Parenting for a Peaceful World by Robin Grille

ISBN 978-1-921004-14-8
May 2005
Lougueville Media: New South Wales

“Universal care for children’s emotional health is the key to creating a more peaceful and just global community that lives sustainably, in harmony with its environment”.
Robin Grille

Robin Grille is an Australian Psychologist and psychotherapist with a long history of work in the fields of child development, parenting issues and family relationships. In his book ‘Parenting for a Peaceful World’ he reveals how children adapt to different parenting styles and how these early experiences underpin the adults they become. He also discusses how positive parenting and developing children’s emotional intelligence is the key to creating a more peaceful and harmonious world.

This book starts with a history of the social evolution of the family and a description of child rearing practices throughout history. Robin discusses how child rearing practices have been slowly evolving towards more nurturance and how as a result, our society has taken momentous strides towards greater democracy, justice and equality. His theory is that social evolution is a product of child rearing evolution and one cannot happen without the other. He believes that each incremental step towards the mass betterment of children’s lives hastens the worldwide democratization process and makes the point that the positive evolution of child rearing is helping to create societies that are more harmonious, just and compassionate.

Grille points out that social ills such as violence, crime, substance addiction and mental illness are often the results of arrests in emotional development which can be mitigated as we raise children with better attention to their emotional development. Because of the link between social problems and emotional development of children, funding good parent education is the most effective way to reduce violence and crime and it makes sense for governments and other community organizations to take an active role in supporting and educating parents.

Grill says that parents need to be supported because although we are all biologically hard wired with a parenting instinct, it cannot be taken for granted and is imminently open to environmental influences. Whilst this instinct comes through in flying colours when we feel well supported and nurtured by our families and communities, it fails us and is overcome by our instinct for self preservation, when overwhelming life-stress combines with unhealed trauma from childhood and lack of good parenting role models.

The experiences we have in infancy have been shown to have permanent effects on brain development. With some of the deepest pattern-like aspects of our personality shaped in childhood, babyhood and even in the womb. Because the foundations of ‘emotional intelligence’ develop in childhood, cultural attitudes towards children determine the kind of society we have.

Just as harsh or neglectful parenting is an established risk factor for delinquency, the same condition on a large scale has moved entire nations towards a greater acceptance of violence and oppressive means of social discipline such as war or dictatorship.

In this book Robin Grille states that authoritarian or harshly patriarchal child rearing can incline any nation or ethnic group towards violence, which means that a tyrannical government cannot seize control over an otherwise peaceful people and fan the flames of war amongst them. He believes that tyrants can drive a nation to war only when the prevailing culture has already prepared a large enough proportion of its people’s minds for violence. All holocausts have one thing in common, they are perpetrated by survivors of tyrannized childhoods. Grille points to historical evidence which shows that Hitler’s childhood like Stalin’s was a torment of unrelenting and methodical violence perpetrated by his sadistic father, with Hitler being whipped or caned up to 20 times a day which sometimes put him into a coma.

Grille points out that in today’s Germany it is highly unlikely that someone like Adolph Hitler would attain any meaningful position of power, as there is now a much higher level of emotional development. This evolutionary progress he says is the result of gentler child rearing modes that foster the development of emotional intelligence and he makes the point that today’s Germany is in fact becoming a world leader in child rearing attitudes. The German Parliament passed an absolute prohibition on any kind of corporal punishment against children, explicitly including the use of psychological injury and any form of humiliating measures in July 2000. This national ban is backed by large scale government sponsored education of parents. Grille believes that changes such as these are likely to transform Germany into one of the world’s leading forces for peace, democracy and human rights less than 70 years after World War 2.

Grille writes that in our modern western society we are moving from what he calls socializing parenting mode characterized by authoritarian parenting styles, physical discipline and verbal punishments such as shaming to a new type of parenting he calls the helping mode.

Whereas socializing parents are authoritarian meaning they insist on unquestioning obedience, helping parents have learned to be authoritative, by embracing the parent’s leadership role whilst recognizing the essential liberty and dignity of the child and set boundaries based on respect rather than fear.

In the helping mode we have become better at seeing each child for whom he or she is, instead of what we imagine or project onto the child. Rather than imposing ‘good’ values through punishment and reward, and rather than enforcing blind obedience, the helping mode parent fosters the child’s autonomy and self regulation. Boundaries are set strongly and clearly without recourse of corporal punishment, shaming or manipulation. In contrast to the top-down, authoritarian power dynamics of earlier modes, helping mode interactions are two-way and mutually respectful.

Helping mode parents have learned to distinguish more clearly between the child’s need and the parent’s wishes. Previously it was said to be ‘for the good of the child’ that we smacked them or forced them into rigid feeling and sleeping routines. Grille believes that the helping mode is the closest humankind has come towards nurturing emotional intelligence by meeting the psychological needs of children at each stage of their development with the emphasis now on strong rather than violent boundary setting and emphatic listening.

Though emotional intelligence can be cultivated throughout life, it is given the most powerful foundation in childhood. Children of helping mode parents learn to listen to their inner voice rather than the external voice of others and develop a greater degree of independence and self responsibility. Having encountered sufficient empathy throughout their childhoods these children are less likely to destructively act out of frustrations as they grow up, be more emphatic towards others and have the ability to create and maintain healthy relationships. For the children of helping mode parents these abilities are more likely to become second nature and spontaneous responses.

The overarching message of this book is that if child rearing continues to evolve we will be rewarded with extremely positive changes in areas of social justice, social harmony and ecological sustainability

‘When we parent a child we are parenting the world and its future’
Robin Grille

Published on Friday, July 30th, 2010, under Announcements

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