Monday, September 9, 2013

Paradoxical vs. Survival Parenting

In order to remain in balance as an administrator of Kid Report, I’ve had to engage in what I call Paradoxical Parenting.

Paradoxical Parenting 
As a parent I’m aware that my children do not yet understand how to keep their commitments to the extent I do so I show them how it works by keeping mine first even when they don’t.  I do this both in the physical chores around the house AND in the spiritual chores.  When they are disrespectful, I am not disrespectful back.  When they yell at me, I do not yell back.  When they are rude to me, I do not respond with rudeness.  At least this is my credo that I strive for.  I call this credo Paradoxical Parenting.

Survival Parenting
Survival Parenting is when I respond to my kids' imbalanced behavior with my own imbalanced behavior.  It's reacting.  It is parenting with the core (but usually unconscious) motivation to manage my kids so that they do what I want them to do for me and my needs.  My inadvertent goal is for them to lighten my burden.  The problem with relying on my kids so heavily, however unconsciously it is done, is that they aren't able to lighten my burden as much as I need it lightened.  And since I'm the mom, I'm in a position where I'm supposed to lighten theirs.

In evaluating myself over the years I can see that I have both Paradoxical and Survival tendencies.  My overall goal and commitment has been to incrementally increase my ability to Paradoxically Parent and decrease my weakness to slip into Survival Parenting.

I descend into Survival Parenting when I do not have someone I can depend on to lighten my burdens. Paradoxical Parenting takes a lot of strength.  It is a leap of faith.  I need to be willing to take the hits my kids give me with FAITH that my own Parent has my back.  It may seem like my kids are "winning" and I am "losing" when I bow my head like this and take it but paradoxically and with my own Parent's support I am choosing a way that promotes winning in the end.

Listen: Losing by 10th Avenue North

Justice and Mercy
Here's a clip that demonstrates Paradoxical Parenting from a book my sister, Melody, gave me a few years ago by Michael J. Bradley, Ed. D. 

"Michael's mom sat in my office sobbing, repeatedly attempting to reason with her raging and verbally vicious adolescent son.  After watching his endless bullying and her tormented begging for too long, I sent him out of the room, turned to her and said, 'Why are you talking to him like he makes sense'  'What do you mean?' she sobbed.  I gave her the same shrugging 'Duh' gesture her son had just used a dozen times and I almost yelled, 'He's nuts!  You can't talk to crazy people like they make sense.'  Her eyes and mouth flew open, astonished at my insensitivity.  Slowly her wrenching sobs transformed into chuckling, softly at first, then building to a crescendo of raucous laughter that rang off the walls.  'Oh...How I needed to laugh like that!  It feels wonderful.  You're right.  Michael is nuts.  And I'm nuts to sit here and talk with him like that.'

"Michael's performance illustrates a lot about contemporary adolescents....My own performance illustrates much about us as responding adults....That cool, controlled psychologist was working hard to restrain an old rule-based urge to eviscerate Michael.  This keeping-cool stuff is not as easy as it looks.  Part of me wanted to make him cry really hard for daring to be disrespectful to both me and his terrified mother.  I wanted badly to physically intimidate him, to jack him up against the wall and scream, 'JUST WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?'  My alternate response came from years of retraining and experience focusing on unlearning my old rules (what I saw my father do) as much as learning new skills" (Michael J. Bradleny, Ed. D., Yes, Your Teen Is Crazy!, pg. 3-4).

My responsibility is to respond as a cool, controlled parent when my kids' "performance" is imbalanced.  But there is another element I need in order for the Paradox to work.  I need to understand that my own Parent is feeling the way Dr. Bradley was feeling when kids treat their mothers or fathers like dirt.  I need to know someone desires to defend me.  It is wrong to treat others like that no matter how old you are.  Wrong.  Bottom line.  And people who do are crazy.  Just knowing that my Parent agrees with that is powerfully comforting!  I don't want him to respond with full justice right now.  I want him to teach my child about performing in balance.  And I admire him even more for giving my son or daughter time to get it all figured out.  But that doesn't mean he stands around and waits for changes to occur.  It means that he is actively engaged in training that child how to behave.  I have faith in that.  If I don't, I can't Parent Paradoxically.  And I'm here to help my Parent accomplish this goal.  Full justice is not upon my kids but incrementally increasing justice over time IS (Alma 42:25).

Got Confidence?
The other thing that happens when I take hits from my kids without responding with Survival methods is that I can feel my Parent's approval, confirmation, and admiration.  My own confidence increases.  Confidence is like a muscle.  In order to strengthen it, I have to lift weights.  When I lift my kids' weight of behavioral imbalance, I grow stronger.  When I lift a physical weight during my workouts, I accept the pain.  I let it happen to me.  During the full range of motion of a bicep curl, my arm is indeed in pain.  It hurts.  But since I have all kinds of faith that in doing this my muscle is getting stronger, I accept and even am glad for the pain  
(Matthew 5:11-12).  I give a portion of my life up willingly (John 10:18).

Newton's Third Law of Motion
Newton's Third Law of Motion states, "When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to that of the first body."

When my kids respond to me with Survival behavior, they are like a body that exerts force upon me.  Just as there is an equal and opposite force that reacts, I will have the natural urge to retaliate inside me.  When I stop myself from retaliating I contradict my natural desire for survival.  It doesn't seem right in the moment.  When I take the hardest hits, part of me can't even remember why I should respond paradoxically.  It takes training and time to make sacrifice my spiritual reflex.

Nature vs. Nurture
Paradoxical Parenting is not inherent.  Most of us have a combination of Paradoxical and Survival Parenting skills.  If my parents predominantly parented paradoxically, I have a greater likelihood to have stronger paradoxical skills.  In fact, the only way I could have obtained the natural strength to make this kind of sacrifice for my kids is if my parents did the same for me when I was a child.  If they did, I will remember, both unconsciously and consciously.  I will have greater capacity and skill to take the hits my kids give me.  It was done for me.  Now it’s my turn to do it for them.

If my parents predominantly parented using Survival techniques, I will find myself lacking in Paradoxical skills.  It wasn’t done for me and so I don’t have the strength or even the understanding of how to do it for my kids.  This isn’t an active choice of how I will respond to them.  It is the way the pendulum swings (Alma 9:17).  It's a kind of bondage.
Yet it is always a balance between nature and nurture.  Maybe my parents did parent me paradoxically but I still act like a turd-brain.  When my parents choose Paradoxical Parenting, they zero out themselves as a cause for my imbalanced behavior (Jacob 1:19).  But if they choose Survival Parenting, it leaves me without a choice.  I will parent using Survival techniques.

Cause Identification
I do not assign causes for my own Survival tendencies so that I may justify my continued Survival responses.  That's toxic blame.  If I did that, I would continue in my imbalances.  I seek to identify causes so that I might understand WHAT happened and WHY without descending into toxic shame--blaming myself for all my failures.  I want to objectively evaluate the variables and recognize where my choices are now.

Restructuring DNA
When I found that Paradoxical Parenting wasn’t predominantly in me I turned to a New Parent.  I guess you could say I had to be born again (John 3).  I had to be retrained, re-loved, re-sacrificed for.  I had to become a child again.  My spiritual (mind and heart) DNA had to be reorganized.

"We can rebuild her.  We have the technology."
Because that New Parent has spent a lot of time listening to me, empathizing with me, defending me, teaching me, I have developed that paradoxical strength as an adult to take an increased level of hits my kids (and others) give me without retaliation.  I have learned how to control my response process and to be motivated to do it.

Sometimes I get hit pretty badly.  And even if I can control my outward response, I need to be repaired on the inside.  I go to my New Parent for rehab.  It takes me (and him) time to unravel the tight knots my heart and mind can sometimes get into.  But he ALWAYS does it no matter how tight the knot (2 Nephi 19:6).

10th Avenue North:  "By Your Side"
Through the years of spiritual DNA reconstruction I have learned much about the foundational structure of the human soul.  Whatever imbalanced tendencies towards Survival Parenting I inherited from my parents, they can all be incrementally overcome by this New Parent.  Every single one of us has Survival tendencies to some degree.  We're all crazy!  And we have been raised by parents who are crazy to some degree.  That means we all have need of a New Parent to some degree.

Because my New Parent understands why I have used the levels of Survival Parenting I have, he takes my hits--the ones I give to him and to others.  He gives me time to figure it out.  He bears my burdens and takes care of me.  I literally am reborn.  But he doesn't stand around waiting for me to change.  He actively trains me and expects me to increase my Paradoxical Parenting skills incrementally.  With my "Nature vs. Nurture" choice that I'm gaining, I choose to learn and administer Paradoxical Parenting.