#114 When Home Becomes a Holy Place

By Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

Our model of commitment, connection, and balance would never survive without the recognition of the intangible aspect of human souls and the indefinable structure that is created when they are joined as a family.

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#113 Achieving Balance in the Family

By Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

shutterstock_165104018The third element of our model, balance, is essential but difficult to achieve because it is also an action concept.

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#112 Being Physically and Emotionally Present

By Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

shutterstock_163058612If we want to be connected to our children in loving ways we need to spend time with them—a lot of time!

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#111 Making Love Real

By Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

shutterstock_187180841Connection, the second  principle of our parenting plan, is at the heart of  See Saw Parenting.

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#111 Parents versus Children in Real Time

By Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

shutterstock_189011825Bob and I drove from Michigan to California with my son and his wife and their three children, ages 9, 6 and 2 1/2. Among our many adventures was the problem of choosing which bedrooms that each child was to occupy in their new home. My grandson chose the larger of the two available and began making elaborate plans about how to set it up. My grand-daughter and younger grandson were given the smaller bedroom and had to shrink their belongings from two bedrooms to one in their lovely but smaller new home.

My son, Matt, and his wife, Jordan spent hours deciding how to set up the rooms before they made a trip to Ikea to buy new beds and dressers. They finally concluded that they simply could not fit the furniture for two children into the smaller of the two bedrooms. So they called a family conference which included the two older children and me to tell them that they had decided they had to switch the bedrooms. (I was included because I had been helping unpack and set up rooms.) They told the children of their plans and Kaylor and Clementine “went ballistic.” Both children had already slept in the rooms and felt committed to their original choices. Kaylor made diagrams and began throwing around words like currency and fluency. He said they could save money (currency) and achieve better traffic flow (fluency) by keeping the initial arrangement. I could tell how invested the children were and I wanted their move to get off to a good start. So I asked for a conference alone with Mom and Dad. I explained that I thought the children were attached to their first choices and didn’t want to change—in part because the move itself required a lot of adjustment on their part.

Mom and Dad then had another conference. I knew that they were pretty convinced that the larger room had to be for the two younger children so I didn’t know how they would resolve the matter. After about another hour they called us back upstairs. They had pulled out a lot of the children’s belongings and set up the rooms as much as they could—Kaylor in the smaller room and Clementine and Sky in the larger room. The children were delighted to see their things and surprised to see how well they fit into the new rooms. They accepted the room change without any further argument.

Whew! It was a lengthy process but it worked. They could have ordered the children to accept the change—no questions asked. If they had I would have predicted some very grumpy children for the next while. They could have let the children decide and then had to work with a nearly impossible room arrangement. But they did something different. They listened to the children (and Grandma) and made accommodations that would help them feel at home in their new rooms. They also recognized the reality of the space limitations and came up with a plan that could satisfy everyone. Time-consuming? Yes. But it will save a lot of stress and conflict in the future!

Child looking under bed image available from Shutterstock.



#109 When Parents and Children Collide

By Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

shutterstock_73502599So what do we do when our wishes and their wishes collide?

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#108 Healing Childhood Wounds

By Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

shutterstock_126208985

Okay. We can admit that children are great! But treating them as equals?

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#107 The Essence of Childhood

By Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

shutterstock_83687596In order for us to think of children as equals we must set aside for the moment their differences, their lack of development, even their helplessness.

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#106 Children as Equals

By Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

laptopIf children are really to be treated as equals at their core we have to re-think many of our parenting practices. In order to explore this possibility I have introduced the model of See-Saw Parenting as explained in my book Family Entanglement. It is a model in which both parties must participate to balance the seesaw and enjoy the back-and-forth motion that it provides. It is based on the idea all people—parents and children alike–come to this earth with a unique presence, a special essence, and that, at that basic core, all people are equal. As such they are, from their birth onward, equally deserving of mutual respect and dignity.

What would this sort of parenting look like? It would certainly raise some difficult questions. How can we treat children as equals when they are small and undeveloped and lacking in knowledge and experience? “Parents have to be in charge,” we say or children will run amok. But if we remember our history those same arguments have been used again and again to justify the lower status of slaves, women, racial and ethnic out groups, or differing sexual orientations. Those individuals were seen as lacking the capability or wisdom to take care of themselves, much less rule or make decisions for society at large. In the case of children those considerations are largely accurate: they can’t vote; they can’t drive or support themselves; as babies they can’t even talk or feed themselves. So how can we treat them as equals?

Can it be done? What do you think? How would you do it? Can parents really treat a three-year-old as an equal when he bops his little brother on the head just to get a toy? What about a teenager who spends far more time researching her nail polish than she does her term paper? What about a baby who presents you with a dirty diaper on a daily basis?

I believe it is a question worth answering and next week I will give the answer that I have formulated.

Mother and child image available at Shutterstock.



#105 War and Hierarchy

By Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

soldiersIf we look at the history of war, it is not so much a story of right versus wrong as it is a struggle over power and hierarchy.

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