What do you see when you look into the eyes of a newborn?
When I first looked into the eyes of my son, I saw
trustfulness, curiosity and joyfulness. I saw no deviousness,
meanness or selfishness. In that instant it became clear to me
that if he ever acted in a devious, mean, or selfish way, his
behavior would have been created by circumstances, not by him. In
that instant, I knew what a great responsibility I had to honor
and protect his innocence and joy in life.
Children are born innocent. They want only to be loved, to
learn, and to contribute. Those parents who are not able to
appreciate this truth miss what should be the most precious moment
of their life. They cannot trust their child - they instead
suspect him of being somehow flawed and requiring constant
correction. The emphasis is on fixing something, not on enjoying
and learning about this new person. The focus, from that point on,
is on the child's behavior, not on the parent-child connection.
A parent's attitude is absolutely critical in determining the
kind of relationship they will have with their child. I find
nothing sadder than seeing a parent who has somehow missed seeing
their child's basic sweetness and good intentions, and thus
believes that punishment is necessary to set him on the right
path. This parent is always watchful, looking for ways to correct
the child, which stifles his natural exuberance. This kind of
suspiciousness is self-fulfilling - the child who is punished
responds emotionally - as does any other person - with anger and
fantasies of revenge, and physiologically with a burst of the
stress hormone cortisol. The parent then feels justified in
continuing and even escalating the punishments. The child is from
then on seen as potential trouble - as the enemy.
The parent who is fortunate enough to see in his newborn's eyes
only love, curiosity, and joy, will continue to trust and enjoy
their child. Instead of looking for "misbehavior", this
parent looks for ways to connect and to bring joy into their
child's life. This attitude is also self-fulfilling, because love
begets love. The child responds to being loved and trusted as we
all do - by loving and trusting in return.
What takes place at the moment a parent first looks into their
child's eyes sets the stage for a lifetime of joyful connection,
or a lifetime of struggle. It sets the stage for a rewarding
relationship of trust and connection, or a battle between
adversaries. This first meeting carries the seeds of years of
happiness or misery. For those who can see their newborn's
innocence and pure intentions, parenting may be challenging at
times, but it is never a burden.
Look closely at this new being. Learn from him how delightful
and simple life is meant to be. It's just an instant of time, but
once this truth is fully grasped, it lasts forever.