Finding Your Own Pagan Family Values
Before I got to know any pagans in my area, I was a stay-at-home mother of two. Because this was a very boring lifestyle, I volunteered to help out an organization called Parents Anonymous and became a group therapy counselor. What a relief it was to learn that much of the organization’s methodologies tied in with pagan values. I’m sure many pagan families can benefit from this experience, so I’ll share what I know here.
Pagan families are growing, both in number and in size, and now at the family season of Yule it’s a good time to take a look at the environment that pagan children grow up in. Many of our children (including mine) are getting to the age of puberty. This means that there are some heavy lessons ahead involving sex, drugs, peer pressure, societal pressure, setting morality and setting guidelines.
In a Christian community, the Bible provides the framework of morality that parents can teach their children. A Christian community has 10 commandments that allow parents to draw lines between right and wrong behavior. But what framework can we work from if we are pagans?
The answer is simple: An ye harm none, do as ye will. Even if you are not Wiccan, this guideline (or something similar to it) is in most codes of behavior for most non-Christian belief systems. But whichever code of conduct you choose for yourself in your dealings with other adults, you must use the same code of conduct when dealing with your children. Kids are the first to spot a hypocrite, and if they spot you being hypocritical, you will have a hard time regaining their respect.
So let’s take a look at what that phrase, as stated above, means. Doing your will, and by this I mean your True Will, which has been defined as “the true purpose of the totality of one’s being,” means finding out what suits you best. Your Will is made up of tiny decisions made every day that lead you in one particular direction. The voice of your conscience is a part of your Will, as well as your long-term goals, and what people and things are attractive to you. Everything you have done so far has put you where you are now. So remember: When you are interacting with your children, it was an act of your Will that put them there.
One of the things that we sometimes forget about Will is that I have no right to guess what my kid’s Will is, and she has no right to guess mine (or anyone else’s, for that matter!). Although parents can offer advice and information, in the end the decision to act or not act belongs to the child. Whether my daughter goes to college, is gay or straight or chooses Christianity, it’s none of my business, unless she tells me it is. Just because my daughter is my offspring doesn’t mean I get to set her Will. Any attempt to do so violates the first part of the sentence: An ye harm none.
Let’s take a look at the word harm. Harm occurs when one person attempts to stop another person from doing his or her Will. Kids can do harm to their parents by breaking the law while they are minors, not telling the truth or breaking well-established rules. Parents can do harm to kids by expecting too much, disciplining too much or neglecting their needs.
Watch yourself and your reactions to your child, and see if there is any Will subversion going on. Do you give in when he gets emotional? Do you get angry when she states her own opinion? Discuss the rules of your household with your children. Make sure that all of them are logical, and take the time to explain each one to the child. If you can’t explain it in words he or she can understand, do you really need that rule? This means no because-I-said-so’s.
But what about when someone’s Will is causing harm? What happens when a drug dealer sells drugs to curious children? What happens when someone’s sex drive causes him or her to react inappropriately toward a minor? How does one deal with the harm that this causes without hurting our children or impeding another person’s Will? This gets tricky, indeed, when there are no commandments that outline particular behavior.
Each lifetime has its lessons to learn, and perhaps your path has crossed the path of one of these types of people. Think about the lessons learned from a drug dealer, an oversexed acquaintance or a violent maniac. The lesson to “stay away from these types” had to be learned somewhere in life. Would you be who you are if no one had ever done you harm?
This is not to say that drug dealers should be allowed to sell crack to your kids on the playground. This is never good, for Christians or for pagans. But what is more effective, openly attacking the drug dealer, or telling the kids how it does harm to themselves and their parents if they choose drugs and why the dealer is a person to stay away from? Many people would choose both of these methods; however, an open attack on someone usually makes them sneakier or more determined in the behavior you want stopped. The most peaceful resolution is to educate those whose naïveté would allow them to be harmed. In this way, you are helping your children choose the correct path of their Will and allowing the lessons they need to learn to happen.
When I have warned my children of all dangers, when I know they understand what my words mean, I have done all I can do without causing harm to them myself. Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own behavior and with whom we choose to associate and avoid. Therefore, getting angry at children for getting themselves in trouble is pointless and sometimes heartless.
Punishment in a pagan family is yet another issue of Will. If my son’s Will is to stay out all night on a school night, he will pay the karma in lower attention span and perhaps lost grades in school. But teenagers have very little idea of what the long-term consequences are, because they have not lived a long term. Therefore, it is my job as his parent to drive the lesson home. When he says he’s going out, I ask him what time he is coming home and discuss whether or not this is an appropriate time to be in bed for a full night’s rest. Then I explain that if he does not stick to his word, he will be given extra chores, have privileges revoked or have other nonviolent unpleasantries occur. At that point, the decision of whether to stay out all night is back on him, and because he knows I’m consistent, he knows he’s going to do those chores if he is not!
In writing this article, I was asked, “So what about the kid who is impossible to deal with, who is entirely unreasonable?” There is no such child. Just because your teenage daughter is not listening to reason from you doesn’t mean she is entirely unreasonable. Someone, somewhere, has her attention, even if it’s her best friend who gives her lousy advice. What has happened here is that the child has lost respect for you somewhere down the line. All it takes is one time for her to see you not being honest, fair or reasonable yourself, and she may lose respect for you. Just once.
So begin by reinforcing the positive parts of your relationship with your child. Remember, you are both individuals, and you can be yourself with your kid, as much as you are with your best friend. When you understand that this is an adult in the making, and not an annoying, needy creature that you have to support, you will find the most reasonable path of communicating with her or him.
Which brings us to communicating with kids. Think about how young you were when you began having independent thoughts of your own. Your kids have been thinking for themselves since day one and will continue to come up with their own original ideas and attitudes for the rest of their lives. Allowing your kids to tell you these ideas without judgment will encourage them to think for themselves and preserve the level of respect that they have for you. Showing respect to my children while explaining my point of view makes sure that they have heard me, so that they don’t learn the lesson the hard way. Children listen when they have respect for the adult speaking. Winning respect that has already been lost is a long, hard job, so it’s easier not to disrespect them in the first place.
If you provide a basis for communication that cuts through all the fear and worry with your kid, there is nothing that any other person can do or say to undermine your authority with the child — including his or her other parent. Don’t fear what the other parent will say, and don’t pull any punches when talking with your kids.
Lying is something that all children attempt at some point in time. In most families, this is the point where communication breaks down and arguments start. Saying “You’re lying” will just get the kid defensive. However, if you know your child is lying to you, do you really have to tell him or her that? Just act as if you did not hear the actual words that came out of his or her mouth, and behave as if you know the truth. In other words “I didn’t make that mess” is not answered by “yes, you did” but by “clean it up.” Once a kid figures out how pointless it is to lie, he or she will stop on her own.
The most effective way to communicate with children is positive reinforcement. Catch them acting in a way you like, and tell them you like it. When writing this article, I asked my well-behaved 11-year-old, “What keeps you from breaking rules?” She said, “I want you to be happy with me.” This is a natural reaction for all kids; they want to please. Use this tendency by telling kids when they are being pleasant.
Most attention-getting behavior (which is 90 percent of “misbehavior”) can be rectified by giving the attention energy that the kid is trying to get. If you’re used to doing energy work, just visualize a direct line of energy between yourself and your kid whenever he or she wants your attention. Yes, you might find yourself giving more energy than you were prepared to give at the moment, but isn’t that the job of a parent? Realize that eventually your child will have enough energy from you and learn to find some within his circle of peers. In the meantime, make sure the lines of communication stay open.
Open communication is especially important when you are trying to teach your children to follow their own Wills and oppose outside manipulators or people who would do them harm. Respect is important here. Even though the person committing the act against them is not necessarily respectful, it is important to teach kids a perspective of respect for their own minds. Two wrongs do not make a right, and two disrespects do not teach respect.
If possible, it’s best to begin response to any unwanted pressures with a simple “No.” However, if someone puts a hand somewhere that my daughter didn’t agree to, it is perfectly acceptable for her to say in a loud voice “Get your hand off my ____!” This is a clue to everyone around to protect her. It also tells the perpetrator that this child is not a pushover and will help my child be able to withstand the real world and its manipulation tactics.
When it comes to drugs and alcohol, it is extremely important to explain to kids that after that first drink, you are no longer in a position to exercise your Will. Remind them that it is illegal for a minor to drink, which could harm you, the parent. Secondly, if they find themselves being pressured to alter their awareness against their Will, the safest bet is to walk away. This is one argument they need not get into at all.
The best approach I’ve found yet in dealing with Will manipulators is to know your own Will so that you recognize when it is violated. Explain to kids that it is probably not within their Will to get high, give sexual signals to an adult or commit acts of violence. It is a kid’s Will to create his or her future and learn how to live in this society. It is a kid’s Will to dance, sing and play and make good decisions about who to dance, sing and play with.
To help children stay safe, give children healthier options in the first place. Ask any “good” kids why they don’t shoot heroin, and they will tell you that they have better things to do. The kids who wind up doing drugs typically have unhappy home lives, no knowledge of addiction patterns or consequences and access to drugs. All three of these are direct lines into drugs and can be stopped by the parent, if the parent is paying attention and interacting positively with the kid on a daily basis.
One of the fastest way to lose a child’s respect is to overreact in situations where the child’s well-being is at stake. It’s easy to get angry when you see your children pressured or hurt. Many parents overdefend their children in such cases, often causing harm for others in their zeal. To keep yourself from this situation, keep your actions balanced: equal energy returned for the amount of energy received. If someone insults your kid, it is not equal energy to get violent with him or her. If someone pressures your kid once, it is not equal energy to spread rumors about that person for the next six months. It is, however, equal energy to ask that the person leave your child alone.
Balance cannot be kept if you are acting in anger, because anger adds to the energy you return, and therefore it becomes more than what was received. Calm down before taking any steps to correct the balance between your kid and whoever stepped on his or her Will. Always return the same amount of energy that was given; in my observation, the laws of karma become instantaneous in such situations.
We don’t live in a perfect world; however, we raise our children the way we do because we all value our freedoms. Respect, communication and love are all we have to combat the negativity in our environment. To keep our children safe, we must first not allow ourselves or them to be vulnerable. The best gift you could give a child is the capacity to walk his or her Will.