One Graduate Student’s Journey to Transform the Parent-Child Relationship

Dave Metler

A passion for children and parenting brought human development and family studies graduate student Dave Metler to UW-Madison and SoHE, where his dreams are taking off. Metler’s vision of founding a nonprofit that works to transform the way adults relate to childhood became a reality when he launched The Allied Childhood Experience (ACE) in September 2013.

“It’s [ACE] moving quicker than I ever thought, but I really am passionate with working with young adults around transforming the relationship with their own childhood and with children as they prepare for child-centered careers,” Metler said.

As part of ACE’s mission, Metler aims to work with college and university students in the United States to begin the process of reflecting on how their childhood has impacted them, and how they can better integrate and understand those experiences. He hopes to also teach them how to be critical and reflective of the way they relate with children and to understand child development personally, beyond the information found in textbooks.

One way in which Metler plans to facilitate this education is through the workshops that he offers at universities and colleges. Workshops are given on a variety of topics including, adultism and childism, optimal personal development, the social construction of childhood, and becoming allies with children.

Metler, who earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, has worked with children in numerous ways as a camp counselor, mentor, classroom teacher, musical magician, and coach. However, he credits his work with Teresa Graham Brett, author of Parenting for Social Change, as the greatest inspiration that fuels his belief that transforming the relationships with children will transform the world.

“I was blown away by [her book],” Metler said. “I was like ‘I need to contact this author.’”

When Metler contacted Graham Brett, he got much more than he bargained for. Teresa Graham Brett offered him the opportunity to move to Tuscon, Arizona, and live with her and her family while helping her on another project about transforming relationships with children. He knew he could not turn it down.

Working with Graham Brett, Metler observed her mindful parenting practices firsthand and learned how parents can better integrate and understand their own childhood. “I think that it was really in seeing the way that she was with her children that I started to think of the possibilities of how parents can be empowered as agents in transforming the parent-child relationship.”

In another rare opportunity, Metler was selected to participate in the 2013 Primate Field School in Rwanda, where he studied parenting in mountain gorillas. While in Arizona, Metler attended a lecture on the lessons we can learn about fatherhood from gorillas, and that is where he learned about the school.

Under the guidance of Professor Stephen Small, Metler is on track to finish his master’s degree by the end of this school year, with a focus on how contemplative practices like mindfulness contribute to deliberate and conscious parenting. Metler has applied for a Fulbright Scholarship to spend a year in Nepal before the start of his PhD studies. In Nepal, he plans to set up a field school for his non-profit. Metler believes that he is in the right place to make his dreams come to fruition. “I want to make a real difference in the lives of children and I feel supported by this university to create true social change.”

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