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How Automatic Thoughts Almost Ruined the Day

This past weekend my husband and I decided to go to our local ski mountain and teach our kids how to ski.  We are not frequent skiers, in fact this was the first time we had skied together in countless years.  But we decided we needed to get out of town and this was the perfect opportunity to do so.  We told the kids (ages 4 and 5) when they woke up on Sunday morning  that this was the plan (and they were very excited!) and by 7:45am we were off.  We knew, logically, that taking kids skiing for the first time was bound to be difficult.  Borrowing equipment, filling out forms, waiting in lines, trying oddly fitting equipment on, climbing the stairs holding hands with a kid on one side and 2 pairs of skis (theirs and ours) on the other, (not to mention the actual skiing part!)….we knew it was going to be a lot.  But we had the desire to ski and the kids were excited so we went despite all of the reasons we could have opted not to.

What we were not prepared for was the actual reality of how frustrating the process of teaching kids how to ski would be.  Since neither of us are really well-versed in how to teach skiing we got onto the snow, put their skis on and tried to send them for a lesson.  We wanted to stick around for the lesson since it was their first time ever at the mountain and we didn’t know the instructors.  The first child flat out refused to attend a  lesson after realizing how hard skiing would be from first touching snow to about 100 yds away from where the lesson began.  The second child agreed to do the lesson (despite the fact that on the way there he professed to be an “expert skier”–gotta love 5 year old’s confidence).  He quite the lesson 20 minutes later after realizing that skiing is actually VERY hard!

This is where I really notice my own negative self-talk coming up.  I could almost witness these automatic thoughts coming up (thank you mindfulness practice for teaching me how to “witness my thoughts”) and saying:

Actual thoughts during the day:

  • Why did we bother taking our children skiing?  
  • What did we expect?
  • Why is my child refusing to take a lesson? Doesn’t he want to learn how to ski?
  • Can’t I go for a run down the slopes? I really want to go…and I have to sit here and watch them NOT ski??! This is not fair.
  • They’re tired.  They’re hungry.  Again.
  • We never get to do anything fun because they are so whiny.
  • Why won’t they listen?
  • My child is so floppy/lazy/uncoordinated.
  • This cost a lot of money and they are just sitting here watching…we could have done that for free!

I literally had all of these thoughts. I am not proud but that is the nature of automatic thoughts.  They are not conscious, but rather appear when some emotion deep inside of us is triggered.  The goal of conscious parenting is to notice those thoughts, try to figure out where they are coming from, and try to find a mature and conscious resolution to that trigger.

So we took a break, went to the lodge to get a snack and just relax.  We ended up sitting in the lodge for about an hour with a friend and her daughter who we ran into there.  They have been skiing many times and while we were there her 3 year old daughter went up the chair lift with her and skied down an adult-sized slope (without being attached to her mom. Impressive no?!)  During that hour I turned to my husband probably at least 4 times and said “let’s just get out of here, do you want to go? …ugh…Let’s go!”.  But something kept us there for a little longer and eventually our friend decided to take her daughter to the snow tube run they had set up as a special event that day.  As we left the lodge, my eldest turned to me and said “I want to try skiing again!”.  

So this was the moment of truth.  Do I tell my child that he lost his opportunity so we are done?  Do I tell them I am tired (from the entire shlep of this and/or of hearing them whine)?  Something told me to let them have a second chance.  

At that point, my friend offered to take my eldest up the “magic carpet” and down the “bunny hill” to give him an initial taste of skiing and teach him how to make a “pizza’ out of his skis while I took her daughter to do a couple snow-tube rides with my other son.   She also gave me some parental empathy (which is basically like alchemy, if you ask me) that changed my entire perspective.  She said, simply, “taking kids to ski for the first time is such a shelp and is so annoying”.  Ahhh yes!!  Literally that was all I needed to readjust my attitude and be a calm, conscious, and mature parent again.  My entire mindset about the day shifted when I heard that this was all a normal first-time experience (again, which I logically knew but had quickly forgotten in the heat of the moment).  I relaxed, smiled, and accepted the as-is of this situation.  

Some magic happened during those 20 minutes and my eldest went down the bunny hill with my friend two times and actually enjoyed himself (in fact his exact words were “ok, now I really am a good skier, just let me go down alone!!).  My youngest relaxed and after 3 snow tube runs with his buddy, and seeing his brother enjoy skiing, decided that he wanted to try again too.  I then took him down 3 bunny hill runs and we had an amazing time.

We left the mountain an hour later on a high.  This day, which could have easily become a really bad memory, became a really exciting beginning for us and something we decided we wanted to do more of in the future.  Having fun together as a family, being outdoors together, getting exercise together: these are the things we want for our family and skiing was it.  It just takes some teaching and learning–for all of us–to make this vision a reality.  

As we drove away, the new monologue in my brain–my new automatic self talk became:

  • What a fun day.
  • Learning to ski is really hard!
  • Skiing with kids is really hard!
  • Watching your kid stand on skis is charming, hilarious, and impressive.
  • We all laughed so much together.
  • I’m glad we took that break and reset.
  • I’m glad we stayed.
  • My kids are champs for getting up and trying again over and over and over again.
  • My kids are brave.
  • My kids are strong.
  • I cannot wait to go skiing again!

What a day!

What automatic thoughts show up when you are triggered?  How does that effect the way you parent?  How could challenging those thoughts change you and your relationship with your child?

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(C) 2017, Nurture: Family Education & Guidance

 

Parenting Your Triggers

No, your triggers are not your children. Or even their behaviors.  Your triggers are yours and only yours.  They are activated when your inner child is scared, vulnerable, or uncomfortable in some other way.  When a parent is particularly triggered (emotionally upset) by an undesirable behavior in their child (typical examples: rude behavior, messy room, sibling rivalry) they may want to ask themselves:
 
1. Why did this happen today, and not yesterday?
 
2. Is my reaction typical or is this a unique reaction?
 
3. Do I have an unmet need that this is forcing me to confront?
 
4. Is this typical of other parents in this situation?
 
5. Does this trigger reflect something implicit or explicit about my way of being in our family? (Another way of saying this is: Am I who I want to be in this relationship with these children?)
 
6. What happened in my childhood that may have contributed to these feelings?
 
7. How can I find a pause before I react next time so that I can respond more effectively?
Be in touch. I can help you go through this evaluation…I empower parents to find joy in the hardest job they’ll ever love. Parenting is art but there’s a lot of science to it too that I can help you understand. We are all in this together.
emily@nurturefamilyeducation.com
585-420-8838
(c) 2017. Nurture: Family Education and Guidance

Practicing Mindfulness With Your Kids- Part 1: Breath

*If you haven’t yet added your name to our mailing list, do so now for a FREE PDF of “10 Techniques to Bring Mindfulness into Your Home”.

So we parents are convinced that we want more time and space in our lives.  To do this, we have chosen to integrate a mindfulness practice in our lives.  This may be a formal meditation, or this may be through different techniques to slow down and focus on our breath more frequently.  Either way, this eventually leads parents to experience great relief, optimism, and desire to share this journey with their children.  Kids can reap the benefits of mindfulness and it can help them self-regulate and learn to concentrate their attention.  Before you embark on bringing this journey to your children be aware of your intentions and do not push these activities.  I repeat: do NOT push these activities on your children.  If they resist, no matter how well-intentioned you may be, drop it.  The best way to encourage your child to slow down, listen to their body, and breathe is to authentically role model this behavior through your own practice.  Children will naturally drawn to mindfulness when they are interested and forcing them will be counterproductive.

That being said, below are several resources I recommend to share a mindfulness journey with your children starting with focusing on their breath.  (Future posts will focus on mindfulness of body, emotions, heart, and more–so sign up for our mailing list!)

1. Hoberman Sphere:  Use this fun toy to visually show how images.jpgbreath expands and contracts and the appropriate speed to do so to calm down.  My child liked playing with this toy more than using it to monitor his breath, so I took my own advice and abandoned (for now) us using it together.  Instead, I used it alone and found it very helpful in staying focused on the cadence of my breath and sustaining attention on my breath.

2.  Noticing Breath: Have your child get a special stuffed animal lay down.  Put it on your belly and have them notice what it does when you breathe (go up and down).  Now put it on your head or legs and have them notice what it does when you breathe (nothing).  Have them lay down.  Have them try moving it slowly up and down 5 times.  Ask them how they feel when they take 5 deep breaths.

3. Breathing Technique: Have your child inhale like they are smelling a flower and exhale like they are blowing out a candle.  I did this with my kids at a family yoga class we recently attended.  It is a relatable visual for the kids which will help them understand the 2 main parts of their breath more clearly (inhale and exhale).  If you have another tangible object for them to inhale and another to exhale (like a balloon), use it! It will make the “lesson” more fun and memorable.

4. “Calm” App.  We carry our phones with us wherever we go, so this app is nice because it is practically always at an arms lengths aways! This program has some neat features which kids (and grownups) will enjoy using including: a visual breath tracker telling you when to breathe in and when to breathe out.  It also has a “sleep story” feature where you can listen to a calming story before bed.  The app can record the frequency of your meditations which is helpful.  I personally don’t love having an app be a part of my mindfulness routine, but if it works for you, go for it!

5. The Boy Who Searched for Silence by Andrew Newman: I got this book at Dr. Shefali’s Tsabary’s Evolve conference last year.  She gave a beautiful endorsement of this book.  This book is a beautiful tale of boy who is looking for silence and the amazing feeling he experience he has when he finds it.  My son is inexplicably drawn to this story and I am fascinated that he keeps picking it for bedtime.  Instead of asking him, I am just riding the wave and enjoying the process…I hope you do too.  This book gets 5 stars from us.

 

 

Again, a note of caution about getting so excited about your mindfulness journey that you force it on your children.  You can expose them to what you are learning, but they will reject it if it gets pushed on them.  The breath is their most sacred home that they will find peace in–whenever they choose to go on that journey.  Don’t taint it with your expectations, judgements, and intentions.

What other mindfulness of breath tools do you recommend?

@2017 Nurture: Family Education & Guidance, nurturefamilyeducation.com

Upcoming Events (Please join me!):

Introduction to Conscious Parenting

In this introductory talk, you will learn about the basics of Conscious Parenting including what is/isn’t, the difference between traditional and conscious parenting, how mindfulness fits in, what are ways to speak to your child that facilitate connection vs. disconnection.  This course is the foundational course in the Conscious Parenting Series and is based on the work of Dr. Shefali Tsabary and Dr. Dan Siegel. Participants will leave with actionable information and a new perspective on the hardest job they’ll ever love.  Cost: Free

Thursday 3/16:  10am-11:30am at Louis S. Wolk Rochester JCC (1200 Edgewood Ave, Rochester, NY 14618).   Free babysitting available.  (click link above to register)

Thursday 3/23:  7pm-8:30pm at East Avenue Chiropractic (1641 East Avenue, Rochester 14610) (click here to register on Facebook, or email emily@nurturefamilyeducation.com)

Helping Little Kids Through Big Emotions

“It’s just ice cream! We’ll get you another! Stop crying!”

“Your hair is a disaster, stop screaming and let me brush it.  Now!”

“Are you seriously crying over Legos?  You have so many!  Stop throwing them, or else!”

“No, for the 10th time, you are not getting that toy with behavior like that.”

All parents are faced, at some point, with children who are seemingly not able to control their emotions and are acting in socially and culturally inappropriate ways.  One expects young toddlers to do this, but as kids grow older, say 3-6 years old, we hope that they are able to start recognizing their feelings more objectively (instead of just feeling those feelings) and respond more maturely.  This can be very frustrating when a parent doesn’t know how to help their child deal with their big emotions–usually negative.  When children do not understand their feelings they are unable to problem-solve the issue at hand and help themselves out of emotions that might not be serving them.

Self-regulation is the processes that allows people to appropriately respond to their environment.  It goes hand-in-hand with mindfulness which is the ability to recognize a present-moment thought or feeling without judgment because both are about insight and awareness of oneself.  It is important for people to have the ability to notice what emotions one is feeling and how intensely one is having those emotions so that they can respond appropriately instead of a quick and thoughtless reaction.  Self-regulation is important for people all ages and learning it begins at birth.  To teach self-regulation, parents must model appropriate self-regulation, give their child hints and cues on how to appropriate self-regulate, and give their children practice by gradually withdrawing their support.  Babies regulate by “co-regulating” or attuning to their caregiver and the process evolves as the child becomes more independent, develops more self-awareness, and develops a vocabulary.  It is a slow process that develops over many, many years.

An important first step is to get your child to start recognizing the physical sensations of their emotions.  Without awareness of how the emotion presents in your child’s body it seems more overwhelming and helpless than it actually is.  To start this in your home, parents should attune themselves to their own physical sensations of big emotions and start noticing their child’s.  Take cautions not to judge physical reactions, but just notice them.  Find a safe and quiet time to debrief with you child after a big emotional outburst when they (and especially you) are calm and in an accepting state of mind.  Talking to a child in the midst of a tantrum will not be productive because their brain is unable to receive and process complex information in that heightened state.  In the middle of a tantrum parents should first keep their child safe from himself or harming others and then respond lovingly and empathetically to their physical sensations (ex. “I see that you are sad because your ice cream fell.  I would be sad about that too.  Can I give you a hug?” or “I know you are frustrated that your brother keeps taking your Legos.  It is annoying when people just take things without asking.  Can I sit with you while you calm down and then we can figure out a solution”.)

Next, help your child label their emotions (aka. “name it to tame it”).  Start this by reading stories to your children about kids who have similar big emotions.  You can also hang up an age appropriate feelings chart in some common area of the home.  An age appropriate feelings chart for little kids, who are more concrete thinkers, is one with pictures of actual human faces and only exhibiting 10-12 different emotions, or else it will be too overwhelming to use. Many adults will appreciate having an adult version too so that they can get back to identifying the nuanced feelings throughout the day, becoming more attuned with their own emotional landscape, and role-modeling naming the feelings.

After recognizing and naming the emotions, it is important to help your child calm down.  When your child is experiencing a big emotion, a part of their brain called the amygdala takes over and tells them to fight, flight, or freeze.  This has an important function in helping people respond quickly to danger but children need to learn to control this impulse and take a moment to choose a better response.  Helping your child to learn how to relax can be done in a variety of ways, some examples include: taking them away from the chaotic space to somewhere quiet and private, talking to them in a softer voice, getting at or below their eye level, slowing your breathing, listening to music, and many mindfulness practices geared towards children.

Finally, by helping the child to focus on something good–the sunshine, a cookie, a parent coming home soon,  not with the intention of distracting the child but rather to remind them of something positive is a great way to diffuse attention away from the big emotion and onto something happy.

Coaching your child through these tough times will be difficult but children need their parents to be the calm, unconditional leader to help them mature through their developmentally normal emotional outbursts.

Resources to learn more:

The Whole Brain Child by Dr. Daniel Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson

Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by Dr. John Gottman

Printable Feelings Chart for Little (2-5) and Bigger Kids (6-11):

 

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Great for little kids (2-5 y.o.) because it uses real human faces to show emotions which is more concrete for little learners.

To further this lesson with your children: have them look through magazines and cut out pictures of faces and then label them with the correct emotion.

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Once kids are able to read a more advanced chart without pictures is appropriate. This one is great because it allows users to identify and accurately label the intensity of the feeling.

Feelings Chart for Adults who want to improve their Emotional Intelligence (EQ):

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How many of these words do you use to describe your day-to-day emotional world?  How would being more specific with your emotions help you interact better with your children, spouse, co-workers, or other close relationships?

(c) 2017, Nurture: Family Education and Guidance, nurturefamilyeducation.com

Consciously Giving Our First Allowance

Another milestone moment in raising a child: giving him his first allowance.  Our 5 1/2 year old came home the other day asking for an allowance (thanks again, school bus) and we decided that it was time to start teaching him about mechanics of having your own money.  Our desire to timgres-2.jpgeach him about money is very closely correlated to our desire to teach him about feelings because both are wildly important, yet both can be very difficult to talk about.  Luckily, last November I had the chance to interview and see NYT Best-selling author Ron Lieber speak about money.  His wisdom guided our first allowance discussion with our child (read here for full transcript) .

  1.  We decided to give our son $1.00 as his first allowance, divided up in dimes so he could really get a sense of the amount he was getting (a dollar bill is just a piece a paper with a pretty design on it to a kid with no cultural context).
  2. We gave him three clear jars: spend, save, give and explained what those words really mean for us in our lives.  We had to decide what the parameters of those jars meant for him so when we get asked in a store to buy him something we already have an idea of how to respond.
  3.  Interestingly, he really wanted to have his allowance tied to chores which we resisted.  In our home, we decided that allowance is something you get weekly to teach you about how to use money.  It is not a reward because whether or not he is deserving of a reward that week, we still want him to learn about money.  We want to nurture his intrinsic motivation and not create a culture of ‘do this and you’ll get that’ in our home.  (Read here on intrinsic motivation).
  4. If he wants to earn extra money in addition to his allowance, he is allowed to ask us for ways to do this and we will tell him what options he has.

None of this is particularly easy to do because, lets face it, money is personal. It is a tangible reflection of the values and culture that your parents, and their parents, were raised in and differing from those can feel disloyal.  Conscious parenting is about raising children with awareness and authenticity so that you don’t fall into the pitfall of generational beliefs and patterns.  Money is the perfect place to begin to confront those traps.

Good luck to you as consciously confront your relationship with money.

(c) 2017, Nurture: Family Education & Guidance

Picky Eating: What Do We Do?

Question: Today my 4 year old was given his dinner and refused to eat it.  He ate this meal (chicken, broccoli, and bread) last week.  We don’t know what to do when this happens so we usually end up sending him to his room, but this doesn’t feel right.  We also don’t want to get in the habit of making him another meal.  What should we do?

Answer:  All parents have dealt with picky eating at some point and it is always frustrating and confusing.  It is hard to know exactly why this is happening so it is easy to react from habit.  This is a very common problem.  Parents need to consider their goals for meal time and if their behavior is congruent to meeting those goals.  There are a number of feelings and behaviors that both parents and kids come to the table with.  Here are 5 to consider:

(Before these considerations parents should always make sure their is nothing medical going on with the child like being nauseous or sick.)

1.  imgres-1.jpgDoes your child like the food and/or is the child bored of the food or is your child even hungry?  This is often overlooked in the busyness of life but it is important to consider.  Children are allowed to have preferences, likes and dislikes, just like grown ups.  They just don’t always know how to express those and parents don’t always, quite frankly, care because they are not willing to make another meal.  Have you ever been exposed to a food that you normally like that you were just not in the mood for?  Kids have days like that too, so if this is an infrequent occurrence, do not make it into a big deal.  Many well-intentioned parents also serve milk with meals which kills their children’s’ appetites.  While the protein is good for them, it fills them up before they have time to eat their actual meal.  Also, obviously but worth noting, keep their snacking in check.  It is so difficult to not feed them a full meal (calories-wise) when they are begging for food but you want them showing up to mealtime hungry, so make sure any snacking is light enough to leave them ready for mealtime.

2.  Is your child really asking for some control?  If you have a concern that you child is being manipulative or needing to have some power at the dinner table, we would suggest you listen to that intuition and give them some control.  This can be hard because traditionally parents have a strong desire to be in control and be respected at all times but this is counterintuitive to a happy mealtime. For this specific example, we would give the child choice of a dipping sauce for the chicken (give him 2-3 options), a choice of how he would like the chicken cut (cubes with a fork or long strips he can pick up with his fingers-if that is acceptable at your house), a choice over how he would like the broccoli cut and possibly sauced (cheesy might be irresistible for a 4 year old), and whether he would like to eat the bread or not since it is not nutritionally dense.  Sometimes parents get go caught up in the dinner wars that they do not even realize that they are demanding their kids eat something (like bread) that isn’t feeding the child’s health but rather the parent’s ego and need for control.

3.  Is your child resistant to a certain specific food?  If the child is resistant to a particular food, say broccoli, we would suggest you consider doing something called “chaining”.  In this process, the child is presented with new foods that may be similar in taste, temperature, or texture to foods the child already likes with the goal of them eating a food in the form which it is normally served at your home.   So for example, if you want your child to eat raw broccoli, offer a broccoli muffin to start (assuming they like muffins), then have them eat a blended broccoli soup, then finely diced broccoli in eggs, and so on and so forth until you have them dipping their raw broccoli in dip.  Choose delicious ways to chain and your kid will eventually be eating a new food.  We also suggest allowing kids to start the chaining process by just having the food on their plate.  Period.  Just that is a step in the direction of them “warming up” to the idea of eating a new food.

4.  Most kids will not wither away and die if they do not eat a meal.  We would make sure to keep this in mind if you child says they are not hungry.  Forcing kids to eat when they are not hungry sends a message that they shouldn’t listen to and respect their bodies, but rather the exterior demands of the person who is in control.  Not what parents actually want for their children in the long run.  Mealtime should be focused on promoting prosocial behavior and facilitating re-connection after a long day and if your child is resistant to eating tread lightly and do not make too big of a deal of it especially when it interrupts the familial connection you are establishing, which is more important that caloric intake at one meal (unless it becomes a pattern, in which case, you should look below the surface level of behavior and try to figure out what is really going on).

5.  Should you make him a new meal? In general, no.  You do not want to send the message that they can simply refuse to eat and get something “better”.  But if you know the child is truly hungry and in need of calories in his body but still not willing or able to eat the food offered, it is not problematic to offer a simple alternative as long as it does not become a regular habit.  Do not cook something that takes much effort, but reheating desired leftovers or fixing him a bowl of cereal is fine.  Being too rigid at meal time is just going to exacerbate power struggles and that is the opposite of what family meal time is about.

6.  Sending a child away from the dinner table for refusing to eat is not desirable because it does not get them to eat, does not teach them appropriate way of asking for different food or how to politely refuse food, and facilitates disconnection which are all the opposite goals of meal time.  Time-outs, during mealtime, or other times are a waste of an opportunity to teach valuable skills like how to regulate their emotions or how to get their needs met.  (Click here for link to Rethinking Discipline.)
We hope this helps facilitate a broader understanding of appropriate ways to deal with stressful mealtimes and wish you sweet love and good eats.  

We highly recommend checking out this resource for more mealtime and eating ideas: http://itsnotaboutnutrition.com/

 

Conscious Grandparenting: An Interview

We recently had the opportunity to talk to Goldie Shawel, a grandmother who came into the conscious parenting movement a few years ago as a grandmother.  We were intrigued to find out that conscious parenting is not just for parents of young children.  As Goldie explained, it made perfect sense.  A parents job is never really over and how you approach those moments of connection, even with your adult children, really makes a difference.

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Goldie Shawel (aka. Nana) and Dr. Shefali Tsabary at the Evolve Conference on Conscious Parenting in October, 2016.

Nurture: Tell me a little bit about yourself…

Goldie Shawel: I was born in Cleveland, Ohio to parents who were Holocaust survivors.   My parents had five children.  I had a challenging childhood–my parents couldn’t process what they had been through and had no peace.  Sadly, it robbed them of much of their lives.  Financially we were fine, but emotionally they were never available to me the way I needed them.

Not understanding the effect of my parents experience on their parenting ability and style, I created a similar life for my 5 kids.  I was always physically present with them but wasn’t able to connect with their essence they way they, and I,  deserved.

Now all my kids are married and now I have 12 amazing grandchildren who call me Nana.

N: How did you hear of Conscious Parenting?

GS: I heard Dr. Shefali Tsabary on Oprah one day and thought “Ok, I messed up” and turned off the TV.  A little while later I saw her again and something struck a chord and I was mesmerized.  After that, I began seeking out Dr. Shefali and saw her work again on Facebook.  She used to do a program called “Conscious Card Tuesdays” which was just posting a thought to her audience and taking questions from people.  I engaged Dr. Shefali in discussion and went from there.  As a grandparent, some of my parenting issues are the same as the newer parents, but I also have some unique issues like being an in-law to 5 adult children and grandparent to 12 unique individuals.

One of the most important teachings that I have learned about Conscious Parenting is that it’s not just about parenting.  It’s about relationship building.

N: Is being a grandparent disqualifying for changing your parenting style?  Is it too late?

GS: I have children from ages 27-37.  I don’t think it is ever too late.  Children, of any age, are a mirror.

 

Dr. Shefali’s latest book on Conscious Parenting.

 

When I wanted to share the conscious parenting teachings with my children, I didn’t want to be too pushy or overzealous–especially with my children’s spouses.  Dr. Shefali suggested that I buy my kids her books so they could read and process her teachings and speak up if they were interested in learning more.

N: How has it affected your relationships with your children?

GS: I am closer with all of my children as a result of sharing these teachings with them.

N: Has it affected your relationships with your grandchildren and the way you approach being a grandparent?

GS: Yes.  I used to be grandma that shells out money and brings gifts.  Now I do not that do that.  We pick out gift together but our relationship is more about being with each other than giving or receiving stuff.

N: How do you resolve the feelings of guilt or remorse for lost time for not being more conscious earlier?  

GS: I had a lot of guilt and sadness for not being with my mother more on an emotional and connected level but with Dr. Shefali’s help I realized that there is no good in beating myself up.  I had the same feeling about my time with my own kids.  I head to learn to accept the way it had been and appreciate that, albeit later than I wish, I had found growth and am at peace with that.  When you know better you do better.

N: What is something you wish more grandparents knew?

GS: Time spent with your children or grandchildren is the gift.  Simply being and doing with the child is the gift.  Allow yourself to be quiet with them and observe them.  Resist the temptation to do, do, do.

N: How do you approach being a Conscious Parent with your children in law?

GS: I heave learned to tread carefully and take cues.  At first I was extremely excited about this movement that had allowed me to find peace with my life and my children and I wanted to push Conscious Parenting on them.  I now know that you just can’t.  They have to be ready and open to it.

N: Do you have any thoughts on what is like to be a Jewish parent and a Conscious Parent?

GS: As a Jewish mom, it is easy to find myself overly enmeshed with my children.  I used to find myself shaming and blaming my children and have learned now to just accept them for who they are.  I have to stop myself from telling my adult children what to do.  I can make suggestions but I have to realize that those are just that, suggestions.  Also, part of the Jewish culture has encouraged parents to be a martyr and constantly give, give, give.  I have learned to relinquish this part of my upbringing and am focusing on taking care of myself first.  I can’t be emotionally available to my children and grandchildren if I haven’t taken time to rejuvenate and recharge my own batteries.

Are you a conscious grandparent? Tell us about your experience below.

At Nurture: Family Education and Guidance, we offer private coaching, facilitated small groups, and larger seminars to teach parents and other educators the art and science of living consciously.  Contact us at (585) 420-8838 or at nurtureconsciousness@gmail.com to learn more.

(c) 2016. Nurture: Family Education and Guidance

Introduction to Mindfulness for Parents and Other Educators

Breathe in to the count of 5.  Breathe out to the count of 5.  Relax your body.  How does that feel? That took about 10 seconds. Do you feel a little more calm? A bit more in the moment? A little more aware? That is what mindfulness is all about.

A lot of people are talking about mindfulness these days. This Q & A will help explain some questions surrounding this ancient tradition and its modern uses in your home or classroom.

Q: What is Mindfulness?

A: Mindfulness is cultivating a non-judgemental awareness and acceptance of the present moment.  One can be mindful at any time in any location.  It involves 3 main skills working in conjunction with each other: sensory awareness, mental clarity, and equanimity.  (Equanimity is mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.)  

mindfulness-300x225.gifQ: Why do parents and other types of educators need mindfulness?

A: Parents and educators can use mindfulness to help them become less reactive and more responsive to the needs of the kids they work with.   If you ever have found yourself saying (or being told!) to “calm down and pay attention”?   Mindfulness can be helpful in teaching how to calm down and how to pay attention.

Q:  My kid is learning mindfulness at school.  Isn’t that good enough?

A: That is great that your school is open to mindfulness and it will surely be a skill they can use for the rest of their lives.  If you really want to integrate more calm into your life though, it is not just about “fixing” your kid.  Any sort of change you want to see in your family or class, begins with you, the leader, making a committment to learn a different way of being.  Simply showing up with calm energy you want them to exude can actually change their brain chemistry.

Q: You can change brain chemistry with mindfulness?

A: Yes! The pre-frontal cortex is literally strengthened when you pay attention to your feelings and reactions such that you can begin to create space between those and give a more thoughtful response when being challenged instead of an automatic reaction.  Further, when someone has a response to a stimuli, the people around that person can also experience similar firing of neurons if they can anticipate what comes next.  This concept is called mirror neurons.  For example, your child just has a joyful lick of ice cream; their neurons are fired and dopamine (the happy chemical in the brain) is released.  You are watching their joy and delight and feel a similar feeling of dopamine release in your body without ever having touched the ice cream.  That is the powerful effect of mirror neurons.  The same thing happens with all different sorts of emotions, even calmness.

Q:  What is the difference between mindfulness and meditation?

A:  Meditation is setting specific time aside for mindfulness.  Meditation is usually in a silent seated position.  The word “meditation” has some religious connotations (from Buddhism–like zen and karma).  Mindfulness can be a religious or a secular pursuit and can be done anywhere, at anytime.  One can be mindful of everything: how they move, what they think, what they are eating, or how they are feeling or acting.

Q: I am so busy and this is just one more thing.  Is this really valuable?

A:  Well, we can’t ascribe the value it will be to your life but if you are so busy, this could very well be the skill you need the most.  Mindfulness will allow you to show up to each activity you are a part of with presence, awareness, and openness so that you are able to attune to your (or your child’s) actual needs and don’t feel as overwhelmed with everything you have to do.

Q: How can I learn to be a more mindful parent or educator?

A:  An amazing resource is called: “Getting Started with Mindfulness”.  We also recommend you find a community of people to practice with so you can hold each other accountable as you grow and flex this new muscle.

 

We offer seminars, smaller facilitated groups, and individual coaching.  Contact us to learn more at emily@nurturefamilyeducation.com or leave your information below.

 

(c) 2016. Nurture: Family Education and Guidance

Rethink Discipline

Behavior is always an expression of needs.  Good behavior is simply needs being met and not-so-good behavior is a cry for help.  But most young kids don’t have the emotional maturity to say “parents, I’m feeling really ‘x’ right now, I could use some love and to learn some strategies to use when this happens ”.  Of course– that would be ridiculous—so instead they behave in another way that gets their needs met and unfortunately, adults often see those behaviors at a surface level and do not take the time to understand the underlying root cause of those behaviors.

Typical discipline at home usually looks like being: yelled at, grounded, sent to room, time out, taking away a privledge, spanked or roughed.  Most families work from the belief that the parent is the authority and should have total respect from the kids.

Their are five criteria for effective discipline according to Dr. Jane Nelson of Positive Discipline:

  1. Helps children feel a sense of connection. (Belonging and significance.)
  2. Is mutually respectful and encouraging. (Kind and firm at the same time)
  3. Is effective long-term. (considers what the child is thinking, feeling, learning, and deciding about himself and his word–and what to do in the future to survive or thrive.)
  4. Teachers important social and life skills. (respect, concern for others, problem solving, cooperation as well as the skills to contribute to the home, school, or larger community.)
  5. Invites children to discover how capable they are. (encourages the constructive use of personal power and autonomy.)

All people, even kids, want to always feel a sense of love and safety.  But unfortunately traditional discipline does not facilitate those feelings and in fact, it normally goes in direct conflict with those feelings.  Fundamental to conscious discipline is a focus on the child as having the locus of control (as opposed to the caregiver).  Clearly, age, temperament, and unique personality have to be factored into any approach you choose to take but the three biggest factors one must confront in order to rearrange poor behavior patterns, of any age child, are in the areas of connection, boundaries, and consequences.

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from consciousdiscipline.com

1. Understanding Consequences

When one is considering consequences it is important to think about whether or not their are already natural consequences in place.  Natural consequences (aka. “logical consequences”) are obvious outcomes or effects that occur without any human intervention or action (ex. kid hits sibling and sibling doesn’t want to play with him anymore).  Unnatural consequences  are imposed by people and are usually based on their culture, world-view, and beliefs.  They are inherently coercive and power-centric (ex. kid hits sibling and gets sent to timeout bench).  Natural consequences help maintain the parent-child relationship because there is no power differential, only empathy and support.  Unnatural consequences are really a euphemism for discipline; they can be somewhat random and do not directly relate to the reason the child was being punished.  Unnatural consequences reinforce the parent as being in power and the child as less-than. The goal of any consequence is to immediately stop the behavior and to teach different behavior.  So instead of interjecting power, which is truly rather artificial and will degrade the quality of the parent-child relationship, try relying on the natural consequence more frequently and using any “bad behavior” as a teaching opportunity.

Think about the typical discipline issues in your home.  Are the consequences your child faces typical natural or unnatural?

2. The Strength of Your Boundary

One critical factor in giving your child boundaries is deciding what exactly you are willing to let your kid get away with.  You have to decide if you are drawing a line in the sand or a line in stone.  

If one is drawing a line in sand or a negotiable boundary, the first need is to evaluate whether it is worth having the line at all.  It is OK to tell a child that you do not have an immediate answer and need time to think about it.  Engage them in a discussion about the pro’s and con’s.  Let them practice seeing both the positive and the negative to the situation and let them help come up with alternatives.  Even little kids will appreciate being included in the discussion.  We all want our kids to be good at making decisions, so illuminate your thought process and help them develop theirs.

Recommended reading for anyone in any type of intimate relationship–marriage, parenting, or otherwise.

 

If you are drawing a line in stone, aka a firm boundary, you need to mean what you say and say what you mean.   Examples of lines in stone for most families deal with safety in some way.  Having a firm boundary does not mean refusing a discussion through what relationship expert Dr. John Gottman refers to as “stonewalling”.  Stonewalling, or refusing to engage in discussion or explanation, chips away at relationships and breaks trust with the exact person with whom you want you to trust with even the toughest discussions: your child.  Reject the kinds of parenting that says “because I said so” even when it is tempting to do so.  Communicate with empathy, solidity, and openness despite challenging behavior from your child and see it as an opportunity to attune to their inner-world.

When extinguishing a bad behavior from a childs’ repertoire, say nagging or hitting for example, that behavior tends to get worse before it gets better.  This can be confusing and throws a lot of parents because when they try to set a boundary and all of a sudden the behavior is worse they think they somehow messed up in extinguishing the behavior and go back on their boundary.  This is detrimental to the boundary one is trying to set.  

Remember that authoritative parents let their boundary be known and talked about and can hold the firmest of boundaries with love, that is why they are refered to as “tough love” parents.  This does not mean you will waiver.  It will depend on the situation and whether you are drawing a land in the sand or a line in stone.

3. Connection is the Foundation

Although this is the last point, this is really the most important.  Connection is absolutely vital to teaching your child anything and enjoying the process of doing so.  The first and most important relationships in a child’s life are those with his or her parents.   In fact, in  group counseling one of the primary goals of that experience is “corrective recapitulation of primary family”.  The meaning of this is to show proper functioning of interpersonal relationships.  Because the foundation of all relationships, parent-child and otherwise, is trust and connection it is important to give ample energy to making sure your attachment is strong.  Traditional discipline has relied on parents being in power and making rules and demanding unconditional respect.  The new approach, the conscious approach, declassifies the parents from ruler and promotes them to teacher and supporter who can be relied on for guidance even when the child is displaying their worst behavior.  

 Taking time to enjoy your kids—and letting them enjoy you—will put the relationship capital in the bank.  And when you need to–or mess up like we all do–and take withdraw from your relationship “bank account”, it will be OK.  You won’t be steeped in the kind of guilt you used to experience because you will be able to reflect on all the good, fun, relationship-building you have done and know that it will carry you through a rough patch.

As you are rethinking how consequences, boundaries, and connection are used in your home, be aware of how you were raised and how that informed you.  Parenting is hereditary, learned, and one of our most basic cultural constructs.  Yet, with awareness, education, and practice one can change the primal desire for power over their children.

What are the most common issues that require consequences in your house?

Does your approach to consequences typically show more connection or boundaries?

(c) 2016, Nurture: Family Education and Guidance

Raising Financially Conscious Kids: Q&A With New York Time’s Bestseller Ron Lieber

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I first found Ron Lieber’s book about a year and a half ago while wandering through my local book store.  At that time my children were 4 and 2 and I was just curious by the title of his book.  What he articulates with practicality, wisdom, and humor, is that the teaching about money is fundamentally the teaching of values, and just like directly teaching values, it cannot be done in a vacuum with kids being taught a few rare times and with expectation to “get it” without some higher level conversations and processing. If parents want to be intentional about giving their kids certain attitudes and values about life in general, money must be a part of the equation.

Ron Lieber is the “Your Money” columnist for the New York Times.  Before joining the Times he wrote the Wall Street Journal‘s “Green Thumb” personal finance column, was part of the start-up teams at the paper’s “Personal Journal” section, and worked at Fortune and Fast Company magazines.  He is the autor or coauthor of three books, including the New York Times bestseller Taking Time Off.

 

Why do parents need to talk to their kids about money and what is the appropriate age to begin talking about money?

RL: You don’t get to choose when. Kids just start asking, often as early as two years old. (No kidding — a two-year old asked a mom I know why she goes to work when lots of other mommies don’t.) If kids aren’t asking about money or asking for things, start around the time the tooth fairy comes (if yours is a money fairy) with three jars. Even if they don’t spend anything in the spend/save jars, at least you’ll get them in the giving habit.

As for why, money is a powerful force in the world, and kids who have no practice with it then make bad decisions when it comes time to figure out where to go to college and how much to borrow to be there. Plus, talking about money is a great way to teach and reinforce the values you hold dear, since what we save, spend and give says a lot about what we stand for. 

 

In an ideal world, what is the role of the parents in teaching about money and what is the role of the school?

RL:  I’d just as soon the school stay out of it, since to me, money conversations are values conversations, and I want to be in charge of the values conversation in my family. 

Two exceptions though: Not every family has the privilege to be able to have money conversations. The parents are absent or ignorant or have bad habits or can’t bring themselves to talk about it. So in certain communities, a basic financial literacy curriculum on an as-needed basis late in high school makes sense.

Also, late in high school, every child should get a crash course in our nation’s hopelessly complex college financing system. Applying for financial aid is complicated, taking out and repaying loans are absurdly so. And we ask teenagers to make five and six-figure decisions about their futures when they have no earthly idea what they want to do with their lives (nor should they know). Professional adults can be helpful here in explaining the system and mapping the pitfalls. 

 

Do you think the way parents talk about money is learned from how they were taught about money?  How do we break that cycle?

RL:  Quite often, money isn’t talked about at all, so that is it’s own form of learning that needs unlearning. It starts with the recognition that talking about money is not impolite or impolitic or inappropriate — it’s a natural outgrowth of the curiosity that we want our kids to have. Money is powerful, whether we like it or not, so of course our kids are going to have questions and should have opportunities to practice using ever-larger amounts of money. But silence creates mystery and shame, so telling children and teens that money is none of their business is profoundly unhelpful. Of course it’s their business — the family’s revenues and expenses have a direct impact on them. 

 

As the holidays approach, what is the best way to deal with the onslaught of presents that our children get?  Let the child open them all at once? Stash them and let them have one a day? Donate half? Other ideas???

RL:  Set some limits. Maybe they can ask for one big thing they want, three things they need and then pick some charities they want to support. Or they get one big want, one need and one experience. Or all experiences and no things. Or you give them money and let them figure it out, with some of it going to charity. 

 

How do you suggest grandparents can contribute to the conversation about money or should they stay out of the whole equation?

RL:  Tough one. Grandparents can be judge-y about how their adult kids are spoiling the grandchildren. Or they may be determined to spoil the grandchildren themselves, since that’s what they think they were put on the earth to do. I’d be careful and ask first before making any outsized gesture or gift. Yes, you want your grandkids to love you. But mostly, you want to be remembered after you’re gone (which hopefully won’t be for a while). The best way to make that happen is to do amazing things with your grandkids, not buy them stuff that will break or be outgrown before long. 

The pressure to spend money on our children for sports, music, and other extra-curriculars is intense and starts at a young age.  You suggest that kids feel pressure to perform when we spend more and more money on them.  How do we create a balance of giving them enriching experiences and not overspending?

RL:  This is very hard. One important thing is to remind them as they go along that you are not spending money on their activities because you expect them to use their skill to get into college or compete on some kind of national level. You’re doing it because you know there’s real joy and pride to be found in working in a group or mastering a skill or sport. So you only want them doing it if it truly brings them joy. Also, try to remember one of the primary questions of this and all parental areas — how much is enough? How pricey of a violin? Or a baseball bat? Is the tutor and the private coaching for them or for you?


What is the current going rate for the tooth fairy? 🙂

RL:  I’ve heard stories of kids in Westchester County NY getting $100 bills. I like the more creative approaches though, like the family in my book that gives their kids a different animal tooth each time they lose one of their own human teeth…

The Louis S. Wolk Rochester JCC will be hosting Ron Lieber,  Author of “The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who are Grounded, Generous, and Smart about Money” on November 16, 2016 as part of the Rochester Jewish Book Festival. Tickets are available (585) 461-2000 or at rjbf.org.

In this book, he recommends showing your older children this video:

 

 

(c) 2016, Nurture: Family Education and Guidance