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Jedi Parenting – Raising Mindful Padawans and Younglings

Jedi Parenting – Raising Mindful Padawans and Younglings

Modern Jedi

“Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.” – Grandmaster Yoda

In my last post, I mentioned that characteristics and techniques we see modeled by the Jedi can be applied to modern parenting.  With no children of their own, what can the Jedi of old possibly teach us?  Is it possible to learn this power?  (Chancellor, please don’t answer that!)

I want to start by saying that I have just one child – a rambunctious three-year-old boy – and have not spent much time around other young children, especially in a caregiver role. I recognize that my experience is undoubtedly far different from many other parents. With that in mind, I am merely relating my own thoughts and certainly do not intend this to be any sort of recommendation of what other parents should or should not do with their own children.

The vast majority of Jedi did not have children (Ki-Adi Mundi being a notable exception), and of course Force-sensitive children were taken from their birth parents at a very young age. This particular aspect of the Jedi experience is clearly not a rule that society should follow. It does not mean, though, that we cannot borrow many of the other mindsets or techniques from the Jedi to raise mindful kids.

The first thought that comes to mind for me personally is maintaining calm. I recognize and accept my own natural tendencies to excitement and frequent anger. However, I choose to accept the situation as it is, rather than what I would like it to be – though it is a work in progress (more on that later). Recognizing and addressing feelings and emotions is definitely a skill we see Force-sensitive beings use repeatedly throughout the saga. Jedi and Sith alike search their feelings and are taught or exhorted to either master them or give in to them, respectively. It’s easy to recognize the dark feelings in the moment – what a parent might feel when the child is in full meltdown at the grocery store, for example. I consider that to be too late, though. I work very hard at recognizing and calling myself out – nonjudgmentally – when I realize that I’m angry, frustrated, or stressed. In many ways, I feel that it gives me power over my emotions. If I can see the anger, I can address it. I may not be able to fix it, but I can surely ask myself if that emotion is really going to help me improve the real issue at hand, or if it just adds fuel to the flame.

Wait a minute – am I talking about my son, or me, in this post? The answer is both. I will completely and unashamedly admit that when my son melts down, I sometimes run the risk of melting down, too. However, I am an adult – and a Jedi, thank you! – and I can and will be a part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

My son knows when I get frustrated, and he will ask me about it (I love his perceptiveness). Of course, many times he knows EXACTLY why I’m upset, if he’s been “making bad choices.” I talk to him about my own effort to remain calm when life gets to be a little much for me and encourage him to do the same. I make a point of letting him see me practice deep breathing, not as a warning to him, but as an example. I want him to see that it’s normal to be affected by emotions, but that we (as a Jedi knight and youngling) do not have to give in and allow ourselves to become overwhelmed.

One method of learning control is through meditation, and I meditate daily.* I generally practice zazen – sitting Zen Buddhist meditation – in a secular fashion. I am not good at it yet, but I’m not bad, either. I consider the fact that I have taken the time to just sit and BE, daily, for over a year and a half to be a very positive measure of performance for me. All Jedi meditated, and for good reason. I do not truly touch the Force, of course, but I invariably feel more connected to my own mind and body, and the universe around me, when I take that time to sit quietly. I haven’t tried to meditate if my son is around – he IS a very lively boy, of course, so I doubt that I’d get much quiet relaxation out of that endeavor. In time I will introduce it to him as well. In the meantime, I model deep breathing for him and take opportunities to teach mindfulness and, if he’s in the right mood, being quiet and still. Again, as an active child, this doesn’t come easy to him, so it’s more of a relative quiet and still. While taking a walk in our neighborhood, I will point out clouds and ask him what he sees in them, or ask what he notices that’s interesting and different about a house or car that we pass. I praise him for picking up on small details that demonstrate that he’s analyzing what he sees.

Another method I use to share Star Wars with my youngling is by listening to The Empire Strikes Back score when we’re in the car. At times he’ll specifically ask to hear “Yoda’s Theme.” “Yoda calms you down, Daddy,” he’ll say, because I’ve told him so. It might just be his wanting to be like his father, but he says it calms him down, too. The reason why it relaxes me, though, is because it reminds me of the Dagobah training scenes in the movie. I particularly enjoy Yoda’s explanation of the Force and of our luminosity within the world. I describe the scene to my son, and he now recognizes the cue when Yoda lifts Luke’s X-wing out of the swamp when he hears it. He’ll then tell me how even small people can use the Force to do good (hint hint, son!)

In the physical realm, and like many Star Wars parents, we frequently play with lightsabers. I have taken it a step further by introducing him to a pair of foam training swords that I used when I practiced traditional Japanese martial arts. As we train – and I pointedly avoid the word “fight” – I encourage him to stay in control and not allow himself to be swept up in the moment too much. I realize that he’s a small child who needs to play, but I am cautious of allowing combat techniques to be reduced to “play” for him. In time I will teach him appropriate uses of physical force, but not yet. I admit to quoting Yoda often – “Control, control, you must learn control!” It’s also a good opportunity for me to reinforce that Jedi listened to their teachers, kept in touch with their own feelings, and controlled their emotions and physical selves as appropriate in the situation.

I’m interested to hear how others use Jedi techniques or attributes to help raise their own children. Until next time, thank you for reading, may the Force be with you, and remember –

This is the podcast you’re looking for!

*I use the “Insight Timer – Meditation Timer” app on my iPhone.  Find out more at https://insighttimer.com/.

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8 Comments

  1. Jay Krebs
    June 14, 2015 at 17:20 Reply

    Great to see you again, Dave! 🙂 It sounds like you and your padawan certainly do share some quality experiences!

    Your thoughts bring me back to a time in my parenting cycle when each day was a struggle of emotions vs actions; reactions vs consequences…those days are still there, for sure, but they’ve evolved into a different entity, so-to-speak…

    The work of parenting a youngling never ends, even when those younglings morph into padawans, then “junior knights” (as I feel my boys are now, at ages 13 and 15), and eventually as full-fledged Jedi. I’m reminded of Dr. Phil — whom I love — saying “we’re raising adults, not children.” That phrase has certainly guided a lot of the techniques I’ve chosen to use with my own kids…they’re not going to be young forever, and it’s our JOB as parents to equip them with the skills they will need to become healthy, well-adjusted adults.

    As for my own children, prayer has been a large part of the “centering” and “relaxation” practices I’ve tried to impart. EVERY night before bed, we would say prayers together. When the two boys shared a room, it was simple. Once they got a bit older, we would trade off whose room we said prayers in each night. It was a way for us to put the day’s events behind us, be thankful for who/what we are and what we have, give praise, and realize that even our negative actions can be forgiven.

    Now that they’re older, we don’t say prayers together every night anymore. But, I do hope that even if they’re not “praying”, that they’ve learned the skills to take a breath, step back, and judge things from a…”certain point of view…” 😉 that perhaps they had missed before. My hope is that it will help them be better decision-makers and give them the ability to take ownership of their emotions, thoughts and actions.

    Sorry for the LONG response – great piece!

    1. Dave
      June 14, 2015 at 19:03 Reply

      Jay, this is great! Thank you so much for your insight. Prayer isn’t one of our things, but I love how it is for you and your family. I appreciate your comments and friendship. MTFBWY!

  2. Pam Bruchwalski
    June 14, 2015 at 18:17 Reply

    It’s amazing how tuned into our emotions our children are. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, when my oldest daughter was small, I remember almost to the moment when it occurred to me that she acted on my emotions as well as her own. I still see this every day with my #5, who is 15.

    Controlling my emotions is NOT easy for me, nor has it ever been.

    I’m not sure WHAT I did or do to impart the “good” parts of the Jedi way to my children. I’ve always had a very hard time with what you mentioned, the fact that the Old Order Jedi took Force sensitive children away from their parents at a very young age. And then they completely blew it with Anakin…

    I know there are good things, too, many of which you mention. Obviously parents must control themselves in order to keep order and model behavior for their children. But I guess I have mixed feelings about controlling one’s emotions too much. I grew up in a household where I was rarely encouraged or even allowed to express the fullness of my emotions, and I believe I have struggled with not feeling bad or guilty about the enormity of my emotions as an adult. I have probably tried too hard to encourage my children to be themselves and not keep things in too much…

    Have to think about this some more…but thank you for a great read!

    1. Dave
      June 14, 2015 at 19:12 Reply

      Pam, thanks for commenting. Of course the Jedi Order was very far off base with that whole, you know, kidnapping thing… and of course they messed up pretty badly with Anakin.

      As far as expressing our feelings, we do it well – we just aim to use our words whenever possible and be mindful of how we express our moods. I am not a very stoic person, really. My son has seen me cry – just recently, in fact, and I think it’s important for him to see that. We hug, we laugh, we cry, we let out mighty kiai when executing sun djem….

  3. Erica Steinweg
    June 16, 2015 at 07:41 Reply

    Meditation has saved my life, no doubt about it. When I go on silent retreat, I joke that I’m doing Jedi training 🙂 I also have a seven-year-old. It’s fun to see how she sees the links between my practice and Star Wars.

    That said, I’m not a fan of the word “control” when it comes to feelings, and that is a word very often used by the Jedi. I think it too often, in our culture, leads to repression, which leads to a big mess. For the record, I don’t think you’re teaching your child repression at all. It sounds like you’re working with your child to have his feelings without being a slave to them. It’s all about finding that middle path.

    I like the word skillful. For me it’s all about being skillful with feelings, learning an appropriate response to whatever emotional storm might be happening. I can’t make my anger go away any more than I can make it stop raining. I don’t have an abundance of control in either situation, but what I can do is meet my anger skillfully. I can work with my relationship to anger. Then my daughter can (on a very good day) see that mom can have her feelings, and she can care for her feelings at the same time. Have you seen the latest Avengers? It’s a lot like how Black Widow helps the Hulk transform back into a person with a very gentle, kind touch. That’s what I have needed to learn to do for myself.

    I could go on and on. Mindfulness is one of my favorite subjects, especially as it applies to parenting. Thanks for this entry! MTFBWY!

  4. Melinda
    June 18, 2015 at 08:57 Reply

    Excellent, Dave! It sounds like you have a great handle on how to handle — and raise — your son. 🙂 The closeness you are fostering now — it definitely sounds like you’re enjoying it! 🙂 — will carry through to what Could (capital “c” because … who knows what the future holds 😉 ) be more turbulent times as your boy grows, matures and develops ideas of his own. The foundation has been laid, and if you keep a steady course, you can avert a great deal of the trying times that occur as one’s youngling(s) grow up. 🙂

    May I add quickly that I like to think of you raising your son the “right” way. 😉 On Star Wars, of course. 🙂 It’s how my husband and I raised our two girls, and like Luke and Anakin (when he was a youngling/padawan — otherwise, connected to the Light Side), my girls are adventurous/adventurers, not to mention independent, respectful and, like all good Jedi, have learned how to assess a situation. I firmly believe that has a great deal to do with the fact that they were raised on Star Wars, and we often discussed the various tenets of the powerful saga, and how they relate to real life. 🙂

    (and I said I was going to be quick! lol 😉 )

    Thank you so much for sharing part of your life with us. 🙂 MTFBWY 🙂

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