This last week I spent three days being trained in a class called Positive Indian Parenting. To be transparent, I had some reservations going into the class, not knowing what to expect and how I could take the teachings from this class and actually apply them to what I do every day. But the big elephant in the room, or in my mind, was, “Is this even appropriate for me to take this class, being a non-native, and attempt to teach anyone at all?” My preconceived ideas were blown out of the water. My thinking was wrong. This was more than a native parenting class.
“This is not about teaching you native traditions; this about the native traditions teaching you.” That was the phrase that Charlene BearCub, a student in the class with me, used as she spoke about traditional and modern discipline. It was a powerful statement that made me pay even more attention to what was being said. The goal of the class was to obviously train us to be able to train others in a positive parenting style that has proven over the decades that it not only works, but that the removal of it can be a disaster. But there was so much more.
Learning from past practices is powerful. When we take the time to learn why they did what they did and how we can apply it today to improve our own skills, not only as a parent but as a community member, was an eye opener. I sat there, examining my own history. What had I done to communicate, connect and be consistent to build a community in my influence area? What had I passed down? Was there harmony and balance? Did I teach from the world around me? Did I give enough realistic praise? Did I make good choices? These swam in my cortex as I processed, developed and digested each area of teaching.
When we look back at tribal traditions and we really dig into the lessons learned and almost lost, we see that these traits in child rearing are the same things we all want for all our children; they just look different, when looking at historical paths. And when doing that, we must take an honest look at what “white influence” has done. Because it was devastating to the native culture. If we genuinely look back at how pre-white-influence natives raised their children, we see how things developed for a tribe-centered family. We can conclude that these are the very same traits and teachings we all want for our children today.
The conclusion, in my mind anyway, is that if we are raising kids that carry positive traditions, are love-filled, patient, participate, are harmonious and balanced, are disciplined in love and consistency, willing to learn from the world around them, willing to be stretched in their thinking, think for themselves, experience positive praise, and are taught good choices, then not only do we raise great children but we raise great community members. Community members who will continue passing on the things that they were taught and start a positive cycle, a cycle that keeps reoccurring over the generations.
I highly encourage all to take this class when offered in your area by the WSU extension office in Nespelem, or anywhere. I am only giving a brief outline of the power and healing in this class. Be open and let yourself be influenced by the stories and lessons of others. I’m Jess saying.
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