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When I Stop Trying So Hard

rear view mirror

I’m sitting in my car, fumbling for the clasp.

It’s the om necklace my husband gave me days after our first child was born, and I can’t get it to hook.

Four kids and a decade and a half later, this necklace remains my favorite. I’ve put it on a million times and though the chain the om pendant hangs on is on the short side, it has never been difficult to fasten. So there I sit, fumbling with the thing, already running late and wondering to myself, ‘Why am I having so much trouble getting this thing on?!’

I can see my hands working the small hook close to the chain just under my chin in my rear view mirror. Small-metal-ring, heading towards open-silver-lever aaaaand…

it’s a miss. And a miss. And another miss.

“I. AM. SO. LATE!” I think-yell at myself for encouragement.

I miss again. And again.

My shiny ohm necklace glares back at me in the mirror, mockingly.

“This is RIDICULOUS!” I lower my tired arms, hands dropping into my lap with defeat.

I stop. I take a little breath and I sit still for the first time that morning. And then it dawned on me. I hadn’t sat still all morning long. Not even for three seconds. My mind had been jumping from one thing to the next from the second I woke up (ten minutes late).

I’d rushed to get my kids out the door to school. I’d rushed to get home, pick-up from the tornado that had surely hit our kitchen that morning, shower, dress and get back out the door to my next thing.

Sitting in my car, going over the morning, I take a deep breath, and just like that, some internal reset button is pushed and I know what I need to do to get this necklace on.

I turn away from my car mirror to have another go at the necklace.

Immediately, things felt different. I feel different. My mind is settled. I’m breathing. My hands move the way they want to move. There’s no reflection staring back at me to confuse things— just my hands, going the way they know to go.

Three seconds later, wa-la.  My necklace is clasped.

I sit in the front seat of my car, close my eyes and laugh.

This moment. This lesson. How is this my life?

What happens when I force things? When I hold too tight or push too hard? When I’m too busy to pause?

What happens when I soften? When I breathe and trust? When I hold on to letting go? When I allow myself a moment (like, literally, as few as 10-15 seconds) of stillness and silence?

“Ommmmmmmm” my mind teases me. I open my eyes and see the shiny pendant in the mirror, at long last, hanging from my neck. I breathe deeply and say ommmmm again, this time out loud. And as I get my purse and move slowly to open the car door, the place I’d been rushing too next feels far, far less important.

xo

ps: I’d love to hear of a parenting moment and/or new awareness about yourself that helped you feel more present, even admist the chaos of everyday life. xo

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I hope you walk with me and other moms here because we are not alone. Let’s connect on twitter, facebook and pinterest too. The manual is ours to write, but we don’t have to write it alone!

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The Tough Days

THE TOUGH DAYS.

If you are a parent, I know you have them. (And if you are not a parent, I know you have them…) Because we ALL have them.

We are all in the same freaking boat.

If things feel tough today (like I didn’t want to get out of bed tough, or I’ve just lost it and yelling at my sweet baby/toddler tough) well then, you are not broken, you are not different, and you sure as hell are not alone.

Would you just grab a fork and join me on the floor already? There is pie to be had.

 

dropped pie

xo

PS: If you liked this post, join our community of mindful mamas. You will receive gentle parenting tips as well as a free gift, a Hug Each Moment Kit direct to your inbox. (Sorry, no spam.)

 

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.

 

Suzanne Tucker, CEIM, Parent Educator:

In over two decades as a physical therapist and parent educator Suzanne has help thousands connect on a deeper level to themselves and their families, teaching Infant Massage and Positive Parenting to organizations and individuals all over the world. Creator of My Mommy Manual, a website/community inspiring parents to “look inside (yourself) for instructions”, author and co-founder of Brentwood Center of Health, a holistic rehabilitation center, Suzanne lives in Saint Louis, Missouri with her husband, their four children, and far too many pets to mention.

You. Are. Awesome.

You Are Awesome

Yesterday in positive parenting class, I was overwhelmed to the point of tears — (shocker, right?). Ten moms were back for week four out of our six week positive parenting class, and with littles on laps and running around, we settled in to listen and share about our week.

How had it gone? Where had we broken through? Where had we felt stopped?

The moms in this sacred circle of mothers listening to other mothers told story after story of life with littles.

  • Of trips to the zoo with the kids where the zoo turned out to be closed.
  • Of cooking with a two year old and wanting to let them scoop up the flour by themselves but at the very same time, NOT wanting to let them scoop up the flour by themselves.
  • Of couches jumped on, limits tested and words that seemingly fell on deaf ears.
  • Of meltdowns managed and high emotions that were hard to be with.

And in story after story, though most were sharing moments they thought they’d failed or needed help in managing a different way, all I could hear were moments to to be CELEBRATED.

Kids were crying. Life was messy. These were challenging moments to be sure. But here is the thing, these parents were ROCKING the challenges before them.

Unknowingly, as these moms were sharing their struggles, they were also sharing their successes.

They shared about letting go of perfect and accepting instead what life delivered — the moment that was right in front of them.

They shared about patience. Of deep breaths taken. Of yelling avoided and of yelling not avoided and even some apologies that followed.

What brought me to my emotional knees was the idea that these parents did not know, really KNOW, deep in their hearts, how truly awesome they were.

How brilliant.

How loving.

How brave.

(How perfect?!? No, but thankfully, perfect is not in our parenting job description.)

I remember this place. This “I’m not enough” place. I parented from it for many years. It’s a place healing inside of me just a little bit more every day. It’s the place that propels me to remind you of one very important thing in case you too have forgotten.

You. Are. Awesome.

That’s it. Period. End of story. You are.

Be gentle with yourself on this parenting journey. As gentle as you hope to be with your kids.  Be encouraging. Give yourself props for being the parent you are. Today.

The greatest gift we can give our kids is not to be perfect. It is to be NOT PERFECT, and to love ourselves anyway.

When it comes to your kids and to your parenting, know this single thing deep in your heart.

You are enough.

Just keep showing up – for yourself, for your kids, and for your family – and remember to celebrate you.

xo

PS: If you liked this post, please click “like” above, share it and/or join our community of mindful parents. You will receive gentle parenting tips as well as a free gift direct to your inbox — Hug Each Moment Kit, a journal for you to keep, helping you to write love notes once a year to each of your children from birth to ten. (And a promise – I protect your email with my life — no spam allowed!)

 

Support for the journey.  The manual is ours to write but we don’t have to write it alone. Let’s connect on twitterfacebook and pinterest too.

greatest gift not perfect

Suzanne Tucker, CEIM, Parent Educator:

In over two decades as a physical therapist and parent educator Suzanne has help thousands connect on a deeper level to themselves and their families, teaching Infant Massage and Positive Parenting to organizations and individuals all over the world. Creator of My Mommy Manual, a website/community inspiring parents to “look inside (yourself) for instructions”, author and co-founder of Brentwood Center of Health, a holistic rehabilitation center, Suzanne lives in Saint Louis, Missouri with her husband, their four children, and far too many pets to mention.

The Power of Kindness

Want to know where cultivating emotional intelligence in our kids gets us as a society?

This. Right here. What would the world look like if this single boy’s actions were commonplace? (This coach? This team? This community? So much kindness.)

Grab a tissue…

A 6 year old girl gives her mom a “wake-up” call.

Wow. This is an amazing conversation. Watch this little peacemaker’s heart-felt plea for love and her mother’s equally loving response.

“Mom… are you ready to be his friend? Try not to be that high up to be friends. I want everything to be low. Just try your best. I don’t what you and my dad to be mean again. I not trying to be mean… but…”

Our little people have big thoughts to share when we stop and listen. This mom stopped. This mom listened.
 

 
Love this little girl’s insights, the power with with she shares them, and the openness with which her mother receives them.

 

What wise words have your children shared with you over the years?

xo

PS: If you liked this post, please click “like” above, share it and/or join our community of mindful parents. You will receive gentle parenting tips as well as a free gift direct to your inbox — Hug Each Moment Kit, a journal for you to keep, helping you to write love notes once a year to each of your children from birth to ten. (And a promise – I protect your email with my life — no spam allowed!)

 

Support for the journey.  The manual is ours to write but we don’t have to write it alone. Let’s connect on twitterfacebook and pinterest too.

 

Suzanne Tucker, CEIM, Parent Educator:

In over two decades as a physical therapist and parent educator Suzanne has help thousands connect on a deeper level to themselves and their families, teaching Infant Massage and Positive Parenting to organizations and individuals all over the world. Creator of My Mommy Manual, a website/community inspiring parents to “look inside (yourself) for instructions”, author and co-founder of Brentwood Center of Health, a holistic rehabilitation center, Suzanne lives in Saint Louis, Missouri with her husband, their four children, and far too many pets to mention.

 

I am hopeful.

 

Small people,

knowing themselves as powerful and connected.

Small people,

learning how to be with big feelings.

I am hopeful.

 

xo

PS: If you liked this post, please click “like” above, share it and/or join our community of mindful parents. You will receive gentle parenting tips as well as a free gift direct to your inbox — Hug Each Moment Kit, a journal for you to keep, helping you to write love notes once a year to each of your children from birth to ten. (And a promise – I protect your email with my life — no spam allowed!)

 

Support for the journey.  The manual is ours to write but we don’t have to write it alone. Let’s connect on twitterfacebook and pinterest too.

 

Suzanne Tucker, CEIM, Parent Educator:

In over two decades as a physical therapist and parent educator Suzanne has help thousands connect on a deeper level to themselves and their families, teaching Infant Massage and Positive Parenting to organizations and individuals all over the world. Creator of My Mommy Manual, a website/community inspiring parents to “look inside (yourself) for instructions”, author and co-founder of Brentwood Center of Health, a holistic rehabilitation center, Suzanne lives in Saint Louis, Missouri with her husband, their four children, and far too many pets to mention.

Teaching Kids Emotional Intelligence

Meltdowns, tantrums, hitting, biting, screaming, crying, demanding. There’s not a parent on the planet who doesn’t feel triggered when their kids find themselves stuck in their brainstem, where FLIGHT, FIGHT and FREEZE rule the day.

Teaching Kids EI

Not surprisingly, the hardest moments for us to be with as parents are the most important. Navigating emotions with our kids.

How can we help our kids dig their way out of the many dark places they find themselves in the course of a day? One thing’s for sure, if we’re a family that allows for feelings, we are going to see big emotions expressed on a DAILY basis.

There will be only orange popsicles left when green is the color your child wants. Birthday parties and too much sugar. Bedtimes that get missed. Friends that don’t want to play that game right now and siblings that want the very same toy. Building emotional intelligence as a family can help us navigate all of the above and more.

Here are five things you can do to help your family build emotional intelligence (EQ):

 

1. HOLD EMOTIONS AS SACRED

Repeat after me: “If I have kids (humans?) in the house, feelings there will be.” And I mean daily. Big, messy, sometimes scary and often times ugly feelings. Once we as parents stop feeling broken because we fear our kids are broken (or why the hell else would they be acting so damn emotional all the time and what the hell did I do wrong?!?! Yeah, been there myself more than a few times), it’s amazing how much energy we can free up to then help our kiddos manage their freak-outs. This first step for building EQ requires very little action from us, but a whole-lotta effort.

Holding emotions as sacred. This mostly happens inside of us. When you begin to fully accept children’s big emotions as sacred (even as they melt down right before your very eyes) the shift in you, though often a quiet one, will be notable in two important ways that even a baby can discern. 1) through your accepting/present eye contact and 2), by the expression on your face and your body language as a whole. To cue your child’s brain with your body language in a way that helps them feel safe, simply squat down, uncross your arms (if they are crossed as mine tend to want to be) and be available. Offer hugs more than demand them. Sometimes hugs help – and sometimes they make your child want to scratch your eyes out even more than they already did a second ago. Depends. 😉

2. HELP KIDS “NAME IT TO TAME IT”

This second step is just as simple as it sounds. Your child didn’t get the color popsicle they wanted and as they crumble to the floor in disappointment you say, “Wow, you really like orange popsicles don’t you? You really wanted the orange one. You are feeling so sad (or mad or disappointed, whatever it looks like they are feeling) you didn’t get the color you wanted!” Then pause. Allow your child the time and space to take in the reassurance you are offering.

In naming and not judging your child’s feelings, you are modeling high level emotional intelligence (mindfulness, acceptance, self control, empathy and even kindness). You are teaching them even though you are not preaching to them.

3. SHOW KINDNESS WHEN IT IS UNEXPECTED 

In this third step to teaching EQ, practice pausing, breathing and standing by quietly as your child expresses him or herself. If you hold this space long enough, you might find your emotional child melting into your arms rather than your angry child, retreating to their room feeling upset and confused, blaming YOU and your reaction to their upset as the cause of their angst.

With sobbing child in arms, you might find yourself feeling a little bit surprised and maybe even relieved. Do not be fooled. It’s not over yet. Continue to hold the space. I like to say to myself, “ZIP IT” right about this moment because the drive to preach in this teaching moment runs deep. Remind yourself, the moment is talking to your child much louder than your words ever could right this second. Let your kindness do the talking. Allow for the moment and focus on being there for your child not being right. You can always talk things through later to drive home the finer points when things are less emotional and true learning stands a real chance of happening.

Your child will internalize your unexpected kindness. And heck, you just might be on the receiving end of it one unexpected day soon.

4. OWN YOUR OWN EMOTIONS

If you can own your own emotions instead of projecting them back on your child, what happens on the other side is magic. The aftermath of a child with big emotions, fully expressed and met with love, will astound you.

In the matter of the wrong colored popsicle, after an accepting hug and some tears shed, you might see your child take a deep breath, collect him or herself a bit, and then move those little legs quickly over to the freezer to grab an orange popsicle, somehow now seemingly oblivious to the fact that the thing still isn’t green like they’d been so torn up about just a second ago. It’s not that they don’t care anymore, it’s that they did care, they felt heard, and now they’re over it. Consider it payback for holding your SH*# together in step #3.

5. TEACH KIDS TO CONNECT WITH NATURE AND THEIR BREATH

What can I say about the calming qualities of nature and tapping into one’s breath that you don’t already know? Mostly, we just need to remember to use these two powerful yet simple tools to help our kids regulate their emotions. It’s not rocket science, we know they help. They are free and nearly always an option.

From the infant who won’t stop crying until we walk outside, to the toddler who is stuck inside and bouncing off the walls until sent outside to play. Once outside, this same child begins to channel their energy into countless creative games. Nature is the ultimate balancer. It has so much to teach us.

And as for connecting to our breath? This is the most important tool we have for finding and living from our center. Just check-in with your breath the next time you or your child is upset. I bet it stops.

Go outside and breathe. Two of my favorite tools to encourage my kids to do both of these things are by yogi and author Emily A. Filmore. If you have trouble getting your kids to settle down for bedtime, both of these will be a welcome addition. My twins and I read and practiced the postures in “It’s A Beautiful Day for Yoga” before bedtime nearly every night when they were three. It helped us connect on those night where all I wanted was for them to go to sleep so I could snatch a moment of alone time for myself. Through connection, movement and breath, I was able to get those heads on pillows that much quicker. 😉
it's a beautifulday for yoga mmm

In summary, parenting from a place of non-judgment in the face of an unhappy youngster can be challenging. Start by simply repeating the following:  “Emotions are sacred, emotions are sacred, emotions are sacred…” and over time, put the above five steps together. Odds are, when you were little, no matter how amazing your parents were, your big emotions were not always met with this sort of acceptance. For many, they were more likely met with a look of disapproval, harsh words, and/or maybe even the backside of a hand.

So be gentle with yourself. Take baby steps and celebrate yourself when you nail just one of these five things.

 

We don’t need to be perfect parents, just human ones, living, loving, growing and healing right alongside our kids.

And when that moment comes and you feel yourself calmly meeting your child’s big emotions from your center, believe me, healing will occur; and not only for your little people, but inside of you as well.

xo

PS: If you liked this post, join our community of mindful parents. You will receive gentle parenting tips as well as a free gift direct to your inbox — Hug Each Moment Kit, a journal for you to keep, helping you to write love notes once a year to each of your children from birth to ten. (And a promise – I protect your email with my life — no spam allowed!)

 

Support for the journey.  The manual is ours to write but we don’t have to write it alone. Let’s connect on twitterfacebook and pinterest too.

 

Suzanne Tucker, CEIM, Parent Educator:

In over two decades as a physical therapist and parent educator Suzanne has help thousands connect on a deeper level to themselves and their families, teaching Infant Massage and Positive Parenting to organizations and individuals all over the world. Creator of My Mommy Manual, a website/community inspiring parents to “look inside (yourself) for instructions”, author and co-founder of Brentwood Center of Health, a holistic rehabilitation center, Suzanne lives in Saint Louis, Missouri with her husband, their four children, and far too many pets to mention.

Just Keep Swimming

This post is for all the mamas and papas out there of littles, whether of twins or not, that feel like they are “in the trenches”. I feel ‘ya. Those first few weeks, months (years???). Man.

When my B/G twins, youngest of four, stepped on the bus and left for Kindergarten this Wednesday, I sat in my quiet house for a good 30 minutes and looked back at the journey the last five years has been. What came to me was how TRUE this popular (and maybe even a bit cliche) saying is: “the days are LONG but the years are short.”

I also thought, “How the hell did I DO that???!?!?”

h and c first day K 2015 watermark

Lol. No really. Cause what my husband and I did and what you all have done/are doing — it’s the stuff of legends. Parenting our little people – it’s important, hard, a privilege and completely awesome. Not that parenting little people over five is a walk in the park everyday either… but it’s just – easier.

Anyhow, I thought it’d be a timely moment to share about the things that GET US THROUGH. Mine (especially those first two years of life with four and the youngest two being perpetually nursing twins) was this: I would sing a ‘lil Dori from Nemo to myself — “just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”

Feeling… reflective and blessed today. Thanks for listening. And hey, if you’re parenting kids of ANY age, but most especially babies, toddlers and preschoolers, and you find yourself in need of some encouragement, watch this:

What say you? What gets YOU through??? And if your kiddos are old enough, how’s back to school month 2015/16 going in your world? Comment below.

ps: the pictures above are my littles — first day of life, at 6 months old and then this past Wednesday on their first day of Kindergarten. (Plus here’s a picture of all our kids so I don’t feel guilty. Yep. Mom guilt. Ugh!!!)

tucker kids oct 2014

xo

PS: If you liked this post, join our community of mindful mamas. You will receive gentle parenting tips as well as a free gift direct to your inbox, a Hug Each Moment Kit, a journal you keep, writing love notes once a year to each of your children from birth to ten. (And a promise I’ll protect your email with my life — no spam allowed!!!)

 

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.

 

Suzanne Tucker, CEIM, Parent Educator:

In over two decades as a physical therapist and parent educator Suzanne has help thousands connect on a deeper level to themselves and their families, teaching Infant Massage and Positive Parenting to organizations and individuals all over the world. Creator of My Mommy Manual, a website/community inspiring parents to “look inside (yourself) for instructions”, author and co-founder of Brentwood Center of Health, a holistic rehabilitation center, Suzanne lives in Saint Louis, Missouri with her husband, their four children, and far too many pets to mention.

Mom of The Year?

There’s unrest and uprising in Baltimore. Protesters retaliating against violence done to Freddie Gray and many want to see it stop. (Powerfully expressed here in Ray Lewis’s Facebook video)

Ray Lewis message for rioters

“Get off the streets. Violence is not the answer. We know what the jungle looks like. We know there is a deeper issue. There are enough of us in the streets trying to change what is going on. KIDS. GO HOME!!!! You don’t have no right to do what you are doing… We’re with you. We know what’s GOING ON!!!…It takes a village…To many babies paying attention to this craziness…We must change this right now. Stop the violence. Go home. I’m telling you, GO HOME!” – Ray Lewis

And then this video surfaces “Baltimore Riots: Mom Beats Son for taking Part in Violence“, a clip being described as a mother smacking sense into her son. And as a nation, we applaud. We call her mother of the year. We lament that hitting is no longer allowed in schools and we blame parents that don’t spank as the very problem for Baltimore’s unrest. Damn kids. No respect. Conversations fill our Facebook streams debating, “Mom of the year or mom abusing her son?”

Baltimore mom

Let’s wake up America. Why are we wasting time and energy collectively judging this mom and her parenting methods as either good or bad when we could be talking about the realities that drove this mom to lose it?

Because this WAS a mom losing it. The hitting, smacking, cussing — an act of desperation. JUST ASK THE MOM, TOYA GRAHAM, HERSELF. When asked about her actions she said, “I just lost it! I was so angry with him that he had made a decision to hurt the police officers. I was like, you weren’t brought up like this!” The boy himself goes on to explain that his mom hit him because “she didn’t want me in trouble with the law. She didn’t want me to end up another Freddie Gray.”

This is a :37 second clip of a mother angry, raging — losing it. A mother in fear for her son’s life.

I applaud Ms. Graham for going right down into the rioting, pulling her son out of the crowd and potentially saving his life. I applaud her for creating a national conversation about fear, discipline, punishment and the way we parent. I do not hold hitting and the cussing at our children as an act worthy of making any of us parent of the year but who cares?!?! That is not the point. I empathize with this mother.

And maybe that’s it right there. We as a nation, empathize with this mother.

We recognize the love behind this mother’s fear because we have been there. We see in this mother a love so big – a love masked by fear, anger and rage – emotions with the power to take over our bodies with such force that we “lose it”. Hitting, yelling, smacking the very people we love most in the world — the very definition of losing it.

I believe this is what our nation sees in Toya Graham when they call her mother of the year. Big love covered by so much fear and worry.

If I’d been in this mother’s shoes, driving down to the mall to pick up my teen son, worried he might be in trouble, arrested or maybe even dead – then seeing him there in the crowd, masked and holding a brick – I might have “lost it” too. I have never raised a hand to any of my children like this mother did, but here’s the thing — I have never been this mother. I have never been in this exact situation. I am a white, middle class mom, married, living in the Midwest. I was not raised with hitting or spanking. My ancestors were more likely slave owners than slaves. I do not live in daily fear that my children, walking out the door for school, might never walk back in. I can’t even pretend to know the fear that gripped this mother’s heart or the thoughts that went through her head in that moment.

Where this mom went in her rage is not the point America. Our reaction to it is. 

To say this mom’s moment of deep fear and rage embodies our highest hopes for parenting methods is something to talk about.

Ironically, the very act our nation is largely holding up high as effective, loving, discipline (mother of the year material) is a mother gripped by fear. Where I see her actions as understandable, I struggle to see how and why much of American media finds them applaudable. If a news station captured footage of a teacher disciplining a child in the way this mother was engaging her child, no matter the cause of the teacher’s reaction, how do you imagine the media and America might react?

We praise the peace keepers and ask for the violence to end, and yet as a nation in comment after comment following the video, we call for mothers to parent more from the place this mother went in a moment of fear. We hold her reaction up as praiseworthy and call it discipline instead of naming it for what it was – an understandably challenging moment where this mother “lost it” on her son.

Comments below the video suggest the solution for our nation’ challenges. Our kids need more ass-whipping:

“If I or my wife found out that my son was involved in anything like this, we would go out and yoke his #$%$ and bring him home. After that the fun would just begin.”

“As parents we HAVE to HOPE that the next time he will consider there is a chance the entire world will watch his mom whoop his ass.”

“All these stupid kids did was make things worse for everyone in the neighborhood. They could all use some sense slapped into them by caring parents.”

“My mom would have whooped me till my but was red and I would have deserved it if I had ever taken part in something like this. My mother’s discipline AND spanking taught me respect!”

“When I was young I was taught respect the same way that kid was just taught ! It makes me cringe every time I’m in a store, and hear a kid screaming, swearing, and throwing a fit because they didn’t get their way! I would have gotten yanked out of the store by the scruff of my neck, and had my butt warmed for me if I ever had done any of that B.S.!”

“Enough with child abuse. Teens are using it to get away with murder. I say go back to the old way of raising teens. The way our parents raised us!!”

After the video’s release, the Police Commissioner was quoted as saying, “I wish I had more parents that took charge of their kids.”

I agree. Let’s take charge of our kids. And let’s talk about how.

How can we as a society teach our children conflict resolution from their days in the sandbox on up?

How, even in the face of an unfathomable injustice, can we model self-control and ways to channel negative emotions? What are our actions teaching to our kids when we as parents and/or persons of authority are triggered — pissed off, angry, scared, irate, raging?

If we are a nation that stands behind corporal punishment. If we are a nation of people teaching children with our words and actions that might makes right and anger is best expressed through violence, then WHY ARE WE SURPRISED WHEN THESE SAME CHILDREN PICK UP BRICKS AND FIGHT WHEN THEY FEEL ATTACKED AND ANGRY??!?!?

What if we, instead, taught our nation’s parents and children tools for conflict resolution and how to channel anger when we feel anger, rage and out of control?

Where does violence begin and where do we begin in taming it?

This might not strike you as original, but when I see what’s going on in Baltimore I think, what would Rosa Parks or Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. or John Lennon or Jesus or Inez Milholland Boissevain or Mother Teresa do in the face of racism and the many injustices of our time? How would they empathize with this mother’s understandable fear for her son’s life? How would they encourage this young man and other protesters to put down the bricks and to create lasting change for our nation, a nation of people hurting one another, in need of peace?

I believe their response would sound a lot like Ray Lewis’s message above. Empathy. A clear, firm message to stop the violence. A plan in what we as a people CAN do for true and lasting change.

Peace starts in each of us. In our hearts. In our homes. In our parenting, school and even our judicial system. In the ways we treat one another in the face of conflict, anger and injustice.

Does violence end violence?

When we yell and hit children for yelling and hitting, we model and thereby teach, the very thing we want our kids NOT to do. And we miss the opportunity to teach our children valuable tools on what TO do with big, negative emotions. Anger transformed into clarity and action, minus violence, has the power to create lasting transformations in how our society operates. Transformations like ending slavery. Rights for children. Rights for women. Rights for gays. Rights for all people.

Perhaps the problem our nation faces is not a lack of violence being done unto children in the name of discipline but a lack of parenting tools that teach children and parents alike how to manage anger and conflict. What does this look like? How is it different for different facets of our culture, depending on race, geographics, income, health, age and more? How might these tools make a difference in the hearts and hands of our nation’s future police officers, uprisers, business and social leaders, parents and teachers alike for generations to come?

That’s a discussion I’d like to see us having as a nation. 

I’d like to end this post with a story from author Astrid Lindgren, recipient of the German Book Traders’ Peace Prize in 1978 and the humble call for peace it embodies. The sort of peace that starts within each of us. Her story does not pretend to have all the right answers and nor do I. My intention with this post is to start a conversation. Asking questions. Listening. Empathizing. Building bridges and peace. These are my intentions.

“I met an old pastor’s wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn’t believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time. But one day when her son was four or five, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking–the first of his life. And she told him that he would have to go outside and find a switch for her to hit him with. The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying. He said to her, “Mama, I couldn’t find a switch, but here’s a rock that you can throw at me.”

All of a sudden the mother understood how the situation felt from the child’s point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, then it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone. And the mother took the boy onto her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence.” -Astrid Lindgren

Love Always Win Poster

xo

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———–

Posts to read that further this conversation from people who know far more than I:

Are We Willing to Face Our Own Hypocrisy?

“My mother shot a man for abusing me. Her then-fiancé put me in a bath of scalding hot water, leaving scars I can still see and feel some 40 years later. Like I said, she would do anything for us. But I wonder now, with jail cells and graveyards packed with people who faced similar discipline, if it had the societal payoff we intended. The hard data tells another story.

Children who are subjected to corporal punishment are no more likely to refrain from bad behavior than those who are not. In fact, studies show it has the opposite impact, and that they seek out more crafty ways to cloak unwanted conduct.

That is no indictment on the mother from Baltimore or my own. It does, however, speak to our collective hypocrisy.”

A Black Mother’s Love (or What Love Looks Like In Public)

“I don’t have a son, but I do have a mama, and she has never prioritized my feelings or my pride above my safety.  And her fear for me (staying out late, going anywhere alone—fears she still has now and I am well into my 30s) is not always based on logic, its based on possibility, its based on knowing what can happen to a person in black skin in this country, just for walking down the street or trying to get home.”

The hideous white hypocrisy behind the Baltimore “Hero Mom” hype: How clueless media applause excuses police brutality

“The debate over the moment Graham says she “lost it” is complex. There’s a parallel black debate going on that, as always when it comes to racial issues, is richer and more nuanced. But anyone white who’s applauding Graham’s moment of desperation, along with the white media figures who are hyping her “heroism,” is essentially justifying police brutality, and saying the only way to control black kids is to beat the shit out of them.”

 Beating Black Kids on ABC with Sandra Bookman

A powerful interview about a little book that’s enhancing the lives of thousands.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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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