"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto

If you are a parent, or spend any time around kids, you are aware of the ways young children "test" adults on a regular (often exhausting) basis. By the time they can talk, they are also hypocrisy-alert systems, eager to let us know when what we do does not matching what we say. Do they hear us lie or swear or hate? Do they see us litter, eat junk, or ignore the poor? Unless we punish or shame them for telling us, they'll let us know. What we do is far more visible to them than our ideas.

How we deal with that is largely a product of how we ourselves were raised; how we were "apprenticed" as parents-to-be. Only when we realize that we have options as parents, that we don't need to follow the status quo, and that how we interact with our children affects not only them, but us, do we become students as well as teachers. The myriad daily exchanges between child and parent (spoken and unspoken) are a sensitive biofeedback system in which we continually adapt to one another—parent and child possessing equal intelligence (more or less), though far apart in years of experience and physical power. Nonetheless, both parent and child are capable of nudging the system in the direction of kindness and wisdom. 

Those of us apprenticed in fundamentalist, authoritarian households can benefit from new parenting models, such as Brené Brown, mom, author, and research professor who studies (according to her bio online) "vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame." Below is her parenting manifesto (you can hear it read it aloud to Oprah here). If you haven't seen Brown's 2010 TED talk on the power of vulnerability, it is highly recommended.
The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto
  • Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable. You will learn this from my words and actions--the lessons on love are in how I treat you and how I treat myself.
  • I want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness. You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy every time you see me practice self-compassion and embrace my own imperfections.
  • We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability. We will share our stories of struggle and strength. There will always be room in our home for both.
  • We will teach you compassion by practicing compassion with ourselves first; then with each other. We will set and respect boundaries; we will honor hard work, hope, and perseverance. Rest and play will be family values, as well as family practices.
  • You will learn accountability and respect by watching me make mistakes and make amends, and by watching how I ask for what I need and talk about how I feel.
  • I want you to know joy, so together we will practice gratitude.
  • I want you to feel joy, so together we will learn how to be vulnerable.
  • When uncertainty and scarcity visit, you will be able to draw from the spirit that is a part of our everyday life.
  • Together we will cry and face fear and grief. I will want to take away your pain, but instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.
  • We will laugh and sing and dance and create. We will always have permission to be ourselves with each other. No matter what, you will always belong here.
  • As you begin your Wholehearted journey, the greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly.
  • I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly, deeply, seeing you.
How were you raised? Do you parent differently than you were parented?


  1. I want to say that book is amazing. It is available in audio at audible.com and I love the quote on vulnerability that starts the book. I think it is from Teddy Roosevelt in a speech he gave in Paris or something like that in the early 1900s. It's not the critic on the outside but the man daring greatly in the arena who is living to the fullest and putting it all on the line knowing he can lose everything or get a victory who is living. It's about taking off our masks to let people know who we really are. The video of Brenee brown on Ted talks is a way to see what the book is about. I know about the little sign about behavior in the graphic because I picked it out of dozens of little magnets and it struck a chord with me. Wow!


  2. Night and day difference between how I(we(my wife and I)) was/were raised and how we are planning on teaching our children.
    - Nuff said

  3. Thanks, Dude & Nuffsaid. Here's a short video of Brene Brown talking to Oprah about teachers using shame to control their classroom. Shame is a familiar control method; it was often disguised as righteousness, even humor.

  4. A lot of emphasis in the LLC is put on confession. WHAT ABOUT MAKING AMENDS TO THE PERSON HURT BY 'grievous sin'? I got news for them. Other people are capable of being honest and vulnerable. Why should you get a blue ribbon for confessing? What about your behavior?


  5. Dude, isn't this in fact the major flaw of Laestadianism, at least as many of us experienced it? If you combine the view of human nature as essentially sinful with a "shampoo, rinse, repeat" ritual of confession, you are essentially damning with low expectations and then relieving a troubled psyche (or conscience) with blanket grace that requires no amends. It even ridicules the idea of amends as "works." The parenting equivalent is saying "You hit your classmate Johnny? Say you're sorry! Not to Johnny, just to whomever is closest to you at the moment who goes to church! Say the right words in the right order, as you were taught. Ok, you're forgiven. You are still an idiot, though, and don't think for a minute you aren't! You reject that fact? Now say you're sorry for being self-righteous and proud. Man, you can't go two seconds without sinning. You are SO lucky to have me as a Parent and SO lucky that I don't kick you out of the house. This is pure grace on my part. By the way, Johnny is also an idiot, and what's worse he is going to hell because I didn't tell him what to do, like I've told you, because you're chosen. Now, my idiot child, go and sin no more, but if you do, get the KEYS from an approved key person, or you're going straight to hell with Johnny and the rest of the unchosen. You can't say I didn't warn you! This is what LOVE is. You're welcome."

  6. And here is the Laestadian parenting manifesto:
    Above all else, I want you to know that you are lower than dirt because we are all worthless in the sight of God. Do not expect special treatment from me—you will learn from my words and actions that your natural wants and needs are to be subdued, and that you are here only because God put you here. You are a burden, but since I have to accept the gifts God gives me, I cannot let anyone know, especially you, that I am overburdened with “gifts”.

    I want you to engage with the world from a place of humility and superiority at the same time. You are special because God has chosen to put you in this family, in this church, in this faith, and you are going to heaven, unlike most of the other people in this town/state/country/world. But you are not worthy of this gift. You will learn to beat yourself up on a regular basis as you watch us adults constantly complain that we are unworthy and do everything we should not, and do not do those things we should.

    We will practice courage in our family by choosing to stand out from the rest of the world by not participating in the normal everyday activities that are so sinful. Makeup? How dare you think you can improve on the way God made you. Jazzy music? It might make you want to swing your foot to the beat. And pretty soon it will be your legs, and then your whole body. Dancing is from the devil, and we avoid the things of the devil. He is stronger than we are and we have to avoid him at all costs. He can even take us away from God.

    We will share our struggles of feeling unworthy with each other, and this will bring us renewed strength to keep being strong. We will bravely tell people that we don’t practice birth control, even though we can’t afford the children we already have. We will remind people that we don’t watch the TV shows they are talking about because we don’t believe in having one of those sinful boxes in our houses. If they ask you, you can tell them that they, too, are going to hell because they don’t haven’t had someone from your church forgive their sins.

    We will teach you selflessness by making you share everything you have with your siblings because there is not enough to go around. We will shame you if you try to set boundaries, because we are in charge, and you are not. Sharing and giving up what you want will be your family values and family practices.

    You will learn accountability and respect or I will beat it into you. You will ‘fess up if you do something wrong. I will tell you when to say you are sorry, and teach you to ask for forgiveness whenever I think you need to. I will make sure no opportunity goes by without pointing out your vulnerabilities and telling you what you did wrong.

    When uncertainty and scarcity visit, we will suffer the blessings of God with each other and draw strength knowing that we must bear this cross to get to our eternal reward.

    Together we will cry and face fear and grief, but I will tell you that God’s ways are not our ways, and our suffering is in His hands.

    We can laugh and we can sing, as long as the songs we sing are church songs. We will not dance. (See third point above) No matter what happens or how bad it gets, you can always count on me to tell you that God won’t give you more than you can bear.

    As you begin your journey, the greatest gift I can give you is to put so much fear into your heart that you will never think of leaving the church. Should you choose to give up this precious faith, I will kick you out of the house because I don’t want your unbelief to contaminate the other kids.

    I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly because I am a faulty believer and my faith is weak, as a flickering candle. I will only accept you when you are heaven acceptable—otherwise, when we interact, it is my job to make you as miserable and as uncomfortable as I can so that you will want my love so badly that you will do anything to get it.
    Love, mouse in a corner

    1. This comment deserves its own blog post somewhere. I'll do it if you grant permission and nobody else wants to. There's another one about the birth control issue that deserves some continued attention, too.

    2. Good idea. I'll post it now, and you can initiate the commenting!

  7. Free and Anonymous,

    Thank you for your description as it seems you have so much insight from having lived under the conditions and probably experienced this first hand. It seems like some kind of maze as grace is talked about but this grace is contingent on you following a list of rules (what are named sins?). It is beyond strange that grace is hammered on but in the next breath you are required to earn or keep your spot. How is that grace? It's living with a horrible burden that you can never really rest. It makes no sense and it is so confusing to talk about grace when you really mean 'tryouts' as if thru your stellar behavior and thru confessing your sin bucket list you somehow qualify for grace. That is what makes it so crazy that this is actually one thing and the opposite thing at the same time. As I read the explanations above I felt so validated as I suspected this was the case and it translates itself in business as well. I am not sure how but I feel being in an environment where you are the worldly hell bound worthless heap of dung of the bunch may impact a person.

    I heard a podcast where the preacher read a letter from one of his children. The adult child had left the church and had listed reasons why including many of those listed above. As I heard the letter I was saying 'wow finally someone is speaking the truth and there is some kind of hope (you know how when someone explains themselves and you identify with them it makes you feel better). I was shocked back into reality when the preacher wholeheartedly condemned his child and there was or seemed to be absolute and unquestioned acceptance of te fact that the adult child was EVIL for speaking how she felt). It was ALL TRUE. As he concluded his story I was horrified to learn that she went back to the church as this arrogant self absorbed self righteous bigoted leader in the church gleefully shared how she cowered to the shunning.