Quakerism is a spiritual journey. It is a search for understanding. It is a search to find The Way. This search expands into our parenting. Parenting is a search for understanding of how to live with and guide our children.
Our search is based on the belief that there is a Way and that the Way will open. For parents, this means there is a Way even with the most obstreperous child.
Quakers seek out that Way in their times of silence, meditation, and worship. Children repeat their undesirable behaviors, giving parents time to meditate on and to discern how they want to deal with them.
The Quaker belief is that we are to live each moment to the best of our ability, in tune with our understanding of the Way. So it is with parents, who are to live with and guide their children according to the best of their current understanding and skill.
Testimonies give us guidance. They give us a vision of how our lives might demonstrate our faith. For parents, the testimonies can be guides giving them a vision of how they can guide their children; that parenting is not merely a process of saying, “no,” of setting limits and boundaries. Instead, parents can dream of what is possible, of what their children are able to become. Furthermore, when they analyze the Testimonies, parents identify attitudes, information, and skills their children will need to be able to live the possibilities.
Questions and queries keep us alert to what is possible and to what, maybe, we should be doing. They are a vital part of being able to live according to the Testimonies. Questions and queries for parents can guide the discerning process as they seek out how to nurture their children, as they strive to help their children become who they are meant to be. Following the Peace Testimony, how will I deal with my children fighting in the living room? Does “living simply” state something about my children having yet another video game?
Quakers believe there is that of God in every person. We are advised to look for the good in everyone, regardless of circumstances. We are to treat each person fairly and with respect. For parents, this belief raises profound questions: Where is that of God in my two-year-old who is having a temper tantrum in the super market or in my teenager who only rolls her eyes when asked to take out the trash? If there is that of God in my children, what is my role as their parent?
Our Quaker faith gives parents a profound vision of how parenting can become a vital part of a person’s spiritual journey. The Quaker Parenting Initiative has written questions and queries that integrate current developmental knowledge about children with our understanding of how our Quaker faith supports parents. Parents can use these questions and queries as they search to find how best to nurture and guide their children. The Initiative is also collecting ways of responding to children that parents have found helpful, as they integrate their Quaker faith into parenting. Members of the Initiative seek to join with parents on their spiritual journeys following our Quaker faith as we seek how best to nurture our children. ~~~
Harriet Heath, Coordinator of the Quaker Parenting Initiative, a member of Radnor Monthly Meetings, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and attender of the Schoodic Worship Group.
For more information about the Quaker Parenting Initiative (QPI) and its approach to parenting go to www.quakerparenting.org or read their edited book, Paths to Quaker Parenting Using Quaker Beliefs, Testimonies and Practices (Conrow Publishing, Box 315, Winter Harbor, ME).