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raising kids

For me, raising children—whether it be dealing with a tiny baby or seeing your twenty-five year old develop year by year—has been the most exciting and rewarding thing I have ever done

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Kids Stuff

Kids Stuff

A child is born. The waiting and planning, the exercises for birth, the hoping that everything will be all right has finished. Parenthood begins. Oh my God - where do we go from here..? The task ahead seems monumental and you feel completely inadequate in the face of what is required. One moment you are filled with tenderness and wonder as your baby's tiny hand grasps your little finger in complete trust. The next you wish the thing would go away and leave you in peace. Why didn't somebody warn you that within the first three weeks, every item of clothing you own would be stained with baby vomit? Becoming a parent changes your life beyond all description. It could be years before you get another night's uninterrupted sleep. You learn about self-sacrifice for the first time in your life when a baby arrives. All at once everything revolves around caring for this tiny but determined creature who has entered your home, and finding the wisdom to do what is right for your child. There are so many unanswered questions. What do you do when he gets ill, or is unhappy? How do you feed him? Do you let him cry so he won't get spoiled, or do you see to his every wish so he won't be scarred by neglect? Welcome to the world of parenthood. Take heart. You are not alone in your confusion. Now for the good news: the task of raising a child is not as difficult as all the doctors and psychologists would have us believe - especially if you decide to raise a Nature's child. child rearing by the rules A few years ago I had lunch with a beautiful and successful American woman in her mid thirties. Sooner or later the conversation got around - as it often does with me - to children. This woman told me that she had a five year old daughter. I asked her if it was difficult living and working in New York while raising a child on her own. She replied that it had been hard but that now it should get better since she and her little girl were going to parenting classes. `Parenting classes,' I asked, `whatever are they?' `You know, where you learn how to be a parent. We go twice a week together,' she reported with enthusiasm. Curious about what was taught in these new programs, and at the same time suppressing a smile at the latest American attempt to package up something as rich and complex as parenthood and spoon feed it to clients well heeled enough to afford the indulgence, I asked, `What do they teach you?' `Oh, they teach you everything!' she replied, sweeping her hand across the table in a way that makes British head waiters loathe American clients. `For instance, when your child goes to pick up something from the coffee table that you don't want her to have, you must never be negative,' she said. `Negativity is not good for children,' she added, leaning closer in a conspiratorial fashion. `So instead of saying, "No, no," which might crush your child's spirit, you say, "Now darling that is a no, but this is a yes (pointing to other objects near by), and this is a yes and this is a yes."' forget perfect parenting I have little patience with such practices - nor do I believe there are a lot of set rules to follow to raise a child well. That is because, like a lot of seasoned parents, I have learned about parenthood the hard way. When my first child was born I was determined to bring him up right - not to make the mistakes that my parents had made with me, to ensure that he developed quickly both physically and mentally, and that he turned into the kind of person that I thought he should be. I worked hard at it. I read everything I could get my hands on about child development - all the latest theories and all the traditional wisdom. No time or expense was to be spared in bringing up this child. He would be breast-fed, disciplined, and taught to read by the time he was a year old using special equipment designed for the task. I would instill in him a strong sense of moral rectitude and good manners, and he would be given every kind of educational toy I could lay my hands on to help develop his creativity. Also I would never lose my temper, always be patient and kind (but firm of course) and make sure he didn't watch too much television. My master plan for child rearing might have sounded good on paper, but it had a couple of big drawbacks. First, no human being could ever have carried it out. Second, it completely ignored the most important truth there is about child rearing - a truth which I did not myself come to know until I had two or three more children under my belt. It is this: You don't have to read a thousand books and follow a lot of rules the so-called experts make up to raise a healthy, happy, creative child. You only need to learn to trust in yourself and in the incredible powers of Nature. You also need to develop the art of listening - with your heart and mind and instincts as well as your ears - to your child. Most of the time he will tell you what you need to know. Once I finally figured this out - many tried and failed strategies down the road - I let go of my anxieties and theories. Then motherhood became not only a joy for me but a source of never-ending wonder. I discovered that each child - not only my own children but boys and girls with whom I worked as a nursery school teacher, and others - is utterly unique and perfect in his or her own way. I also learned that one's relationship to a child has a life of its own and that, so long as you are willing to face each child honestly and openly day by day, and so long as you honor and respect this relationship, not only does this empower you to give the best guidance and care for the child, in some magic way which I still don't fully understand, it can even help heal deep emotional wounds within you as a parent. Most important of all, I discovered that the whole idea of perfect parenthood is a big fraud. There ain't nothing perfect when it comes to parenthood. Perfect by who's criteria anyway? The sooner you accept this fact, the sooner you can get down to the business of child rearing and enjoying it. For me, raising children - whether it be dealing with a tiny baby or seeing your twenty-five year old develop year by year - has been the most exciting and rewarding thing I have ever done - or ever hope to do.

How To Raise A Nature's Child

How To Raise A Nature's Child

The most rewarding thing I’ve ever done was giving birth to four children and learning how to be a successful mother.  "Your children are not your children," the Lebanese poet Kahil Gibran wrote. "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."   I love this quote, not only because—having brought up four children by four different men all on my own—I believe it’s  just about the most accurate description of parenthood I have ever heard.  It also emphasizes the 'lightness' that develops when we give up trying to be perfect, and come to trust the processes of Nature while feeding, healing, and guiding each of our children towards what works best for them at any moment in time.   Like the seed of a plant that has encoded within its genetic material the characteristics that will, in time, produce a full-grown flower, every baby comes into this world carrying a package of incredibly rich potential that encompasses his or her unique nature.  I call it seedpower.  It holds far greater physical, creative and spiritual energy than any of us could hope to experience in ten lifetimes.   Each child is like the brush stroke a zen painter makes to represent one leaf on a shaft of bamboo. The leaf he paints is totally singular—like no leaf that has ever existed before. Yet within this uniqueness, your child’s universal beauty is to be found, as well as life energy of the highest order.   When my first son Branton was born, I was 18 years old in university.  Like most parents, I had some harebrained idea that we parents need to mold our children from the outside.  We need to impose on them our ideas about what they should act like, think like, look like, and all the rest. Of course, this never works—but when we are young and naïve as I was, we just don’t know any better.   With a bit of luck, sooner or later we come to realize that what most certainly does work is not trying to mold a child at all, but listening to the whispers of each child's seedpower that comes from within. By doing this, we can respond to our children by offering whatever at any moment seems most useful to them, in the form of food, health, guidance, education and so on. This is infinitely easier and more successful all round.   Taking on the job of guardian for any child from birth to adulthood involves having to make 'contractual agreements', which of course must be re-negotiated from time to time as a child grows. Like every contract, the parent/child relationship is always a two-way deal. It has to be fair on both sides. It also has to nurture both people involved. How well your own contracts develop and how much joy there is for the both of you in fulfilling them depends to a great extent on how clearly the agreements between the two of you are understood. Let me show you what I mean.   In establishing 'contracts' with my own children, I was sure of a few things. First, I was committed to supplying them with wholesome food and clean surroundings, as well as physical warmth and safety. I also wanted them to have the right to their own opinions, even when they markedly differed from my own. In return, I expected them to appreciate the home, food and care I provided for them, although I knew it would never be perfect.  I also demanded that they be as honest and respectful of me and my decisions as their age would allow.   What I never asked of any of my children—and I think this is where so many parents go wrong—is that they love me. Trying to get into that particular agreement creates nothing but trouble. Whether or not your child loves you is fundamentally beside the point. Our responsibility as a parent is to use our best judgment and physical resources to help our child grow, and to discover his or her unique gifts.   Early on, I decided that I would try to do my best for my children, but they were stuck with me as a parent for better or for worse—complete with all my warts. And 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. Whenever some decision I made or action I took turned out to be wrong, I always owned up and asked for their forgiveness—just as I forgave them their mistakes.   What I discovered, quite by accident, was that there is a certain magic to all this. You see, when you decide to give up all claims to being a so-called 'good parent', or having your child love you, this creates a vast expanse of freedom for you both. What’s more, not only do children eventually end up loving you of their own accord, they develop a lot of respect for you—whether they agree with you or not. Most important of all, they come to feel safe, because they know that even though you can be unreasonable at times and unbending, your strength—on which they rely for security—remains uncorrupted by flattery or the kind of emotional blackmail which even very young children are masters at. In time, your children learn that your strength is there to serve them. It’s a discovery that can bring a sense of joy, even during the most challenging of times.   Now, of course, all my four children are grown up.  My daughter Susannah and I have written five books together.  My youngest son Aaron and I work together, developing internet sites which some say can be life-changing. My other two sons—Branton and Jesse—now have families of their own, including six unique and highly independent children.  This makes me a grandmother.  I adore all of them. But I confess that I am probably the world’s worst grandmother.  I don’t bake cookies, babysit or do any of the expected grandmotherly things. Why? Well, I loved being a mother more than anything in the world. But I’ve done that. So now my future belongs to me. I sense there are lots more adventures that lie ahead for me now.  I intend to be free to explore them.  What I find so wonderful is that all four of my children respect and understand where I’m coming from and, without judgment, bless me for just being who I am.

More Stuff Kids Done Taught Me

More Stuff Kids Done Taught Me

A few years ago I had lunch with a beautiful and successful American woman in her mid thirties. Sooner or later the conversation got around - as it often does with me - to children. This woman told me that she had a five year old daughter. I asked her if it was difficult living and working in New York while raising a child on her own. She replied that it had been hard but that now it should get better since she and her little girl were going to parenting classes. `Parenting classes,' I asked, `whatever are they?' `You know, where you learn how to be a parent. We go twice a week together,' she reported with enthusiasm. Curious about what was taught in these new programs, and at the same time suppressing a smile at the latest American attempt to package up something as rich and complex as parenthood and spoonfeed it to clients well-heeled enough to afford the indulgence, I asked, `What do they teach you?' `Oh, they teach you just everything’ she screeched, sweeping her hand across the table in a way that makes British head waiters loathe American clients. `For instance, when your child goes to pick up something from the coffee table which you don't want her to have you must never be negative,' she said. `Negativity is not good for children,' she added, leaning closer in a conspiratorial fashion. `So instead of saying, "No, no," which might crush your child's spirit, you say, "Now darling that is a no, but this is a yes (pointing to other objects near by), and this is a yes and this is a yes."' OUT OF PATIENCE I have little patience with such practices - nor do I believe there are a lot of set rules to follow to raise a child well. That is because, like a lot of seasoned parents, I have learned about parenthood the hard way. When my first child was born—more than fifty years ago now—I was determined to bring him up right: not to make the mistakes that my parents had made with me, to ensure that he developed quickly both physically and mentally, and that he turned into the kind of person that I thought he should be. I worked hard at it. I read everything I could get my hands on about child development - all the latest theories and all the traditional wisdom. No time or expense was to be spared in bringing up this child. He would be breast-fed, disciplined, and taught to read by the time he was a year old using special equipment designed for the task. I would instill in him a strong sense of moral rectitude and good manners and he would be given every kind of educational toy I could lay my hands on to help develop his creativity. Also I would never lose my temper, always be patient and kind (but firm of course) and make sure he didn't watch too much television. My master plan for child rearing might have sounded good on paper, but it had a couple of big drawbacks. First, no human being could ever have carried it out. Second, it completely ignored the most important truth there is about child rearing - a truth which I did not myself come to know until I had two or three more children under my belt. It is this: You don't have to read a thousand books and follow a lot of rules the so-called experts make up to raise a healthy, happy, creative child. You only need to learn to trust in yourself and in the incredible powers of Nature. You also need to develop the art of listening—with your heart and mind and instincts as well as your ears—to your child. Most of the time he will tell you what you need to know. TO HELL WITH “PERFECT PARENTING” Once I finally figured this out - many tried and failed strategies down the road - I let go of my anxieties and theories. Then motherhood became not only a joy for me but a source of never-ending wonder. I discovered that each child—not only my own children, but boys and girls with whom I worked as a nursery school teacher, and others—is utterly unique and perfect in his or her own way. I also learned that your relationship to a child has a life of its own. So long as you are willing to face each child honestly and openly day by day and so long as you honor and respect this relationship, not only does this empower you to give the best guidance and care for the child. In some magic way which I still don't fully understand, it can even help heal deep emotional wounds within you yourself as a learning parent. Most important of all I discovered that the whole idea of perfect parenthood is a big fraud. There ain't nothing perfect when it comes to parenthood. Perfect by whose criteria anyway? The sooner you accept this fact, the sooner you can get down to the business of child rearing and enjoying it. For me, raising children—whether it be dealing with a tiny baby or seeing your twenty-five year old develop year by year—has been the most exciting and rewarding thing I have ever done—or for that matter, ever hope to do. And as for the widespread belief that unless you have been well mothered while you were growing up you are doomed to be a bad mother yourself. It just ain’t so—no matter what those high falutin’ experts keep sayin’.

Nature's Child: Trust Their Appetite

Nature's Child: Trust Their Appetite

Parents get into the most ridiculous situations over their children's eating. Instead of trusting the wisdom of the child's body, they become anxious and try to force him to eat. The child rebels. The parent worries more, so instead of continuing to provide good simple wholesome foods he or she buys all sorts of specialty items in an attempt to seduce the child into eating more. The child learns that one way in which he can express his independence and wield power over the parent is to rebel. By then, a vicious circle has been established which produces a seriously fussy eater whose diet is unbalanced, whose behavior becomes erratic, and whose parents live in constant worry that their child is not getting properly nourished. Relax. Don't worry about how much your child is or isn't eating. Trust in his own seedpower and in his instinctive will to sustain himself. Provided you offer a good variety of natural homemade foods he will choose what he needs and be well nourished. Even if you have already got into the junk food syndrome with an older child who by now will take nothing but fish fingers, chips and chocolate-flavored breakfast cereal, believe it or not, it is not that difficult a trap to get out of. Clean out your fridge and your cupboards of all convenience foods and start serving good homemade soups, salads, sweets, plus whole grain cereals, breads and crackers instead. Chances are at first your child is going to turn up his nose at it all since all he has been accustomed to is munchy-crunchy crisps and sugary cereals. He eats nothing at a meal. OK, so you take it away, making sure he understands he will have nothing until the next meal. At his next meal you offer whatever else wholesome you have prepared. He may refuse that too. If he is hungry between meals, have a big bowl of fruit on the table which he can choose from (provided he is old enough to choose for himself). If he is also old enough to understand, tell him why you have thrown out the convenience foods - help him to realize that you have come to understand that for him to grow up big and strong and happy - as well as for you to remain well, for his sake - you both need better foods than you have been having until now - that you too, in fact the whole family, needs better foods - and therefore you have decided to change things. The wonderful life force out of which he is growing and learning day by day will not let him or you down. In a day or two he will get hungry and begin to devour some of what you sit in front of him. As his palate and his body become accustomed to the flavors of good foods, and as his body becomes cleansed of addictive convenience stuff he will take more. Offered only good wholesome foods and left to his own appetites to decide how much he will eat at any one time, children's food consumption varies enormously both from day to day and month to month. Children raised this way will go through periods when food is the furthest thing from their mind and others when they can't seem to get enough even on three or four big meals a day. Periods of heavy eating in most children coincide with growth spurts. When you see one come on in your child, you can be pretty sure that you will have to do some shopping for new clothes before long, since those trousers are likely to be two inches above the ankles very quickly. Never use food as a reward or a bribe of any kind. This after all is not what food is all about. It is about nourishment and pleasure. When parents try to make it play other roles, this invariably involves them in hidden agendas with their children which are not helpful to either side, and certainly don't support high level health nor the growth of children's independence and freedom. Here are some simple guidelines for feeding Nature's child well right from the beginning.  The important thing is to build your own menus around what you yourself like best and then share your enthusiasm with your growing child.  Enthusiasm tends to be contagious. The Health Makers Fresh fruits, especially eaten raw Fresh vegetables, preferably organic - especially eaten raw Gluten-free breads and pastas 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 Cheeses such as cottage cheese, ricotta and Edam in moderate quantities (provided no milk allergies are present) Dried fruits (naturally dried, not sulphur 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 White pasta Sugar and anything containing it Biscuits made from white flour Jelly Jams Tinned fruits Packet and tinned soups Chips Crisps Fizzy drinks which contain 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

Wow Love Is Real

Wow Love Is Real

My first child was born in a huge teaching hospital in Los Angeles. The labor was long and regrettably not natural. I was given an analgesic during labor and an epidural for the delivery. It was all very cold, efficient and mechanical. The hospital I was in happened to be a Catholic one in which every other woman there seemed already to know the ropes since she was giving birth to her fifth or eighth or tenth child. Nobody bothered to tell me much about what was going on or what was expected of me. My baby was taken from me immediately after the birth and put into a nursery with all of the other babies while I was wheeled off to a private room. Soon they brought this tiny creature to me. I held him in my arms and stared at him in stark wonder. Then at three hourly intervals he would reappear for twenty minutes at a time and I'd hold him in bed beside me until the nurse would come and take him away again. The third or fourth time they brought him to me, he began to cry. I nestled him, rocked him, and spoke gently to him but he wouldn't stop so I rang for the nurse. `My baby's crying,' I said, `What should I do?' `Have you burped him?' `Burped him?' `You have fed him haven't you?' `Fed him? Am I supposed to feed him?` The nurse took him and put him to my breast. His tiny mouth opened and reached for me as if he had known forever what to do. He began to suck with such force it took my breath away. It was like being attached to a vacuum cleaner. I began to laugh. I couldn't help myself. It seemed incredible that such a tiny creature could have such power and determination. He too had a purpose. He was raw, insistent and real. With every fiber of his being, this child was drawing his life and he would not be denied. Tears of joy ran shamelessly down my cheeks while he sucked. There in the midst of all that clinical green and white, I had discovered what love was all about. It was really quite simple—a meeting of two beings. The age, the sex, the relationship didn't matter. That day two creatures--he and I—had met. We touched each other in utter honesty and simplicity. This experience was for me a true epiphany. My life was forever altered by it. There was nothing romantic or solemn about it. No obligations, no duties, no fancy games, and you didn't have to read an encyclopedia of baby care to experience it. We'd met, just that. Somewhere in spirit we were friends. I knew beyond all doubt that I had found something real and real it has remained.

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.

Re-discovering Life

Re-discovering Life

I think maybe I know what's wrong with you.' `What?' I asked skeptically. `You're always thinking about such serious things. You're always telling yourself what to do and what not to do. No wonder you're angry. You've forgotten how to have fun, Mummy. One day in summer, everything seemed to go wrong for me. For no apparent reason I awakened in the morning with the awful feeling that nothing was worthwhile. At 10am I received a telegram from a publisher saying that two manuscripts (of which I had no copies) had been lost in the mail. By noon not even the brilliance of California sunshine (where we were on holiday at the time) could shake off the heavy black cloud that surrounded me. I was angry with myself - and trying to avoid being angry with everyone else. My two younger children, Jesse, aged eight, and Susannah, ten, kept asking me to take them to the beach. I didn't want to go anywhere, especially the beach. I did not want to do anything for anyone. Finally, in the worst possible spirit, I consented - making sure, of course, that they realized I was doing them a big favor. The pure white sand and the fresh sea air on the almost deserted beach did nothing to improve my mood. It seemed to me that life was `out there' and I was `in here' locked away in the depths of the gloomy dungeon I'd built and was powerless to break out of. As the sun shone brighter and more beautiful, I grew steadily more gloomy. Finally I could stand it no longer. Despite the fact that the children were playing in the sand nearby and I didn't want to upset them, I broke down and cried. Susannah asked what was wrong. `I don't know, just about everything seems wrong at the moment,' I whined. `I feel like that sometimes,' Jesse said, offering no sympathy whatsoever. `I think you must be angry.' `So what if I am?' I snapped. `Why don't you hit something?' he suggested. `There's nothing to hit,' I replied irritably, `and anyway that's stupid.' `No, it's not,' Susannah chimed in. `It will make you feel ever so much better, Mummy. Or maybe you could growl like a dog.' I was willing to try anything. So, feeling like a complete fool and admonishing myself for behaving so stupidly in front of my own children, I growled and complained. I hated everyone, I said. I hated myself. I was lonely and I felt the whole world was stupid. Then I growled some more while the two of them sat listening silently. Not once did they try to console me, or tell me I was wrong or protest that the world was really a lovely place to love. Not once did they pass judgment on me or make me feel ashamed of myself or foolish. They just sat and waited. Finally I felt a little better. Jesse had been right, I thought, but I still had no idea where to go from here. At last I was quiet. Only then did Susannah say, `I think maybe I know what's wrong with you.' `What?' I asked skeptically. `You're always thinking about such serious things. You're always telling yourself what to do and what not to do. No wonder you're angry. You've forgotten how to have fun, Mummy.' She was certainly right. Having fun seemed as far away as the moon at that moment. I realized then, that for several months I had saddled myself with my work as if work were the only thing that mattered. I'd hated almost every minute of it but had felt proud of being such a `responsible adult.' `Maybe you're right,' I replied. `But how does somebody who's forgotten something so important remember it?' `Come on, let's dig a hole,' was her reply. `Yeah, I like holes,' Jesse chimed in. Feeling like a half-frozen hippopotamus, I lifted myself off the towel and mechanically moved toward the site they'd chosen for the hole. I started to dig. Jesse, who tended to act a bit of a clown, was soon sliding down into it and Susannah was snapping at him for `ruining the shape.' I looked at the two of them fiercely sneering at each other and saw myself as I had been just a few minutes before. I began to laugh. So did they. Before long we had a beautiful hole dug. It was probably the most beautiful hole you've ever seen... or so it seemed to me. We had a contest to see who was best at running up and leaping over it. Then we drew pictures in the sand and ran into the ice-cold water, splashing each other. By the time the first wave struck me, I, like the two of them, had become part of the sea and the sky. There was no more gloom and no more supercilious self-assurances that I was `doing the best thing.' I was alive again. Later that evening I thanked Jesse and Susannah for helping me and teaching me to have fun again. Then in typical adult fashion, I added, `You know I'm likely to forget and be all grumbly again before long.' `That's all right,' replied Susannah, `we'll remind you.' And they have - again and again over the years.

Stages Of Unfolding

Stages Of Unfolding

The fact that your child's physical development is biologically timed to unfold is well known. His genes contain the information which directs this growth step by step. All healthy children get their baby teeth, twelve-year molars, and develop genital sexuality at roughly the same ages, irrespective of minor individual and cultural variations. Thanks to the work of Swiss biologist/psychologist Jean Piaget - who spent 45 years observing the growth of intelligence in children - American educator Joseph Chilton Pearce, and others, we now know that a similar development pattern exists for your child's intelligence, creativity and emotional life - his inner growth. For instance, there is a universal pattern in brain development and learning which researchers now agree constitutes a movement from the concrete to the abstract, from the physical to the mental, from an identity with matter to an identity with mind, which each child passes through as he matures. Through nearly half a century's study of hundreds of children, Piaget observed that, driven by some internal non-volitional power, at particular ages a child will interact with his outside world in archetypal ways, so that step by step, thought patterns within the brain become organized. Piaget traced four of these stages in the development of human thinking. The first takes place during the first two years of life. It is characterized by nonverbal interactions your child carries out with his world as he experiments with objects. During the second stage - between two and seven - the objects which your child perceives become related to words which he delights in manipulating, much in the way he previously experimented with physical things. At the third stage, around seven, yet another shift takes place as his brain starts to perform logical operations. He starts to classify objects by their similarities and their differences. In the final or fourth phase of childhood, from around the age of twelve onwards, your child begins to experiment with abstract concepts and formal logic so that even thinking itself becomes an exciting experimental game to him, until finally the process from the concrete experience of the toddler to the abstract thinking of an adult has become complete. brain growth These shifts in thinking processes which Piaget describes have a physiological basis in what is going on in your child's brain as he grows. Herman Epstein, biophysicist at Brandeis University in the United States, has shown that there are brain spurts during which a child's brain actually grows new biological material for learning. They, too, take place in all children at about the same ages. And all but one of these spurts coincide with what Piaget's calls `logical transitions'. These brain growth spurts are genetically predetermined, just as physical growth and intellectual development are. These events make up an integral system of genetic coding for the full development of the inner child - a development which, as educator Joseph Chilton Pearce says, takes place from one matrix to the next. One of the important implications of Piaget's findings is that your child's mind is capable of dealing with different kinds of thought and experience only when the relevant stage in his brain's development has been reached. Piaget says that it is useless to try and get a two year old to do abstract equations. As parents, what this means is that it is important to be aware of your child's pattern of inner unfolding, to trust it and to learn to work with it, instead of trying to force him to do or be what you think he should. Raising a child this way takes a lot of the pressure out of parenthood. It means you don't have to be dashing about buying a lot of early reading materials, or trying to turn your three year into a child prodigy to do your best for him. There is much evidence that when we do push him, we not only interfere with the ordered development of his inner life, we actually do him deep damage. matrix shifts Pearce's concept of a growth matrix is a very important idea to grasp if you are to help Nature's child realize his full potential. The Latin word for womb - a matrix - is a place where something is bred, produced, or developed. Your own womb was your child's first matrix. It provided him with the possibility for new life, energy for growth, and safety. But that was only the beginning. The biological plan for the development of his inner life - intelligence, emotions and creativity - had to be made up of a series of matrix formations and shifts. 'Each matrix shift is both a kind of birth because we move into greater possibilities' says Pearce, `and a kind of death because the old matrix must be given up in order to move into the new.' The infant in his first matrix - the uterus - needs about nine months, give or take a bit, to be ready for the first shift. After that, the newborn baby requires about another eight or nine months to structure a knowledge of his connection with his mother. This experience forms the core of his second matrix. Only when he has had it is he ready to move out to explore the third and larger matrix - the earth itself. Your child then needs some seven years more to structure a knowledge of this third matrix, and to shift from mother as `safe space' to the planet with all the physical objects it contains. And so it goes. At each matrix shift, in an ordered pattern of inner unfolding, your child's brain undergoes one of Epstein's brain spurts to make him ready for a new growth phase. Researchers studying these matrix shifts have found that they happen automatically from within at roughly the same time in all cultures in the world. What nature's `biological plan for growth' does not (indeed can not) take into account, is the failure of a child to develop at any particular stage. And that is where we can create serious problems for our children. Just as baby teeth poke through whether or not the nutritional support is there to make them strong, and genital sexuality appears whether or not your child or you yourself are ready for it, all these matrix shifts take place automatically and involuntarily whether or not the previous matrix has provided a proper medium for full development. Too often these days - indeed almost always, laments Pearce - it has not. matrix problems For instance, if a pregnant mother has been given drugs during pregnancy, or if she is chronically unhappy or anxious, then the chemicals and stress hormones produced by her body are shared with her fetus, placing the infant in a state of permanent bodily stress so that he cannot fully develop mentally and physically within his first matrix. But nature's biological plan waits for no man; there is no time for this chronic stress to be removed and its effects treated. So the first matrix shift takes place anyway, leaving the infant to cope as best he can. In such a situation, a child will be forced to use its intelligence not to interact with the new matrix and further develop, as it should be used, but only to compensate for his deficiencies - in effect, remaining behind in many ways, in order to try and get his basic patterns together. When if the first matrix formation is incomplete or insufficient, the next matrix formation will be doubly difficult for him to make, so that a child's young life becomes more and more jeopardized. If all of this is bad enough, eventually he can even become crippled mentally, emotionally and physically. He suffers from anxiety - considered to be the single most crushing influence on intelligence by modern psychology - instead of unfolding from within as nature programmed him to do. His compounded anguish expresses itself either immediately or later on as an adult, not only in limited intelligence and creativity, but by any number of symptoms from mild withdrawal or indifference to aggression, fear, feelings of hopelessness and meaninglessness or even in compulsively collecting things which ultimately don't fulfill him, whether they be physical objects, money or worldly power. prevention better than cure Once such damage has occurred, Pearce believes there is not a lot one can do to go back and repair it. This is what makes it essential for us as parents to understand the nature of each matrix, know when the shifts occur and be aware of what is needed by the child at each stage. For only then can we provide the medium - the periodically shifting environment in which nature's biological plan can work itself out to produce a highly intelligent, autonomous and strong adult. Such an environment is not just the modern, rather sentimental, notion of a `secure place' either. Each matrix has very specific requirements which are needed at that moment in time, not only for the child's emotional development but also for the physical development of his brain. Take the physical interaction with the mother in the second matrix, for instance, when the baby is held and caressed and when his cries are heeded. It provides him with a basic set of brain patterns through which the sensory information he receives can be organized into perceptions. The three areas of his brain - the reptilian primitive brain, the old mammalian mid brain and the cerebral cortex or new brain, with its various lobes and hemispheres - can all develop. At this matrix, the mother is the infant's world, his power, his possibility and his safe place to grow from. When he experiences this stage fully, he can move towards the next matrix shift not only with all the brain development which nature intends at that stage, but with a sense of confidence and power. The big commercial world out there and the hawkers of pop psychology would have you believe that as a parent, unless you buy the latest educational toy, or teach your child to read by the time he is three, you are not doing your best for him. Not only are such suggestions untrue, following them can lead you - however unknowingly - into pushing your child's development forward towards the next matrix before he is ready for it, overriding his own biological clock for unfolding. Yes, it is possible to teach a child toilet training at ten months old or have him read by the age of three. So what? You can also teach a lion to jump through hoops in a circus. But, in the light of Piaget, Pearce, and Epstein's work you may, with the best will in the world, be doing him more harm than good.

Principle Wholeness

Principle Wholeness

When it comes to food for this kind of total health, there is one basic principle to remember - the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Know this and you can stop worrying about all of the contradictory advice that is continually being thrown at us from the media about what you and your child should and shouldn't eat. The best foods are whole foods - fresh natural foods - such as fruits and vegetables (preferably organically grown), pulses, whole grains, eggs, a few dairy products. Whole foods have not had every nutrient refined or processed out of them, neither do they come swimming in syrup or emulsified in junk fats. They arrive on your child's plate and enter his body just as Nature intended them, radiant with their own natural colors and textures and brimming with a complexity of structural information essential to maintaining a healthy body and balanced mind. Just what is this structural information? It is something you will find mentioned in few books on nutrition. Yet in an understanding of it lies not only your ability to establish real health for yourself and your children, but an ability skillfully to support your child's seedpower - his individual nature - so that it unfolds beautifully as he grows. The term structural information was coined by an eminent Russian scientist - winner of the much coveted Lenin Prize For Science - Izrail Brekhman. He used it to describe the infinitely complex synergistic, energetic and chemical order in living plants and animals on which human beings must feed if they are to maintain high-level health. Living systems are unique in the universe. Unlike non-living things - from rocks to rubber hoses - they do not continually degrade and disintegrate as described by one of the most important laws of physics - the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Your own body and the body of your child defies this law. It avoids decaying into an inert state because it is able to assimilate energy from outside. Put simply, the better quality the energy it takes in, the more alive it will be. The very high order of the sun's own electromagnetic energy is converted by plants through photosynthesis into material form, then stored in complex ways. This high order of structural information is embodied in the healthy plant as it comes out of the ground - a fruit or vegetable, pulse or grain. It is the embodiment of its wholeness - implicit in the plant's structure. The plant (or the animal which has fed on the plant) brings to the person who eats it a high degree of structural information - living energetic order - which makes him able to resist degeneration, simply because its wholeness has not been degraded by processing, fractionation or chemical distortion. Nobel Laureate, physicist Erwin Schrodinger, put it another way. He says that for a person to stay really healthy he needs to drink order from his environment. This is exactly what your baby or child fed on wholesome natural food does. The more order he drinks, the more support you are giving him for balanced high-level health and growth - in every way. drinking order For it is not only nutrients in a food which can be measured chemically - vitamins, minerals, protein etc - that are important for health. It is also the complexity of the way these, and other, as yet unidentified factors - positive and negative magnetic fields and subtle energies for instance - are present and combined in a particular food that matter. Processing foods not only destroys vitamins and minerals (which cannot be adequately added afterwards despite what food manufacturers would have us believe) it disrupts its structural information, impeding or destroying a food's ability to carry life energy into the body and brain of the child who eats it. Feeding your child on such foods year after year - convenience cereals, white bread and pasta, refined sugar, phony snacks and drinks full of chemical flavorings, colorings and preservatives - steadily degrades the natural order of his own body and mind, creating a poor seedbed for his growth and inner development. It also lowers his immunity, making him susceptible to illness, and contributes to the kind of mental and emotional imbalance which is becoming endemic amongst kids in our society who are being raised on junk foods. At the core of hyperactivity and many emotional problems you see in children lies this inability of the ready-made frozen foods, drinks, chips cooked in junk fats and poor quality school dinners to offer a child order - the structural information needed for sustained physical and emotional balance. Chemical additives, food colorings and flavorings, hydrogenated `junk' fats - they are all products of a multi-billion pound food industry whose main purpose is not to serve your health, but to fill its own coffers at your expense. They are a poor excuse for good food. As an experiment, a biochemist at the University of Georgia bought one of the new munchy-crunchy children's cereals. He emulsified both the box and the cereal, then fed one white rat the box and another the cereal. The rat that ate the box thrived. The other did not. So poor is the quality of our common convenience foods that the packaging can sometimes be nutritionally superior to the food it contains. Foods grown on healthy soils (preferably organic) and eaten as close as possible to their natural state offer your child the highest quality of structural information. There are two major concerns which parents voice about feeding their children. The first is the question of cost, and the second is the question of time. Contrary to popular belief, feeding a family on good natural food - fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grain cereals and breads, pulses and so forth (whether or not you choose to eat meat and fish) - is far cheaper than relying on the poor quality, prepackaged convenience foods a lot of mothers use these days. A pound of good boiling potatoes is fifty times less expensive than the same quantity of potatoes made into crisps. Growing your own sprouted seeds and grains is very cheap. It can be done in a couple of old jam jars in your kitchen, and kids love helping, since these little plants grow so quickly. Sprout a seed, and within three or four days you will have increased its vitamin C content as much as 600 percent. Like home grown organic vegetables, these little powerhouses for health are not only delicious, they are some of the healthiest foods you can feed any child. As far as time is concerned, I have never found that it takes a lot more time to prepare meals from scratch using natural foods than it does to dish out their poor relations - convenience foods. A hearty homemade soup based on brown rice and vegetables, with pulses or a bit of meat or fish, is one of the best whole meals you can eat, and it is only a question of putting the ingredients into a pot and letting the stove get on with it. Besides, kids love to cook. Involve your children in food preparation from the time they are very small. They love it. I have always used the opportunity of us being together in the kitchen to explain to them about the goodness and bounty of foods and about why I don't let them eat sweets and mass market drinks and junk foods, and to help them become aware of the way in which television and magazines are continually trying to sell kids and parents foods which are not really going to do good for them. I believe it is important that, right from the beginning, children are made to understand the ways in which our highly commercial society tends to exploit human beings and that such exploitation needs to be resisted if they are to live out the truth of who they are. You will be surprised at how savvy even very young children can come to be about such things.

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Yesterday’s Average Daily Weight Loss:

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