The Trunk of the Family Tree

Our young family moved to the Cedarberg Wilderness to discover what we hoped would be a more wholesome lifestyle than the get-up-and-go-show then running our lives.



Being a home-schooling mom I was impelled to find a method of conflict resolution that was sustainable, and so it was that Eye2Eye was born out of necessity. Whilst I recorded my understandings, Christine Tomcheck encouraged me to write a book, The Child Whisperer! Subsequently, another dear friend, Michela Collett, suggested the title Eye2Eye.

My sons, Shahan and Bodhi-Zen who are now adult men, were the catalysts, inspiration and test drivers for the conflict resolution process! I learnt most importantly that when children have family chores to perform, their self-confidence and self-esteem grow because they feel needed and reliable. Shahan and Bodhi had goats to milk, chickens to feed, seedlings to water, solar panels to check and many other tasks that empower growing children. By caring for their environment, they were also learning to care for themselves.


As a parent, therapist and teacher, I love to watch people blossom. I honour each child as I do each parent, for without each other no learning can take place. Parenting is a highly dynamic job and requires a variety of different skills – however, every parent is rewarded with opportunities for awareness and transformation.


‘Ouch! That hurt!’ makes us pay attention to the toe that is painful. However, conflict is a natural gauge to make us pay attention on subtler levels too.

‘I had it first!’ and ‘she used up all my…..!’ Family life is peppered with moments like these. We parents constantly attempt to stabilise and create our environment for better living. Looking for what motivates each conflict, we are sure to find emotional impulses triggered by the feeling, ‘I’m not happy’. The range of emotions employed varies from family to family. Some families are loud and possibly explosive, and dynamics are openly apparent. Others are less outwardly expressive, yet dynamics do still exist.

Using the Eye2Eye model, parents are invited to reassess the code of conduct that their families live by. The code that exists in each family is the trunk of that family tree.

There are many reasons I love to visit the arboretum. The experience of abundant growth and creativity revitalises my spiritual, emotional and common sense. Take for example the sturdy yellowwood tree. We know this tree is healthy because the soil in which it grows is nutrient-rich and there is an ample supply of water available.

As parents we often mistakenly think that we must manage our children. But we are less able to do this than an oak tree manages an acorn. Our potential as parents lies rather in creating and managing the environment in which our children live and grow. If we persist in trying to control them, they will resist. This resistance shows us the ‘control of error’ (as Maria Montessori called it), pointing the way to make things right. By responding consciously we release our children to grow according to their full potential as they were born to do.


Taking into consideration that every action creates a reaction, our words and intentions are of the utmost importance. Sound codes of conduct such as no rudeness (not ever), respect for all life, appreciation of nature, gentleness, willingness to assist, and enthusiasm, all generate healthy values for raising children consciously. Each time we communicate we are imparting our resonance of spiritual, emotional and mental awareness. This is what shapes the growth of our family tree.

Willingness and flexibility develop extended branches and foliage, just as criticism and control create stunted growth. (If you would like to test this out, invite the whole family to paint a tree. Set out large pieces of paper and paints or colour pencils. Paint is preferable. The results will certainly offer important insight on who’s who in the family zoo! Look at roots, trunks, foliage and fruits for symbolic indications.)

The Trunk of the Family Tree

Conflict shows a soul in distress. Step one is not to judge the behaviour but rather look at what is being expressed. Through the action of pushing a sibling off a chair, the child is indicating that s/he is possibly feeling usurped. By thinking ‘he’s dominating her again’ we add to the conflict. If we read that he is in stress and feeling displaced, we naturally find an opportunity to reassure him. Parents unintentionally create this dynamic of conflict by unconsciously using words that give preference to one child, especially when we take sides or give praise.

It’s how we praise that makes the difference, e.g. ‘It looks like you had a lot of fun painting that!’ or ‘I feel happy looking at your picture!’ rather than, ‘What a good picture!’ In other words, our speech should be inclusive, not exclusive.


Children who blossom late may be holding back because of not feeling safe. If this is the case, special chores that are easily managed can be suggested. Doing a simple task for the benefit of the family opens the door to being complimented and thanked. This naturally builds self-esteem in the late bloomer, and how they love the sunshine of praise! Family chores give each member a feeling of being needed, but this should not be forced. Each person chooses his or her chore for the week.

As we know, choice stimulates the individual rather than immobilises through the heavy weight of duty.


‘Now that you have a hamster YOU have to keep the cage clean, it’s YOUR responsibility!’ With such utterances we teach our offspring to loathe responsibility. As an alternative, ‘let’s see if Mrs Hamster needs a clean bed to sleep in’ brings out curiosity and concern, which are essential ingredients for learning how to care.

Children are naturally curious, unless their spirits have been dampened. Doing chores with a child nurtures friendliness between parent and child; they do not want us alongside them forever so it is a wonderful opportunity to utilise the moments that they do want our assistance.

The way in which we phrase our intentions brings out the best or the worst in children. Imagination and enthusiasm (Greek – to be filled with God) are the keys to their world and it takes miniscule effort to do this if we are willing to try on their size shoe at appropriate times.

Responsibility is something children learn along the way, it is not something we have to teach them. It comes in the form of the love and care we show for our environment and the animals, people and plants that are part of that environment.

Recommended reading

1. Maria Montessori. The Absorbent Mind.

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