Welcome to part 5 of my blog on the wonderful book “Parenting Well in a Media Age” by Gloria deGaetano. This week we are looking at Chapter 4 – The Second Essential Need: An Interior Life.
What is an “Interior Life”?
“An interior life is to our minds what an enclosed porch is to our house. It’s a place separate from, yet a part of the structure in which we live. It’s a place to meet ourselves and have a good chat. It’s a seclusion to muse and ponder. It’s a timeout where we can regroup and understand ourselves better. We enter when we wish and leave when it’s time. Hopefully it’s a room of light; a place where we achieve clarity and purpose”. – Gloria DeGaetano
The importance of having the time to be in our “porches” cannot be underestimated especially now in the busy lives we all lead. It is during this time that we have time to think, reflect, self-talk and simply “be” which is an essential component for all human beings, particularly children, to function well and develop “inner” quality skills such as integrity and resilience.
DeGaetano believes that: “Nurturing An Interior Life Leads to a Positive Self-Image” and spends much of the chapter addressing this important and pivotal point. She shares her expertise with the reader with many practical examples as to how to cultivate this in ourselves and our children.
“How can children come to like who they are, if they don’t spend time inside getting to know themselves?” – Gloria DeGaetano.
How do we nurture this Interior Life?
The author believes that emphasizing these three basic skills will help us and our children discover, build and construct our interior lives:
1. INTROSPECTION – helps kids value themselves
You can only know yourself when you have taken the time to or been given the time to find out about yourself. Kids really need to be given the opportunity to discover and get to know themselves. They need to spend time in their “porch”, to help them find their interior life. This place needs to be as free as possible from external stimulus and influences to nurture emotions, thoughts, reflection and imagination found in this deep place within.
“ Without such introspection time, humans cripple creative expression. By going within and “just thinking”, children also build resiliency skills for tackling life’s demands. Introspection is the way children can get acquainted with their interior lives”. – Gloria DeGaetano
As parents we need to make sure that there is sufficient quiet in our homes and create space specifically for this to encourage and facilitate this fundamentally important process. Many studies show that too much stimulation takes away the capacity for introspection; even background music while reading was found to be a distraction.
2. INSPIRATION – helps kids value their capacity to come up with an idea
In this heavily media/industrial orientated and influenced world, we need to continually help our children find inspiration from the real world over the virtual one. We can do this by role modeling this to our kids and sharing our inspirational moments with them. We need to be “Inspiration Detectives” in their lives noticing when they have been inspired so we can amplify it back to them to help them recognize it within themselves. We can also share with them the fact that it often takes time for an inspirational moment to visit us and not to hurry or rush the process. We can help them learn to trust that it will come and that maybe they need to visit their “porch” to create the peace and quiet to find it.
3. INTRINSIC MOTIVATION – we need to know what inspires us in order to develop the capacity for motivation and we only know what inspires us when we KNOW ourselves well. This motivation comes from within.
I find that a useful way to think of this and how to encourage our children towards finding motivation is a) for them to really know what makes them tick, help them find their passion and b) to see our role as one of a motivational guide or coach rather than a motivational source. The latter simply becomes another external motivator reinforcing the habit of looking “outward” to find motivation. We need to help our children identify with the experience rather than the end result as it is the joy gained from the experience that ultimately becomes the motivating factor.
In the concluding paragraphs of this fascinating and excellent chapter DeGaetano writes that “An Inner Life Helps a Child Feel Included and that Your Inner Life can Fuel Your Parenting”.
It is a primal need of all human beings to feel that they belong and my “take way” from reading this chapter is that it would appear that children who have been given the time to spend in their “porch” to tap into their “interior lives” will stand a better chance of developing those inner quality skills that are so essential to life, will have a better sense of who they are, a secure sense of belonging and will relate better to those around them.
“As children of all ages get in touch with themselves, they also tap their personal power. They have less need to prove themselves to others because they have internal proof that they are capable beings… They sense they already belong to the world because their sense of self is growing appropriately”. – Gloria DeGaetano
When our children feel like they belong and have a strong interior life, they develop a self-reliance that ultimately makes our job as parents become easier; they start guiding themselves more. This in turn takes up less of our energy thus creating more space for ourselves. It’s a win win situation.
The author believes that having an inner life ultimately allows us to be authentic to ourselves, that it helps us make wise choices, gives us the capacity recognize our mistakes and rectify them and appreciate that we are all different and unique, and be able to love ourselves for who we are and what we stand for. Which parent would not want to give this gift to their child?
I would encourage you to read this chapter in full as it is gives many useful and practical suggestions relating to this extremely foundational and pivotal piece to parenting well.
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