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TEACH through Love — Interview with Lori Petro

On December 19th 2015, I posted the following meme on my Amy Wright Glenn Facebook page:

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Within hours, the meme was shared over and over again. Eventually it reached over 830,000 people and it has been liked, commented upon, and/or shared over 27,000 times.

Clearly, the words expressed resonated.

Recently, I reached out to the creator of the meme, Lori Petro, founder of TEACH through Love. We spoke on the phone and shared reflections via email. Graciously, she agreed to be interviewed.

May the following discussion provide insight and inspire parents everywhere to practice the art of self reflection.

***

Lori, let me start off with asking you about your meme that reached over 830,000 people. Why do you think your message resonated with so many?

I think a big reason for the positive response is that there is an increased awareness of positive discipline and yet a lack of simple, concrete tools which parents can use in everyday situations. Parents want to translate this theory of gentle or conscious parenting into actual language they can use.

lori-petro-2015Especially in the beginning, while we may agree with and advocate for the principles behind conscious parenting, we may be stuck in habitual, fear-based reactions. And, if we don’t know what to say or do, we get frustrated and revert to controlling our kids.

These memes give parents an opportunity to see their language reworded and that is super-helpful when learning to communicate from a compassionate place and yet still hold firm boundaries.

The vast majority of those who shared and commented upon your meme did so from a place of affirmation. These individuals hope to embody the style of parenting your work so powerfully affirms. How do you describe your style of parenting?

I don’t think of it as a style of parenting as much as a redefinition of our idea of parenting. My goal as a parent is to create an emotionally connected and influential relationship with my daughter.

This is something I lacked as a child. My relationships were so strained and I grew up believing it was because of my behavior, but it was really because my parents and I had no communication tools, we all lacked the ability to self-regulate, and there was very little mutual understanding with regards to each other’s emotional world. I was always getting punished and I truly grew to resent it.

Traditional discipline often uses control and logical consequences which speak to what the child “knows” – rules, logic, skills. It’s a behavioral perspective which ignores what motivates behavior and ultimately limits a child’s natural capacity to empathize with others.

I want us to speak to how the child feels. My belief is that if we take a behavioral view and force control now, we risk influence later. Control is not my intention. The power of parental influence does not come from the force of our will or the pain of our punishments, but from the strength of our relationship.

There were some who responded negatively and expressed disdain for messages that appear to be “permissive” when it comes to challenging the “authority” of a parent. How do you respond to this criticism?

I think these snippets of advice can be alarming for people because the first impression they take away is that being empathetic means that you don’t set limits. That is a very scary thought for many people and the nature of social media posts can lead to a lot of misunderstandings. I totally understand the reactionary responses and I invite them as a catalyst to keep this conversation going. This is a very important discussion.

Being consciously aware of a child’s emotional state is about changing the way we communicate with each other because things like fear, anger, blame, and shame weaken our influence. Certainly, we are not trying to tiptoe around behavior but without influence, our authority means nothing.

I would never suggest that we don’t set limits or that we become permissive, although I do believe we could trade the idea of authority for leadership. I want to teach my child how to lead herself. I don’t want her waiting on me for direction. Her ability to be self-disciplined will not come from my control, but from my guidance and my awareness of how she experiences the world.

When children feel heard and validated, respect for others naturally follows.  I think this is what most parents actually want – respectful children – not obedient children.

I may not be able to fully convey an entire paradigm shift in thinking in one meme but we can have a heck of a good time discussing the possibilities.

Tell me, what led you to establishing TEACH through Love?

Years ago, I was living in Los Angeles fully committed to my unmarried, childless ways. I had no plans to be a parent but I was attempting to share my knowledge of  the importance of changing the way we speak to each other by writing a script about a family in crisis. Suddenly, the words “TEACH through Love – Transforming the Emotional Abuse of CHildren,” flashed on the screen of my mind and really ignited my passion for promoting the ethical treatment of children.

Yet, it wasn’t until I had my daughter that I understood how I could really make an impact. It was then that I realized that it was through the parent-child relationship.

How would you describe the heart of what you do? Why does this work matter in our world today? 

learning-is-social-and-emotI come from a long line of fractured family relationships and I’ve come to realize that this lack of connection and a poor understanding of the role that emotions play in our lives are what fueled most of the broken bonds, addictions, and difficult experiences that my relatives and I had. I know from speaking to thousands of other families that I am not alone in this experience.

Every individual has the opportunity to break the cycle in their family. We all have different kinds of baggage, but whatever our particular inherited beliefs, negative patterns, fears, and wounds are –  accepting, honoring and releasing ourselves from the pain of this baggage is what will transform our relationships and the future of our society.

It is not our failure to impose consequences on our kids but our failure to recognize the consequences of our “baggage” that is at the core of generations of family dysfunction and our inability to discipline without force.

If we are to raise children who are socially-emotionally competent and personally successful, then we need to heal the heart of the family. The wounds and the habits repeat until someone says, “I’ve had enough!” and learns to nurture and care for their own emotional well-being enough to pass on that skill set to their own children.

It’s not about being perfect, only conscious.

I love that. “It’s not about being perfect, only conscious.” Thank you so much Lori. 

Thank you, Amy.

 

Learn more about TEACH through Love on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

  • January 31, 2016
  • By Amy Wright Glenn