10 Thoughts on Bringing Mindfulness Into Your Home

The other night my 6 year-old son was having trouble sleeping.  I got up to his bedroom and he just couldn’t calm himself down.  “Honey, do you want to try some mindfulness?” I asked and waited for him to laugh and say no-way.  But he didn’t.  I had taught him some basic skills (mindfulness of breath) a few weeks earlier and practiced a few times and as soon as I asked, he knew it was just what he needed.  We did a short practice–listening to our singing bowl 3 times and then noticing our breaths go in like we are smelling a flower and our like we are blowing out a candle.  When he calmed down, I simply said “I am going to ring the bell one more time and then I am going to leave the room”.  Then I did.  As I was leaving his room he said “Mom, turn my music on” and then he cut himself off “….no, no, never-mind” and he literally rolled over and went to sleep.

I am not perfect (by far!) and my kids are not saints (also by far!) but this mindfulness stuff is really working for our family.  For one, it has made me more patient and present with my kids and able to modulate my strong emotions better.  For my kids, they have started to really notice their own emotional states more and become more aware of their needs within those high’s and low’s which is an amazing life skill.

Truth be told, very young kids are the experts on mindfulness.  They are the masters of living without judgement or attachment but exposure to culture and unconsciousness teaches kids to care more about doing and achieving than being attuned and grateful of  the present moment.  Adults in their life may want to teach them a different way: the way of mindful awareness. Being on this path with your child, and in alliance with them on their journey through the highs and lows of life, will be a divinely gratifying and nourishing to you as their parent and greatest teacher.  But it is important to go on this journey with intention but also of awareness of these basic tenants so that the pendulum does not end up swinging back into more frustration, anger, or control for you or your child.

1. Start with parent.  The first step to bringing mindfulness into your home is to ask yourself what motivates your interest?  If your authentic answer is to change your child, it will not work.  Mindfulness is a way of paying attention, non-judgmentally, to the current moment and if your child does not want to do that it will not work.   Instead of forcing it on them, invite them to participate with you and be ok with them not being ready to learn it at this point in their life.

 2. Learn basic techniques.  It is important for adults to have a basic understanding of mindfulness before you start sharing it with your child or you are setting yourself up for failure and frustration.  Learn about how to have a mindful body, how to listen mindfully, how to bring your focus back to your breath, and how to integrate heartfeltness into your moment-to-moment interactions.

3. Choose a time of day to insert mindfulness.  Think about your daily routine.  Is there a time of day when behavior is generally good and your kids are ready to listen?  If your answer is like most parents, that may be hard to identify.  Try talking them in the car when everyone is contained.  But again, be mindful of your agenda, and willing to drop it if they are not interested.

4. Give them ownership of their practice and let children lead mindfulness.  Allow them to ring a special bell to practice listening,  cueing you to focus on your breath, or leading you through a body scan.

5. Don’t use it as a consequence.  Being aware of your present moment and your breath is not a punishment–it is the sweetest gift you could give a child.  Don’t allow it to be associated with anything bad or your child will resent it.  That being said, if you want to use it as an intervention for behavior, make sure a practice is established.

6.  Be consistent.  You can not do a mindfulness activity and expect it to be suddenly integrated into your child’s brain.  Like all learning, practice it regularly to strengthen the neural pathways in your child’s brain so that it becomes more and more natural for him to use it.

7.  Institute short moments of awareness many times throughout the day for yourself and invite them to participate.   Simply asking them to “notice how you are feeling” is a good starting point.

8.  Integrate simple rituals. Taking some deep breaths before starting a meal or putting your fork down between bites during a meal is a good way to fold mindfulness into your regular life.   

9.  Let them teach you what they know.  Listen with attunement and presence–exactly how you would want them to listen to you if you were explaining something new to them.  Ask questions and look for answers, together, if your child stumbles over their explanation.

10.  There is no one-sized fits all approach to mindfulness.  Kids of different temperaments, ages, and abilities will need different approaches to learning mindfulness.  Some kids might be interested in learning about the brain, others maybe interested in learning during a peaceful hike, and yet others in totally different ways.  There are so many directions to try.   

We will be sharing more mindfulness resources in the coming weeks so please follow us on FB/IG @NurtureFamilyEducation

© 2017, Nurture: Family Education and Guidance, nurturefamilyeducation.com

Archaeology of Parenting: Unearthing Yourself

Your essence is the most authentic, honest, real version of you.  Over years of development it often gets built over with other’s stories of who you are (or who they want/need you to be)–good or bad–but not essential truths of who you are on the most elemental level.  Eroding those stories we were told were your identity is a difficult but essential part of raising one’s own conscious awareness.

You don’t want to look ‘there’.  Maybe you tell yourself it doesn’t matter.  It’s in the past.  Let’s just forget it.  Or maybe you were told to ‘accept it and move on’ or ‘life is painful’ or ‘life is unfair’.  Sure you heard those words as a child, but who was telling you? Why were you asked to put your essential questions aside and let others articulate truth for you?

Your parents greatest flaw was their own unconsciousness.  Their own unawareness of their raw vulnerabilities and how that affected them.  Hurt them.  How they felt betrayed. Scared.  Alone.  They chose to candy coat those events–make them seem like sad but OK parts of who they are.  But they are not.  There are stories in them.  Unarticulated truths of existence that could lead them to their own divinity.  And get you closer to yours.  Proof of a life that means so much more than what it seems like on the surface.  How could one not be affected by the horrific truths that have been woven into the story lines they were a part of? How could that generational trauma not affect you?

With that bundle of perfection that you coddle with the warmest love, your are scraped into acknowledging your rawest essence–beyond your culture and your parents unconsciousness– and forced to look in the mirror and see–really see–who is looking back.  When we acknowledge our true being and remove the false layers of who we were told we were or who we “should” become, then we honor our unique way of being, and as a parent traversing the spiritual journey of raising humans.

So you’re an adult now, a ‘grown up’.  It doesn’t always feel that way.  When you find yourself lashing out at a child you know there is more–has to be more–from where those automatic stories you tell yourself are coming from.  How do you figure out where?

In the  solitude of the breath.

What artifacts do you need to unearth from your past to analyze, understand, and refile in your emotional database with a story that actually makes sense?  That gets to the heart of the matter?

On the breath.

What nuggets of truths can you uncover when you scuff off the layers of pretend and posing?  Will you be able to confront the pain of your family’s skeletons?

Breathe.

The truth is when you get closer the buried treasure might seem like bomb.  It may scare you and make you wonder who you are and why are you here?  How did you get layered into this mess.  It will make you question the stories–you may now call them lies–that you once owned as truth.  But be brave.

Inhale.

It may take time–maybe even a lifetime–of digging, sifting, and triangulating the data points to where they line up and make sense.  You may have to reach out to other willing family members (aunts and uncles) to unearth the real story of what happened to your parents.  You may not find anything for a long while.  

Steady now. 

Until you do.

Let go on the exhale.

The truth is the only way and making meaning of that is all you can do.

Keep breathing.

And you may realize all you have is emptiness. Nothingness.  This is not bad.  This is the starting point to rebuild a new civilization based in consciousness.  Reality.  Essence.  Pure joy.  With the emptiness there is wholeness.  The ability to be.  Anything.  Your choice.

 

Conscious Parenting Series coming up soon! Details on “Upcoming Events“.

Free Introduction to Conscious Parenting Webinar THIS WEDNESDAY 5/3 at 8-9:30pm EST.  All are invited!! Register at: https://app.webinarjam.net/register/39213/1f49240fc9

Confronting Independence

A large part of becoming awakened and growing up as our children need us to has to do with letting go of our attachment to, need of, and dependency on our own parents….By binding ourselves to our own parents for approval, permission, a sense of belonging, and love, we keep ourselves small and childlike.  This symbiosis of selves ultimately leaves little room for each to grow and thrive.  It then gets projected onto our children, enslaving them to our parental fold beyond what’s healthy”

-Dr. Shefali Tsabary “The Awakened Family”

When you birth a child, you birth two new people.  Your baby and you.  You are never the same, never disconnected to this life that came of you.  It even feels like you could never be independent from that soul–the one in front of you and the one within you. But you were once a new life in front of doting parents, and so were they.  What age is it time to let them be free again (are we ever?) and who decides?

Everyone grows up with some level of attachment to our parents–in some cultures and some families, that attachment is stronger than others.  Initial attachment is our emotional bond to our parents that gives them the desire to take care of our primary needs (eating, sleeping, safety) and eventually becomes the “engine of subsequent social, emotional, and cognitive development.” The confusing reality of this is that in order to be able to have a healthy attachment to your child-which has multitudes of short term and long term health benefits to you both, one must be able to honestly assess their own emotional bond to their parents.  One must ask, how did my parents do at keeping me safe, seen, secure and soothed?  

Many of us do not want to assess our attachment to our parents in any sort of negative light because we were told to “honor thy mother and father.”  But honor does not mean cover up, sideline, or perverse the truth.  Honor means telling the truth (sometimes to ourselves, first) about them, and their journey through life–because, whether they understood this or not, they were your first iteration of the universe’s expression of wholeness.  If that iteration had a facade of wholeness and perfection, or at least a good-enough version, we may still trust them to be the truth in our lives.  And if not your life, than in the life of your child.  So many of us turn to our parents in our own parenthood looking for answers, truths, affirmation of how we are doing.  Someone to say ‘you are ok. You are doing a good job.”  Mostly that is okay, until you allow that fine line of affirmation to be blurred into an outright acceptance of truth and you end up trusting your parents more than you trust yourself.  It is not a parent’s job to set your boundaries in an adult child’s way of being with their child, that is your job.  It is a hard part, maybe the hardest, of growing up.  Letting go.

You let them in as much as you need or want them there, but honestly assess whether you are giving them this power over your parenting because you need them or because you want them.  Confronting your own independence takes maturity, trust, consciousness and vulnerability.  Maturity to acknowledge that you are a grown up (even if you don’t always feel that way when you feel like you got lured into an argument with a child).  Trust to allow this process of unfolding your children to happen naturally with the good and bad.  Consciousness to awaken out of your blind acceptance of enculturation–of your parents and yourself.  And finally, vulnerability to admit you may have been wrong and will be wrong in the future.  

Setting parents free is different than kicking them out; it is a gift to you- and to them- and a way of stating that “you did a good job here but your job here is done, I’ll take full responsibility for my development from here.” It is a mature way of accepting your own adulthood and relieving them from any unintended damage they may have unconsciously done while raising you.  It is freeing both of you from dependence, codependence, and enmeshment and gives you the chance to have a mature adult relationship, as intimate as your boundaries allow, with your parents.

Not from our culture and not from our parents will we learn to parent.  We will learn only when we are willing to accept ourselves as unfolding on a perfect timeline for our evolution and that of our children.

Conscious Parenting series will be starting again soon! Details at: “Upcoming Events.”

Read More about Attachment here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/attachment

PS. I love you Mom and Dad–now more than ever.

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

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

Gift Yourself Presence to Your Heartache

I am in Fundamental Political Shock. Shocked, surprised and sad are just the beginning.  Hurt, deceived, angry, and stupid are also some of the feelings.  I want to hug my children and explain to them…explain what?  Today we are just surviving.

The first and last thing I want my kids to learn from today is that when we are on our Anger Mountain* lets start by focusing on being gentle. To ourselves.

The healing and recalibration process begins by starting with our feelings.

But its hard.  On one hand it’s personal.  This was not an affront or attack on our physical body but on our ideas.  But our ideas are just that ideas.  They are not who we are: we are our spirits, our hearts, our souls.  So let’s extend a physical hand and actually share our convictions, dreams, hopes.  Lets accept our vulnerability and be open to the differences percolating out there.  Lets not come up a cognition-driven explanation to satisfy our egos need to understand.  The reality is that people all over the world and our country are really different from us.  That is what we supposedly celebrate. So let’s walk with them. Let’s just be present with them and not try to talk through the differences or even celebrate our similarities-first lets just be.  And find a way to be OK with not doing–pro or against their ideas.

But I also feel stupid because I bought the lie.  I guzzled it up and proselytized it: Media made us believe that it was about a binary option; that this was: bad vs. good, intelligent vs. stupid, morally elite vs. financially elite.  This was never those things and we all drank the media’s kool-aid.

The lesson for our kids is that it is ok to be and not do.  We will do tomorrow. Today we will just be in our feelings.  Feel our feelings.  Accept our humanity.  Adults don’t always have all the answers and we can teach our kids that we do not always use our brains to solve problems. Our hearts come first.  And right now our hearts ache so let’s start there by dwelling in that, allowing the feels, and being gentle to ourselves.

*Anger Mountain is a way I illustrate anger to young children.  Being angry is like hiking a tall mountain–every step towards the top is harder than the last and at the top, you burst with feelings and end up feeling smaller, less empowered, more enraged.  The opposite also exists: Happy Hills.  Happy Hills are also steep, but hopefully more frequent.  And when you get to the top you feel bigger, exuberant, empowered.  So the goal when the child starts to feel Anger Mountain is to help them identify and choose to take other “paths” that can lead them towards a Happy Hill.  The paths don’t have to be positive emotions but rather useful feelings to get through the journey: sadness, fear, helplessness are just some.  It is ok to be in those feelings and need some time to work through them.  And holding hands with the right partner on those other paths always makes them easier to travel.  (And as a sidebar to that; as a parent, I hope to be that partner for my children but it is important to accept if they choose a different journey-worthy person).

What are you feeling?  What are the physical symptoms you feel?

How will you be gentle to yourself today?

 

(c) 2016, Nurture: Family Education and Guidance

Parenting with Rewards and Intrinsic Motivation

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Behavior.  Ah. There is so much noise out there on the internet about how to get your children to behave better.  The commonly accepted way of getting your children to do something usually comes back to what social scientists refer to as Behaviorism.  Behaviorism means conditioning someone to alter certain behavior patterns in spite of thought or feeling.  There is an entire branch of social science devoted to exactly how this can be done called Applied Behavior Analysis.  It is fascinating because used specifically and scientifically, you actually can get your child–or dog, for that matter–to complete any task you want.  But it is not a perfect answer for parenting a child (with average non-pathological behaviors) for a number of reasons.

A part of behaviorism that parenting literature is ripe with is the idea of positive reinforcement.  A simple explanation is: “Do this and get that“.  This can be very valuable to use as a parent but should not be the model of shaping behavior for one to use in the long-term.  I will explain further but first lets look at how is this different that a bribe.

Bribes are when you give the reward before the behavior is completed.  (ex.  Your child asks for a new toy when you are walking through the store.  You oblige and give them the toy but tell them that you expect they are going to clean their room when you get home).

Positive reinforcement is when you complete the behavior and then get the reward.  (ex. Your child asks for a new toy when you are walking through the store.  You oblige and tell them that AFTER they clean their room, they can have the toy).

Bribes are ineffective because the child has no motivation to complete the desired task because they already have the reward.  Positive reinforcement, on the other hand, gets the behavior completed and is therefore considered effective.

While positive reinforcement does get the behavior completed, the problem lies in giving rewards for completing behavior.  Implicit in positive reinforcement is a power dynamic that tells kids that they are less than the adults.  The problem with having this belief is that you are trying to raise individuals with thoughts, feelings, and hearts and a controlling paradigm does not teach kids to act responsibility, it only elicits compliance. Simply stated by Alfie Kohn in his book “Punished By Rewards” he asks: “Do rewards motivate? Yes, they motivate to get more rewards”.  So yes, you will get the behavior completed, but only because their was a reward.  There have been scientific experiments that actually prove that “children whose parents believe in using rewards to motivate them are LESS COOPERATIVE AND GENEROUS than their peers” (Kohn, p.174)

So what about punishment? How does that fit into this equation?  Punishment reinforces the power dynamic between parent and child to an even greater extent and this can be detrimental to a positive parent-child relationship where your child sees you as someone to be turned to and trusted with the good and the bad that they need help sorting through as they mature.   While a parents ego might feel good for having power, a child will feel unimportant, incompetent, impaired, weak, and unable which are exactly the traits you do not want someone who is learning about how to function as an individual in the world to have.   Your relationship with your baby might be a matter of providing for mostly physiological needs but as children develop they need parents to guide them through the higher level needs as shown below on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

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So the question becomes, if we are not supposed to use rewards to get our children to behave in a certain way, how can we elicit compliance when we want something to get done?  It is time to talk about intrinsic motivation.

“There is a difference between forgiving ourselves an occasional blunder and refusing to admit that certain approaches are blunders” (Kohn, p.233)

Instead of using your power to exert control or manipulation over your child, try tap into their innate desire to solve problems positively.  Think about the content, collaboration, and choice.  Content refers to whether the behavior you are trying to elicit is necessary and developmentally appropriate.  Then, work with your child to collaborate on possible ways to get the behavior done.  This problem-solving technique views the child as a parter who has equal power in coming up with solutions, not merely a droid who will do as we say.  Give your child practice in problem solving and they will learn how to solve problems.  Tell your child what to do all the time and they will always be looking for direction to follow.  And finally, the final part in how to improve our child’s intrinsic motivation will be to give them choice.  Let the kids be a part of choosing how the desired action will be done.  Empowerment for a child does not have to mean disempowerment for a parent–it means you are doing your child (and yourself) a favor to unfold this human into their full potential instead of forcing your will on them.

I encourage you to process this information and come back to me with questions and comments. I am available to meet privately or speak publicly on this topic.   Please contact me for further information.

Sources:

Kohn, Alfie. Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993. Print.

Tsabary, Shefali. The Awakened Family: A Revolution in Parenting. New York: Viking, 2016. Print.

(c) 2016, Nurture: Family Education and Guidance

3 Foundational Parenting Principles

The Parenting Philosophy of Rochester Parenting Coach can be summed up in 3 basic foundational parenting principles: KISS, set yourself up for success, and there is hope.  Essential to these principles is my mission is to empower parents with reflection, intention, and improved communication.  While my hope that your family dynamic improves, my intention is that is comes from the parents trying new approaches as a result of our work together not the kids simply learning new behaviors.  This will create confidence in parents and lasting change in their family.

The first principle is KISS–keep it simple, stupid!

So much of modern-day parenting is a bunch of stuff that gives parents anxiety that they aren’t (insert verb here) for their children.  While kids can be confusing for adults, they aren’t really too complex if you understand their emotional, cognitive, and behavioral development.  All kids (really, all people!) want attention, love, and to be cherished.  Yes, obviously you need some ‘stuff’ to raise a child but don’t be confused by what you want to give your child and what they actually need.  Needs are: a place to sleep, healthy food to eat, toys to keep them stimulated, a safe environment, a good sleep schedule, medical attention when necessary.  Wants are: lots of toys, vacations, added sugar, new almost-anything.

Behaviorally, your kids–no matter their age–need boundaries and love.  They need to know what is allowed of them and what is not tolerated (like violence of any sort, for example).  Boundaries give them comfort because it lets them know your expectations and what they need to do to fulfill those expectations.  Love is a nonnegotiable need for all people.  Different kids accept love in different ways.  Some may want quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, or physical touch (See 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman).   Give your kids lots of positive reinforcement when they do something you want them to do and give them love unconditionally–no matter what they do.

A simple environment will more likely translate in to a home of more emotional calmness.  When your child is quietly engaged in an activity allow them the peace and quiet to focus on what has captured their attention, no matter how trivial it may seem to you.  Too many toys in a playroom usually results in the kids playing with none of them.  Little children (5 and under) don’t care about expensive experiences–they care about attention from their parents.  If you do take them on an expensive experience (ex. far-away vacation, live theatre, fancy dinner) be honest with yourself that it is more about fulfilling your needs than theirs.   Overstimulation–in activities or environment–will cause anxiety for you and/or your young children–so try hard to keep it simple and have developmentally appropriate expectations!  And remember: the best things in life aren’t things.

It is important to understand your childs cognitive development so that your keep your expectations relative to their abilities.  Cognitive development refers to how they think, problem solve, and learn.  You want to push them just enough so they are interested to learn but not too much that they are overwhelmed and give up.  You want to clarify and simplify your expectations relative to your child’s development and try hard not to compare them to other kids.  Carol Dweck, well celebrated researcher on mindset, reminds us to celebrate the process of learning (which includes mistakes), not just focus on the outcome.  Being labeled “good” or “bad” (fixed mindset) can have detrimental effects on your child’s self-efficacy but being positively reinforced for their growth, hard work, and effort (growth mindset) will give them the encouragement and knowledge that continually learning is the optimal outcome whether they are 2 or 22.

The second principle is: Set yourself up for success.  Parenting is already a hard job–don’t make it harder by bringing your child into a situation that you know will not work out well for them (or you) and expect a miracle.  By adjusting your expectations–making them more realistic and honest with what their needs are–you will make your child and yourself happier, saner, and more relaxed.  Now, obviously there are times when we know we are bringing them into a situation that will be tough for them.  If this is the case, allow them to feel those feelings and recognize your needs versus their needs.  Are they/you upset because they/you are tired/bored/hungry? Are they/you upset because your plans changed? Are they/you angry because you are missing out on a fun time? Are they/you sad that you didn’t get to do what you wanted?  Do you have unreasonably high expectations for yourself?  When I had my first child, my only goal for the first 6 weeks of his life was to keep him alive and to shower everyday.  Seriously those were my life’s goals and some days, that was really hard.  As kids get older, you grow with them and learn to anticipate their needs.  Listen to that voice inside of you–it is the cultivation of a parental instinct and is gets better with the more experience you have as a parent.    

There is hope is the final foundational parenting principle of the Rochester Parenting Coach.  It simply refers to the fact that no matter how poorly behaved your kids are, how challenging they may be, how stressful parenting is, it can get better.  Ask for help early and often.  Don’t wait for little problems (my cute little 2-year-old won’t listen, ha ha!) turn into big problems (why won’t my teenager listen?!!?!).  I started this business after finding that my son was remarkably responsive to a well planned behavioral intervention and thought that everyone deserves to have some experienced eyes on their children and thus their parenting.  Be honest with yourself if you need help–this is a journey and even a slight adjustment can have wide-reaching positive or negative consequences.  You decide.