Monday, April 17, 2017

Parenting 101: Insights on Vitamin C and Vitamin E from Dr. Ron Newman

Dennis the Menace at the Newseum.
One of the recurring themes in my brother's work as a psychologist is the concept of polarity management. There seem to be countless applications, in business and in life, to the concept of polarities. This weekend we we talked about parenting, Vitamin C and Vitamin E.

Ron (Ph.D., Temple U.) explained that raising children is not an exact science, but in three decades of counseling he's observed that many conflicts emerge because of a lack of balance with regard to Vitamin C and Vitamin E.

Vitamin C is the Caring function of a relationship. It's easy to illustrate this in the parent-child relationship, though it has application to all relationships including politics. Vitamin C is one end of a polarity.

In addition to being cared for, loved and nurtured, however, children also need rules and regulations. Vitamin E is the Executive function of parenting, which means you are setting rules and regulations, and consequences for violating those rules and regulations. It is also a necessary part of relationships.

In a family, with children, a fundamental issue (and responsibility of parents) revolves around these questions: how do you teach children to grow up and become responsible adults and take responsibility for their decisions? How do you raise a child to be confident and free to explore the world and the use of his or her gifts?

And how do parents correct their children when their children violate rules by staying up all night or when their kids say disrespectful things to their parents or other people? This is a Vitamin E function.

When a parent corrects in anger in a hostile way, it makes the child feel that the parent cares more about the rules than the child. If parents deal with things in anger they are neglecting the Vitamin C.

If parents compromise on E and allow the child to do whatever it wants, then they and the child are in peril because essentially the parent is enabling the child to make the rules, strengthening his or her selfishness and self-centeredness. The child's sense of connection in a balanced way gets compromised.

In some of the worst-case scenarios you have the polarization of parents along these lines. The Vitamin C parent's over-concern with connection undermines the Vitamin E parent's authority. Conflicts ensue and children can take advantage of the situation to get what they want. We've all seen this where children play one parent against the other.

In a healthy home, the child internalizes the Vitamin E and they learn, as they mature, to negotiate rules. In an unhealthy home the child simply rejects Vitamin E. She might reject it because the parents are inconsistent enforcing the rules.

* * * *

Ron went on to use this concept to explain how not understanding Vitamin E and Vitamin C causes confusion for some people in their ideas about God.

God is love, he stated. God communicates that love in what we see as falling into these two categories. God cared enough to come live in our broken world and die on a cross for us. John, as an author, communicated God's care for us in a multitude of ways. You see it in God's reaching out to mankind. Forgiveness is a Vitamin C function. Listening is a Vitamin C function. God wants us to communicate with Him. God's mercy is a Vitamin C function.

But the Vitamin E is communicated in God's having given us the Law, the ten commandments. The Law of God is for our benefit, summed up in the commandment to love one another. The two (the commandments and love) are not mutually exclusive. Thou shall not kill, thou shall not steal, etc. are designed to help us live in relationships of love.

"Now if we strive for perfection in following the law," he said, "if we overdo the emphasis on keeping law we end up with legalism, perfectionism, hypocrisy, judgmentalism of others, Pharisseeism... and we forget our connection to others. We compromise our Vitamin C."

* * * *

Additional applications to politics and business can be drawn, but I have a plane to catch and you can make your own applications from here. This is simply a tool to help bring understanding.

As you face the week ahead think about your own vitamin balance. And if you are a publisher, Ron's got a book's worth of insights on this topic of polarities.

Have a great week. 

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