I was recently talking with my emotional coach about my Healthy Parenting Resources business. This conversation began with the expression of my frustrations around another business that I started, but have been feeling stagnant in. When talking about the work I do with children and families, he pointed out the passion and excitement he saw in me. I think he actually said that I "light up!" This was not the case for my other business, and he challenged my thinking about both. During the process of his helping me think about both businesses differently, he suggested that I capture on paper the benefits that families receive for themselves and for their children from the coaching that I provide. It never occurred to me to do this, but when he suggested it, I decided to give it a go! So here I am, capturing the benefits on virtual paper, hoping to clearly share with others what I see as the life-long benefits of learning and practicing Respectful Parenting.
Before reading further here, I would recommend reading Janet Lansbury's article, Respect, Trust, Acceptance - Magda Gerber's Therapeutic Approach To Child Care, if you have not already. It is quite comprehensive, yet perfectly succinct in how it describes this wonderful caregiving philosophy.
I love the last quote in Janet's article..."As Magda says, 'Lucky is the child who grows up with parents who basically accept and love themselves, and therefore can accept and love their child, who reminds them so often of their own selves.'” (As an interesting side note, those reminders can trigger memories and emotions that we have stored away from our childhood relationships with our parents. These memories are often talked about as ghosts and angels in the nursery).
Learning genuine self-love is such a gift. When I think about any human being who has this genuine self love, certain qualities or descriptions come to mind:
Would having a child who possess those traits be enough reason to consider Respectful Parenting? The benefits that come from those characteristics are tremendous for a child's future. But are those the only benefits or are there others that are often not thought of as being connected to Respectful Parenting? I believe that beyond the emotional, relational, and psychological benefits, there are long-term physical health benefits BECAUSE of the strong mental health aspect.
We live in a stressful world and the medical community is clear on the deleterious impact that stress has on the body and physical health. When young children are able to develop healthy coping skills and emotional resilience, which in large part comes from being allowed to fully feel, express, and release emotions within a safe and supportive attachment relationship, they are much better equipped to manage and respond to stress in childhood and adulthood, thus leading to decreased negative impact on their physical health. Respectful parenting practices are what facilitate this for a child. Parents who practice this approach learn to take their child's perspective, understand development, have appropriate expectations, and with this insight, provide developmentally appropriate limits and welcome their child's emotional responses, however unreasonable and dramatic they may seem.
There are many things that can cause stress for children that we as adults often see as silly and/or don't understand, which can lead to invalidation of the child's feelings, or even attempts to sidestep a child's emotional release through distraction or "fixing." Children may then learn that their emotions are not safe to express and begin to suppress them, which can lead to toxic stress in the physical body. This is so unfortunate because children come into the world innately equipped to release stress through crying, yet many of us adults have a hard time letting the tears flow.
In her article, Understanding Tears and Tantrums, Aletha Solter writes, "Dr. William Frey, a biochemist in Minnesota, has researched the chemical content of human tears. One of the substances found in tears was the stress hormone ACTH. Thus it is possible that shedding tears helps to reduce excessive amounts of ACTH and perhaps other substances that accumulate following a stressful event. Dr. Frey has suggested that the purpose of emotional crying may be to remove waste products from the body, similar to other excretory processes such as urinating, defecating, exhaling, and sweating. Frey's conclusion is that 'we may increase our susceptibility to a variety of physical and psychological problems when we suppress our tears.' Crying not only removes toxins from the body but also reduces tension."
Another expert on emotions, Dr. Bradley Nelson, creator of the Emotion Code, states, "Trapped emotions can affect you physically just as much as they can mentally and emotionally. It is my experience that a significant percentage of physical illnesses, emotional difficulties and self-sabotage are actually caused by these unseen energies."
There is other evidence, such as the ACES study, that demonstrates the tremendous impact toxic emotional stress has on lifelong health and the positive correlation between the number of negative childhood experiences and a broad range of chronic health problems in adulthood.
Magda Gerber, the founder of RIE and teacher of Respectful Parenting believed that children raised with her philosophy will not need to seek a therapist as an adult. I would also add that for those children, there will likely be less need to seek help from the medical community because their physical health will remain stronger as a direct result of their mental health.
I can't think of a better way to invest in your child's long-term mental and physical health than to learn and implement the Respectful Parenting approach. Feel free to contact me if you need any support or guidance on your journey!