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Some of my sweetest memories are from my childhood relationship with my grandparents.

Decades later, I can conjure their voices and the luxurious feel of spending time in their presence.

Grandparents have the amazing opportunity to be ambassadors of true unconditional love.

And lucky for me, and my sisters, our grandparents were exactly that. They didn’t concern themselves with monitoring schoolwork, chores, or the specifics of our behavior, unless we broke important rules.

They wisely left that to our parents.

Instead, they spent their time with us dispensing love. In their eyes, we could do no wrong, and their unconditional regard washed over us in an ever-flowing waterfall. To be on the receiving end of that fountain of love was pure bliss.

Today, child development experts and neuroscientists will confirm the healing, almost magical benefits of being loved so unconditionally. There were rules, boundaries and expectations to be sure. It wasn’t like some Kids Gone Wild movie.

What professionals have learned is that children thrive in an atmosphere of high warmth and clearly defined expectations about behavior. Sounds like my grandparents, and I’m guessing yours too.

At least I hope so.

 Now the baton has been passed.

My grandparents are no longer living. And my parents, who beautifully carried out the tradition of unconditional love for their grandchildren have joined them. In our little family, that leaves Rick and me to be the waterfall of unconditional love.

It’s a task we’re thrilled to undertake.

At the ripe old age of not quite two, our grandson knows the horses and has absolutely no fear around them. When he gets in our car he asks, “Horses?” He’s figured this little routine out. Has it down cold.

Bud and Pepper take him in stride. This visit, Pepper even agreed to allow him to sit on her back. For Miss P. that was big!

Do you have special grandparent memories? 

Our grandmother used to mix the last of the grape juice in the pitcher with a new can of orange juice, I presume so that she wouldn’t have to wash the container. We loved that! Thought it was a special kind of juice. My sister and I still talk about it sometimes. Just writing about it shoots me back to my grandmother’s dining nook in Kansas. I can picture the little juice glasses and nearly taste the juice. That’s how strong memory is.

If you’re so inclined, tell me one of your grandparent memories in the comment section below.

Abuse begets abuse.

Most therapists, teachers, child protection workers and cops know that when you see someone beating a child or an animal, if you dig deep enough, you’ll find they were treated the same way. Violence often gets passed from one generation to the next.

For me, that’s why the story of horse trainer Buck Brannaman is exceptional. He broke the cycle. First of all, to call him a horse trainer is a huge understatement. The man is, pure and simple, a magician with horses.

I’ve known about Brannaman for years. He was the inspiration for Robert Redford’s movie The Horse Whisperer. 

And he comes from a powerful lineage of teachers: Bill Dorrance, Tom Dorrance, and Ray Hunt.

These were the first of their kind – the men who knew a different way to handle horses. They got into a horse’s head and used that knowledge to the good. The old west method of breaking a horse was brutal and horribly abusive. To this day I can’t bear the images of treating horses so badly.

Buck Brannaman and his brother were abused as kids. Their father beat them mercilessly until they were finally removed from his care and placed in a foster home. The miracle here is that as a man, Buck is kind, gentle and forgiving – with horses and people.

He interrupted the pattern of generational abuse in a dramatic way. He spends his life traveling the country teaching horse owners how to get the most from their animals. Watching him work is nothing short of amazing, and it often does seem like magic.

There is a documentary film showing right now about Brannaman, and I encourage you to see it. Even if you’re not a “horse person,” I think you’ll like this film. I left the theater feeling uplifted and hopeful. Not just about horses. About people and their ability to surmount horrible life experiences and become better.

The scenery is gorgeous and Brannaman is an everyday hero – a man you really would love to know. He’s a no-nonsense guy, down to earth and likeable as all get out. But he’s also no pushover. He has boundaries and lets you know what he expects.

In the world of child rearing, we call it authoritative parenting, which consists of positive emotional experiences combined with clear expectations, boundaries, and consequences.

It seems with horses and kids, we could all benefit from a little more whispering.

See the movie and then let me know what you think. If you live in Fort Collins, it’s currently playing at The Lyric.

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