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"...teaches parents how to incorporate holistic practices to promote physical, spiritual, and social growth into everyday parenting...complete with personal stories and listings of additional resources."
Whole Parenting Today
Far from being a passing fad, the consciousness that gave birth to Whole Parenting continues to deepen and mature. A pioneering 1995 survey (by market research firm American LIVES) confirmed that a huge shift in values has been taking place in the population. The vanguard group that holds these transformed values, whom the American LIVES researchers call "Cultural Creatives," is certainly not dominant in society. However, the group does constitute nearly a quarter of the adult population and is growing larger. Cultural Creatives include millions who came of age in the 1960s, but also millions who are older or younger. The very fact that the book you now hold in your hands attracted you suggests that you are someone who shares at least some of this group's values and express them in your parenting.
That being the case, you've probably run up against issues for which your values don't supply easy answers, where you have had to adapt your views to new conditions, re-examine basic premises, and otherwise accommodate the ever-changing demands of reality. These challenges, which will be more fully explored in the following chapters, include:
Commercialism. Parents who hope to instill progressive and holistic values in their kids find themselves constantly battling commercial culture. They want to feed their children healthful foods and have them play with developmentally appropriate toys. Parents also hope to teach their children to be careful, skeptical consumers once they start spending on their own. But their kids often have different ideas, seduced by relentless advertisements and influenced by peers from less resistantfamilies. While commercialism has been a major influence on children for generations, it has dramatically expanded its reach in recent years. Advertisements now invade even the classroom and school hallways, and the deregulation of children's television, implemented by the Reagan Administration, allows companies to target children's naiveté in ways once forbidden.
Diversity. More and more parents today understand the importance of orienting their children to a more diverse world, but our culture, with its persistent blindspots on the issue, hasn't really prepared them to do it. Few parents have the background to recognize the many ways that prejudice is still structured into our institutions and day-to-day social relations, much less identify and acknowledge their own prejudices. Yet teaching children to appreciate and honor diversity depends on parents having these understandings and communicating about them to their kids.
Drugs. Parents today face a problem that rarely troubled parents before the 1960s--the likelihood that a child will try illicit drugs. Drug use spread to all sectors of American society in the 1960s for a variety of reasons. Drugs like marijuana and LSD became associated with the consciousness-raising theme of the era. America's foreign wars played a role, too--soldiers who started using marijuana during World War II or the Korean War went to college afterward on the GI Bill and helped introduce pot to middle-class students. But the society's repressive response to increased drug use has helped cement such use in place, say many experts, by making outlawed drugs seem more attractive to young people. In fact, as the war on drugs has escalated, the numbers of young people using drugs have only risen as have the numbers of drugs used. Children start taking drugs at younger ages today, and more use potentially lethal drugs such as heroin.
Education. Parents who grew up in a more liberal era still largely support public education. But public schools don't work as well as they used to. One-size-fits-all education doesn't go over well in a society where fewer people agree on values. Taxpayer revolt in many states has starved schools for resources, leading to overcrowded classes and deteriorating buildings. Absentee parenting, often forced by economic necessity, troubles children at home, creating greater behavior problems in the classroom. These factors lead many progressive families to seek alternatives such as charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling. Ironically, these approaches eat away at the strength of the public schools, making it even harder for them to satisfy the millions of progressive families who still depend upon and support them.
Health. Since the early 1970s, the health establishment and holistically inclined entrepreneurs have responded to massive consumer demand for natural health alternatives and more healthful foods. As a result, parents have a much easier time today finding sensitive holistic care for their children, herbal remedies for their kids' minor ills, and natural foods versions of their kids' favorite foods. But not all natural foods are made as healthily as the pastoral scenes on their packaging imply. Not all herbal products are effective or without side effects. And, inevitably, charlatans and otherwise improperly prepared practitioners now compete with trustworthy professionals in the holistic health marketplace. Today, parents who thought that natural was good enough are having to relearn what it means to be careful consumers for their families.
Sex. The rise of religious conservatives as a political force has made it more difficult than ever to get schools to do a thorough job of sexuality education, especially concerning subjects such as contraception, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, and homosexuality. The inability of the schools to fully educate youth about sex shifts the responsibility squarely back to parents, yet few feel comfortable with the subject matter. Despite growing up in the sexually "liberated" 1960s and 1970s, today's mothers and fathers learned their sex communication "skills" from their parents, for whom sex was a hush-hush subject. So many young people still aren't getting the guidance they need, a major factor in teen pregnancy and a contributor to the high rates of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases in youth.
In the following pages, we endeavor to help you navigate the difficult terrain of modern parenting, not just with facts and tips of our own but with the wise counsel of other parents who share your values and who have already walked down this path. Our aim is to provide you with the guidance you seek to raise the healthy, caring, creative, spectacular kids you imagine. We understand, too, from our own parenting, that even the most adventurous parents will generally be less willing to experiment with their children's lives than they were with their own. We'll help you distinguish between what's known and what's not, and what's trustworthy and what's not in the new fields of knowledge on which Whole Parenting is based.
Not that we're obsessed with parenting ideas that are radically new or "alternative." Indeed, as you've undoubtedly learned, kids are kids and some of the established ways of raising them still apply. We'll help you recognize when alternative parenting ideas truly can make a difference and when they're just . . . different.
Along the way, we hope to help you find answers to questions like these: