From a Child's Heart

I am light, so let it fill you.
I am love, so wrap it around you.
I am spirit, just as you are, so treat me as your brother, sister, daughter, cousin, or mother, but never as a stranger.
I learn from you.
I am light, so don't put it out with your pessimism.
I am love, so don't turn it to hate with your scorn and criticism.
I am spirit, so don't make me doubt it with your insecurities and mental blocks.
I learn from you.

By Renee Rainville
May, 2010

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Curiosity of Saliva

As I was leaving the mall last night, my husband turns to me and expresses his curiosity about something he had just witnessed.  A young girl of about 2 or 3 years of age was trailing along behind her parents passing the continuous storefront windows.  Most curious children will look into the windows and be bombarded by the visual stimuli.  Others will notice that they can see a faint reflection of themselves.  But this little girl had another idea in mind. At the jewellery store window, she unceremoniously began to spit on the glass that separated her from each piece of jewellery. Take a moment to appreciate this wonderful child pausing at intervals and spewing saliva at the glass.  I had to giggle at the rendition and reenacting of my husband of her curious behaviour. :)

The question my husband then posed was, "What do you think her intention was?"

I love to watch children and imagine what might be going through their little bodies as they explore and  discover their environment.  When we believe that motivation behind any action is pure, authentic and necessary for growth, the action then becomes curious instead of hurtful.

Motivation behind any action is pure, 
authentic and necessary for growth.

Children are innately curious. They will conduct experiments with everything at their disposal to continue to harness knowledge.  Every conclusion we make, sparks many more, so if curiosity is not broken somehow, it will continue to transport the child into an innovative adulthood.

And how do we break this natural cycle of curiosity and growth? Criticism, lack of acceptance, the deadly NO! Adults are well-meaning, but every stop, no, don't, can't are heard as stop exploring, no curiosity allowed, don't discover, I can't be me.

When something is part of Nature, nurture it for it has a reason.

Through constant exploration, we can hope to raise children who are confident of their abilities.  They will see themselves as successful and be encouraged to follow their calling in life, their innate talents, once they find them.  What hope does a child who is constantly reminded not to do things have in finding his true talent, what makes him truly happy?

So, I answered my husband. 

This child is experiencing life through all her senses.  She feels the saliva in her mouth, feels how her tongue moves as she gathers it, how it projects, how it sounds as it hits the glass, how it looks as it hits and then the moment after.  She observes the object on the other side of the glass through the saliva and questions "why?"We do not know now why she needs to do this, but if we accept that perhaps there is a bigger reason, she has increased her chances of fulfilling it.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Personal Power and Emotions

After 20 years in education, children continue to surprise and inspire awe in me. It is impossible to look upon that 3 year old, blond, curly-haired child as she points her finger and waves her hand excitedly at the bigger-than-life size banner in the mall as laughter just rumbles up from inside of her and not allow a smile to crack my lips. It is not her excitedness that makes me smile, though; it is the natural expression of emotion, any emotion, with no apology, shame or even thought.

Emotion is natural--where the soul and the physical body connect and create memory.  Children experience emotion. It comes and goes with such ease, until of course, the well-meaning adult begins to coach the child into controlling and denying emotion.
  • Now stop crying.  It didn't hurt that much.  (How do you know?)
  • Don't hit me! I don't care if you are angry. (Is there a better way to express it?)
  • So that kid won't play with you. Just ignore him. (Ignore the child or the feeling?)
  • Don't celebrate yet, you still have to finish. (You don't celebrate standing, then walking, then running?)
Whether it is the child in front of you or the child inside you, take a moment to appreciate what is being felt. I have learned some of the most important lessons about emotion from the children around me.

If it is flowing, I am animated and healthy. 
  (Think about it.  Constipation is an unhealthy situation for the body.  It is unable 
to evacuate potentially harmful matter resulting in varying degrees of discomfort.) 

When I accept my emotion, I am living in the moment. 
(I feel like crying,  crying is for babies, but I am so angry, oh no, anger is 
dangerous... How long have I been wasting on this conversation?) 

It is common knowledge that e-motion is energy in motion. Emotional intelligence as described by Daniel Goleman  and the 6 Pillars of Self-esteem by Nathaniel Brandon are linked directly to our physical body as described in The Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss.

My emotions are my own.  
They are part of my Personal Power tool kit.

At some point in our lives we give away this power.  We become convinced that others cause emotions in us.  This personal power, authenticity and accountability, are masked by fear.  Adults, society, culture all contribute to the loss of Personal Power, but make no mistake, there is no fault or blame.  It is a defence mechanism that has allowed us to  remain unaccountable.

I accept and embrace my emotions.

What is your highest hope for your child? Happiness? Allow your child to embrace emotion, to feel it live it, understand it.  Give your child a safe place to express everything he feels. Act as a guide, providing vocabulary and narrating when your child is a toddler.  As the child grows, listen openly to the feelings described as arguments between friends, jealousy and sadness become more complex.  Help them to understand where the emotion comes from without negating it or dismissing it.  And when your teenager begins to experience new kinds of emotions, if you are the sounding post remember that your teenager is redefining himself, becoming his own person, and the best way to learn who you are is being allowed to explore who you think you are without judgement.

An essential tip: When we feel emotions, especially ones we have been taught to avoid, name it, accept it as part of your experience and BREATHE through it.  Breathe moves just as emotion.  Picture the emotion flowing through you on your breathe and out as you exhale.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

Children's Rights Part I

I am a huge fan of Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now and A New Earth, both powerful, life changing books.  I cannot comment on how they may change your life because it would be absurd of me to think that I had so much power, but I can tell you that these two books have lead me to question the meaning of Children's Rights and the meaning of my own life.

It is common knowledge that children have the right to shelter, to protection, to food, to education, to be loved, and many would add--to be a child.  I asked around a bit to see what that meant to people.  "You know, to have fun, to be carefree, to enjoy life."  The wistful look on this person's face made me ask the question, "And you miss that?"  So many adults nowadays miss that freedom as they fill up their time with have to's and should have's.  But well, today we are discussing children's right to enjoy life.  A right which I believe to have become misshappen as the proverbial pendulum swings.

Echkart Tolle reminds us that true freedom comes from accepting the Now and revelling  in the knowledge that every decision, if made by trusting your heart's passion, will lead you on your path to abundance of every kind.  It is difficult for us to model this to children.  Have you ever taken a moment to really observe a child.  Observe without judgment.  Try it, and you will be amazed that children already know how to do this.  They have no care for time, for restrictions, for social beliefs. Yet they are curious, always wanting to discover more.  They are natural communicators, using motion, facial expression, body language and the other 100 languages described by Loris Malaguzzi.  They paint, metaphorically, a beautiful picture of joy, peace, and balance when left to themselves.

And then comes the adult, "Stop lieing in the dirt." "You're not supposed to paint on the walls!"  "Don't eat the worm! Dirty!"  And for each block, the child's natural joy turns from transluscent to opaque. 

Where is the right to maintain this wonderful outlook on life, the outlook that so many of us wish to recapture?  I can feel the resistence as many of you read this.  You may be thinking that you have observed many children and they definitely are meek, dependent, troublesome, and generally out of balance.  My suggestion is that perhaps we, the adults, are meek, dependent, and out of balance. Perhaps if we could see clearly and release the fear that keeps us in the dead end job, in the damaging relationship, or in debt, our persepctive too might change.  Four years ago, I suffered a break down (more like a melt down) which slammed me into a big wall of awake.  That wall had a fuzzy message that came more into focus as each day passed.  It took almost three years to see the message written on the wall.

We all have the right to be at peace, to be joyful, and to experience love.

We truly are the models for the children, and each and every model provides growth, but I ask you to consider whether we truly need to educate children, or would it suffice to continue educating ourselves.  I do not believe that the children are our future.  It sounds cowardly.  We are the future.  Until we die, we make the difference.  Within each of us is a seed, or many seeds, that are just waiting to be planted.  I believe that the adults are paving the way for the young.  Parents, educators, grandparents, aunts and uncles are a beacon lighting the way for the next generation.

Children have the right to be heard with respect. 
Children have the right to observe and learn from excellent models. 
Children have the right to be exposed to the extremes so that they may find their own balance.  Children have the right to spiritual, emotional, and physical intelligence. 
Children have the right to feel love, peace, and security.

Please tell me what children have the right to from your perspective and what that right provides.  The information compiled will be used for a book I am currently working on.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Finding Meaning in the word "Childhood."

After 10 months, I am back on line.  Thank you to all the people who have been asking me to share my thoughts more widely!

I am truly blessed to have two children who are my constant reflection, day in and day out.  I speak of children beacuse it my profession, the thing I feel most passionate about, but in the end, any person standing before you who makes an impact on your life (everyone) is a mirror.  In the recent past, I have come to accept that my daughter is my personality reflection, where my son is my soul's reflection. I say "recently" because my mirror was tarnished beyond recognition for many years and only recently were the cleaning products I needed placed within my reach.  And so I begin a journey outward questioning what childhood is really for.

As children we are the whim of our parents.  We adopt the belief system of our parents which is normally dictated by their parents and the society of their time.  No matter when you grew up, your thought patterns became those of the adults around you.  Is that truly the purpose of parenting?  Is the job a of a child to come here and be filled like the empty vessel theory?  I am not suggesting that every adult is a horrible parent.  Information is what powers change and transcendence.  Every generation of parents had at their disposal different information for different reasons.  Like a pendulum, our assimilation of this information goes from extreme to extreme until it eventually reaches a balance.  Sexuality is an easy example to perceive.  The revolution of the 70's swung the pendulum way over to the right, liberal sided wing of sexuality, then with the coming of HIV, whoosh! out came the contraceptives and the labels once again.  As we go back in history we see the same pattern of promiscuity then repression repeated over and over. 

So, what does this have to do with children, you ask?  This pendulum movement happens in every area of the human psyche including parenting.  The empty vessel and blank slate theories gave way to traditional, I-am-the-adult-and-I-know-best-what-you-need-to-learn mentality. The socio constructivist theory developed by Loris Malaguzzi in Reggio Emilia, Italy and the Waldorf schools founded by Rudolf Steiner, both after World War II took a different approach to the concpet of childhood.  In short, both philosophies see the child as a thinking, exploring human being filled with the light of curiosity. Through the use of nature, its colors, textures, ambiance, etc. children are encouraged to define the world around them. And what they see leaves us breathless! So the pendulum swings. 

And now to arrive at my point.  The beauty of childhood captured by Loris Malaguzzi, I believe, is still not fully developed nor understood by the society at large.  We are one step closer, maybe 100 steps closer, but until we recognize that there is no "right" answer.  There is no final point to arrive at when we speak of education. There is not a moment when we close the book.  This implies something profound for all of us.  We must learn forever.  Once we leave school, we get a job where we continue to learn (hopefully).  Many of us choose to begin a family.  Those of you with children, can you truly say that you have learned nothing from them?  If you can, I invite you clean off your mirror and see yourself  clearly.  Continue to learn and grow with children as your teachers.

I believe that our Earth age has little if nothing to do with who we are.  I believe that we are all here to continue learning and developing.  So the next time you see a child, any child, treat him with respect and accept him as he is. For me, childhood is an erroneous decription.  It's very meaning condescends due to cultural beliefs that older is wiser and younger is ,well, not. I invite you to consider for a moment that each of us posseses a soul.  I believe that the soul is the replication of God, the Universe, Buddha, etc. and that each of us is holy.  I would protect a child as I would protect my husband or friend.  I hold in my heart the belief that we are entering the era of humanhood, where we all mutually repect and learn from others--where there are no strangers, only fellow beings.  As we learn, as the pendulum swings, we peel away that which no longer serves us.  Beliefs drop away, like skin with a rug burn, it hurts and leaves us feeling unsteady, but that, my friends, is the basis of learning and growing.  More and more children are having the opportunity to stay in the now longer. They leave the now when the adults around them make being in the now, wrong.  "Why can't you move faster?"  "I told you to brush your teeth!"  Remember that every belief we pass on to our children is only that--a belief, not an absolute truth.  So, have you appreciated a child today?

So what do you think childhood is really for?  Any thoughts...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Speaking with Love...And Humility?

Educators love being right. We choose education as our career because somewhere along our respective paths, we were conditioned to believe that there is only one right answer. We must fill the empty cup. We must establish values. We must enforce the following of routines and rules. I accept that this is a gross generalization and with the popularity of constructivism in all its many branches on the rise, this once concrete and safe point of view is now in question. And yet, we continue to battle against this invisible feeling of superiority which governs our actions and interactions between students, colleagues, and parents.

I would like to discuss today our interactions with parents. Our students quickly and often seemlessly convert into a profound specie of foster children; we worry about their health, the food they eat, and the things they say. Day after day, we observe Sara, assessing her needs and applauding her achievements. The snowball effect begins. The first week of school Sara comes to school well groomed, well-rested, and well-fed. She begins to make friends although she is very shy. Over the next few weeks, the teacher observes that Sara is more restless, her hair is decidedly more unkempt, and she prefers to play alone at recess. At this point, the expert teacher has three clear options: call the parents to report the observations, continue to observe saying nothing yet, or begin to speculate on possible causes for Sara's changes. For many of us, option three is not an option at all. After all, we know that making assumptions is a masked form of gossiping. So we opt for option one if our personality is straightforward, and option two if we are more cautious.

Two years have passed and Sara is still in the same school. Her early warning signs continue to be present and new ones have been detected. Her situation appears to be deteriorating. Numerous meetings with parents have taken place. Therapy for Sara and parenting courses have been recommended, but in the eyes of the school, "the parents just don't give the right importance to Sara's issues." The reaction and the acussation is done out of love. The people involved in the school are concerned that Sara isn't developing the abilities she needs to be successful in the real world. They feel impotent, powerless to effect change in the family or in Sara. Poor, poor Sara.

Do we really, truly believe that Sara's parents aren't doing the very best they can? Are our egos so inflated as to believe that our priorities are the only priorities that matter? Do we have the blueprint of Sara's purpose here in this life? Sounds harsh, so let's do the math. Five people in the same room are bombarded every second by visual, auditory, and sensory stimuli. Of that bombardment, each person will take in only seven pieces of information, probably not the same seven as any of their peers. Then what the brain of each of these individuals does with those 7 stimuli is equally as unpredictable. This happens every second. At the end of 1 day, each person has taken in 604,800 bits of sensory information. Let's remember that what the brain has done to modify and store each of these bits is imminent and highly unmeasurable to the naked eye of another. These five unsuspecting individuals have each filtered and assimilated a unique combination of stimuli. Considering this, we can reflect back on our egoism and humbly accept that we have no clue as to the motives of others. We can ask questions and form hypothesis, but until we can communicate telepathically without barriers, we are incapable of understanding the complexity of the web of stimuli and experiences that the parent in front of us has used to make the life decisions made. And to complicate matters more, as educators, we only see the effect of the decisions the parents have made. And, you guessed it, our highly superior brain has used all 604, 800 bits of sensory input per day since we were born to interpret that effect. Humbling, no?

As an advocate for change, I would like to commend the caring intentions of the educator who is so concerned with Sara's situation. To care for someone as if they were your own requires an unselfishness that should be celebrated. But accusations are only a verbal form of violence. If we can approach each parent truly without judgement, present observable facts (our interpretations of the observed!), and listen to the priorities of the number one caregiver, I believe that we, as educators, can be of a much greater service to our community of students and parents alike. No two people are alike. It stands to reason that there is not only one solution and most definitely there is not a best solution. So the next time you feel the itch to berate or accuse a parent of not doing their best for their child, humbly remind your inner teacher that love has an infinite number of faces.

For those interested in human development on the individual as well as the global level, I recommend Executive Success Programs, Inc. by Keith Raniere.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Helping Children Find Passion

I hate school! I hate my math teacher! He doesn't even know how to teach trigonometry!

Translation: I am afraid I am not good enough! I am afraid that someone might realize that and judge me! I am afraid that this somehow changes who I am inside!

"Where does that come from? I always tell my child how bright he is. He knows what a valuable person he is." Sounds familiar. We are so conditioned to believe that this is what all teenagers go through that our hand in it is forgotten. We unknowingly raise children to fear thus extinguishing true passion.


-Intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction.
-A strong liking or desire for or devotion to some object, activity, or concept.

Jump up and down and dance around if you feel a passion for your current job. Yell out "Hoorah!" if your passion for someone or something is unbridled. My guess is that many of us just stared at the screen thinking, "She's not serious." We live in a society filled with "do"s and "don't"s. They fill our every waking moment and we let them control every decision. What are we afraid of? Most of us are afriad of not having enough. Enough money, enough control, enough happiness, enough vacation time, enough love, enough, enough, enough. ENOUGH!!! This is the message we are sending to our youth. Don't do that, or you won't have enough money. Don't say that, or you won't get enough respect. Don't act like that, or you won't have enough love.

All of the amazing qualities we are born with, innate to the human condition, are slowly simmered down to nothingness. The curiosity of the two year old as she shakes the salt and pepper all over the restaurant table trying to figure out there really is something in there is halted by the disapproving glare of her parents. As the teacher tells little Suzie that her house drawing should have four walls, not three, the confidence seeps out to be replaced with fear of being wrong. Tolerance for every person, despite age, color, sex, or capability shines so brightly in the very young until mom or dad make a slip of the tongue innocently stating that boys are stronger than girls.

Curiosity, confidence, and tolerance are but three of the wonderful qualities that our children bring into this world. All of these beautiful gifts to the world are passion. Children are open to see the world for what it could be, which is liberating. Sometime soon, we will begin to raise generations breaking free of our constraints of fear. And then we will see passion all around us, flourishing.

Until then, we will continue to see youth filled with passion, but a passion to strike back at the world that has placed so many barriers. Their words will be filled with messages of hate from fear and lack of self-confidence. A fear that they were not born with. A fear that we instilled in each of them. Perhaps it is true that love and respect teaches more life lessons than rules and punishments. Perhaps celebrating our child's unique way of looking at a world governed by perceptions can lead us to a new era of love and understanding.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Educating Through Limits

No. No. NO. NO-OH. I said, "NO!"
The toddler precariously sways back and forth as his attention is drawn to the colorful collection of turtles that his mother keeps so lovingly arranged on the shelves near the front door. His mother glances sideways, her eyes leaving her work. The first no is just a small warning earning her a mischievous I love you, Mommy look. She continues to watch him over the top of her computer with a tug of impatience. Turtle, he exclaims as his hand flies out to indicate his precious discovery. Overreacting, she jumps up from the table knocking over the glass of water that had been within arms length, and reminds him more forecefully, No. The commotion caused by the banging of the table and the glass distract the young boy for a moment, long enough for Mom to survey the mess. At least the computer was not in the path of the water, but her annoyance level has definitely gone up. As Mommy goes to get a paper towel to pick up the spill, she looks at her little cherub and wags her finger at the turtles as she looks him in the eyes saying, No-oh. Of course, the inevitable happens. Just as she arrives to the kitchen counter, she hears the unmistakable sound of breaking ceramic. She rolls her eyes, takes a deep breath, scurries back to the living room and raising her voice exclaims, "I said, NO!"

This was me 8 and half years ago. The funny part is that many of the adults around me continued for many years to proclaim me a wonderful mother because my children knew how to "behave." I am convinced that I was doing the best I could at the moment, but I have continued learning ad studying. I have begun to change my defintion of "behave" to incorporate curiosity, autonomy, questioning, and finding solutions. As you can imagine, that often leads to children who "misbehave" all over the place. They touch things in the grocery store, they make mixtures and messes to find new smells, they question adults reasoning, and they take apart and put things together reaching conclusions that may not be correct in an adult's eyes. They waste time and never move quite fast enough for the adults in their life, but they are wise. They understand that it is okay to have an opinion and support it, to ask for a reason when asked to do something they may not agree with, to make a mess as long as it is cleaned up, and to demand equal treatment.

I am entering into the realm of "misbehavior" and propose that our current definition of behavior ("to have or bear oneself in a particular way, comport"- Online Etymology Dictionary) needs to be debated upon in the hopes that this word can hold a meaning that encompasses both the emotional intelligence and intrinsic curiosity of our children as pointed out by Jerome Bruner and John D. Mayer. As uncomfortable as it is for the mothers and fathers who were raised with strict rules as to the proper way to behave to allow the children of the new generation to explore their potential and to grow under supreme self confidence, we must make the effort. Yes leads to openness. Yes leads to possibilities. Yes leads to joy. Whereas, no leads only to limitations, closedmindedness, and boredom.

In the end, the question remains, and what would happen if we said, "YES!"?