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uperior parents are those who do their best to love and protect children, and are committed to lifetime growth as parents.
A miracle of human parenting is that people at every developmental altitude can be superior parents. There is deep programming is us to cherish and support our young, and consciousness gives us great powers.
The birth of a child often creates a critical period in parents where there can be a sudden upleveling in the parent’s consciousness.
Motivated to be a superior parent, parents are also potentially open to being better spouses. Research shows that improving your marriage makes you a better parent.
Integral understanding gives parents an edge because it’s both developmentally oriented and evolutionarily oriented:
- Developmentally: Knowing children grow on multiple lines, through multiple levels, and that you can’t skip levels helps orient parents to the issues and capacities a child has now, helping parents help children be the healthiest version of their current capacities while helping them move towards optimally embodying their next levels of capacities.
- Evolutionarily: Knowing how children and parents are constantly influenced by the drives and instincts helps parent support integration of drives rather than denial, suppression, or repression of drives.
Integrally informed parenting means we can see and support development on multiple lines. If problems arise on any line, we can orient towards what needs attention. Examples are the physical, cognitive, moral, self, psychosexual, psychosocial, and integration-of-defenses lines.
All parenting requires some form of collaboration with children. Being curious about our child’s current Kosmic address as well as our own helps us attune to children and create alliances with their different selves. Even in boundary setting, an alliance is necessary and always part of a long term project of joining with the child in supporting his or her healthy development.
Love, attunement, and boundaries are necessary for optimal development, but parents are regularly in distressing or confusing situations that make them prey to primitive impulses to indulge, attack, neglect, or bully children. The more robust and compassionate a parent’s self-observation the more able he or she is to shift to better states of consciousness like compassion, empathic resonance, firm and fair boundary setting, and humor.
Integral mindfulness helps us catch regressions from all four quadrants, notice defensive states and positive states in ourselves and others, orient to understanding ourselves and our kids according to current altitudes on different lines, and take into account each person’s unique type in dealing with the world. Ethan telling me at five that, “Karate is not my path.” Zoe needing to make mistakes and deal with her emotional pain on her terms.
Defensive states are inevitable, but Integral parenting can help our children learn as much affect regulation and compassionate understanding as possible through each developmental fulcrum, supporting include and transcend progress on crucial developmental lines.
All people develop defensive habits and are prone to entering defensive states when they feel threatened. Defensive states are characterized by amplified or numbed emotions, distorted perspectives, destructive impulses, and diminished capacities for empathy and self reflection. We can learn to regulate defensive states to states of healthy response to the present moment, and as we do we progress on the integration-of-defenses line of development.
What Integrally informed parents can do
First, we accept the reality that, to one extent or another, everyone (including our children) have chronically amped up distress and persistent negatively distorted stories in some areas that generate emotional pain and confusing distorted stories.
Second, we embrace the responsibility to regulate that extra distress and those dark narratives in ourselves and to help our children do the same. In general, we do this by learning and teaching emotional regulation as well as how to deconstruct distorted defensive stories and trauma triggers (essentially strengthening and empowering our wise self). Once parents know how to self-regulate distress and deconstruct distorted defensive stories, they can help children learn how.
Central to this is emotional coaching with an understanding that emotions crave actions, painful emotions crave affect regulation, appropriate healthy actions reduce emotional pain, and that we want emotional pain to exist at appropriate levels in our emotional interfaces with the universe.
Teaching children self-regulation from conception onward
Integral parenting is partially organized around helping children regulate such defensive programming from before conception through the lifespan. This means teaching affect regulation and wise self-processing in age appropriate ways through every developmental fulcrum.
Supporting joy, harmony, and healthy development of each child’s unique type
Learning children’s types helps parents focus on supporting their child be the healthiest, most successful version of their type, rather than trying to force the child to be a different type.
Integrally informed parents are influenced by data from all quadrants about what makes healthy children and healthy families.
- Growth mindsets.
- Open systems.
- Growth hierarchies instead of dominator hierarchies.
- Emotional coaching rather than emotional dismissing.
- Developmental orientations.
- Receiving caring influence.
- Education increasingly being about interests, types, meaningful projects, complete health (body/mind/spirit in self/culture/nature), and supporting disciplined pursuit of personally meaningful goals.
Emotional coaching is especially important, and significantly healthier and better for parenting than emotional dismissing. On the other hand, with an emotionally coaching base, children (and adults) do best dealing with issues as best they can, regulating and reducing pain as effectively as possible, and tolerating and accepting the inevitable pains or normal existence.
Any parent can be a superior parent by doing their best to love and protect a child, and committing to a lifetime of improvement as a parent.
Integrally informed parenting provides perspectives and tools that can clarify and enact superior parenting, while accelerating growth on the parenting line of development.
-Dr. Keith Witt
Previous Episodes of Witt & Wisdom
About Keith Witt
Dr. Keith Witt is a Licensed Psychologist, teacher, and author who has lived and worked in Santa Barbara, CA. for over forty years. Dr. Witt is also the founder of The School of Love.
About Corey deVos
Corey W. deVos is the proverbial "man behind the curtain". He is Editor-in-Chief of Integral Life, as well as Managing Editor of KenWilber.com. He has worked for Integral Institute/Integal Life since Spring of 2003, and has been a student of integral theory and practice since 1996.