I recently released the third edition of Magical Parent – Magical Child co-authored with Joseph Chilton Pearce. If you have not read it – I encourage you to do so now.

From the forward to the third edition:magical parent book cover

Magical Parent – Magical Child began with a simple insight; The Future Is Now. If I am aggressive or kind today chances are I will be the same way tomorrow and my children will be too. If I want to bring about real change, a new pattern or possibility, a baby step forward in evolution it must take place now, this moment. By changing how I think, feel and act - now - I create a different next moment. If I don’t change now - I will be tomorrow what I am today.

Gandhi said; ‘be the change we want to see in others’. This insight brings that change, which is the future, into the present. Right now is where all the action is. Now is the only chance we’ve got.

Joseph Chilton Pearce added depth to this basic insight when he described the ‘model imperative’ in his bestselling book, The Magical Child. Each of us represents vast capacities, more and greater than ever imagined. The awakening and development of each capacity requires a model-environment to serve as a catalyst for that potential’s opening and development. No model – no development. That is the ‘model imperative’.

Becoming a Magical Parent is not really different from becoming a world class athlete or singer. All we need is a safe space to practice and experienced mentors (the model-imperative). Magical Parenting means really playing the game called being a parent. When we are really playing, that is, in the state of authentic play failure isn’t possible. Unlike high stakes testing or the World Series, given a safe place to practice and experienced mentors, meeting every challenge becomes an opportunity to expand and develop our capacity to meet every challenge. There are no right or wrong answers. The score of the day is irrelevant. Rather, the goal is continuing expansion of capacity and potential which takes placed naturally in the optimum state called play.

An educator used Magical Parent – Magical Child as the text for her class. She asked a few probing questions. You may find them of interest.

Given the evidence we have on states of being, empathy and attachment, how does this model inform parents/caregivers to be advocates for children?

Being an advocate for and relating to a child are different states and patterns of behavior. Most of my observations are about relating to a child in optimum ways. This brings in the concept and over 40 years of research on ‘state specific learning and performance.’ If one learns something in one state, and every emotion is a state, they can’t remember or perform that learned experience as well in another state. The emotional state being experienced as learning and performance takes place is woven into the neural pattern of that memory. Trigger the memory of that learning (and its state) and the emotion present during the act of learning floods the system along with the cognitive image-memory.

Some states are coherent. Others are fragmented. Coherent is best. And positive-coherent states are even better – optimum, what I refer to as the Zone, Flow and Play. (Play being the overarching state nature intended.) The formula for an optimum learning relationship is for everyone parent-caregiver and child) to be in the same positive-coherent play state.

How do you concretely apply the notion of state of being to improving quality of care?

Care or caring occurs naturally in the optimum state of Play. Care and caring can also be expressed by the parent-provider creating a sanctuary, a safe place for the child to do what nature intended – build ‘structures of knowledge’ of the world by being safe enough to play with it. This demands that the adult is fully present and attentive to what the play experience is giving to the child – now. A glance of wonder or curiosity from the child and a knowing-appreciating glance from the adult is all that is really needed for ‘shared meaning’ to be experiences by both. Bonding is the dynamic flow of shared meaning.

Are there any indicators to observe or comment on the development or changes in state of being?

States of being change moment by moment, as often as emotions change. Positive emotions, joy, pleasure, discovery, affection, etc. encourage and enhance learning and performance. Negative emotional states inhibit and depress learning and performance. The child wants and need and expects to be in positive states, by design. When the environment is not safe, which is most often an adult-cultural issue, learning and real growth is retarded. The key is for the adult to be safe enough to play at what-ever he or she is doing – and to share this positive affect (inner experience) with the child. The more demanding the challenge the more we need to access the flexibility and intelligence of Play.

In “Magical Parent - Magical Child,” you say that relationship is the most effective way for adults and children to learn together. What observable indicators exist to demonstrate when a relationship is effective or ineffective?

Is the experience and relationship coherent or fragmented? Is there shared meaning or conflict? Conflict is generally painful. Lighthearted or intense wonder and discovery (shared meaning) is a joy-filled blast. Which would you prefer?

Are there any observable indicators when a relationship is not an optimum learning relationship?

Negative emotions, conflict, physical and emotional pain, depression, isolation, fear, anger, violence…..
What is the difference between a primary secure attachment and an optimum learning relationship?
Primary secure attachment is fine, but it may not involve authentic play. In the moment - the primary secure caregiver may or may not be in the state of play, relating to the child, sharing attention with the child. The relationship may be safe and secure but boring.

You speak about “no” suppressing learning and play while releasing cortisol. In times when a child’s attention needs to be directed, what methods would be appropriate to use? Examples?

When trust, respect and shared meaning are the foundation of the relationship – no – is not needed. No is only needed when trust, respect and shared meaning has broken down and usually for some time. Modeling is the primary experience for real learning. If you don’t model poking your eye with a pencil, you won’t need to tell the child NO don’t do that. All parents-providers need to do is stay connected, model positive, mindful relationships with people and things. If the knife is sharp or the stove is hot – model that in the way you relate to the knife and stove. Connect and share the meaning of that relationship with the child and no will never be necessary.

Are external motivators ever appropriate? If so where do we draw the line? If not, how do we intervene when a child is behaving inappropriately (i.e. hitting another child?)

A safe, attentive, emotionally secure child will not hit another. Empathy will naturally guide them plus the external and inner emotional model you provide. Positive, playful relationships model appropriate behavior at any age, any stage. Learning and conditioning are not the same. Rewards and punishments are used to condition children. The joy of real learning, discovery, wonder, and shared meaning are more than enough to maintain optimum learning lifelong.

“If no bond takes place we are left with only our agenda with its implicit violence” p.120 Without a bond between primary caregiver and child in child care what type of violent behaviors could be observed in the caregiver?

No bond, no shared meaning. Doing what is demanded out of fear and/or rewards is conditioning. Empathy, respect and shared positive emotions-sensations are the keys. If this is an active-creative force in the relationship there is no violence. If these are not active any act can be violent.

How would you define emotional neglect?

Not experiencing shared meaning, rejection, isolation, abandonment in all its forms. Not winning the game is emotional neglect if winning is needed to maintain the relationship – and every other form of adult imposed conditions of self-image-worth based on adult approval.

What do you think is the most common type of emotional neglect?


How do you think emotional neglect could be best addressed?

By having adults understand that relating to and caring for a child is a developmental journey – just as demanding for the adult as learning to walk is for a child. This changes the State of the adult profoundly. Each moment, each new challenge is an opportunity for that adult to learn and develop new levels of attention, new levels of flexibility, of creativity, imagination, humor, trust, respect, and empathy-compassion (for self and others).

I am not an academic. If I have missed the essence of your question – restate it and I will take another shot.

You did answer my questions however I don't think I asked a question I meant to ask. I work in child care, part-time, because I have been in school full-time. I am not with the children for most of the time, but I am for about 26 hours/week. There are a few children that don't come every day and the hours include nap time. I have not raised these children and therefore been able to participate in optimum learning relationships for the majority of the time. I have been able, I think, to engage with them at times in what you refer to as the zone, play etc. but not all the time. The children do hit each other, pull each other's hair, push each other etc. What do you believe would be the best way to redirect them and guide them back to or into the zone?

The Dali Lama said recently, responding to a question, ‘how can he continue to smile when he sees and experiences so much violence.’ He responded, ‘my profession is happiness.’ Maintaining optimum positive states is a profession. It is the ultimate spiritual practice and modeling this for and with children is the greatest Dojo one can find, practicing with true masters – if we see and seize the opportunity.

The world is awash in violence, from the inside out. It is unrealistic to believe that one can be in the Zone or at true Play ALL the time. But it is realistic to by in positive-optimum states MOST of the time.

Play is a state, not an activity. As each age and stage unfolds the nature and quality of activities change, the face of play changes.

It took time and experience for children to learn to be violent. It takes time and experience to develop in them the emotional intelligence to feel empathy.

My personal experience raising two children was ideal. I worked out of the home. My former wife loved and thrived being a mother. We home schooled and unschooled. Life was school and we, the adult, learned as much every day as the children we played with.

I don’t have the experience of dealing with a preschool or school of angry children. But I have seen environments that are so rich and child centered that Most of the time, most children they are so enchanted in play-learning that anger and pushing seldom arises, and it does in the best of places.

Most adults do not have the time, attention, or even the desire to relate in optimum ways, to themselves, to others nor with children. They are to self-centered, stressed out and for good reason.

Naturally one intervenes immediately when a child hits another. Even though we model hitting and killing 10,000 times on the TV and in the news…it is not what we really want.

Bonding is an experience. It builds the capacity for trust, empathy and respect. When violence occurs it does so when these capacities are undeveloped, retarded. It takes experience for the bond nature intends to grow and expand throughout one’s lifetime. Focus and model that.

For more on the experiences that bond and how the absence of these experiences early in life lead to aggression see James W. Prescott, PhD’s Bonding and the Brain https://ttfuture.org/bonding/front.

There are many programs. Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication is great. NVC has developed a number of works for parents and educators. Visit the No Fault Zone http://www.thenofaultzone.com/ Developed by two very skilled and insightful NVC educators.