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Living Joyfully with Children
by Win and Bill Sweet
Synopsis 1998 by Meryn G. Callander

          I had decided no more. No more books. I had to stop somewhere. Then I found myself speaking to Joseph Pearce (author of The Magical Child) on the phone. Joe had just returned from California where he had met the Sweets. He was so enthusiastic about their newly released book Living Joyfully with Children, that he considered it a must for the Guide. "Next time," I said. Minutes later I found myself calling the Sweets. After a simply enjoyable conversation, I had them express me a copy.

          For over twenty years, Win and Bill Sweet have conducted workshops and seminars for parents and caregivers of children. Here they share, with heart and humility, the wisdom that they have accumulated on their journey as parents and grandparents, in nurturing the innate goodness and capacity for joy that is the gift of every child to each of us.

          When their children were very young, the Sweets recognized that their ideas and attitudes towards children and parenting were those they had absorbed from the culture; and that on close inspection, they were not in their children's best interests. They began objectively examining cultural expectations and looked to forward-thinking authors and mentors for inspiration. They found that many cultural expectations—for example, the age a child should give up bottle or breast; begin kindergarten, Little League, or academics; or be exposed to popular movies, stories, and stressful experiences in preparation for "the real world"—run counter to a child's own rhythm of readiness. Many of these expectations served adults, school systems, and toy companies rather than the children.

          While pushing children to fit the prevailing norms can set up learning and emotional problems in the future, making life more difficult rather than easier, the pressure on parents to have children do certain things at each age is intense. If a child does not fit the "cultural timetable," parents often fear that there is something wrong with themselves, or their child.

          Yet, the Sweets found: "As children are allowed and encouraged to progress in development according to the intrinsic pattern of their own biological, emotional, mental, and spiritual timeline, they are able to grow deep roots in consciousness that will provide strength and stability with which to meet the varied situations that arise in life."

          The adventure the authors share is "one of moving out from the traditional attitudes, beliefs, and worries about children into new frontiers of honoring and trusting the children, caring for their home environment in a new way, and establishing freedom from inappropriate influences of the culture. The excitement each day of being in new territory with the children is the spark that transforms parenting into living joyfully with children."

          They emphasize that living joyfully with children is not something that just happens—it is a theme that they choose, support, and honor. This came subsequent to their recognizing that every family has a dominant theme, a mood or atmosphere which deeply affects all members of the family. Usually absorbed from the culture, rather than consciously chosen, common themes are those of control, competition, fear, advancement, or merely survival.

          Choosing joy as the theme for their home, the Sweets brought joy to mind several times a day, and established an environment that nourished themselves and their children. Focusing on the True Self—the perfect reality and essence of each child—was an important factor enabling them to live joyfully with their children. It enabled them to operate out of trust, rather than fear, in their interactions.

          A gem of a book. A compilation of short essays, it is an inspiration and guide to conscious parenting.  


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