The Parent-Child Relationship
You are, of course, a vital part of the equation. Most of us enter parenthood with our own hot buttons (whether we recognize them or not), which can be unintentionally pushed. However, knowing your brain/body type will help you understand why you have certain “buttons,” and how to defuse them. And comparing your brain/body type with those of your children will help you figure out why you respond to them as you do, and vice versa. This knowledge will allow you to use your Dharma Parenting skills to accommodate brain/body type differences, because knowing that each person is different by nature—rather than out of sheer contrariness—will really help you to be patient with everyone’s quirks and needs.
The Vata Parent
As a Vata parent, your strengths are your flexibility, your creativity, and your lightheartedness. When a problem arises, you can usually figure out several possible solutions to choose from. Your kids love how you sometimes whisk them off on spur-of-the-moment adventures. But Vata parents sometimes don’t have enough stamina for the intense 24-7 focus and resolve that parenting requires. You may find your mind going in a million directions at once, your anxiety shooting through the roof, and your energy level dropping fast. This is why you, more than any other brain/body type, need to figure out how you can take a break, and settle your wild Vata physiology down, and generally re-energize and regroup. Maybe you can arrange for everyone in the house to take a period of quiet time, with Vata aromatherapy, soothing music, and comfy cushions to lie around on. And if you have learned Transcendental Meditation, be sure to find twenty minutes to do it, even if you have to wait until everyone else is in bed. TM is by far your most powerful tool to keep your Vata balanced so you are at your best.
Vata child with Vata parent. If you and your child are both Vata, you’ll be in tune with each other from the start because your inclinations and interests are so similar. You’re both quick-witted and have an innate ability, as well as the desire, to express yourselves, sometimes talking up a storm. You will love to create all sorts of arts and crafts projects together.
Because you may have already figured out some methods to help keep your own Vata in balance, you might instinctively know how to nurture your Vata child. For instance, you may have already learned that you have to dress warmly in cold weather, and you’ll naturally dress your Vata child accordingly. From your own experience, you know very well that scary books or movies overexcite and upset Vata types. And you also know that when your Vata children come home from school the first thing they need is a warm, tasty snack, plus some quiet time so they can settle down from all the activity and excitement of the day.
As your Vata child grows older, the two of you can share artistic endeavors, such as art, music, writing, or dance. You may even understand each other so well that you automatically complete each other’s sentences. The downside of this simpatico relationship happens when the Vata parent—that’s you—becomes stressed or fatigued, and your unbalanced anxious “shadow side” takes over and impacts the emotional (and even the physical) stability of your highly sensitive child. Vata parents can easily become overwhelmed when pressures build and their schedule gets hectic. It’s not that you’re weak; it’s simply part of your nature, a Vata characteristic. If you understand this Vata tendency, you’ll be more likely to arrange for outside help and get as much extra rest as you can, especially during demanding periods.
Pitta child with Vata parent. A Pitta child can be very challenging for the Vata parent. You may find that the Pitta child’s energy and more extreme needs overwhelm you, so use your flexibility and amazing creativity to find ways to keep your Pitta child engaged and focused. Get extra help if you possibly can—it will help to have an understanding partner and friends. If you can stay at least one step ahead of your intense Pitta child, things can be managed.
The situation becomes even more complicated as your Pitta child turns into a teenager. When they are in good balance, Pitta teens tend to organize their own lives, succeed in school and sports, and show strong leadership. But when they’re out of balance, their excess energy and drive can lead to risky and even destructive behavior. When you, the Vata parent, are in good balance, you can be flexible, fun, and overflowing with ideas to help your Pitta teen move forward and fulfill his dreams. Pitta teens need to be challenged, and if they don’t find enough challenge in school, sports, or other organized activities, they’ll go out looking for it. Since their brains are far from being fully developed, their self-designed challenge may be foolish or even dangerous. If you’re out of balance, your vacillating Vata attention and emotional strength may not be enough to rein in your Pitta teen’s energy and inventiveness, and your teenager will have too much freedom.
Kapha child with Vata parent. A Kapha child makes parenting simple and sweet for Vatas (who might even be fooled into thinking that parenting is easy). Kapha babies often sleep through the night quickly, which, for Vata parents, is a gift from heaven. Your natural liveliness and creativity will keep your laid-back Kapha child stimulated and interested in new adventures. And you’re always on the move and looking for new ways to engage your child in exciting activities, which is vital for their mental and physical well-being.
However, your Vata can also make you vulnerable, since you can be physically and emotionally delicate. You may become too tired and unfocused to be able to give your child the attention and direction he needs. And if your Kapha child becomes aggravated at the same time, he will withdraw and become inactive. The best solution, of course, is prevention. Pace yourself, stay rested, get extra help, maintain a firm schedule, and keep warm and grounded.
The Pitta Parent
As a Pitta parent, your strengths are your physical energy, warmth, organizational ability, and intelligence. Your lively intellect can stimulate your children’s curiosity about the world, and your warm heart gives them a sense of security and being well loved. Of all three brain/body/types, you’re almost certainly the most proactive. Because you are good at (and enjoy) solving problems and planning ahead, you naturally visualize problems before they arise and figure out how to avoid them. But your Pitta focus may be too strong—you get so caught up in the task at hand that you can be unaware or even disregard the feelings of those around you, or you may overlook a family situation that needs your immediate attention, in favor of some interesting professional problem. And if your Pitta becomes aggravated by overheating, delayed meals, spicy foods, or someone challenging your authority, the extra heat can set off explosions.
Of all types, you most need to keep your cool. Do not allow yourself to get hungry or thirsty. You can see that it aggravates your Pitta child, and of course, it does the same to you. Try to limit outdoor summer activities to the cool of the early morning or evening; if your child’s T-ball game or tennis match is at noon, wear a hat, try for a seat in the shade, and keep your water bottle handy. Ice cream or a milkshake afterward is not only a treat but will help cool down your Pitta. Pitta aromatherapy, especially at night, can be very effective. If you know that you might be entering into a confrontation—negotiating with your teenager about prom night, for example—plan to do it only after a good meal when everyone is fed and rested, and provide cool drinks.
Vata child with Pitta parent. This can be a good combination during the first year when your Vata baby needs a lot of attention and, as strong Pitta parent, you have stores of energy. Structure helps Vata babies, and Pitta parents are good at creating and maintaining structure. However, as your Vata child grows older you will quickly need to be alert for possible conflicts. Being Pitta, you have an entirely different physiology, nervous system, and personality. Pitta parents must be protective of their Vata child’s more delicate physiology, and be much gentler with his emotions.
Pitta parents, with their dynamic and reactive nature, have to learn to truly understand and empathize with—rather than dominate—their Vata child. It may be that you speak too loudly or too harshly for your Vata child. And when you are frustrated, or trying to correct your child, your Pitta intensity may frighten your son or daughter without you being aware of it. Ask your child about this (the answer may surprise you). When you’re talking things over with your child, or questioning him, be sure to allow plenty of time for the child to gather his thoughts and figure out how to explain the feelings involved. Children are naturally more scattered than adults, and Vata children more than others. Sometimes kids have to just keep talking in order to figure out what they really want to say. Any impatience on your part will imbalance them even more, so you have to take the responsibility to cool your pitta. You’re the parent be patient with your children, and listen to their thoughts and ideas.
As Vata kids pass through puberty, and especially during their teenage years, you need to be especially careful how you speak to them and how you treat them. If it sounds like we’re suggesting that you wear psychological “kid gloves” with your Vata child, you are absolutely right. Kid-gloved carefulness is precisely how you want to behave for the good of your Vata child, whose nature is so different from and more sensitive from your own. Adolescents are in the process of figuring out for themselves how personal relationships work, so you want them to experience examples of patience, tolerance, and kindness. Researchers have found that thirteen-year-olds whose parents are overly dominating have trouble with personal relationships when they’re eighteen and twenty-one. Put your attention on giving your sensitive Vata child a warm, cooperative, supportive role model so that he can develop those qualities in their friendships and attachments.
As a Pitta parent, you tend to expect quite a lot from your children because you are capable of discipline, orderliness, obedience, hard work, and high achievement. And it’s hard for you to understand or tolerate “bad” or weak behavior. Self-righteousness—that deeply held confidence that your anger or approval is justified, as well as being good and useful for the child—is one of Pitta’s “shadow sides,” which can too easily appear when your Pitta becomes aggravated and imbalanced. When, however, your strong Pitta intellect is balanced, it can reassure you that your Vata child’s skittishness, forgetfulness, and scattered thinking, are part of their nature, rather than the product of deliberate misbehavior on their part. Work with your child to keep that delicate lively Vata balanced. As the Pitta parent, you really are in charge, even when you’re making allowances for the extreme difference of your Vata child’s nature. Both your child’s mental health and success in every endeavor is, to a large extent, in your capable hands. If you’re balanced, the two of you will complement each other. Vata teens are imaginative and artistic, and you can enjoy a great deal of satisfaction and fun helping them channel their brilliant creativity toward excellence.
Pitta child with Pitta parent. A Pitta parent and Pitta child can be a great partnership when both are balanced. You share a love of structure and discipline, and you both possess high energy and physical and emotional resilience. Your lively Pitta intellect will find creative ways to stimulate your child’s growing mind and body: games, excursions, and good talks together about how the world works. When your child starts school, you can enjoy his activities, from school projects to competitive sports. And your child will thrive on the attention you are able to give. As Pitta kids get older, try to think back to your own teenage years and remember how eager Pittas are to prove themselves and to exert their independence. Understand that in order to help them grow, you will need to become less involved in their projects, participating more on the level of appreciation and support, rather than giving suggestions (unless they ask for them).
If either one of you goes out of balance, a lot of heat and self-righteousness can be quickly generated. You both have strong opinions, and with your own built-in “hot button,” arguments and power struggles may rapidly ensue. If you find yourself in the middle of an argument, and tempers are flaring, try to stop. Take a cooling-off period. Your angry Pitta child can cool off in his own room for a bit, and you can do the same in yours. When your emotional temperature returns to normal, offer cool drinks—and a hug. At this point, you may both be calm enough to work out your differences. But if either of you needs more time, try distraction; get your child interested something else, a project or a puzzle. Focusing that steamy Pitta intellect is very comforting and will help your son or daughter settle down. Maybe the two of you can try a new snack recipe—preferably something Pitta pacifying.
Brainstorming is another technique that may help you and your Pitta offspring come to agreement in an altercation. Give your child a marker to write down all the ideas the two of you come up with. This gives the Pitta intellect a neutral task to focus on instead of the argument. Set a timer for three to five minutes, and then think up as many solutions as you can. Nobody is allowed to comment on others’ suggestions, no matter how silly or impossible they seem. After the timer rings, you both consider each idea and decide which ones are best. This is a great way to defuse a tense Pitta-Pitta confrontation.
Kapha child with Pitta parent. A Kapha child may be a complete mystery to the Pitta parent, whose natural speed is to move immediately, not in twenty minutes! You’re a “doer” and a “finisher” and hate to leave anything less than fully done, and done well. Your Kapha child, on the other hand, is quite comfortable allowing you to blow by like a whirlwind, and then emerge from his room.
As a Pitta parent, you need to consciously adjust your speed and intensity in order to stay attuned to your Kapha child. The Kapha pace is naturally slower than yours, so you will need to learn patience—which is not a typical Pitta trait, but your strong intellect can help you understand the need for it. Kaphas also think much more concretely than you do—it’s easy for you to imagine alternatives and their consequences, so you can make quick mental decisions. Your young Kapha, on the other hand, finds this far too abstract and does much better when he can make lists or draw pictures—better yet—actually touch the different possibilities. For example, your Kapha child may not have an immediate answer if you ask, “What color sneakers do you want?” But if you’re in the shoe store together, the child will love to consider each pair. You can speed the process along by limiting the choices; let your Kapha child pick from a limited number of pairs rather than from the entire store.
The Kapha child is more people oriented than goal oriented, and is, therefore, your direct opposite. Sometimes it might seem to you that your Kapha child isn’t accomplishing much—but then you find yourself surprised by the warm praise of teachers and friends. Because you naturally function so differently, you must be careful not to project your priorities or your pace onto your Kapha child. Rather, take time to observe and allow your Kapha child to succeed in his own way. This may be an incredible challenge for you because you really like being in charge and getting things done, and you’re good at it, but it’s also fascinating to see how someone who functions so differently approaches problems and finds his own solutions.
The Kapha Parent
As a Kapha parent, you provide stability, strength, and sweetness in your children’s life. You are the bedrock, the foundation of their world. With your calm steadiness, you can structure and maintain a stable routine that provides a secure framework for their growth. And your stamina helps you ride out the ups and downs of parenting. But if you go beyond your limits of endurance, tiredness can drag that steadiness down into inertia, and your wonderful calmness down into passivity and emotional withdrawal. You need to carve some “off duty” time into your schedule in order for you to regroup and relax. While you may automatically opt for watching your favorite movie, remember that Kapha types are usually happier when making or moving. Crafts such as sewing or woodworking—useful projects requiring painstaking work—will probably make you feel more settled and satisfied than passive entertainment.
Kapha has a tendency to become sedentary, so keep yourself enlivened. Exercise is very important to keep your sturdy physiology from becoming sluggish and overweight. Can you make exercise a group activity? It doesn’t have to be aerobics or calisthenics—a wild game of tag, a brisk walk, or shooting hoops can get the family involved. Spicier, lighter foods—think fruit instead of cake, tortilla chips and popcorn instead of fries—will also help. Remember that even though Kaphas are hard to get started, they are much more balanced, and therefore happier, when they finally get moving. So try to talk yourself (“trick” yourself if necessary) into starting an exercise program or that upholstery project you’ve been thinking about—it will help keep your Kapha brain/body type in good balance, which will allow you to be a better parent.
Vata child with Kapha parent. The Kapha parent is a loving and caring “earth mother” or father, who is nurturing and happy—when in good balance. Your Vata child takes great comfort from your steady, grounded Kapha nature. But if you go out of balance, that wonderful stable support becomes dulled down to unresponsiveness and lack of enthusiasm, and the anxious Vata child will suffer. Kapha parents need their rest, plus the loving support of their partners and friends, in order to stay in balance.
As your Vata child becomes a teenager, a well-balanced Kapha parent who is strong, dependable, and caring is exactly what he needs. As a Kapha, you have the patience to deal with the often unpredictable nature of Vata teens. For example, the Vata child will often leave his room messy when, moving at high speeds, he becomes immersed in one and then another and another project. A balanced Kapha parent can handle this easily, but an imbalanced Kapha parent will be too tired, withdrawn, or laid-back. Your Vata teen will grow even more chaotic if order is not restored. Stay in balance, Kapha parents: your Vata child desperately needs your stability, patience, and support.
Pitta child with Kapha parent. A Pitta child can be a handful for Kapha parents. Kapha parents are good at planning and helping their kids maintain a stable routine, but the Pitta child can become frustrated that their parents aren’t quick enough about changing the routine when something new and fascinating arises, or quick enough about anything. This may be magnified because you as a Kapha body/brain type probably enjoy and rely on the stability of a set routine, while your Pitta child is likely to want to be much more independent and self-determining.
The Kapha parent is usually calm—a definite plus in parenting—unless the lively intellect of that Pitta child of yours wants to argue every single point, partially for the fun of it, and partially because they want to lead. Once you realize that a pressing desire for change and discussing every possible option is part of the Pitta nature, your natural steadiness and patience will help you put up with these typical Pitta traits.
As your Pitta child grows older, life becomes even more challenging. Pitta teens like to be in charge and move things forward, and Pittas are often sure that they know the best solution to every situation. You may have to move faster than seems natural in order to keep up with—or ahead of them if at all possible. As long as the Pitta teen is in good balance and moving in a positive direction, you can work together pretty easily. But if either you or your teenager goes out of balance, things fall apart. Fast. Your instinct may be to step back and take your time figuring out the situation, but this may allow your Pitta to move even further in the wrong direction. You need to be careful not to leave your Pitta teen to his own devices, which will be naturally one of his goals in life, even at this age. It’s like they’re born with “I can do it!” written indelibly across their foreheads.
Satisfy Pitta children’s or teenagers’ independent spirits by allowing them to make as many choices as they safely can; knowing that if you trust them to make smaller decisions, they’ll be more likely to work with you when making bigger decisions. Make sure that as a Kapha parent you keep yourself well rested and in balance—otherwise you may lose control of your strong-willed child. Keep yourself lively with exercise and plenty of rest. If you get too far out of balance, your Pitta child may feel that you are inattentive or cold towards them. If this escalates into feelings of hurt and abandonment, It’s a signal for you to get professional outside help, and the sooner the better.
Kapha child with Kapha parent. From the very beginning, you will understand each other. Life can be simple and fulfilling when both parent and child are relaxed and content. You move at the same pace and enjoy the same lifestyle. You’re main challenge may be to make sure you both stay lively and stimulated. Calm and laid-back is good, but sluggish and passive needs a jump-start! This is why it’s vital for both of you to get off the couch and go out and be challenged. Bike, walk, or run together. Better yet, build something together. And don’t let winter weather stop you—go sledding, skating, shovel the sidewalk. Since Kaphas are hard to get moving, the toughest part will be to get yourself going first, and then get your Kapha child moving too. But once you both get started, watch out: you may enjoy it so much that you’ll find it hard to stop on time!
One area to watch carefully is passive entertainment such as TV and video games. You must set an example by limiting your own downtime. One way to limit your children’s computer access is to post a note every day: “To earn today’s Internet password, do any two of the following chores. . . .” They’ll be helping out—which is very satisfying for Kapha children, who like to complete concrete tasks—and at the same time learning that computer access isn’t a given but a privilege.
It’s hard to get even a balanced Kapha moving, and with too much Kapha it may seem nearly impossible. Too much Kapha means that you go from stable to immovable, from steady to depressed. Often the easiest way to begin to correct this is by purely physical means. Start with some Kapha aromatherapy: its spicy scent is stimulating. Then work on your diet: more hot spicy foods, more light dry foods, fewer cold foods such as ice cream, fewer heavy foods such as mashed potatoes, and butter.Make a list of some physical chores that really need doing—wash the windows, mow the lawn, run the dog, take a brisk walk to the grocery store. By energizing your physiology, you’ll find that you start to feel livelier mentally as well: change your physiology, change your brain! Creating a new daily routine for yourself and your child that includes exercise or a new diet keeps both your Kapha brain/body types in good balance.
This excerpt is from Dharma Parenting.