On being with judgment

My definition of judgment: noun judg·ment \jej-ment\: thoughts and words chuck full of all the many things I am not in this world, some justified, and some (most) not so much.

As moms, hearing and/or even just sensing judgement from friends, family, and strangers can sting, with perhaps the harshest variety of judgment originating within ourselves.

If you have four minutes, I want to lead you through an exercise on judgment that helped me transform the way I respond to judgmental people and thoughts. To things that want to cut me down to size. To the things that want to hold me back. To my doubts and all the many ways life tries to tell me that I am not enough (a belief I now call “BS!!!” on every time I hear it.)

I’d love to hear your response to the question I ask in this video in the comments and the ideas and experiences you have with judgment.

xo

I want to let you know about a NEW playground I’m playing on that’s built for more than just mommy’s. It’s called GENERATION MINDFUL and I hope you’ll join me there. We have some work to do if we’re going to usher the next generation into a more compassionate world. But our love? It’s powerful stuff. Strong enough to make even impossible dreams come true. I hope to see you there.

Let’s connect on instagramtwitter, facebook and pinterest too. The manual is ours to write, but we don’t have to write it alone.

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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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.

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

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. xo

———–

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

Parenting by the book. Don’t do it.

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

“Is he sleeping through the night?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You know best.

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

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

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

xo

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

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

It Is Not Your Job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hadley bedtime poem

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

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

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

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

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

we belong to each other

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

love imperfections

xo

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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

You Know You Are A Parent When…

Ya feelin’ me?

Hope this made you giggle. (The truth is always funnier than anything we could possibly make up.)

Embracing the little moments of this day (the messy, imperfect and oh so sweet little moments…) with you.

xo

 

you know you are a parent when

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When we tune in and trust, everything is possible. I hope you walk with me and other moms here because mom-hood is BETTER when we’re holding hands. Let’s connect on twitterfacebook and pinterest as well, because the manual is ours to write but we don’t have to write it alone!

RELATED POSTS:

Suffering From the Terrible Two’s? Remember to BIRP

How Parenting Helps Me Grow

Embrace The Chaos

 

 

 

Praise Or Discouragement

It might sound like I’m splitting hairs here… but the way we encourage our kids MATTERS.

My daughter stood on the podium marked 3, smiled and waved at end of her first ever gymnastics meet. Was I happy for her? Sure. Did I praise her as being an amazing gymnast? No.

Attachment-1

What did I tell her when she walked up to her dad and I after the meet, four shiny metals around her neck, trophy in hand, beaming ear to ear? I hugged her and said with an equally large smile, “I LOVED watching you out there. You had this big smile the entire time. It looked like you were having a blast. Honey, we’re so proud of how committed you are to your team. You are learning so much…”

Why didn’t I gush over her getting to stand on the podium? Why not go on and on about the shiny new metals that hung around her neck? It’s because when we praise the child (or the outcome like the “win”) verse praising the child’s effort, their brain holds onto our  praise as conditional and in the end, our praise becomes discouragement.

I think of it this way: praise the child/win/outcome and the brain thinks: I AM GOOD WHEN I DO GOOD. So what happens when our kids face something new and hard? Something they are “bad” at? Their brain is left to conclude: I AM GOOD WHEN I DO GOOD AND  I AM BAD AT THIS… I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS HARD THING. I AM NOT “GOOD” AT IT.

But praise the effort and waaaa-laaaa, you have a child whose brain is being incentivised to face challenges.

The real win, I want my ten year old to know deep in her heart, is the person she is. The love and respect she shows her coaches. The encouragement she gives her teammates and the girls on other teams, clapping for and watching them attentively. The commitment and focus she exercises, day in and day out, in getting her mom and her twin three year old brother and sister motivated to GET IN THE CAR NOW that she might get to practice on time (where early is on time and on time is late!). The patience and care she shows her body when she decides to sit a practice out because she is hurting even though it kills her to sit on the sidelines and watch.

Understanding the full impact our words as parents have on our kids takes time —but given the research, it’s time worth spending. There is power in the way we praise.

  • Praising the child: “Man you are smart.” Praising the effort: “That was a long assignment, but you stuck to it and got it done. That’s great!
  • Praising the child: “You are an amazing artist.” Praising the effort, “Wow. Look at all the different colors/techniques/materials/etc you used to make that picture.” or “What was your favorite part of making that?” or “Can I hang this in the kitchen?”
  • Praising the child: “You are such a great soccer player” Praising the effort, “You worked really hard today at soccer practice.” or “I love to watch you play.”

None of this sort of praising comes easy or naturally to me. After thirteen years of thinking about process over outcome, of working to praise the effort not the child, is it still hard for me?

YES. I do it “wrong” all the time. But that’s okay. I love a challenge.

Food for thought:

  • Are the things we’re saying to our kids inspiring them or discouraging them?
  • Are we helping them take on a growth mindset or a fixed mindset?
  • Are we preparing them for the challenges life will surely hold or are we not?
  • And finally, how do we, their parents, respond to challenges? Both ours and theirs.

Praise the effort, not the child. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

xo

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When we follow our bliss, anything is possible. I hope you walk with me and other moms here because motherhood (and life) is better when we’re holding hands.

Related Posts:

A Curvy Road
Connection and Baby/Kids

Helpful Resources:

Effective Praise

Effort, Praise and Achievement

Children and Praise: Why Certain Types of Praise May Backfire

 

A Mother’s Bedtime Poem

Hadley bedtime poem

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When we follow our bliss, anything is possible. I hope you walk with me and other moms here, sharing the stories of our lives, because motherhood (and life) is better when we hold hands.

Little Ears

colin w mmm logo 5.2013We were driving to dinner and my three year old son asked, “Mom, can I have an E-F-H?”

Dad and I look at each other. “A what???!” “An E—-F—-H…” he repeats in a do-you-pinky-swear-you-won’t-tell-anyone?!?! sorta whisper. And with that, I get it and interpret for my husband. Our child is attempting to spell out a cool-secret-thing he wants, just like he’s heard his big sisters do.

“Mom, can we have some I-C-E -C-R-E-A-M?” or “Mom, can we go to the P-A-R-K when Hadley and Colin nap?”

Things not meant for three year old ears lest they want it too, get spelt out in our home and our little guy had cracked the code. He just didn’t know how to spell. But why let that stop him, right?

They may not always do what we want, when we want… but do not be fooled.

THEY ARE LISTENING.

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When we follow our bliss, anything is possible. I hope you walk with me and other moms here, sharing the stories of our lives, because motherhood is better when we are holding hands.