Avoiding Teen Rebellion:
Lainie is a recovering branding expert, whose 18-year career once focused on creating campaigns for green/eco business, non-profits, and conscious business. In 2008, California’s economy took a turn and Lainie decided to “be the change” instead of a victim. She and her then nine-year-old son Miro began the process of redesigning their lives, with the dream of spending stress-free quality time together. After closing her business, and selling and giving away all of their possessions, the pair hit the road for a permanent adventure in mid-2009. Many years, twelve countries, and a lot of personal changes later, Lainie and Miro continue to slowly travel around the globe, living an inspired possession-free lifestyle, volunteering, and learning naturally. They are both following their interests on the road, as the planet has been transformed into their classroom. Lainie says they are “accidental unschoolers” and she has become an advocate for life learning at any age. Lainie and Miro describe their greatest accomplishment as the ability to participate in the world without fear. They invite you to follow along and learn more about the new Project World School at Lainie’s blog.
I have always thought that the bond between my son Miro and I is quite unique. We’ve always been very close and have established a relationship based on a tremendous amount of love and respect.
When I was pregnant, I read a lot of parenting books, as I was entering into this journey as a single mom. My intention: Be prepared. With all I had read, the concepts surrounding attachment parenting resonated with me the strongest. And so, that’s the approach I took (and still take today, now that he’s a young teen).
Some of the conscious choices I made as a parent early on are part of our lives to this day. I had decided from the start never to speak to Miro using “baby talk.” The underlying belief is to treat your child as if they are your equal, versus the common approach of treating your child as a half-person, incapable of understanding because of their “disability” of being young. When we don’t respect their capabilities of understanding, children learn that they are incapable, and that’s not what I want to teach my child. Bleh!!!
My approach was consistent and, throughout Miro’s early life, whenever he’d ask me a question I would always honor him with a complete answer, even if I was supplying an answer that was beyond his comprehension. I never dumbed down my responses and, of course, when he didn’t understand, I tried to explain things the best I could. Finally, I always invited him to open up the subject with me anytime he wished to explore it again, either in the next five minutes or anytime in the future.
This is the show of respect he’s become accustomed to, and this has created the foundation of our relationship, which I see that paying off every day.
(We’ve had some pretty amazing conversations about everything from politics, consciousness, humanity, death and dying, to sex! And I have to say, it’s been a pure joy.)
Anger & Frustration
From my son’s early age, I treated my parenting role as being the nurturer – a person who guided and facilitate my son – not the authoritarian. I looked upon the role of being my son’s parent as a distinct honor. The need for punishment or discipline comes from the child challenging or reacting to a set of circumstances. I see this reaction as a part of life, not an inconvenience or something that needs punishment.
When my son was a toddler and had a reaction to something and either got angry or upset, I was there, present with him and with those emotions. My first reaction was always to affirm that what he was feeling was real, that the way he perceived the situation was valid and, most importantly, he was allowed to feel what he was feeling. I would sit with him while he scrunched up his little face and felt anger or frustration. I would just be there for him while he was experiencing that. In situations where he was really upset, I told him to feel what that felt like, gave him permission to be as angry as he needed to be, and when he was done, I was there waiting to talk about it. No rush, and total permission to be okay with the emotions he was feeling. And he always proceeded through them on his own, as we always spoke about it after the anger had passed. And I feel the secret to raising an emotionally healthy child is to honor the feelings when they come up, allowing space to feel them and talk about the feelings without judgment.
Permission & Empowerment
As we’ve grown more comfortably into the unschooling lifestyle, I’ve consciously adapted the partnership approach. Miro knows he’s empowered to make his own choices in his life, and always has permission to do what he wants. Last week, I invited him to go to the ballet with me; he politely declined. That was his choice and I honored that. When he wants to spend time with his friends instead of going on a hike with me, I honor that too. My part of the partnership is to express my preferences to him and as long as he honors me by hearing them and acknowledging them, we’ve successfully communicated, even when he makes a choice based on his preferences. No guilt, no manipulation, no coercing. And through that empowerment, Miro always has my permission to do what he wants, and is empowered to make whatever choices he sees fit: unconditional empowerment, all the time. And yes, I am willing to let him make mistakes too.
Stuff (the physical kind)
As we are talking about partnership, this flows into all aspects of our lives. If Miro wants something, he can have it. Sounds pretty simple, right? We have declared our journey (on or off the road) as a partnership. This covers the financial aspects of our lives as well. Miro always knows how much money we have in the bank, which frankly isn’t a lot, as we pretty much live month-to-month. He knows what it costs to live our lives here in Peru. He knows what our expenses are and what we have left at the end of the month. And when he wants something, or asks for something, he consciously considers those factors. If we can afford it, of course he can have it. It’s my pleasure to make sure he has it. And he never needs to jump through hoops, make promises, work for the money, or any other form of manipulation. Simply by being in partnership in our relationship, he is entitled to any or all of our money.
As far as rebelling: What does he have to rebel against? I was really rebellious when I was his age, and I have talked to him about what I was feeling then. I have identified those things so when/if it comes up, he knows I understand. Sometimes he tells me he is experiencing overwhelming frustration for no reason. He will ask to be alone and excuses himself because it must be “hormones.” That is self-awareness. I am so honored to experience his development with him as a partner, versus being the enemy.
I think the mainstream perceives discipline in the family as the act of rigid rules being imposed by the parents and enforced either through corporal punishment or the stripping of privileges. However, this is not how discipline looks in our family.
For us, discipline in the traditional sense is non-existent. The closest thing for our family is our commitment to define our individual boundaries based on our individual needs, preferences, and desires. I admit that since there are only two of us it is likely simpler than with a larger family, but I believe the foundation of these approaches can work in almost every situation.
Have we ever had discipline problems? No. Are we prepared for them? Yes. Do I think serious acts of rebellion will ever come up? Not really, because we have established an open line of communication, and it is seeded with respect and trust. But if it does, we can handle it.
Miro and I have developed respect and space
for emotions over the thirteen years of our lives together and continue
to practice these choices each and every day.