Values are what we truly feel are most important, essential or valuable to our lives as parents. Our values originate from whatever we perceive to be missing in our lives. So if we perceive that we are missing relationships, money, or influence, we will seek, desire and value a partner, cash and social networks. Our perceived voids therefore determine our values.
Since we have more than one void and corresponding value, we actually have a series of voids and values ranging from the most important to the least important. Our values can occur in any of the seven primary areas of life – Spiritual, Mental, Vocational, Financial, Familial, Social and Physical and they can be concentrated in one or few areas or dispersed through all seven unevenly.
Every perception, decision and action we make is determined by our hierarchy of values. Every decision is based upon what we feel is going to provide us with the most advantage over disadvantage and most reward over risk to our highest values. The more parents understand their own and their children’s hierarchy of values the more they can communicate, educate and empower themselves and their children.
Every family member has a unique hierarchy of values and no two family members have the same set of values. Whenever either or both parents project their highest values onto their children there will be both benefits and drawbacks. The benefits can initially give them outer direction and can sometimes save them from learning the hard way. The drawbacks can cloud the child’s individual mission. Children spontaneously love learning what is truly highest on their own hierarchy of values, what is most important to them, but not necessarily those values projected by their parents or teachers.
When parents identify, respect and communicate whatever they feel is wise for their children to learn in terms of the child’s highest values, children expand their learning horizons and incorporate these new values and interests. When parents autocratically project their values and learning content onto their children without knowing or honouring their childrens’ highest values, the children can resist.
Many learning difficulties are simply due to parents or teachers not honouring what is truly most important to the child and not communicating information in terms of the child’s highest values or inspirations.
The child’s identity revolves around their highest value – their purpose. It is what they spontaneously love to learn and fulfill. Children naturally express genius in their highest value and suppress any genius in their lowest. Many learning abilities are only in certain areas. These same children excel in other areas that are aligned congruently with their highest values. Children could be labeled Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) at their school while enduring a class they are not inspired by or engaged in, while at home they could stay focused for six hours straight on their video games and demonstrate Attention Surplus Order (ASO). Before projecting labels, it is wise to first discover children’s highest values. Authorities projecting labels sometimes undermine the very genius they are claiming to breed.
1. Expose Your Kids To Nature
A recent study of kids with attention deficit disorder (ADD) found that a 20-minute walk in a park made significant differences to things like attention span, hyperactivity and concentration. The researchers used a walk in a street as a control so they were able to prove that it was the environment that made the difference, not the exercise. That’s a big deal. Think back to your own childhood. Almost all my best memories seem to involve being left to get up to my own devices outdoors somewhere. We have a huge tendency to over-schedule our kids, both during term time and on holiday when really, what they most want, is to explore things for themselves. The good news here is that it is probably enough to take your kids somewhere unspoilt on holiday, without having to think of things to do once you get there. They’ll take care of that themselves.
2. Have Dirty Kids – And Fewer Allergies
Talk Radio 702’s tame radio doctor, Dr Harry Seftel, sums up parents’ responsibility to their children’s health perfectly: ‘Let them eat dirt’. We are way too precious with the little sweethearts these days, with the net result that our kids are a snivelly lot, prone to higher rates of allergies than ever before. Boot them out into the garden, encourage them to poke sticks (gently) at slugs and crickets, and generally just behave a little more like the sorts of kids Enid Blyton was always writing about. Kids who grow up dirty have a far better appreciation of the world around them and are generally healthier too. I should know; I was filthy then and am often barely presentable now.
3. Read To Your Kids
Reading to your kids at night is like getting free karmic parenting points. It creates a rhythm of getting them to go down at the same time each night, it decreases your stress levels by forcing you to actually stop what you’re doing for a bit and it has been shown to improve their health and their scores on a whole range of tests. And while you’re at it, you may as well try a little subtle propaganda. The stores are bursting with good, green kiddies books but I still haven’t seen one better than The Lorax by good old Dr Seuss.
4. Buy Battery-Free Toys For Your Kids
Go and have a look through your kids’ bedroom cupboard (or all over their floor if cleaning their room is their responsibility). How many of the electronic toys still work? 10%? And yet they still play with the things, unless they’ve been so badly designed that all their functionality is lost once the batteries are out. I remember very clearly realising at the age of about 5 that battery-powered toys just limited the scope of play that your imagination allowed. Toys that don’t contain batteries last longer, are easier to play with and are far more likely to still be in a condition where they can be passed on to someone else once your child has finished with them . And your kid won’t even notice the difference as he’ll be too busy playing with the box it came in anyway.
5. Green Your School Lunches
A huge amount of research has gone into linking school children’s diet with issues such as concentration, behaviour and attention spans. The correlation between school lunches that are good for the environment and lunches that are good for your kids is almost perfect. A good first rule is that just about anything that comes pre-packaged in single helpings ‘just right for the lunch box’ is unlikely to be good for either. Apart from that, nature provides the perfect pre-wrapped food in individual fruits. And leftovers are brilliant. Last night’s mince makes a solid sandwich filling. Low-GI sandwiches, some fruit and some protein in the form of a stick of biltong or some cheese, and you’re providing them with a serious head start over their sugar-stoked peers.
I am turning 40 this year and I’ll admit that even at this age, I often battle with the fact that I’m a person challenging convention which means I’m often the more ‘abnormal’ in a group.
Despite undoubtedly being classified as proper grown-up now with a pocket full of competencies and coping skill to call on in difficult situations, I still often find it uncomfortable that I’m just not the same and face the wrath of people whom I irritate because the information I disperse about food challenges the norm, makes people have to look at their attitude to nutrition and it can and does sometimes make people defensive. This is often a huge pity because it is meant to be an empowering journey toward claiming greater health but that’s a story for another day.
The point is that you’ve got to be quite powerfully connected to your own internal compass to face the rejection you risk when you challenge convention in order to lead the change you believe in and stand for.
You’ve also got to be mindful that the modern day mother’s context particularly is pretty heavy and complex.
Woman are fed up in spades of feeling inadequate on some level and carry guilt as a matter of course, they’re guilty if they work, they’re guilty if they don’t, they face a juggling act between home and work and a busy modern day world, self esteem can run pretty thin, most woman are not up for anymore messages that say that they aren’t good enough or that make any further demands on their time. Most woman I meet, somewhere, don’t feel like that they quite measure up to some virtual ideal out there of what a modern day successful woman should be.
You can see then why having to deliver the message that the convenience that they get from being relieved of having to spend time in the kitchen, through industrial and refined foods, isn’t actually as convenient as it appears isn’t an easy message to deliver.
The convenience of outsourcing your pantry to big food, is going to end up in less energy, more trips to the Doctor ultimately and the inconvenience of disease down the line. This is no exaggeration – the global stats show rising levels of cancer, heart disease and diabetes in more affluent societies.
This generation faces the most industrial and toxic environment yet – what our immune systems have to contend with now compared to even 50 years ago – isn’t the same.
We know how rare ‘real food’ has become when we try to source organically grown, untainted fresh farm produce and find it scarce. We know how rare naturally raised meat is to find because we see how difficult it is to find farms that can afford to raise animals in a true free-range environment on a diet they are most naturally to.
I know this only too well because I have tried to build up a business selling organic food and still battle to create a shop with anywhere near enough in, the produce is scarce. If I wanted to sell industrially which now also means conventionally farmed produce with artificial fertilizers, pesticides and in a way that harms the environment, erodes biodiversity and pollutes the soil – I could fill a shop in a tick. In a heartbeat. The difficulty would be service and establishing a brand and a store people want to head to, my difficulty would not be with supply. There is an abundance of conveyor belt and conventionally farmed toxic food out there – it is our normal.
If it is this difficult as an adult to be abnormal and go against the grain by eating real food, we need to be mindful of what our children are put through when we assert their right to proper nutrition amongst a ‘norm’ that has somewhere between 50 and 100 tsp. of refined sugar a day, chemicals, additives and preservatives laying the foundation for diabetes and ailing immune systems in adulthood, as a daily matter of course in their lives.
If this is the ‘norm’ and we know it is and we know how much courage it can take to challenge convention and stand out, what is it like for children who are eating healthy food who have radically different lunch boxes in the classroom?
Do they get ostracized for being different? Do they find it difficult to manage the contradictions they see and hear? If we tell them that we aren’t feeding them unhealthy food because we love them, does that mean in their little minds those children who eat refined junk foods have parents who don’t love them? Do we mean to tell them that when we know this isn’t true. Might it confuse them mightily? They know their friends are loved and yet some of their friends are eating foods we demonize because we are aware of the strain these food burdens their systems with. What are little brains and hearts to make of this? What happens when they go to parties and want to eat the sweets and rubbish that the other ‘normal’ children are eating, food they have been told is ‘bad for them’ – what are they to do with the guilt? It’s a tough enough minefield to manage as an adult; do we need to think about how our children are managing this? I know we do because of the challenges I face navigating through this with my daughter.
When I want to see my friends, there’s a fair amount of very non-organic food and alcohol flowing, friendship means the world to me and is a large part of my emotional health, I am adamant that to not spend good time with them – including eating what they are eating and stay home with my organic green juice alone – would not be healthy. I have that t-shirt and I won’t ever be putting that one back on.
We have to talk very seriously about children. As much as we talk about the impact of refined food, chemicals, sugar and preservative on their health – we have to cast a lens at the emotional landscape of eating with them – particularly when we know that rightly or wrongly – eating healthy food in our current landscape is actually not normal. That’s how severely dysfunctional our nutritional world is right now.
I’ve really been worried about this lately and had to find a way to navigate myself and my daughter through a difficult issue but just yesterday morning we had a break through. I’m going to share this with you because it’s a vital part of the Jozi Real Food conversation with regards to children.
My daughter is the daughter of a food activist really, for all of her life; she has had the experience of eating food very different to what her friends eat. I can’t divorce her from this reality any more than I can get her a new mother. It’s a part of our household and I’ve walked some interesting paths on this topic and it has not been easy and remains challenging.
Along the way, I have had to adapt and throw some of my most informed principles down the toilet in order to allow her breathing room to be normal and to reduce the tension around food that can crop up when her friends are running around with blue fizzers and I’m offering blueberries.
This surprises people, but I am not one of those people anymore who will stick to a principle if it causes too much tension for my loved ones. I used to be. Nowadays, I don’t attach half as much weight to my need to be right and principled as my need to be flexible and open enough to give others the space to be regardless of what I believe. I guess that’s another great topic actually for another day- but let’s just say we live in a more relaxed household nowadays. I still only buy organic food from farms I know but I’m far less rigid, far more flexible and when Kiara is in scenes where my friend’s children are eating rubbish that she wants to eat too, I breathe, let go, relax. That doesn’t mean I let go of the principle, it means I love my family more than my principles.
But there are lines in the sand, there is a point beyond which I can’t relax without compromising myself too much and there must always be boundaries around that. That’s a very delicate tightrope to walk at times.
Anyhow – to the heart of the story – finally. I’ve been worried about my daughter’s lunch-boxes. She doesn’t get lunch-boxes like the rest of the class. White bread doesn’t enter our house. Actually we don’t do bread at all because I just don’t see any great nutritional reason to do so and far too many great reasons to avoid it, unless it’s sourdough. But that’s not soft, white, fluffy bread with softeners in, it’s real bread, it’s different.
She does not get chocolates and packets of anything off a conveyor belt in her lunch-box. She gets fruit and dried fruit and chopped up bits of peppers, tomatoes, cheese or cucumbers as additions to her main lunch, which is always leftovers from the night before. We always have an abundance of great organic cooked dishes around our supper table and we always cook enough and make enough salads that they can fill lunch-boxes the next day so that there is no need for sandwiches.
The thing is, this automatically makes her different. It is not cool for a 7 year old to be different. At 7, you’re trying your level best to fit in, not stand out.
So when I found out recently that Kiara gets teased sometimes for her lunches and has children mock the smell that comes out of her lunchbox with cooked food in, I found myself back on that delicate tight-rope feeling quite miserable.
I have a line in the sand about sandwiches and bread that isn’t negotiable. I am not having my daughter eating a mouthful of preservatives and chemicals in a fluff of dead industrial wheat containing additives linked to ADHD that are banned in other countries. That’s a line. Having her teased though and feeling embarrassed about her lunch-box, is another line. Over my dead body am I going to be let her go through that either so we’re making some adjustments.
Yesterday morning though, we were chatting about it in the kitchen and we came up with this breakthrough together.
We were chatting about this lunch-box issue because I was packing cottage pie for her and we were thinking about how we can handle the kids that tease her because she isn’t eating sandwiches and has meals for lunch. I wasn’t lecturing her; it was a real sort of chat where both her and I were exploring how we can handle this. So I asked her whether there are other children who have different lunches, so she said ‘yes, a girl called Nosipho has chicken and mielies and gravy and salad for lunch.’ So I said to her the thing is Kiara, we can’t start giving you unhealthy food that we know isn’t good for you just because the other kids are eating it and are teasing you. We have to teach them, we can’t let them make you unhealthy, what do you think? She was happy with this idea. So I said ‘what if, you start making a fuss about Nosipho’s lunch?’. Whenever Nosipho opens her lunch-box why don’t you say something like ‘oh wow Nosipho, that looks really delicious, what a great lunch, it looks so much tastier than sandwiches, you’re so lucky’! The child was beside herself with amusement at this idea. Then she got all comical and dramatic and we started dramatizing this idea into something ludicrous until we were both in hysterics. We had her yelling ‘OH WOW NOSIPHO, YOU HAVE THE MOST AMAZING LUNCH, EVERYBODY COME SMELL IT’, we then took it too far as 7 year olds just love doing – and we were sketching scenes of teachers and the whole class coming to see Kiara and Nosipho’s lunch – it got very funny, the tension of the topic is eased and now Kiara has a new strategy to help her deal with the fact that her lunch is different that actually empowers her and better still – if she can find the courage to pull this off, can make space for new norms in the class-room.
We need to be mindful, this taught me, that if we are going to be out there challenging convention – which is what the Jozi Real Food Revolution is all about – we must equip our children with the skills they need to manage it. We need to be sensitive to the burden it places on them to be different and to empower them in these conversations and we need to know when to relax a principle in the name of love. We need to know where our boundaries are, white bread and coke are 2 of mine that come to mind – and we need to keep open dialogue with our children and help them creatively manage the spaces they find themselves in. My daughter is particularly feisty and can assert herself but what about children who can’t, they may need more support.
It might sound dramatic to be putting it like this – but it really is – in my experience – that serious out there – that if your child eats healthy food and has real food in their lunch-boxes – they are in the minority. The majority of lunch-boxes contain food out of packets – they just might be taking some strain about this. Let’s take care with our children.
Whilst their physical health is mightily important and affects their cognitive ability, their energy levels throughout the day, the strength of their immune systems, their ability to focus and participate – their social health is equally as important. Their ability to integrate into society is paramount to their relationship with their world. Even if society is wrong, and we know this is true when it comes to the food that has become normal – the value of being right is negligible if it cause social harm and disease and if you’re sitting too far removed from society, you’re going to battle with emotional health – I’m adamant about this.
Let’s be mindful that the energy around food must be joyful and nourishing, once it gets too tense, let that be your guideline that something needs to be adjusted and let’s be very, very kind to our children and help them stand up and for real and healthy food in a way that empowers them and provide open arms and ears to the challenge that being different can bring to them.
'Children have impressionable minds that are constantly being bombarded with misguided messages from the media and their peers. Proper child raising in today’s world means bringing children back to their natural state of health, happiness, and harmony. Children are hungry for knowledge that will help keep them healthy and strong—mentally, physically, and emotionally. As nurturers, we must share all that we know with them in a gentle, approachable way.' Natalia Rose
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