Monday, August 09, 2010

Opposites are necessary in parenting-- a fearful truth?

From The Parent's Tao Te Ching:

36. Opposites Are Necessary
A quality cannot be fully learned
without understanding its opposite.

I think I'm on board with this concept, but it's introduced with more of a double-dog-dare challenge: If you want your kids to be disciplined, you have to let them know spontaneity. If you want them to be generous, you must allow them first to be selfish.

How's that for a big spiritual surprise?

It's so unsettling to think about, in fact, that I almost can't believe it. If I let my kid be selfish, won't she just enjoy it so much that she'll never learn to be generous?

Or perhaps she'll realize that there's more to being selfish than getting what you want, when you want it. That loneliness accompanies selfishness like an inescapable shadow.

And maybe she'll also learn that there's more to being generous than giving away your heart's desire. That love and trust and community and friendship are built with generosity.

Suddenly, this parenting strategy makes all kinds of sense. To operationalize, I guess this means that sometimes, sometimes I won't ask Paloma to share her toy with her little sister. I'll let them work it out, and see what they do. If she chooses to be selfish, I'll have to hold back from saying, "Sabrina's turn next!"

But I think it might be worth it to see what she does. To let her find her path to generosity, and cheer her on when she discovers it. Will report back on all this.