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Foreword to The Natural Child

Jan Hunt tells the truth about the real nature of children. Many terms are popular today - attachment, natural, empathic - to describe a way of parenting that is really not new at all. Being with children in the way that these terms describe is what parents all over the world have done since the beginning of time. Jan points the way for us today. The cultural voices of fear tell us to distrust the neediness and dependency that children so naturally express. It is an acceptance of this neediness and dependency that Jan speaks about so eloquently. By modeling this acceptance, she makes it easier for us to accept our children and ourselves as well.

It's not often that I open a book and find that I have as much in common with the author's point of view as I do with Jan's. I often check the index of books for references to breast­feeding, co-sleeping, discipline, attachment, and other topics dear to my heart and seldom find the compatibility that I feel when I read The Natural Child. We have the same understanding about the nature of the child and both want to remedy the misunderstandings about children in modern culture.

When we make up new names like attachment parenting for old ways, it is because we are looking for more enduring wisdom than adversarial customs offer. We know that the bliss we feel parenting from the heart means that it is right. In regards to our children, it is not only wisdom we seek, but also an acknowledge­ment of our participation in a deeper process.

To me, it is very simple. The propensity to act aggressively is related to unmet needs. When we objectify our babies and manipulate their legitimate needs to meet our own comfort level or prescription for living, we may unknowingly put them at risk. We can instead choose to surrender to the mystery of our baby's needs and the surprises he or she brings just as we would surrender and adapt to the surprises brought by new love. A baby is our new love.

Can we choose love by accepting our baby's legitimate human needs and responding to them with an open heart? This requires that we trust our babies and ultimately that we trust ourselves. Each of us is an original. We are equipped for the job even though we are still learning how to use our equipment. Most of our decisions as parents are more about our state of mind than about the particulars of the situation. When we choose from love we act very differently than when we act from fear.

Jan tells it like it is. Children and adults are not different. We have the same feelings. Children who are disciplined with love respond lovingly. Parents are not perfect, but we can continually recognize the critical importance of how we behave toward our children. Crying is the language of babies. Co-sleeping is safe and smart. Children need to be involved in the problem-solving of the family. Punishment interferes with the bond between parent and child. Children have a natural love of learning and do not have to be coerced. Learning "disabilities" may be learning differences. Children deserve to be acknowledged in public. Children deserve to be treated with respect.

These shared beliefs are why Jan and I are so compatible. We've never met and compared notes. And while we have both been influenced by many of the same people, there are simply many common conclusions that stem from trusting and respecting children. It sounds easy, but we all know that what I describe is a lifetime journey. Many of us have been raised in cultures and families where control is highly valued. Our children are often our first teachers in this regard. In learning to trust them, we learn that we can be trusted as well.

It is the potential limitlessness of simply trusting our children that frightens parents. We ask how we can maintain order and harmony in the household without control, without punishment. As Jan will so aptly teach, the household based on empathy, compassion and cooperation will have an inherent discipline that does not have to be enforced by punishment. It is enforced by love.

This book is about simple principles that can take a lifetime to learn. As the parent of adult children, I can attest to the helpfulness of breast­feeding, co-sleeping, home schooling, discipline without punishment and other trusting choices. All of these choices are implicit in the egalitarian relationship that I hope to have with my children. They are my equals, my teachers and my beloved ones. I try to remember this when I interact with them. Jan's book will help you remember too.

The Natural Child