bamboo. The leaf he paints is totally singular—like no leaf that has ever existed. Yet within this uniqueness is encompassed universal beauty and life energy of the highest order. Just as I tried to do with my first son, most conscientious parents try their best to mould their children from the outside by imposing upon them their own ideas about what they should act like, think like, look like and all the rest. Not only does it work a lot better the other way round—listening to the individual echoes of a child's own seedpower coming from within, and responding to it by offering whatever at any moment is most appropriate, in the form of food, health, guidance, education, toys and so forth—it is also infinitely easier. CONTRACTS HOLD A KEY Taking on the job of guardian for a child from birth to adulthood also involves making 'contractual agreements'—agreements which need to be re-negotiated from time to time. Like every contract, the parent/child relationship is always a two-way deal. It has to be fair on both sides and nurture both people involved. How well your own contracts develop and how much joy there is for both of you in living them will depend to a great extent on how clearly the agreements between you are understood. Let me show you what I mean. In establishing 'contracts' with my own children, I decided I wanted to supply them with wholesome food and clean surroundings, as well as physical warmth, safety, and the right to their own needs and opinions even if they differed from mine. In return I expected them to accept the home and food and care I provided even though it would never be perfect, and to be as honest, respectful of my decisions and as reasonable with me as their age would allow. What I would never ask of a child—and where so many parents, in my opinion, go wrong—is to ask that the child love me. Get into that contract and you automatically create trouble. For whether or not your child loves you is ultimately beside the point. Your responsibility is simply to use the best of your wisdom and physical resources to help that child grow. I decided long ago that I would do my best for my children always, but that they were stuck with me as a parent for better or for worse—complete with all my warts. I also decided that, while I didn't expect them to love me, I did expect them to know that whatever I did, I did because I believed it to be right. When some decision I made or action I took turned out to be wrong, I owned up and, where appropriate, asked for their forgiveness, just as I forgave them their mistakes. MAGIC HAPPENS I discovered quite by accident that there is a certain magic to all this. For when you genuinely give up all claim to being a 'good parent' or to having your child love you, you create a remarkable expanse of freedom for you both. In the end, not only do your children end up loving you of their own accord, they also respect you (even when they don't agree with you). Most important of all, they feel safe because they know that although at times you may seem unreasonable and unbending, your strength—on which they rely for security—remains uncorrupted by flattery or emotional blackmail (which even very young children can be very good at). They learn that your strength is there to serve them.

Nourishing Body & Soul

Nourishing Body & Soul

Being healthy means a lot more than just not being sick. A child that is healthy experiences a sense of grace in his life. He feels at ease. He has access to all of his being - his imagination, his intellect, his physical strength, and his ability to connect with the world around him through his senses. Buoyant health depends on there being a high degree of biochemical and emotional order in his life. These days, such order is not always easy to come by. It begins with the way you feed your child, and ends with creating structures for his day to day life that establish a safe arena - emotionally, physically and spiritually - in which he can operate. When you do, the child develops a sense of trust in himself, a huge resistance to illness, and a sense of real connection with his outside world as well as an excitement about his life and what is going to happen next. This is what real health is all about - nurturing Nature's child, body and soul.

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