"Meditation is not to escape from society, but to come back to ourselves and see what is going on. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. With mindfulness, we know what to do and what not to do to help."
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Over the last year or so, I've noticed that everything I've learned and put into practice, in terms of EI parenting at home, goes immediately out the window when we are in public. It's like my brain just switches off and I default back to bribes (rewards) and punishments to get my kids to behave. Even if I tell myself beforehand to be more conscious of this tendency, I do it anyway. It's frustrating and sets back all of the work I've done earlier that day. Why would I do that?
Here's a possible explanation from an article in October on Science Daily.
“We don’t just punish in response to a bad behavior,” Horne says. “We punish because we care what people think of us.”
That sentence amazed me. It was like a light bulb going off in my head, "Yes, that's why I do it!"
Why did the Chinese enforce the cultural norm of foot binding for centuries, even though it produced no tangible benefits and much pain and anguish? Why did Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet sign the 1988 International Convention Against Torture, the very agreement that allowed him to be arrested and prosecuted a decade later? Even more dramatic, why would the Norse in Greenland in the 1400s perish as a civilization rather than break a cultural norm against eating certain kinds of seafood?According to her theory, people will act in ways that damage their personal interests if it means their ties to a particular social group will be strengthened. And, she suggests, one of the best ways to strengthen your ties to a particular group is to help enforce the norms of that group by punishing outliers.
Would it change anything if I knew that my social groups understood and supported my decision to be an outlier? I don't think so. I have explained to my friends and family that we are choosing a different path. Everyone has been supportive. I still find myself falling into old habits and feeling "judged". And what about with strangers? I can't sit down with everyone and explain my parenting choices. Perhaps I just need more self-confidence? I don't think that's it either. I know this is how people should be treated, even the youngest ones. Maybe just knowing that there is a tendency to feel judged in any given situation can be a reminder; being mindful of my long-term goals. This is the subject of the book I am currently reading, Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting. It sounds a little woo-woo, I know, but it hasn't been so far. They describe meditation as:
"not, as is commonly thought, an inward manipulation -- like throwing a switch or merely relaxing -- into some "special state" in which everything feels different or better, or in which your mind goes "blank," or you suppress your thoughts. It is a systematic and sustained observing of the whole field of our experience, or of some specific element of it."
It dovetails nicely with Thomas Gordon's ideas. Part one specifically mentions that parents have needs as well as children, an important revelation that I picked up from P.E.T., and that I hadn't noticed in the other books on EI parenting. It seems a little daunting to be adding something else to my plate right now, and yet it seems like I can't continue without learning how to be present in the moment.