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

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

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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

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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.

 

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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Taking Love Off The Line

 

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.jpg

 

You love your child. Period.

I know this the same way YOU know this.

It just is. A nearly universal thing we moms all relate to. A mother’s love for her child is unconditional — the sort of love that suspends all logic.

So why?

Why do we as parents act like our love is negotiable, putting our love on the line when we’re upset?

Why do we say things to make our kids think there is any possible way that we could love them less because of their flaws? Because of their human-ness? Because of the dark, scary places that live inside of them? The places they love and trust us alone enough to show? The places they hide — from their teachers, from their friends, for fear that they’d no longer be worthy of love if someone found them out.

WHY?

We do it for that exact reason it was done to us. Because it is what we know. It is hard-wired into us. It is our knee-jerk reaction when things don’t go the way we’d like them to go. When our kids misbehave. When our kids are different. When they don’t fit into the square hole their school is pushing for them to fit into. When they don’t fit into the round hole our (generally well-meaning) parents, in-laws, friends, neighbors, doctors, etc tell us they “should” fit into.

We get triggered. We snap. We “lose it” on our kids.

It’s what we know.

But don’t we remember how it felt? That look from a parent (or a teacher or any other person of authority in our short little lives) that told us we had just completely let them down. The look that said “You, my friend, are a disappointment.”

Don’t we remember feeling the not-enoughness? Feeling, deep, in the pit of our stomachs, the I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not organized enough. I’m not sporty enough. I’m not social enough. I’m not outgoing enough. I’m not quiet enough. I’m not pretty enough… And on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on.

The beating ourselves up for our challenges, so much so we lost sight of our gifts?

“I can’t remember things like other people can. I don’t pay attention like other people do. I’m broken.”

Not only seeing it in their looks, but hearing it in their words.

What if, instead, we remember? Breathing. Clearing. Coming back to love.

Remembering that day when first, we locked eyes with our little one. The way we loved them then. Unconditionally. With our entire selves and everything we were. Love. More than life itself. Love.

Remembering. Our child’s innate goodness. Innate wholeness. Innate deservingness of love, not for anything they did or DO so much as just because THEY ARE.

Letting go. When old hurts creep up from the past to make their way into our ways of being today. Feeling for these moments. Watching for them. Sensing when we are about to move, are moving or have already moved off our center, triggered by something our child has said or done.

Catching these moments quicker as the weeks go by, quicker because of our growing awareness. Quicker because of grace and our breath and the support of a circle of other loving parents, equally committed the healing, growing journey that is parenthood.

Taking our love off the line.

Holding misbehavior as a sign of an un-met need and not a broken child. Using responsible, respectful, clear, consistent and firm words with our kids when met with a “teaching moment”.

“I love you but I do not love your behavior today.”

Connecting before correcting.

“Can we talk? I’m feeling very far away from you these days.”

“What do you think we could do to make mornings gentler/smoother/etc…?”

“I feel like I’m yelling at you all the time. I’m sorry I get so anxious when we’re running late. Do yo have any ideas that could help us here?”

Because really, you and me? Us — all of us — parents. We are on the same team as our kids. We’re not playing tennis, one on one, on opposite sides of the court as our children. NO. We are playing DOUBLES. TRIPLES. QUADRUPELS even. And there can many, many, many people on our same side of the court: husband’s, partner’s, teachers, doctors, etc.

We are all on the same side of the court.

The balls are flying at us, coming over that net at lightening fast speeds, and there we are, side by side, playing this game of life together… with our kids. Those balls, they’re not our kids. They’re life. Our pasts. Our fears. Other’s fears.

Tell this to your child today: “You and I? We are on the same side of the court.”

In the words you use. In the actions you take. Tell your child. Your love is theirs. Unconditionally.

It just is.

xo

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PS: If you liked this post, join our community of mindful mamas and receive weekly notes of inspiration and support for connecting with your kids along with a Hug Each Moment Kit direct to your inbox.

 

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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Suffering from the Terrible Two’s? Remember to BIRP

If you find yourself complaining about your tot, wondering aloud, “WHERE DID MY SWEET ANGEL GO?!?!” know this… you are not alone.

Here’s a tool to help you with the many power struggles that go along with raising a two year old. I hope it helps.

First and most importantly, disengage from the power struggle.

I love this visual: if one person drops their end of the rope, it’s awful hard to play tug-o-war.

DROP YOU END OF THE ROPE whenever possible. The next time you and your two year old child lock horns (works for all ages but especially for two year old kids) think BIRP. Not as in belching although that might work to bring levity to the situation, but BIRP as in:

B: Boundaries
I: Independence
R: Ritual
P: Play

The first two letters stand for our BOUNDARIES and their INDEPENDENCE, the cause of many if not most of our power struggles. Both are [Read more…]

On How I Manipulate My Kids and Wonder Woman

ma-nip-u-late [muh-nip-yuh-leyt]

verb (used with object)

1.  to manage or influence skillfully.

2. to adapt or change to suit one’s purpose or advantage.

————-

I manipulate my kids, especially my youngest two.

Why do I do this evil thing? Most likely it’s because, like the definition says, it suits my purpose.

I get it sounds selfish, but truly, when I consciously attempt to manipulate my kids, it’s out of love. The unconscious manipulations? That’s a different post entirely. When I act from a conscious place though, I do it to suit my needs and theirs. An adaptation or change to suit our mutual purpose and advantage. Too theoretical? Let me give you an example.

Here’s a manipulation I pull on my youngest kiddos every day about 12:15 pm. It’s how I get my two year old twins to walk themselves up our steps to their room at nap time. [Read more…]