People ask me a lot of questions about parenting. It's not because I look like I have any idea what I'm doing. I barely look like I showered most days. Mostly I get questions because I’m raising my almost five-year-old daughter vegan since birth (and long before). I get a lot of the questions I got as a vegan for more than 20 years myself: Do we get enough protein? Don’t we miss meat? Does my child actually eat vegetables? Is she healthy? Yes. No. Yes. Yes.
We simply can’t maintain the status quo of raising 55 billion+ animals a year for food. It’s not just bad for our health, but bad for the planet (and tragic for the animals, too). Despite these many mammals on the planet, we’re losing other critical species, resources, natural wonders. And so much more. And while diet is something critical to our family values, there are three other lessons I’ve found to be just as important to raising a responsible child in these most intense times on earth.
1. You can never love your child too much.
Seems like a no-brainer, right? Love is love. But parents so often confuse the need to discipline with withholding love. Let’s maybe not do that? Love and guidance don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, withholding love as punishment can lead to far more severe behavior issues down the road. Yes, a child needs to clean up their messes and understand why hitting their friends is not okay, but we can do that with love and kindness. We need to. We can hold a child on our laps and explain that there will be consequences, that they made a mistake, and that we love them and will help them through it. Because love is a far more effective teacher than not loving. That only breeds isolation and resentment. Do we really need more of that on this planet?
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2. Do what’s right in the moment.
Not to get all zen or anything, but there really only ever is “this moment" in the first place. Indeed, there are consequences to our actions, but don’t let that cloud your judgment with fears about tomorrow and beyond. Just because you give your kid the iPad because you have some work you need to finish or dinner to make, doesn’t make you a bad parent. Even if you had to do it every night this week (ahem). Kids are resilient, adaptable, and most grateful for your ability to see what they need in the moment. Parenting is dynamic and children are, too. Listen to your child, listen to yourself and go from there no matter what you think you should do or read somewhere (ahem). Being present and real about the situation won't "spoil" your child -- quite the opposite. It teaches them adaptability and acceptance. Accepting the demands of the current moment isn’t just healthy for our mental state as parents (although it’s really, really freaking helpful), it’s also critical in showing our kids that success in life is linked to success in how we deal with the world, moment by moment -- whatever wicked or wonderful moments are thrown at us. Be present, be aware, and they will be, too.
3. Help them find their joy.
Kids are busy these days. Arguably more than they’ve ever been. And for many, it’s a huge source of stress. Yes, kids complain for all sorts of reasons, but maybe soccer really just isn’t their thing. It’s wonderful to let them try a variety of hobbies, and it’s also wonderful to listen to their heart. What makes them happy? What makes them want to share their joy with others? That is our task as parents in this world. Keeping them healthy and safe is a given--it’s primal. But helping them to find their true passion in life is the real gift of being human. And if we can see one glaring hole in humanity it’s that too many people aren't afforded that opportunity. Can you imagine a world where everyone is loved, accepted, and joyful? That's a future worth investing in now.
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