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Good? Bad? Who knows?

Let’s face it. We all want our kids to be good. To do good things like listen, share, help and wait their turn. To be cooperative, responsible, kind, empathetic, capable and more. What parent doesn’t want these things?!

And so it is that by ages one and two, many of us begin to label things for our kids as either good or bad. It’s meant to be helpful — a way of bottom lining things — teaching our kids the ways of the world. Hoping to see more of the good and less of the bad, we parents say things like:

“You used the potty. Good boy!!!”
“Stop being so loud! It’s bad to yell/whine!!!”
“You shared your toys! Good girl!!!”
“You are so bad at listening.”

But unfortunately, the practice of labeling things as simply good or bad can create more problems than solutions for our young kids, failing to do the very thing we want it to do, namely, to help our kids learn to manage themselves and follow the golden rule.

fishing meme

To examine labeling as a parenting strategy, let’s look to the following famous parable for insight.

A farmer’s only horse ran away. The neighbors, trying to console him, said, “What terrible news about your horse. What will you do?” But the farmer said, “Bad news, good news… who knows?”

A few days later, the horse returned, leading an entire herd of wild horses. The neighbors exclaimed, “How wonderful!” The farmer replied, “Good news, bad news… who knows?”

The next day, the farmer’s son tried to ride one of the new horses. The horse threw the son, who broke both legs. The neighbors said, “What a misfortune! Your son won’t be able to work on the farm.” The farmer stood still and said, “Bad news, good news… who knows?”

Within the week, news of a war had broken out.  Soldiers arrived in the village, taking new recruits.  All the young men were drafted to fight, except for the farmer’s son.

Good news? Bad news? (Good behavior? Bad behavior?) Who knows?

Good/bad statements are by definition, dualistic, rooted in the notion that people and things are one way or another — black or white with little room for gray.

The gray of life, where things like intuition, empathy, passion, spirit, gut feelings and the permission to follow one’s bliss live. Permission to tune into one’s self for guidance, to trust what’s there and to follow it — not only living from the head and what is ‘right’, but from the heart and head in balance, comfortable with the nuances and the many interpretations the moments of our lives bring.

Do we really want our kids to feel comfortable in the gray? I do… and here’s why:

Because sometimes, not listening is the thing to do.

Because sometimes, going for what you want, even when you meet resistance, is the very thing that will bring you into the fullness of life.

Because sometimes, taking risks and having the strength to fall flat on your face and get up again, dusting off the dirt to have another go, is what it takes to break through in this world.

When children repeatedly receive good/bad labeling, over time they can deduce that things are only one way or the other… and that they are their actions. “If I do a good thing I am good. If I do a bad thing I am bad.”

Over time, with enough good/bad labeling, the mounting evidence before our children can tell a very different story than we would have it. Stories like:

I AM BAD. I AM MEAN. I HAVE TO BE FIRST TO BE PROUD OF MYSELF. I AM DUMB. I AM SELFISH. WHEN THINGS DO NOT COME EASILY TO ME, I’D RATHER STOP DOING THAT THING AND DO SOMETHING THAT DOES. I PUSH AND BITE. I AM DIFFICULT. I AM LOUD. I HAVE TO DO WHAT OTHER PEOPLE TELL ME EVEN IF THEY ARE HURTING ME. NO MATTER WHAT I DO, I AM NOT ENOUGH.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We have the power to change this, starting today, when we choose clear, firm, respectful parenting practices and words that allow for the gray.

In those moments when all hell is breaking loose in your home and you think to yourself, “I have the worst child(ren) in the world!!!”, perhaps this is your very moment. Teach them another way. Let go of “no” and “don’t” and “can’t” and “need” and use words and actions that model and explain what it is you are wanting.

Even in the face of misbehavior or great achievement, encourage the process rather than praise the outcome alone, teach what you want to see rather than punish for what you don’t. Here are the examples from above, reworked:

You used the potty! How does that feel?!?” (encouragement) Instead of “You used the potty. Good boy!!!” (praise)

“I know it’s hard when you really want something and it doesn’t happen. It looks like you are feeling ________ (however you imagine your child is feeling)? Can I give you a hug?” then offering ideas to the child for what they might do instead. (teaching) Instead of,  “Stop it. It’s very bad to yell/whine!!!” (punishing/shaming)

“You shared your toys! Did you see the smile on your friends face when you let him play with your truck? How did it feel to share your toys?”(encouragement) Instead of, “You shared your toys! Good girl!!!”” (praise)

“Can you turn on your listening ears?” or “Look me in the eyes (for just before you ask your child something)” (teaching) Instead of “You are SO bad at listening.” (punishing/shaming)

Moving past good and bad. It’s not easy. While I have never been in the habit of calling any of our kids good or bad, I still catch myself using a hefty amount of duality when it comes to everyday things of life.

Just today I said “Oh GOOD, the frig is working again!” (which I just said 3 minutes ago ’cause – happy-dancing- it is. Spontaneously! With no repair man needed. Boom!) and “Oh no, I burnt the toast!!!”, among a zillion other good/bad implied statements, I am sure. And while the zen-mommy in me wants to say “Good broken frig? Bad broken frig? Who knows? Good burnt toast? Bad burnt toast? Who knows?” I’m just not fully there yet. Still, even if we as parents cannot always model an acceptance of ‘what is’ at the level the farmer did when life seemingly delivers lemons, we can begin to let go of good and bad as it pertains to our kids- their very being and their behaviors. And for me, it’s been eye opening to simply notice which things in life I do label as good or bad.

Fortunately, letting go of good/bad and shame-ridden judgement goes for ourselves and our parenting as well. We don’t need to fully master the art of non-duality for our kids to get a healthy taste of the gray — we get to start where we are, letting go of labels when we can, leaving shame and blame in the dust as we go.

Last summer, my husband took our four kids fishing.

As the sun began to set, our four year old son, Colin, caught by far the biggest fish of the day, measuring in at just about half his height. As his dad helped him hold the fish up and examine it, another fisherman came by to praise Colin. He said, “Wow, that’s a BIG fish. You are a BIG BOY!!!”

My son paused to consider this. He looked at his dad, at the fish and then back at the man as he thought this statement over. Then, with a matter-of-fact look upon his face, he replied,”We’re fishermen. That’s what we do.” The man smiled, nodded and agreed. “We ARE fishermen. That’s what we do.” he repeated before he walked away.

Colin had reshaped the man’s comment, meant as praise, in a way that made sense to him. Catching the big fish didn’t make him a bigger boy than he already was — it didn’t make him a “good” boy either, or better than his dad or his sisters. He had simply caught a fish. It’s what fishermen do.

What stories do you want your children to know about themselves? I invite you to join me in moving past good and bad and telling our kids THOSE stories instead. In the way we teach. In the way we encourage. Every. Day.

(((I’d love to hear your stories below!!!)))

xo

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Parenting by the book. Don’t do it.

THERE IS TOO MUCH FOCUS ON PARENTING BY THE BOOK IN OUR SOCIETY AND IT IS NOT HEALTHY.
phonto
Believe me, I know the first few years (decades?) of motherhood are hard. Wanting to feed, love and help this adorable little person grow the ‘right’ way fills any new parent with all consuming questions, the answers to which seemingly allude you alone. And the questions other people ask — ohhhh the questions.

“Is he sleeping through the night?”

What the hell does that matter? Worst. Question. EVER.

Ask me something that DOES matter. Ask me how I’m feeling. Ask me about my birth story, about me how it feels to be a mom. Ask me about my child’s nature — what sounds does she make? Does she like to be held up, looking out? To be swaddled? Does she burp better when I hold her like this on my knee or over my shoulder? Have I met any other new-mommy friends? Do I feel supported? What can you do to support me?

Seriously — ask me ANYTHING but “Is he sleeping through the night?!?”

The sleep questions we ask one another… at some level I know it’s normal ’cause we’re ALL thinking about it. We all want to know how we can be getting more sleep. But there are sooooo many other things we could be talking about… and trust me when I tell you that none of us (parents of little people) are getting enough sleep.

EVERYONE IS TIRED.
If your baby or your child doesn’t sleep so well (like, ever!!!), I know it is hard. I know it is unbelievably stressful. On you. On your marriage. Maybe even your relationships with the in-laws and other family members that want to “help”. But the thing is, when it comes to sleep, you really don’t WANT their help… you want their support.

You might be putting up a good front, but secretly, deep down inside, you worry you are doing it wrong and you blame yourself. ‘WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?!?!?!? WHY WON’T THIS KID SLEEP?!?!?!?’

Or secretly, you blame your child. ‘Damn kid. Just f-ing go to sleep!!!! I will PAY YOU TO GO TO SLEEP!!!’

If your child is still a baby, you blame nursing or bottle feeding for the (sometimes hourly but don’t tell anybody) middle of the night wakeups. You blame yourself for holding your baby when they cry (?!?!? please never blame yourself for this. EVER.) Maybe your doctor has even ‘warned’ you about this by saying “It’s never too early to set them her up to be a good sleeper…” But whatever you are hearing, know this, if the advice you are getting (even from your doctor, even from your mom) doesn’t sit well with you and your gut, you can choose to LET IT GO and trust yourself and what feels right to you instead.

Of course you are feeding and holding your baby — your baby is CRYING! Your baby is HUNGRY. Your baby literally thrives on touch. Or maybe she has reflux (or some other mysterious thing going on inside of her that she alone knows about) and amazingly enough, knows she feels better when she has a little milk in her tummy. Or maybe she’s hitting a growth spurt and is brilliantly helping you ready your milk supply for this spurt and so, yep, it’s time to eat AGAIN.

My point is, take a second to balance the disempowering messages the world keeps sending you in this, the age of outside information, and remind yourself DAILY of this simple truth:

You know best.

Always, always go the way that feels the lightest. The brightest. The RIGHTEST.

Collect the data. Ask for input. See a specialist. Let all the information and the many different ways you could in motherhood on any given day filter down through you as you allow yourself to decide which way to go based on your gut. Your INTUITION.

But never give your power away. You can trust your instincts.

xo

PS: If you liked this post, join our community of mindful mamas. You’ll receive weekly (errr, almost weekly. I’m a mom of four first so, yeah… if I don’t have anything to say worth saying, believe me, I won’t be saying/sending anything) gentle parenting tips as well as a free gift, a Hug Each Moment Kit via email today, direct to your inbox. (But sorry, I don’t do spam.)

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It Is Not Your Job

Our children want to be seen, to be known and to be loved. They do not need us as parents to feel responsible for “making” them. Our children already ARE. Our job is to support and guide them.

As I watch my four kids growing into the tots, tween and teen that they are today, more full expressions of the unique individuals I’ve known them to be since first breaths, first words and first steps, it is just that much easier for me to believe this very important concept:

It is not my job to make my children (fill-in-the-blank).

This frankly FANTASTIC revelation comes to me after years of parenting from a very different place. For years I parented believing it was my responsibility, nay, my duty and my moral obligation, to make my children a sometimes short and sometimes rather long list of VERY IMPORTANT THINGS depending on the moment.

Creative. Driven. Sensitive. Smart. Polite. Focused. Funny. Humble. Responsible. Outgoing. Patient. Kind. Generous. Empathetic.

My very important things list and yours might differ based on our upbringing, experiences, faith, age, cultural biases, education, gender, etc, but rest assured, if you know what it is to feel pressure from both inside and outside of yourself to make your child (fill-in-the-blank), then you know what I’m talking about.

Our very-important-things-place or VITP, is a not so fun, pressure-cooker like sort of place we parents go when we feel put upon by ourselves and/or society to MAKE our children something, especially when it is something our children are so very clearly NOT by their very nature. It’s a confusing and often self-contradicting place we drag our children when we fool ourselves into believing that as parents we have the power to MAKE THEM (fill-in-the-blank) by withdrawing our love, removing our favor, and resorting to tactics like shame, blame, bribery and manipulation.

Hadley bedtime poem

Some confusing messages that derive from this place might look like this:

“Be sensitive… but also be outgoing and fearless.”

“Dream big and think outside of the box… but also fit in with your peers, be compliant and do-as-you-are-told (i.e.: hug your grandma, put on your coat and go to the bathroom when I tell you to even when you say you don’t have to go or don’t “want” to… even when it goes against your intuition.)

“Be strong and lead… but also be passive, stop bossing your friends around and for God’s sakes don’t ask so many question or challenge the things we, your parents, tell you to be or do (or other authority figures for that matter – how could you embarrass us like that?!?)”

After 14 years of striving to catch my VITP in action, I’ve gotten better at recognizing it for what it is. When I feel the familiar tentacles of fear and not-enoughness taking hold, instead of surrendering to my VITP’s power, feeling off center, defensive, and blaming my kids for it, instead, I’m gently reminding myself to drop the chalupa. To step away from the wormhole sucking the whole-hearted love I have for my children out of me, a wormhole that would like to leave me with conditional love based on my approval/disapproval of my kids actions and beliefs.

we belong to each other

When I can catch my VITP at work these days, I say to myself:

“I can support these very-important-things I’m wanting to see within my children, but I cannot make them these things. My children’s true-est, most-powerful gifts already ARE. It is my job to love and guide my children such that they recognize and strengthen the already beautiful and intact attributes they already hold within themselves.”

Parenting in this way involves setting clear, firm, consistent limits when I see my kids moving off track (messy bedrooms, rude statements, mismanagement of time, etc, etc) but not from the angry, judgmental place my VITP wants to take me. If I truly want to lead and guide my children, I get to discipline them from my center. And yes, this entails saying “no” even as I craft my words to say YES— explaining what I want to see from them over what I do not. This entails being selfish if by definition “selfish” means my needs and wants are held right along side the needs and wants of every member of my family. This also entails letting go of the idea that I can love my family in a “perfect” way such that they will be happy and instead, embracing the truth that happiness is not the goal of parenting — my love and more full presence is. My willingness to grow right along side my child is. This road involves some NOT “happy” moments and that’s okay.

We ask our kids from as early an age as 2 or 3, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Instead of “A doctor/nurse”, “A baseball player” or “A ballerina!”, I imagine a world where our children reply instead, “What about who I am NOW? What about the things I love to do and be NOW? What about the things I think I’m good at doing and being TODAY?!?”

If we asked our children these three things daily in the way we parent, we just might get a closer look at each one’s very nature and stop deluding ourselves into thinking that we are MAKING our children (fill-in-the-blank).

In this new year, I hope you will join me in letting go of the notion that we MAKE our children (fill-in-the-blank) and instead, declaring the following:

“My job as mom/dad is to SEE my children – to know them and to love them – as they come to better know and love themselves.”

love imperfections

xo

PS: If you liked this post, join our community of mindful mamas and receive a free gift, a Hug Each Moment Kit via email today along with weekly positive parenting tips and inspirations direct to your inbox.

Inspiration and support for the journey of motherhood.  The manual is ours to write but we don’t have to write it alone! Let’s connect on twitterfacebook and pinterest too. xoxo

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How to Get Kids to Listen Without Yelling

You’re  talking, but nobody’s listening. You feel like the teacher in that Snoopy cartoon. Waaa -waaa-waaa-waaa-waaa.

You’ve been nice. You’ve been patient. You’ve repeated yourself no less than three times and YOU. ARE. DONE. You think to yourself:

‘Why won’t they just do what I ask them to do?!’

‘I could have never gotten away with this when I was a kid!!!’

‘This is exhausting. Am I the only parent on the planet dealing with this?!’

You feel frustrated, disrespected and unappreciated… and the gloves come off. ‘Nagging, yelling, shaming, bribing. What’s it gonna take to GET THESE KIDS TO LISTEN?!’

Instead of resorting to parenting tactics that leave you feeling guilty and/or disconnected from your child, inspire the listening you are looking for with these five simple strategies:

5 Ways to Inspire Listening

#1 – Pull for cooperation right from the start.

If you are parenting a strong-willed child, it is likely that each and every time you attempt to exert your authority, your child responds with some sort of resistance. Ignoring you. Defying you. Engaging you with back talk and banter. Or maybe replying with, “Sure!” just to get you off their case only to ignore you and your request yet again.

Instead of approaching your child with body language that says, “Get your back-side in motion or else!!!” (an understandable stance to take given the past) see if you can strike a team-approach that pulls for their cooperation instead.

Stand where you can be seen, heard and even felt as you gently pat a knee or shoulder. Lock eyes before you speak. Connect. Ensure your child is actually hearing what you are about to say. This means no more yelling “GET YOUR SHOES ON PLEASE, WE ARE LATE!!!” from the next room, even in the most kind or politest of voices. Distant, defensive, or hurried commands invite resistance and set you up to fail before you are even out of the gate.

Once you have your child’s attention, avoid locking horns at the front end and pour on a little honey instead. Avoid words like need, can’t and have to as these “trigger” words do little more than invite pushback and opt instead for words that invite:

  • “You need to clean up now.” becomes “It’s time to put the toys up.”
  • “You have to come to dinner now.” becomes “It’s time for dinner.”
  • “You can’t play anymore right now we need to eat.” becomes “You can play some more after dinner.”

# 2 – Respond rather than react.

Once your “invitation” is out there, if your child still resists you, instead of reacting to what feels like disobedience, reclaim your personal-power and respond to your child instead. As much as pushback can feel like a) a personal attack, b) an elaborate plot to drive you batty and/or c) a sign of some huge personality flaw in your child that will only get worse with time and needs to be broken, it is more than likely simply r-e-s-i-s-t-a-n-c-e. Resistance to change. Resistance to being told. Resistance to some unknown next thing. Resistance to stop using the brain cells that are currently firing within his or her head to find and engage some whole other set of brain cells necessary to make your request, no matter how valid it is, happen.

Once you let go of your reaction (i.e feeling shocked, offended, disrespected, etc), you can put 100% of your energy into responding to your child instead (i.e. connecting and redirecting their behavior.)

In my six-hour positive parenting class we spend two hours talking about this step alone. It’s no small thing to respond rather than react when you feel angry or irritated, but staying calm means everything when it comes to leading and guiding by example. Instead of parenting from fear, shame and/or other types of coercive power, when you re-focus your efforts on responding to what feels like misbehavior instead of reacting, you’ll find you are 110% more effective at enrolling your child into the very thing you are wanting. Being kind, respectful, responsible.

Discipline, born of the root word “disciple” which means to lead and guide by example, is a vital part of positive parenting – parenting from a clear, firm and consistent love. Responding instead of reacting to your child does not mean you are being permissive. It means you are being both firm and respectful as you teach your child what is expected of them in that moment.

# 3 – Restate what you hear your child saying.

Use a calm voice as you re-direct your child. I call this my “Siri” voice as Siri never yells at me or makes me feel guilty when I miss a turn. She simply redirects me. “Turn left at the next stop.” Drop any judgment or irritation you might be feeling at your child’s resistance (“justified” irritation on your part, but irritation none the less) from your words and your voice as you report only the facts:

  • “You like playing with your Legos.”
  • “You are having fun.” 

Look for the feeling your child is struggling with and state it calmly as well, with as much empathy as you can muster. Make eye contact as you get down on your child’s level and say:

  • “I hear you. You are sad and wish you could keeping playing Legos.”
  • “You are mad and want to play more.”

This restating, or what I like to think of as empathy, works great with teens as well, though obviously the words and the situations would change. The key here is, when you pause to restate what you hear your child saying (or think they might be saying/feeling) it’s like you’re hitting some big cosmic pause button on any old knee-jerk reaction type tendencies you might want to default to and instead, you are offering empathy. A single, well placed kind word or hug can be a complete game-changer when it comes to transforming resistance.

Simply put, empathy has the power to create cooperation. By helping your child feel heard, you are helping them to listen.

# 4 – Now that you have his or her calm attention, restate what you are asking for.

Use simple words that invite action. The more specific, concrete and actionable, the better:

  • “It’s time for dinner. Take my hand and we can walk to the table. We can play with the Legos when we are done.” 

Paint an inviting picture for your child, one they see themselves doing in their head and avoid the trap of telling them exactly what you do NOT want them to do.

  • “Bye bye Legos. We’ll see you after dinner” for the 2-3 year-old.
  • “Let’s hit the pause button (as you hit an imaginary pause button and invite them to do so as well) and we’ll come back to these Legos after dinner.” For the 4-5 year-old.
  • Time for dinner, let’s go. What will you eat first?” or any number of other enrolling question you think of to get your 5+ older child thinking about the action you are asking of them.

# 5 – Stay with it.

The last element to getting your child to listen is consistency. Once you’ve tasted the sweet success of redirecting resistance without the need to yell, it’s just that much easier to inspire cooperation from your child the next time. And though the transition from your old way of “inspiring listening” to this new way might be a bit more complex than the examples above… STAY WITH IT.

If you and your child are in a dance, resisting one another in the same area of life, over and over, talk about your dance when the situation is not up in your face; the following afternoon for instance. You might open with something like, “Hey, I’ve noticed getting to the dinner table is always a battle for us. What can we do fix this so we can BOTH feel good in the end? We’re on the same team and I want you to like whatever plan we come up with. Do you have any ideas?” … and then LISTEN. Write down every idea your child has, even the crazy ones:

  • “I know. I get a piece of candy every time I come right to the dinner table.” (yeah, right)
  • I’ve GOT IT! We could get a new puppy if we all listen to you and come to the table right away every night for a week!” (not on your life)

You get the idea. Write each one down with a smile, throwing in your own ideas here and there. Allowing for your child’s silly ideas as you make this list is a big part of making this brainstorming session work, especially for kids aged 3 to 9. Heck – everybody likes to laugh and crazy ideas help keep things light. Have fun with it and throw in a few wacko ideas yourself! In the end, find an idea you both like and circle it. You have a winner! When allowed to be a part of creating the solution, even at age 3, your child will be that much more invested in having this solution work.

Putting all five strategies in motion.

Here’s an example of some “listening” a family I’ve been working with privately created. They had been battling their five year old son who had been putting his feet up on the table every night, without fail, at dinnertime. Mom’s gentle reminders fell on deaf ears. Repeating and reminding gave way to frustration and anger and not only was dinner NOT finding it’s way into their three children’s little mouths due to all the unrest at the table, but mom and dad’s goal for dinner to be “a peaceful time to reconnect and share about our day over a healthy meal” (a meal mom had just spent over an hour making) was going up in smoke every night. Even the playful ideas mom had tried to make mealtime “fun” for her son and keep him cooperative and at the table failed to keep his feet where they belonged and all the “fun” was quickly becoming more of a chore than an assist.

That’s when this family hit the reset button.

After just two one-hour support sessions this mom decided to ask her son to help her create a solution. She used the steps above. She approached the issue as a team, from her “center”and in a calm moment the following afternoon. She recapped the issue and her goal, free from “trigger” words and asked her son for ideas. She listened and wrote everything he offered in the way of a solution down. Through this process she felt calm, connected and on the same page as her son even in the face of discussing the misbehavior that had been driving her up a wall for weeks.

In the end, here’s the gem of an idea her son came up with:

Brainstorming Idea By Child

 

He decided if he put a long strip of paper with “x’s” all along the edge and taped it to the table, he would remember to keep his feet down.

And wha-laa. It was that SIMPLE… and it worked. He listened that night, following the family rule to keep feet under (instead of on) the table, and he continues to follow it. Nightly battle transformed.

Where could you and your family use a breakthrough towards more listening? I’d love to hear if and how you put these five strategies to the test and what you create with your family. Together.

xo

PS: If you liked this post, join our community of mindful mamas and receive a free gift, a Hug Each Moment Kit via email today along with weekly positive parenting tips and inspirations direct to your inbox.

Inspiration and support for the journey of motherhood.  The manual is ours to write but we don’t have to write it alone! Let’s connect on twitterfacebook and pinterest too. xoxo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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My child won’t stop crying!

The next time your little one is losing it over something you think is silly (like maybe they asked you for a banana but not a PEELED banana, and, well, you peeled it! Who knew this could cause such pain and upset, right?!? but they are kids – not mini adults, and believe it or not, it DOES…) and you’re tempted to stay “Stop crying” or “Don’t cry”, take a deep breath and as you offer them the peeled banana anyway, say instead “I see you’re sad/disappointed. It’s okay to cry. I’m here…”

mr rogers quote

Say these words and mean them. Be there for your little one who is just beginning to learn about this thing called “feelings” … including anger, disappointment and yes, even rage.

Sure. It’s not easy to sit there and listen to your child cry when every cell in your body wants to yell “ALRIGHT ALREADY HERES YOUR DANG BANANA. SHEEESH WILL YOU STOP CRYING??!?! IT’S NOT THAT BIG OF A DEAL!” as you reach over to the fruit bowl and grab another banana.

But imagine instead you simply say “This is your banana today. If you want to peel your banana tomorrow you can. This is your banana today. It’s right here if you’d like it.”  Instead of being angry and reactive, these words are responsive, like training wheels, helping your child learn to be with their emotions, to express them and to shift.

As you sit with your child in the middle of their upset, look to yourself. What is happening in your body? Are you holding your breath? Are your shoulders tense and way up by your ears instead of relaxed and sitting on your ribcage? Does your face look all scrunched up, irritated and/or scary? Take a deep breath. Soften the lines on your face and keep breathing (this is the first thing that goes when we’re upset). Imagine a moment with your child where you were at peace and FULL of love. Snuggling. Staring into their big, dark eyes when they were a newborn. Breathe, holding this memory in your mind as you allow for this less than peaceful child that is before you to be seen as well.

As you sit there together, accepting your child and all their many feelings, she will likely still cry and she may never reach over and eat that peeled banana, but in the end, she will feel HEARD. And even though she was dealing with some downright big/scary/ugly feelings, the two of you will leave the experience feeling closer to one another instead of mad/angry/frustrated and further apart. Instead of learning to whine and cry to “get her way” your child learns 1) you can be trusted with their big emotions and 2) you can be loving even as you are setting limits. Limits that are clear, firm and respectful. What a gift.

Let your child know in ways great and small, you are a safe place for them to feel their emotions no matter what. Because you two? You are on the SAME SIDE OF THE COURT. You are connected. You are a team.

(And a damn good one at that.)

PS: If you liked this post, join our community of mindful mamas and receive a free gift, a Hug Each Moment Kit via email today along with weekly positive parenting tips and inspirations direct to your inbox.


Inspiration and support for the journey of motherhood.  The manual is ours to write but we don’t have to write it alone! Let’s connect on twitterfacebook and pinterest too. xoxo

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Helping Kids Make “Good” Decisions

kids making good decisions

 

From the tiny little moments like picking out what to wear, playing on the playground or cutting their own pancake at the breakfast table (yes, even when they cut it  into a complete and utter crumbling mess) to the GREAT BIG moments like deciding who will be their BFF, whether or not to join in the gossiping on the playground and which selfie to post on Instagram…  life delivers many opportunities for our kids to exercise their decision making abilities.

We’d all like our kids to have their own personal moral compass that points due north (all the time!!!) — but as of yet these have not hit the market. What we can do as parents though, is allow for this magical compass (the one that leads the way to safety when our kids find themselves in difficult situations or with a hard to make decision in front of them. The type that works ALL ON IT’S OWN, whether we are in the room or not!!!) to develop innately within our children.

The sooner our tots and young kids build confidence in their decision making abilities, the easier it is for them to tune in and TRUST their intuition to guide as they get older. Practice, encouragement and support joined with clear, firm and consistent boundaries. This is how we support our young kids in building their intuitive abilities and decision making skills.

Where are you holding on to letting go of over-controlling your kiddos this week? Where are you guarding space for your kids to practice living into their own personal power by making decisions for themselves… even if they get it wrong the first time? Where is this hard for you? Tell me your stories below!!!! One of mine is here… the day my daughter shaved her head. (It’s not always easy… :0 but it is rewarding.)

PS: If you liked this post, join our community of mindful mamas and receive a free gift, a Hug Each Moment Kit via email today along with weekly positive parenting tips and inspirations direct to your inbox.


Inspiration and support for the journey of motherhood.  Let’s connect on twitterfacebook and pinterest too. xoxo

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Am I Raising An Entitled Kid?

© Marchibas | Dreamstime.com

As parents, we hear much these days about entitlement. We talk about it, think about it and read articles/books/posts about it because lets face it, NO ONE wants to raise an entitled kid. Quotes like the following leave us quaking in our boots lest we end up the parent of the sniveling brat who will never learn to take out the trash, tie his shoes or appreciate the world around him:

“A lack of discipline is apparent these days in just about every aspect of American society. Why this should be is a much larger question, one to ponder as we take out the garbage and tie our kids’ shoes.” – Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker

The truth is fear sells, and the parenting information and analysis we’re taking in often comes wrapped in misinformation and fear-based messaging like:

“Love your child, but don’t love your child too much.”

“Attachment and connection are important, but be careful or you might spoil your child.”

And one that was just offered to a friend of mine by her pediatrician no less: “It’s time to show your 13 mo old who’s boss before she decides she is!”

Wanting to do the right thing, many parents come away from these mixed messages doubting their parenting instincts:

Wanting to respond to their newborns cries but fearful of spoiling, they instead delay picking baby up.

Wanting to hold their “needy”/clingy toddler but fearful of spoiling, they refuse to “coddle” their seemingly demanding child.

Wanting to teach/redirect their curious child who’s gotten into some sort of trouble or another as they explored the world around them (you know the kind – five thousand cheerios all over a newly cleaned kitchen floor, a chair that is not to be climbed being climbed anyway and tipping over, brushing the family dog with mom’s hairbrush of course, etc) but fearful of spoiling, they sternly respond with a “NO!!!” and gently slap their child’s hand/bottom.

Out of societal pressure to avoid permissive parenting at all costs, parents can easily be left doubting the more respectful, gentle parenting approaches available to us. Redirection. Positive reinforcement. Teaching and guiding by example (with our actions and words, not words alone). Because of a societal fear of spoiling, sadly, some parents, unsure about how to best respond, default to scolding, yelling, shaming, and even hitting. And as negative reinforcement generally breeds more negative behavior (not less), these same parents are left scratching their heads and wondering “Where is this bad behavior coming from?”

Over time these frustrated parents at times conclude that their child is bad and/or that they are bad. They think things like “If I was a better parent my child would not be acting this way!” “Something is severely wrong with my child” and/or “I’m embarrassed to be out in public with my children.”

But the truth is much simpler and far less anxiety provoking. The truth can save us from this downward spiral. The truth invites us into our power— our center. The truth builds up our confidence as parents even as it pulls us ever closer to our children and our families. The truth doesn’t come from fear or guilt or push our buttons like so much of the  sensationalized parenting stuff we’re reading. What is this simple truth that can save us for unjustified societal pressures warning us that being kind and parenting from a place of empathy will warp our kids??? Simply stated it is this:

Children who experience empathy and connection grow up to empathize and connect.

If you feel led to hold your child, hug your child and/or teach your child from a patient, forgiving place, this is ALWAYS okay to do. If you feel led to get down on one knee and make eye contact with your kid as you seek to understand where they and their big emotions and even their misbehavior is coming from, this is always okay to do. If your child displays perplexing behaviors, instead of taking it personally, explore the many different causes that may be driving this behavior before assuming it must be due to some misgiving of theirs or yours. Diet. Sensory integration. Personality types. Fears, worries and past experiences. Inherited tendencies. All of these factors come into play when it comes to understanding our children and meeting them where they are.

Teach and guide your children. Be clear and consistent, respectful and firm even as you chose love over fear. Let go of parenting advice that does not resonate truth for you (this post included!!!). Any day. Every day. Let go of fear. Tune in and trust your heart to guide. Allow yourself to parent from your center instead of from expert advice or societal pressures and worry.

Why?!?!

Because.

Love. Always. Wins.

empathy and connection

  xo

ps: No matter what parenting challenge is before you today, trust yourself. You’ve got this mama. Join with me and other moms here. The manual is ours to write but we don’t have to write it alone. Let’s connect on twitterfacebook and pinterest too. And thank you for passing along anything you (I hope and pray) like. It’s a big-fat-lovely compliment when you comment and share, so again, TIA. xo

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Could Spanking Be the Answer?

© Andrew Taylor | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Andrew Taylor | Dreamstime Stock Photos

If you spank your kids and/or you believe in spanking as a form of discipline let me say this before you read any further: 1) If we knew each other in real life, I’m guessing we’d have more in common than we wouldn’t. 2) Inspite of our differences on this topic, we can share our thoughts and experiences with love and respect. And most importantly, 3) alone we are a drop, together… an ocean. xo

After this facebook conversation on spanking, I wanted to share more in-depth on the topic with links, resources etc. I hope you find the research articles and resources listed supportive, especially if you’re having this conversation offline with friends and family. And given that per most studies 70 to 90 percent of parents hit or slap their children as a form of discipline at varying frequencies nationwide, many of us are.

If you would like to comment below, please do!!! I ask this one thing: let’s talk about the research presented and refrain from shares that start with “in my personal experience…” or “I was hit/I was never hit and I turned out okay” as these are not up for debate. Let’s do something different than what is being done on parenting boards all over the internet and have a respectful (loving? Yes!!!!) discussion. See how this can be done in the comments following this post also on the topic of spanking.

Thank you!!!

 

xo

Join with me and other moms here. The manual is ours to write but we don’t have to write it alone! Let’s connect on twitterfacebook and pinterest

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REFERENCE ON SPANKING:

Business Insider

Psychology Today 

Plain Talk About Spanking

Stop Hitting

Crystal Lutton

Arms of Love Family Fellowship

Report on Physical Punishment in the United States: What Research Tells Us About Its Effects On Children

MORE RESEARCH:

Berlin, L.J., Ispa, J.M., Fine, M.A., Malone, P.S., Brooks-Gunn, J., Brady-Smith, C., et al. (2009).  Correlates and consequences of spanking and verbal punishment for low-income White, African American, and Mexican American toddlers. Child Development, 80, 1403-1420.

Gershoff, E.T. (2002). Corporal punishment by parents and association behaviors and experiences: A meta-analytic and theoretical review.Psychological Bulletin, 128, 539-579.

Gershoff, E. T. (2013). Spanking and child development: We know enough now to stop hitting our children. Child Development Perspectives, 7 (3), 133-137.

Gershoff, E.T., & Grogan-Kaylor, A. (2013). Spanking and its consequences for children: New meta-analyses and old controversies. Manuscript under review.

Gershoff, E.T., Lansford, J.E., Sexton, H.R., Davis-Kean, P.E., & Sameroff, A.J. (2012). Longitudinal links between spanking and children’s externalizing behaviors in a national sample of White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian American families. Child Development, 83, 838-843.

 

When did “like a girl” become a put down?!

How old were you when these words were first hurdled at you as an insult? Were you 9? 13? I honestly can’t remember a time when I did not know “running like a girl”, “hitting like a girl” and “throwing like a girl” to be put downs.

We can change this. As the commercial above shows, there is a time (generally pre-teens/tweens) where kids know running “like a girl” means running fast  and “throwing like a girl” means throwing far.

Always just kicked off a campaign aimed at making sure “girls everywhere keep their confidence throughout puberty and beyond.” How? Simply put, “by showing them that doing it #LikeAGirl is an awesome thing.”

“In my work as a documentarian, I have witnessed the confidence crisis among girls and the negative impact of stereotypes first-hand,” said Lauren Greenfield, filmmaker and director of the #LikeAGirl video. “When the words ‘like a girl’ are used to mean something bad, it is profoundly disempowering. I am proud to partner with Always to shed light on how this simple phrase can have a significant and long-lasting impact on girls and women. I am excited to be a part of the movement to redefine ‘like a girl’ into a positive affirmation.”

Let’s be a part of this change starting today. Comment below and tell me (with pride) what amazing things can YOU do #likeagirl? How about your daughters, mothers, sisters, wives, neighbors, friends?

xo

Join with me and other moms here. The manual is ours to write but we don’t have to write it alone! Let’s connect on twitterfacebook and pinterest

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Training Wheels

“I can do it MYSELF!!!”

“I’m not cold!!! I don’t WANT to wear a coat.”

“That shirt is itchy and I don’t like it.”

“No…” and hides behind mom’s legs when asked to say thankyou or goodbye to Grandma.

We’ve all been to these places with our kids. Easy moments? No… not usually… but with a small change in our perspective on what might be going on inside our little ones, these challenging moments can become just a little easier to breathe into and support our kids through.

Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 12.34.29 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where do these words and behaviors come from? Is it stubbornness? Obstinence? A broken part of our kids personalities or a place we’ve failed in our parenting that’s begging to be fixed? Or maybe it’s a sign of more misbehavior to come if we don’t nip it in the bud.

Or maybe it is something else all together.

What if this defiance we are seeing is developmentally appropriate; a place our children go when they want to 1) test a theory, 2)  learn about relationships or 3) feel safe, secure and in charge?

Ahhh. Now that’s feeling a little easier to be with as a parent. Nothing’s wrong. Nothing’s broken. These are merely things I can expect from my little scientist as they learn about communication and relationships.

Knowing one’s mind. Having clear, strong opinions and voicing them in a way that others around us can hear them and be enrolled by them instead of backed up or put-off… these are some high level communication skills we’re talking about here. And skills take practice. Is it any wonder our three, four (even fourteen) year olds struggle with communicating their big feelings, especially when they run directly against the desires of their parents?

The next time your child plays out a challenging behavior that seems to come from a “strong-will”, see if you can step into the experience from their point of view. What might he or she be exploring in that moment? Questions like:

Is it safe to go against the grain?

Is it better to blend in or to be myself?

How can I make myself be seen/known/accepted?

Am I powerful?

Is the world a safe and nurturing place?

If a child has the strength to “take-on” their parents with words that defy (yes, even when it’s 38 degrees out and their inner voice says “no coat!”) how much safer will this child be in years to come? How much more likely is this child to have a voice and know how to use it…

When at age 6 she wants to draw her sky with all the colors of the rainbow though all the papers around her are clearly filled with blue skies only.

When at age 7 a teacher insists all the kids run at gym but she is starting to come down with something and doesn’t feel like running.

When at age 10 she wants to be a vegetarian — even though nobody she knows is a vegetarian.

When at age 13 a boy she likes suggests they run and play on the train tracks behind his house.

When at age 14 someone thinks having a smoke together in the basement of a friend’s house would be a fun idea.

When at age 18 all the kids her age are getting piercings.

When at age 20 the guy she just started dating begins to act jealous and controlling.

When at age 25 she considers leaving a job where she receives little credit or joy to start up her dream business.

Model the behaviors you would like to see in your kids. Teach your child how to voice their big thoughts and opinions with respect. Teach your child that “pleases” and “thank you’s” bring with them smiles and happy feelings from the people they are shared with. Model for them how to breathe when they are upset. Help them learn from experience that it is safe for them to “use their words” when they do not like what is going on. Invite them to pause and hit the reset button before acting on the many impulses that want to move their little bodies when they are filled with big feelings.

Be your child’s relationship “training wheels”. Because when you do, you give your child a great, great gift: peace-filled relationships with themselves and others, a gift they will enjoy for the rest of their lives.

xo

If you live in or about the St. Louis area, join other couples supporting one another in parenting from a place of love and respect here. I hope you join with me and other moms here because mommy-hood is just plain better when we are holding hands. Let’s connect on twitterfacebook and pinterest as well. The manual is ours to write but we don’t have to write it alone!

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