Natural Learning Relationships—Paragon of the New Paradigm for Parenting and Education

A paradigm shift changes everything. That can be challenging and so I write these blogs in an attempt to ease the transition. For the shift is here and the sooner we participate the sooner well-being is ours for the choosing. In this blog I present a brief paragraph or two about the most fundamental shift—how we know. Then, in order to show just how different the paradigms are, I present a simple table delineating some basic differences in parenting, education and professional development between the new and the old. Future posts will flesh out the qualities that make the new paradigm compelling.

A paradigm shift literally means we must change our belief as to what knowledge is and the way that we attain it. In the shift occurring right now the old paradigm asserted that we know something when we can prove it. Measurement, behavior, and comparison of data are the stuff of proof. Cognition is king and intelligence refers primarily to thinking. (Howard Gardner challenged this within the old paradigm. A future post will discuss his contributions and limitations).

In the new paradigm knowledge is emergent. It comes forward in relationship. Knowledge evolves; it emerges in context. It is not a fixed entity to be gained but a field in which we are a factor of its essence. Knowledge doesn’t exist outside of us. We are part and participant. Knowledge, therefore, includes many immeasurables, not the least of which is us. And who are we? We embed meaning, aesthetics, love, community, and many more qualities that cannot be measured. Cognition is but a part; only wholeness embodies knowledge.

Consider the simple cell, and while you are doing it, consider how much more what is true for the cell is true for humans. Cells cannot be known by the data of their nucleus, or mitochondria, or their chemical make-up. To know a cell we must appreciate its relationship to other cells. A kidney cell, for example, is continually communicating with other kidney cells and, to a lesser but significant degree, with all cells in the body. Keep the kidney healthy, support the whole body. Poison it at your peril. It is in relationship, in context, that we know the cell and only in that wholeness can its well-being be assessed.

Relationship and emergence. Emergence and relationship. That is the new paradigm. Knowledge is open-ended, a field of participation in which optimal well-being resides.

Here’s the table; note the differences. Keep in mind that the new preserves the best of the old, demolishes the rest, and allows greater well-being.


New Paradigm (NLR)

Old Paradigm

Aim (goal/purpose)

Optimal well-being 

Social norms, “normal”

Adult’s view of child

Participatory relationship in developing capacities that bring forth emerging greatness

Has to be taught—child is incomplete, separate. Adults know best; top-down.

Child Development

Whole child related to in every moment; includes aesthetics, love, beauty, truth, and “non-measurables”. Fundamentally, child development is the awareness of capacities and the relationships which nourish them.

Child reduced to segmented disciplines, i.e., social construction, cognitive, moral, physical. Child development proved by lab experiments, surveys, statistics, and analysis.


Developed in relationship with teacher, child and family that draws on strength and unique capabilities of child; includes academic success; assessment via portfolio and evaluation

Social goals, i.e., competing in the global marketplace, decided by adults with no relationship to child. Competence decided by testing. Teacher delivers curriculum to meet testing goals.

Interpersonal life in school

Relationship with much interpersonal skill building through mentorship


Ease of Understanding and Implementation

Straightforward—only have to recognize and nourish the organizing principle of each stage of development and each capacity optimally develops in its natural time.

Complicated—have to study and compare all the research in all the disciplines due to fragmented view of children. Rarely implemented though often talked about


Participatory by all members of family, and school; expert’s opinion evaluated and not blindly accepted 

Experts required—often therapeutic or specialized and not connected with family or school

Boundary Creation

Co-created according to developmental capacity

Authored by adult, usually with rewards and punishments

Response to Dysfunction

Nourishing well-being; reorganizing relationships and activities to renew well-being – whole system including family and school share in the response

Palliative; behavior modification, drugs, therapy—child is the problem and must be fixed

Adult Development

Intimately tied to relationship with children; parents critical to children’s education

Nonexistent, adults can go back to school to learn more or go to personal development seminars; parents tangential to children’s education

Professional Development

Professional development includes self development combined with participation in the new paradigm and is open-ended and emergent

Learning theories and analysis including statistical methods and peer review journals and the ability to incorporate the works of others


  • 1.Ba, Especially appreciate the Table, very clear. I agree with you, there is a shift! Tim

    Tim Riley | July 2011 | Redding, CA

  • 2.nice post. i really enjoyed.

  • 3.Change what we believe. And that is changing our way of living. Yes indeed especially that there are new people in our lives. That's our children. I find this accurate to what I believe though

    Emily Bostick | July 2012 | UK

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