Saturday, July 11, 2015


Grounding for Strong Childhoods, acknowledging spirituality, The Spiritual Child, Lisa Miller, parenting

A key question for you: How may you, as a parent, teacher, or guru of any sort, provide a framework to enable psychological strength in children, teenagers, and, ultimately, adults? 

Professor Lisa Miller provides a credible answer based on scientifically sound evidence. She guides us into the perspective of spiritual childhood development. 

I've decided to devote the next three weekly posts to her book, The Spiritual Child.  She provides many helpful ideas for mentors of children, parents, teachers, and religious leaders. I'll recap many of her ideas, but first, more about Dr. Miller and her qualifications.

First, who, exactly, is Lisa Miller? In the book jacket photo, Dr. Miller sports a wide smile. Her blonde hair spills down in an oval, framing her  friendly face. Personally, she lives with her family in Connecticut.  Professionally, she is a Professor of Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University, New York City. Her style of psychology might be described as psychology of spirituality. In The Spiritual Child, she applies that theme to child development.

She won her doctoral degree in psychology at University of Pennsylvania, studying under her Professor Martin Seligman. Seligman is described as an “avid promoter” of positive psychology and child psychology. 
Photo in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Miller’s general approach seems much like Seligman’s. His most recent book was published in 2011. In writing The Spiritual Child, Miller now, in 2015, seems to wear her professor’s publishing mantle.

Stronger children, kids who are more able to avoid abusing substances, teenagers less likely to become depressed and more likely to reach lively, high levels of academic success--Miller shows how parents, teachers and other gurus can help kids to achieve more fulfilling lives. She draws exclusively on recent scientific research in childhood development and spirituality

So, what does Miller mean by spirituality? She defines it as “. . . an inner sense of relationship to a higher power that is loving and guiding.” (Spiritual Child, p. 25.) Further, she asserts that spirituality includes dialogue with this higher power.

Miller isn't denominational. She recognizes that many religions provide uniques names and descriptions of the higher power. She doesn’t tie spirituality to a particular religion, but does claim that it's a scientifically verifiable human capacity, and universal. Science demonstrates that children are biologically engineered for spirituality. 

I’ve found The Spiritual Child to be ground-breaking. In time it may be recognized as the first big contribution to a new trend, like Why We Can’t Wait by M. L. King or Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan were in their time. I hope for that, personally. Spirituality is a topic that’s more easily discussed than religion in our current global culture. Because of my assessment, I want to spend several posts on the book.

For me, Miller's style of developmental psychology is personal. J. B. Skinner's behaviorist psychology dominated the Department of Psychology at University of Washington, Seattle, where I studied briefly in the 1950s. After just two quarters, I rebelled against the narrowness of behaviorism’s stimulus-response formula. I transferred to Seattle Pacific College, where I majored in the more satisfactory humanistic psychology of Adler, Jung, and Horney. And Professor Martin Seligman, cited above, left behaviorism in the dust also, and about the same time. 

I invite you to read more about my junior year abandonment of behaviorism in my 2014 book, Growing Green Two Ways!  Miller would surely declare that my change of campuses, departments, and schools of psychology was, for me, an act of spiritual individuation. That personal story gives you a glimpse into the style of Lisa Miller as I apply it to my own life.

Please share this post with your friends who have an interest in spiritual development in childhood and teenage years. I think they'll appreciate the information.

Also, use this information if you wish to order your own copy or to obtain a loaner from your library:  Lisa Miller, The Spiritual Child: the new science on parenting for health and lifelong thriving. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2015. ISBN 978-1-250-03292-8. List price: $27.99.


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