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

Surviving the Abyss of Motherhood

Dear Mama,

These days are the longest you’ve ever experienced, but you can’t get a thing done.  You nurse until your nipples bleed and lie on your bed in a moment of comatose to the new reality, and the baby cries again.  You look at the calendar and have a guilty moment of thinking about going back to work–a physical representation of your old life.  You think “maybe I was made without a maternal instinct like all the other moms.”  Your body will be fragile from the birth, the exhaustion of a newborn, the insanity of taking care of an entirely new human life.  And you will be permanently different.  

But look around for signs of normalcy.  The way your creamer billows in your cup of coffee to the most beautiful swirl the world has ever made.  How the warm water drip drops off your finger tips after you clean the bottles for the third time in the day.  The forever hum of the lights as you numbly embrace your freedom to go to the grocery store anytime of the day.  And in those moments, you can find a peaceful magic no one teaches you about in birthing classes or doctors appointments.  An alchemy of awareness.  A clarity of your tired senses, a calmness to your thoughts that are about the most basic of needs, and ok-ness to the new normal.

Be gentle to yourself. The only thing your tiny human needs is you–fully, authentically, essentially you.

Let go of the imaginary stories you tell yourself about how this should be, it will be what it will be.

Let go of your need to control how this will unfold, it will blossom at exactly the right moment.  

Let go for your desire to capture this perfect moment on camera, succumb to the perfection of the present.  

Let go of your attachment to the story of who you were–or should be, you are new again in every moment of this journey.  

Let go of the schedule that tells you that your new human is already doing it wrong, make up your own version of right.

No one will tell on you.

And in this dissolution of the self you once knew, you get back to how you started: perfect.  Exactly what the universe needs you to be and exactly who your baby came to for guidance on this planet.  Embrace the chaos because in this stimulus you can chose how you will respond.  Live your wisdom–it is infinite, it is powerful, and it is forever present waiting for you to trust.

With light and love,
You

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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.

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

 

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

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

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

Rotate the Blame

Even if your children are the best of friends they will inevitably argue fight and blame each other at times.  Even the best parent doesn’t always know who is telling the truth and who did what.  So what do you do in this situation?  Blame the oldest?  Blame the youngest? You can probably justify each.  According to Marriage and Family Therapist David Gaesser of Pittsford, NY, you have five choices: blame both, blame neither, blame one or the other, or, quite simply, you rotate the blame.

Assuming you don’t know what happened and are not sure if your child is telling the truth than if you blame both you are probably going to get a lot of anger from the one who did not do said behavior.   If you choose to blame neither then one (or more) is getting away with whatever was done.  If you have no idea who did what and you always choose the side of one child and the other will eventually start to notice the unfairness. Realistically it probably won’t take long for resentment to stew and it will become a destructive cycle.

By rotating the blame, you choose which one is going to get in trouble for this time and the next time you have no idea who did what, choose the other.  This will teach the children that when they create commotion, the caregiver is not going to make assumptions or judgements or take sides.  Instead, the caregiver is going to do the best he/she can to find facts and whey they can’t–and sometimes you won’t– rotate the blame.

*If you are having problems with sibling rivalry-we can help through private coaching sessions.  We also highly recommend the book: Siblings Without Rivalry: How to help your children live together so you can live too By: Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

 

 

 

The 4 C’s: Confidence, Calmness, Consistency, and Caring

Let your mantra for parenting include the 4 c’s.  Confidence, calmness, consistency, and caring.  Say it over to yourself.  Do any of these words really resonate with you? Do any scare you?  

It is hard to remain confident when you are a parent because, internet. Everyone else seems to have an opinion on how they do things and it is easy to second guess your choices.  If we were to try to make a list of things parents feel insecure about, it would be too long.  But, find your path and stick to it with confidence.  The fact that you are many multiples over of their age gives you the life experience to probably know better.  So, when the kids are whining and about to win you over on that ice cream snack at 4:30pm, remind yourself that YOU are the adult and YOU know better, despite their desperate pleas.  

Calmness is essential in parenting–especially when the kids are testing your patience. If you react, they’ve won.  You need to model being in control in difficult situations and that means staying calm when an injustice happens upon your kid.  Use it as a learning tool and show them how to get through tough situations in grown-up ways.  Like using clear, concise, communication. When you are disciplining your children, do not screech and show them how crazy they are making you.  Speak slowly and in a low timber and make sure they are showing you proper listening (quiet, eyes to eyes, body not moving and facing yours, nod/repeat to show understanding).

Consistency is the third part of this very relevant mantra.  Are you and your partner  (and the other caretakers) able to give the kids the same answer each time to their many varied attempts at thwarting the task at hand?  Kids are known for testing boundaries–its their job, and they are good at it.  But you are the adult and you need to show them that you are able to sick to the right decision for them even when tested.  It’s hard.  But if the answer was no more than one TV show tonight, no pleading, begging, or negotiating should be entertained UNLESS you want to have all your answers questioned with pleading, begging, and negotiating.  And you don’t, so be consistent.

Caring. The last and most important part of the mantra.  Let your love for your children overflow.  Love them for who they are and not what you wish they were.  Show them tenderness.  Give them your attention.  Listen to them.  Hug them.  Relish in their need for you.  Show them what it is like to love and be loved.

Be confident, calm, and consistent as ways to show them how much you care about them.  You are the adult, so act like one…not perfect but looking for solutions for the imperfections because that is what you will one day want your children to do as well.  

We are here to help you actualize this mantra in your home.  If you have found yourself heightened to any of these words, contact us. You are not alone and you will not be judged.  Parenting is really, really hard and good parenting is really, really, really hard.  Why not give your kids your best?  Don’t they deserve it?