The new children


TERRAN DAILY begins a series of articles that offer parenting and teaching tips for today’s children. She sets the scene by explaining the consciousness shift we are undergoing from a mechanistic worldview to a systems worldview, and how as adults this changes the way we nurture our children.

Children are different now. People have probably been saying that for centuries, maybe because the adults who say it see things from such a different perspective than when they were children. Or maybe it’s true, that each generation of children is different from the last generation, as humanity evolves. But really, children are different in the last 50 years or so, and may be becoming more and more so, because humanity is not just slowly evolving but has reached a critical juncture where it must either change with lightening speed or largely disappear.

If you are a parent or teacher, you will probably know the New Children well. They are gifted in many ways. Have you not been amazed at the words that come from the mouths of very young ones – the wisdom, the confidence, the understanding of things that took older generations much longer to learn? Perhaps you know children who are gifted with psychic or healing abilities, or are exceptionally musically or artistically talented? Or those who can do amazing things on computers with little or no instruction? Have you noticed how connection with nature has become an intense need for many children, as important as eating, sleeping and playing? Maybe you know children who are extremely empathic and compassionate, or others who are warrior spirits with high integrity, fiery determination and no tolerance for hypocrisy or manipulation?

These are the New Children, magical in many ways, but often a challenge for their parents and teachers. These New Children have many qualities that don’t easily fit into our accustomed systems of child-rearing or schooling, because these same children may also be:

Extremely strong-willed, to the point of appearing controlling or defiant;
Explosively angry when they don’t get their way;
Distractible, impulsive, and disorganized;
Wiggly, fidgety and constantly in motion;
Dreamy and in their own world, seeming not to hear you or notice what is going on around them;
Sleepy and hard to motivate;
Absent-minded and scattered;
Obsessed with certain subjects but uninterested in others; and
Any mixture of the above.

In this series of articles, we will throw some light on the reasons for the gifts and the challenges, and give some practical recommendations on how best to live with and guide these beings.

One thing these children have in common is that they march to their own drum, not ours. It is as if they have come into the world “pre-programmed” for certain roles, which may well involve living in completely new ways. Many of our social structures seem to be failing at present, and these are the children who will have to find new, more workable ways of living – in terms of science and technology, social and economic structures, interpersonal relationships, and inner development. In a way, they will be our teachers.

Humanity is evolving

Many seers and traditions have foreseen this era as a period of huge transition – the end of an old way of life and the beginning of a revitalized way of being – for the Earth and for humanity. In each tradition, the coming of the new is not without its birth pangs. The transition between the old and the new is seen as a time of great turmoil. It is not hard to see the challenges and upheaval that are present in today’s world – global warming, extreme weather, extinction of a huge number of species, pandemics, social unrest, economic turbulence, terrorism, a growing disparity between rich and poor, and the list goes on. So is the world falling apart? Is it the end of humanity or civilization? Or is it possible that something new and better will emerge?

One thing these children have in common is that
they march to their own drum, not ours.
It is as if they have come into the world
“pre-programmed” for certain roles,
which may well involve living in completely new ways.

We can view this question from the point of view of science. Science itself has been undergoing a massive transition from the turn of the 20th century. Physics has evolved from a Newtonian mechanistic view to a quantum view of the world as a network of interconnections and interactions among wave-like probabilities. We must comprehend that the buildings we live and work in are not solid “things,” constructions of wood or brick held together by nails and mortar, but are actually energy fields held together by forces we don’t fully understand. How do we find our way in such a world?

And it doesn’t stop there. Since the 1930s, biologists, chemists, ecologists, mathematicians and others have been working with a similar line of thought, developing a multidisciplinary field known as systems theory. Systems theory also challenges our human tendency to see the world as a collection of separate “things” by shifting our focus from “things” to networks.

Let’s take a human cell as an example. It is not just a building block of something larger, but is a vibrant living system of processes and interrelationships in itself. It is defined by a membrane, and within that membrane it is bustling with activity. The cell transports nutrients through its membrane, transforms the nutrients to energy, and uses that energy to carry out its functions, which vary according to what kind of cell it is. Red blood cells carry oxygen to other parts of the body, white blood cells attack foreign invaders, muscle cells contract to do some work for the greater system of the human body, and so on.

Each cell synthesizes and repairs its own sub-cellular structures, excretes waste products, and changes its activities depending on what is needed for its own well-being or for the organ of which it is a part. It is a highly complex, organized and self-regulating system. No one makes rules or laws about how it should work; it simply finds its own way forward through a process of self-organization. It is as if there is an organizing principle that is part of life itself.

A cell is its own small world. And yet the cell is nested in a more complex system, an organ, and the organ is part of a still more complex system, the organism – in our example, a human being. Human beings are in turn, parts of still more encompassing systems, such as families, communities, countries and Planet Earth. Humans, along with all the other plant, animal, microbial and mycological species, that live alongside them, make up complex ecosystems.

At each level, these various living systems are made up of dense and overlapping connections and interrelationships. No part of a system is separate and unaffected by other parts. When any part of a system changes, the whole system changes, often in unpredictable ways. You have probably heard of the butterfly effect, where a butterfly flapping its wings in Siberia causes a snowstorm in Texas. We are that interrelated.

May I illustrate this with a vivid real-life example? In Yellowstone National Park, a beautiful wilderness area in North America, the wolves and the elk had lived together in balance for centuries.

There were never too many elk, because the wolves ate them. And there were also never too many wolves, because when the wolf population became too big, there weren’t enough elk to feed them all, so some of the wolves would die. Then humans, the great systems unbalancers, intervened. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, ranchers began to kill off the wolves of Yellowstone to protect their cattle. By 1926, the wolves were completely gone.

The elk population blossomed. Hungry elk stripped large areas of the park of vegetation, especially along the river banks, where delicious grasses and young saplings grew. This had a huge impact on the ecosystem. With less vegetation, there was not enough food for the birds, and several species dangerously declined. The population of magnificent grizzly bears dwindled because they did not have enough berries to eat in the winter. Beavers, who depended on the young trees near the rivers for food and for dam building materials, disappeared completely. The riverbanks did not have enough vegetation to prevent erosion during the yearly floods, so their banks washed away, causing the rivers to become wider and more winding. Eliminating wolves from the ecosystem caused rivers to change their course! A small change had huge and unexpected effects.

Fortunately, these negative effects began reversing when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995. The elk population is now under control. The vegetation is returning, providing food for a greater variety of species and stability for the river banks to prevent further erosion. Beavers have come back into the park and are busily rebuilding their dams that slow the yearly floods to further prevent erosion. The system is rebalancing.

As well as demonstrating the butterfly effect, this story also illustrates another property of living systems: they are governed through internal feedback loops. In most cases, systems are self-balancing, remaining in dynamic equilibrium, like the original balance between wolves and elk in Yellowstone.

When a system is stressed, it can flip into runaway feedback mode, sending it into states of greater and greater imbalance. In our example, when the wolves were eliminated, Yellowstone’s ecosystem became more and more imbalanced and did not have any way to correct the downward spiral until the wolves were finally reintroduced.

The New Children

There is one last but very significant property of living systems: When a system is stressed and enters a runaway feedback loop, it begins to disintegrate. It then enters what is known as a bifurcation point, where it can continue disintegrating and finally fall apart, or it can jump to a higher level of organization. In other words, when the system’s outlook is at its worst, it has the opportunity to transform and evolve. Very small changes in the system can have powerful and far reaching effects at times of bifurcation.

This is where we tie back in with the New Children. Humanity is currently in a state of disintegration with many runaway feedback loops in action. So which way will we go? To complete disintegration or to a higher level of organization? Small changes could have large and determining effects. This is one reason that I practice Heartfulness Meditation and encourage others to meditate as well. If positive changes occur in enough of us, if a small but critical mass begins to be the change we would like to see in the world, this small shift could just tip the system toward evolution rather than dissolution.

Could the New Children with their special gifts be an important part of this process, a kind of leavening in the system that could powerfully tilt humanity toward evolution? If that is the case, it makes our roles as adult guides even more important. We are the ones who guide children through their challenges so that their beautiful gifts can manifest.

The New Children

Domination Culture,
Partnership Culture

The transition that I have described in physics and biology, from a mechanistic worldview to a worldview based on energy, relationships, and networks, is reflected in the social sciences as well. Cultural historian and systems scientist, Riane Eisler, differentiates between dominator systems and partnership or connection systems. Dominator systems are top-down, hierarchical social structures that see humans as innately selfish or aggressive, and in need of being controlled. They use fear, reward and force as the means of control. Eisler holds that humans have lived primarily within dominator systems for the last 10,000 years. Prior to that, when humans lived in small bands of hunter-gatherers, they lived within partnership social structures, based on mutual respect.

n partnership systems, people are recognized as having a strong innate desire to contribute to the well-being of others and the welfare of the whole. Open, respectful communication – working things out together – is the tool used to maintain social order. Force, or fear of force, is not needed. Eisler feels that a return to partnership systems is badly needed in today’s world to remedy the greed, violence and disregard for others that is endemic around us. She has promoted partnership structures in economic and political systems, in communities, schools and families.

You may be able to sense that dominator systems are related to the older, mechanistic view of the world, while partnership systems are related to the network or connected systems approach that is now coming to the fore. It is sobering to note how many of our traditional ways of parenting or teaching children spring from the dominator system: “You will do as I say because I am your parent, or your teacher, and if you don’t, there will be consequences.”

Imposing our ways on these New Children simply doesn’t seem to work – they just resist or ignore. What does work is to treat them with respect, humor, playfulness and presence. They need to know that we are with them, willing to help them accomplish goals that make sense to them. They respond to inspiration and loving guidance, but try to control them arbitrarily and you’ll have a fight on your hands!

The articles to follow will explore some of the challenges that the New Children may be facing, and alternative ways to interact with them that are more likely to lead to harmonious and joyful outcomes for all concerned.


Terran Daily

About Terran Daily

Terran is an occupational therapist who has worked with children, parents and teachers for over 30 years, in Scotland, northern California, and now in India. Her biggest joy has been establishing strong relationships with children who think and act differently from previous norms – the new children. Aside from her work as an OT, Terran is a certified trainer in Nonviolent Communication and a peace educator. She was a founding member of the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Peace Education. Terran is happiest with children and in nature. She is blessed to work with both at the Heartfulness Headquarters, Kanha Shanti Vanam.

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