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From me to you, sweet new mama….

I have had the privilege of spending time with my very first best friend this weekend.  A best friend that showed up in my life when I was 7 years old…  One that has known me and loved me through my whole life – loved me and stood by me through all my stages of growth and development… 

This is a friend that has loved me unconditionally, been honest and real with me, celebrated me, protected me, and shown up for me when I’ve needed her the most.  We have shared so many experiences, laughed till I thought our faces would fall off, cried when things have seemed hopeless…  Decades of friendship and crazy times are behind us…

And now, we are sharing another landmark experience.

She is a new mom.

I am here in Phoenix, loving on her and watching her fall in love and puzzle out this new way of being.  For she is no longer living only for herself...  She now has another human being, one that her body grew, to nurture and raise.

There are so many things I want to tell her…  So many things that I want to share with all new moms…

Your child chose you, sweet mama.  You really did get the child that you needed.  Yes, I believe that your babies needs you, but an even bigger understanding that I have come to accept, it that your children come to teach you lessons.

You think you know yourself.

You think you know who you are.

You think you have grown into the human being you were meant to be.

And now you are a parent…  you think you know what that means….

I love you mama, but you have no idea.

This baby has shown up and needs you.

But even more importantly, this baby has shown up because you need him.

He will teach you patience.

He will teach you acceptance.

He will teach you about your flaws.

He will teach you about your strengths.

He will show you your darkness.

He will show you the light.

And right when you think you are finished learning, he will teach you more.

You have a choice.

You may choose to see through the lens of already having all the answers...

Or, you may choose to develop a new lens, one of curiosity and openness.

Are you willing to grow?

Are you willing to recognize your own blindness and insecurities?

Are you willing to dig into the things that you have become so good at burying deep, deep down inside?

Are you willing to make mistakes and learn?

Are you willing to take the time to learn?

Are you willing to change your mind?

Are you willing to accept the messiness that is parenting?

This baby of yours, he will challenge you in all of this.  

This child of yours…  He has gifts, opinions, and desires.

He will very likely not be the person you dream he will be…  He will be so much more.

And the best thing you can do is to know that he needs you to celebrate that, celebrate who he is in every moment of every day Celebrate what is interesting to him, what his strengths are.  Accept that he is his own person, his own spirit… 

Hold space for that spirit to bloom…

Everything you need, sweet mama, lives inside of you.  You have generations of wisdom running through your veins. 

There will be times of anger and frustration…

Times of self-doubt and unworthiness...

Highs and lows that you didn't know were possible...

You are the mother he needs, just as he is the child you need.

This life, this precious life we are all given to live, is ours to create.  The way that we move through the world, the relationships we build with our children, it matters.

So carry on, sweet mama.

Carry on and know that you are not alone.

For all across the globe, in every country, city and neighborhood, are other new mothers. 

New mothers that are figuring out how to live this new life.

Figuring out how to know what their baby needs.

Being confronted by needs they never knew that they had…

Don’t be discouraged, sweet mama.

This baby has shown up for you. 

 

Are you a new mama?  Did this post speak to you?  Please share this with others,  parenting is a collective experience, and we all need to know we are not alone...

And for more posts like this, as well as offers and other goodness - sign up for the Joyful Courage newsletter below :)

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The Secret to Being the Parent You Want to Be

I want to live from my center…

I want to raise my awareness of when I am moving from an emotional place…

I want to recognize when I am creating stories that do not serve me in being my best…

I want to expand the amount of time I have before I react to a challenge or overwhelm…

And I am guessing you want to do that to.

This is why I created the Centered Parenting Ecourse.  I want to create a community of parents who are actively working towards awareness, recognition and expansion.  I want to offer my passion for living with a broader perspective to like minded people, who are also raising the next generation…

This is what I’ve learned, it’s not enough to read parenting books, to learn new tools, to talk about our challenges with our friends – we must learn and grow and practice with our whole body. 

This is when change really becomes available to us.  This is when we can work towards shifting old patterns into new patterns.  Patterns that align with our values, patterns that represent who we want to be…

It’s fascinating, really.  You know, our body can’t differentiate between what is healthy and helpful and what isn’t…?  Our body just does what it’s learned how to do over time!!  This is why even when we make a pledge to stop yelling, or shaming, or being not very nice to our kids, it continues to be so hard to do.

 It’s how our body has learned to react to challenge.

The key is to look beyond just “I will not yell” and to really dig in to what you will do.  Because a quieter voice with shaming words and a scary expression is not a great alternative.

How do you want to show up for your kids?

I want to be calm and connected. 

How does this feel inside your body?

For me it is a soft belly, relaxed chest, dropped shoulders…  My jaw is loose (not drooling or anything, by not clenched), same goes for my hips and bottom, no clenching.

What happens when you go there?

When I am in this body, this posture, then calm and connected become available to me.  I have space to invite these qualities in…  I am teaching my body another way of being.  The more I practice going here throughout the day, the more likely it is I can tap into it when I am triggered by stress and overwhelm.

If this is speaking to you, please consider looking into being a part of the Centered Parenting Ecourse.  It is a five week online program that guides you through creating your own practices, while also highlighting Positive Discipline parenting tools that encourage more cooperation, contribution and mutual respect from your kids.

I would love for you to join us!  Sign up below for a sample of what you will get...

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Mindful Parents Create Mindful Kids…

I write a lot about self regulation… 

Self regulation can only occur when we are able to turn inward to the internal experience we are having during a stressful and challenging situation. 

I have had the great pleasure of participating in many parenting forums that are dedicated to peaceful, connected, yell-free parenting.  I have read the challenges of many parents, dedicated to a different approach to raising kids.   My heart breaks a little bit each time one “confesses” that after a dedicated few weeks, that they “lost it” with their child and are feeling as though they have failed.

I am all for taking the yelling out of parenting.  Blaming, shaming and humiliating our kids in no way teaches them the characteristics and life skills we want them to embody as adults.  This is what initially drew me to teach Positive Discipline.  But believing we have to be perfect, to be calm and loving, to be connected every moment of our parenting journey or we are failures, makes me so sad.

Don’t get me wrong – we should all strive for this goal.  This should ABSOLUTELY be the direction all of us parents are moving in, as much as possible. 

However, while improvement is attainable, perfection is not. 


And if you can show up as a calm, loving and connected parent 100% of the time, please write a book, because I will buy it.

Here’s the deal, WE ARE HUMANS.  We are emotional beings with layers of stuff that becomes triggered with no warning by these little people we love with our whole hearts.  We are sleep deprived, fearful, distracted or just trying to get out of the damn grocery store and shouldn’t beat ourselves up when we slip into our not best parenting selves.

Our children are humans too.

They are watching and learning.  They are noticing that things overwhelm mom and dad.  They are taking in our strategies for getting it together and self care.  They are forming beliefs about what it means to be in relationship and how to handle making mistakes (and falling apart on your kid is just that, a mistake).

I don’t ever claim to be perfect.  Ever.  I make plenty of mistakes, especially in my parenting practice.  And I let my kids know that I am not perfect, that I am continuously working towards being a better person.  I let them know that this is what life is all about.

My kids aren’t perfect either – they are KIDS.  They get mad, sad, embarrassed, afraid, and their emotions take over, leading them to crazy town.  I expect this, I understand this.  They have limited life experience and few skills to turn away from emotional overload, and turn towards logic and reason.

We talk about their brains and how they work (please read Whole Brain Child by Dan Siegel, it will change your life), we make lists of alternatives for when they are falling apart.  We let them know that they are welcome to have their emotions, but if they are going to drag us down into their blackhole, they need to find a place to calm down (this is when it is clear the meltdown is more about us then them).  

We practice.

And, I model what this looks like.  I take time for myself to cool off.  I change my posture when I feel overwhelmed and triggered, I meditate and talk to them about how I am trying to show up as my best, even when its hard to do.  I make it right after I treat them poorly…

And again, they are watching, listening, learning…


Last night my husband asked if either of the kids wanted to mow the grass (this is the only chore we pay them to do).  My eight year old son responded with a a quick “no.”  My eleven year old daughter popped up and said, “yeah, sure.”  And my son then sat up and said, “no, I want to!”

When met with, “well, your sister is going to do it this time,” he freaked out. 

“Its not FAIR!  Its my turn to mow the grass!!” and on and on he went.

At first I started with a “hey buddy, you didn’t even want to do it until she volunteered…”  Which, if you are a parent, as logical as this response seemed to me, you can imagine was not really helpful to him.

His emotions continued to rise to the surface and he left the room in a huff.  I let him be, because after many conversations about what he needs when he is feeling mad like this, the agreement is that I leave him alone.  So I did.

About ten minutes later, my son came back into the room and said, “Sorry mom…  I cleared my head, I meditated, and now I feel better.”  And he went outside to kick the ball around with his dad.

Yes, it was a golden moment.

No, it doesn’t always happen like this, but it is getting more frequent.

They are watching, listening, learning…


When I asked my son about this experience the next day, he described how his heart beat "loud and fast" and his body felt tense when he was mad.  He thought about how he wanted to hurt others.  When he finds a quiet place to "clear his mind" his heart beats slower and his muscles relax.  He said, "After a while (the situation) didn't matter anymore, I knew I could just mow the lawn next time."

So please don’t believe that you are only a good parent if you never make mistakes.  If you are making a practice of being your best, of modeling the messy, emotional journey of life, and making a point to reconnect and recover after your not so great parenting moments, then you are a GREAT parent.  And after a while, you will see your children begin to strive to be their best, or make it right when they aren’t…

Commit to showing up, being aware, owning your sh*t, and practicing self regulation.  This is the best gift you can give to your children.

Casey O'Roarty is a former elementary school teacher with her Master's in Education, a Certified Positive Discipline Trainer and Life Coach.  She lives with her husband and two kids in Monroe, Washington and has a passion for working with parents and families from around the world.

Check out the Intentional Parent Project - a 10 week program that supports parents with their personal mindfulness practice, as well as their practice of Positive Discipline parenting.

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Changing the World by Raising Good Citizens

This post was written in July of 2013 for Parentmap

 

When I think about the word “citizenship,” I think about how people contribute as a member of a group. The first group our children belong to is the family, and this is the safest place for them to learn and practice the skills necessary to be a good citizen.  Children today will grow to be our neighbors, our leaders, the innovators of tomorrow, so what we do RIGHT NOW as parents to cultivate citizenship in our children represents a powerful opportunity to influence our future society.

No pressure, right?

I imagine that much of the parenting we do today moves us in the direction of that goal of growing good citizens.  But can we do better?  Always.

Think for a moment about the traits that define a good citizen.  My guess is that phrases and attributes like good listener, good communicator, problem solver, solution finder, respectful of differences, ability to see others’ perspectives, creative, inclusive, good work ethic, kind and compassionate come to mind.  We could add so many more to the list.

Our kids learn from us, by our model and from how we treat them and others — much of our parenting flows from the example that was modeled for us.  The days of superior vs. inferior relationships are slowly changing.  The world will be different for our children and we must grant them space to learn the skills they need to be the citizens of tomorrow.

Societies all over the world are standing up and demanding equal dignity and respect.  And this assertion is messy.  Those in power are feeling very uncomfortable and pushing back.  There are very few models of this new vision that is being fought for.  Our kids will be citizens in this new community and workplace paradigm, so it is up to us to prepare them.

How do we do this?

Model effective modes of communication.

Model, practice and coach your kids while they attempt to solve the everyday challenges that come up within the family or their peer group.  Create space for all perspectives to be heard and honored. Understand that we don’t act our best when we feel bad.  Give them words to use to address conflicts effectively.  Wait until all involved are calm before addressing problems, and communicate why this is important.

Practice the art of finding solutions.

It is time to shift our focus from finding the right consequence or punishment when our kids make mistakes and start looking for solutions.  This shift creates space for our kids to learn and practice critical skills.  When we do this, kids actually learn from their mistakes and have tools for moving forward.  In Positive Discipline, we define solutions as related, reasonable, respectful and helpful.

Hold regular family meetings.

The most powerful thing you can do for your family is hold regular family meetings.Within this experience, children learn all the skills they need for being a good citizen.  Our family meetings happen every week and begin with a round of compliments for everyone in the family.  We then move into problem solving, with all members having a chance to share, and finally looking for solutions to the problem being addressed.  Listening skills are modeled and practiced, contributions and ideas are expected and values shared.  Solutions are drafted and then implemented.  This democratic process has been the glue that holds our household together!

Every time we can broaden our perspective, look past the behavior that is driving us crazy right now, and think about how the situation may be an opportunity to model, teach or practice a skill that will lead our kids in the direction of being “good citizens,” we are a part of changing the world.

And what a world it will be!

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Family Vacations…

The following post was written for my monthly column in my local paper, the Monroe Monitor,  the day after we returned from two weeks in Hawaii...

I love summer.

I grew up on the beach in Southern California, splashing in the waves, digging in the sand, loving every minute of the season…  Well, that is how I remember it.  I also went to a lot of camps and on trips with my family.  Looking back, it seems as if everyone was happier in the summer.

So it shouldn’t be any different now that I am a parent, should it?

My family was fortunate enough to spend the past two weeks in paradise.  We had nothing to do but play in the waves, the sun and sand, enjoy extended family, and eat food prepared by others… Ahhh, what could be better?

We were all looking forward to this time, counting down the days on the calendar, planning what we would bring, shopping for what we needed.

But here is the thing about family vacations – just because you change location and take a break from the speed of life, doesn’t mean you get a break from parenting.

“I’m bored.”

“Will you buy me that?”

“I don’t want to go out to dinner again.”

“Why can’t I wear my hat in the restaurant?”

“Can I have a treat?”

“Can I play my ipad?”

“I don’t want to go to the beach again…”

“But I don’t want to wear sunscreen!” 

I could go on and on…  But you know what I’m talking about, you are a parent and have taken your family on vacation – I have been laughing at all the posts I have followed of friends sharing about how tough it can be to live the experience they hope for.

Here were some things I remembered in my better moments to change the mood and bring us back to a place of playfulness…

Connect Before Correct – When I am present in my parenting practice I know that a lot of the annoying behavior that shows up while we are on vacation relate to the kids not feeling connected to us.  I wanted to be on vacation!  I wanted to hang out with my siblings and my parents and my husband, hoping that the kids could just entertain themselves.  Well, for the most part they did, but when they began to bug each other, I tried to remember, it was their way of getting my attention, their way of letting me know they were feeling disconnected.

Kindness and Firmness – There is so much, SO MUCH, to see and do and want when we are on vacation…  For the kids it may be treats or toys or anything that catches their eye at a gift shop.  There is a lot of “no” coming out of my mouth, add lovingly indulgent family members and you begin to feel like a great big scrooge.  “I love you and the answer is no,” was a response that helped me stay calm, even as my kids huffed and puffed and rolled their eyes at me. 

Validating Feelings – It is annoying to have to put sunscreen on each day (multiple times), it is tough to have to sit down to a long dinner with a bunch of grown ups every night, it does seem unfair that you have to take your favorite hat off when we go to the restaurant…  Our kids just want to know that we get them, that we understand what they are feeling.  When we validate them, we are saying “It’s understandable that you feel that way, there isn’t anything wrong with you for feeling that way….  AND you need to wear sunscreen/come to dinner/take your hat off.”

Limited Choices – Now, I am not going to pretend that validating feelings leads to easy kids.  Often, we need to follow our understanding with limited choices.  Limited choices are two things that work for both you and your child.  With the above examples they may be, “Do you want to put the sunscreen on your legs and I’ll do the rest, or do you want me to do it all?”  And, “Would you like to sit by me or Auntie Kate (she’s popular with the kids in our family) at dinner?”  Or, “Do you want to bring a bag to keep you hat in at the restaurant, or leave it here?”

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Keep in mind, even the most skilled parenting moments may not lead to full cooperation from your kids.  They are still going to fall apart, refuse your offers, and act in a way that leaves you wishing you left them at home… 

They are children, drawing from the same limited life experience they have whether on vacation or at home.  They are emotional, tired, hungry, hot…  I am sure that if I checked in with my parents about those summer days from long ago, their perspective would be different than my childhood memories…

But how we respond to them can make a difference.  Staying connected to them emotionally, validating what is true for them, and getting creative in our choices will help shape your vacation experience.  Kindness and Firmness allows you to respect their needs and respect yourself and the situation.

Stay present, stay centered, stay aware, and remember that vacations are for making memories…  Meet your kids where they are at with love and respect and enjoy the shift that occurs.

 

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Holding on While I Let Go

I have arrived in new parenting territory…  It didn’t happen overnight, I have been quietly observing this transition for the last year or so.  It is a part of every parents journey – the emergence of the adolescent. 

My daughter is 11 years old and earlier this week said goodbye to elementary school.  She has grown so much during this last year – academically, socially, physically.  Yes, she has been changing since the first moment she was laid in my arms, but this change, this transformation, is different.

It’s the way her face looks, the way she moves and lives in her body. It’s the care she takes with her hair, her clothes.  She is aware of herself in a new way, realizing that the world is aware of her and wanting to have a hand in what they see.

Sometimes it does feel as though adolescence showed up suddenly.  I catch myself watching her, intrigued by this new way of being she is embodying.  I am both excited and leary of the time ahead, knowing that it will be full of excitement and heartbreak…

My daughter has always been sensitive and thoughtful, cautious in how she interacts with others.  She has an observer mentality, holding back until she is comfortable with joining in.

On one hand, I hope that this serves her as she moves through the next part of her life…  I hope that the observer she is remains true and shows up when she finds herself in peer pressure situations.  I also find myself pushing her a bit to get out of that comfort zone, requesting she orders her own dinner when we go out to eat, speaks for herself when she has a question or a request to make of another adult.

It is a strange time.  Experiencing adolescence as the adult in the relationship is a trip…  I believe that I know how she feels, that I can see solutions to her problems…  I want to tell her, to save her from the pain to make her life easier. 

Anyone who has kids over the age of 11 know how well that turns out…

Besides, there is absolutely no room in her brain to believe that I have any idea what I am talking about, not to mention how clearly infuriating it is when I turn out to be right.

So I practice being available.  I practice holding on while I let go.  I practice keeping my mouth shut and my heart open as I feel the emotional roller coaster that can show up out of nowhere for my sweet daughter.  I hold a space of non-judgment (as hard as that is) and unconditional love.

I want her to know that no matter what shows up for her, I can handle it.  I want her to trust that I will listen to her, just listen, when she needs me to.  I want her to seek out my advice, when she wants it. 

I’m not naïve, I know that she will be continuously pulling away from me, and seeking support from her peers.  I recognize that this is natural and normal and important as she explores who she is separate from her family.  I know that she won’t share everything with me, that parts of her experiences she has from here on out will be hers to hold…

But I plan on doing all I can to stay in relationship with her.

It will be my job to hold boundaries, it will be her job to push them.  It will be my job to stay calm and present, it will be her job to feel her feelings and live through meltdowns…  It will be my job to keep my arms open, it will be hers to decide when she wants to be held….  Holding on, while letting go.

She continues to be my teacher.  I have no doubt that this period of adolescence will bring with it lessons and growth for me in abundance.  And with my heart open, I stand ready.

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Oh Firmness… Why do you elude me??

This may sound really crazy, but some days I feel completely lost when it comes to maintaining firmness with my kids…  Don't get me wrong, I know how to yell, to freak out and feel really bad about it later.  I know how to give commands and live in rigidity, grasping for control of a situation (or a child) when it feels like it's spinning out of control.

But this isn't firmness, this is reactive.  This is hurtful.  This is blame, shame and humiliation….  And it doesn't solve problems or change behavior in the long run.  Not to mention, it is completely exhausting, and I am not proud when I slip into this model of parenting.

I remember the very first Positive Discipline class that I taught.  I invited a group of moms from the Montessori school where my daughter went.  I asked them to commit to seven weeks, to buy the book, and to let me stumble through this new curriculum that I was so excited to explore…  Most of us had toddlers too, so one of the participants brought her home schooled son and we paid him a couple of bucks to keep track of the little people.

It was amazing.  Those women were a gift to me, digging in to the material, starting email conversations during the week as they played with the tools, asking questions that stretched me and help me to learn both the philosophy and the art of facilitating, at a deeper level.

I will never forget the week I introduced "Firmness" - we were 5 or 6 weeks into the course.  Firmness is introduced as a companion to kindness.  When we are kind,  we respect the needs of our child (read: we treat them as human beings and recognize that they are experiencing emotions, thoughts and beliefs that are leading them to the decisions they are making), when we are firm, we are respecting our needs and the needs of the situation.  Firmness is about following through with the boundaries we have set, about allowing our kids to live in their emotions, about modeling what it looks like to take care of ourselves.

Back to that class….  I am sharing all of this wonderful language around firmness with the group, guiding them through a role play that illustrates how to use firmness with a child that doesn't want to turn off the TV, and my huge 18 month old (really, he looked about three) is standing up in from of me, NURSING.

Not ever being afraid to point out the obvious, I say, "and clearly, I could do some work in the firmness department…"

Looking back on this experience, I wonder if this was the beginning of a pattern I have created in my parenting….  I recognize the needs of my child, yes, especially my son.  But have I coupled that with recognizing my own needs and the needs of the situation?

As I mentioned before, I know how to yell, to snap, to get rigid and demanding - this is not the firmness I am looking for... 

I also know how to give in with an exasperated, "Fine!' and walk away.  Again, not the firmness that I seek.

As I write this, I am beginning to understand that it goes back to me and my willingness to live in the discomfort of the moment...  My willingness to live through the emotional response I receive from my kids when I hold firm…  My willingness to quiet the always present voice in my head telling me how I am doing it all wrong and creating stories about a future that are irrational and unfounded...

Ugh.  It's so annoying!!!  What is the solutions???

HellllOOOO - I teach a fantastic program that I believe in with my whole heart - perhaps there are some answers there…  Ya think?

Here are the tools we share with parents who are struggling with using kindness and firmness at the same time…  The examples given fit the situation of a kid who doesn't want to do an after school  chore (yeah, this real life situation showed up just yesterday at out house…)

State clear expectations… 
I trust you to pick a job you can do this afternoon.

Respond with a question
I wonder if you can pick a job that you feel is quick and easy so that you can get on to playing in the yard?

State a given (i.e., a rule or condition) 
Our after school routines includes picking a job.  It's not always fun, its ok to feel irritated about it.

Check the child’s knowledge or understanding… 
What is our after school routine?

Invite cooperation
I know you don't want to pick a job, but to make it fun, do you want me to time you?
(This nearly always works with my son, my daughter?  Not so much…)

Limited choices… 
You could do your job now, or you could wait until after you eat a snack.

Say what you want/mean… 
You need to pick a job before you can play outside.  Its okay to feel mad about this. 

Use non verbal language…
Tap him on the shoulder and point to the jobs chart we have hanging on the wall.

Ahhhhhhh, easier said than done, right?

Remembering that there are tools for this, I am ready to turn this ship around...

My first step ( the first step for us all ) is to recognize what is happening in my body.  Generally my body responds before my head does - with tension and heat, tingles and tightness.  My shoulders go up, my jaw is clenched, my arms cross.  

After I recognize I am there, it is time to change my body - pull down the shoulders, release the jaw, open the arms….  BREATHE…  And invite compassion, or peace, or ease, or what-EVER I need in that moment.  

Once I am in this body, this present body, aware of where it just was and choosing to be somewhere else, THEN I can pick one of these tools to use during the discomfort.  This is the body I need to hold boundaries, to respect myself and the situation, even as my child pushes and grumbles, and falls apart because he doesn't like it. This is the body I need to treat my child with dignity and respect, even as the voice (that DAMN voice!) tells me to yell, to blame, to freak out….  

Ahhhh!!!  This is a wild ride!  It blows my mind the depth of growing and stretching and learning about myself that parenting brings…  I know I'm not alone out here.  I know you are struggling too…  Be in touch, share your story on the Joyful Courage Facebook Page, and join the tribe of parents who are determined to show up differently, to show up as their best self even when its the hardest thing to do...

Thanks for reading….  Casey

** An added side note to readers (6-16-14) - I was a proud breast feeding mama.  I nursed on demand for many years, tandem nursed the kids for about 3 months (whoa, that was intense).  My daughter nursed until she was three and I weaned my son when he was 2 1/2.  My reference to firmness around breastfeeding in this post is to highlight that sometimes disconnect between needs of a child and needs of the parents happens.   I had not set up any kinds of boundaries around nursing with my little guy, and this showed up while  I was in the role of facilitator of a class.  Up until that moment, it hadn't occurred to me that I needed to…  And maybe I didn't.  This post in no way is intended to place any kind of judgement around your personal beliefs around breastfeeding…  This is a share of my own struggles with firmness.  :)

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Locating my inner Buddha...

I am fresh from a training in the Buddhist psychology of loving awareness and amazed by how much of what was covered fits in with the journey of parenting…

Right off the bat, the speaker, Jack Kornfield (LOVE HIM) shared that Buddhist teachings are really a science of the mind, and understanding of our own mind and heart, our inner well being.

Going into this training, I had the mainstream understanding of Buddhism – you know, reincarnation, mindfulness, meditation.  I didn’t really understand how well matched many of my beliefs about the world, especially the internal human experience, were with Buddhist psychology.  It was not only transformative, but also, a really validating experience to learn more and to listen to language that so eloquently captured how I see the world.

No matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs are, most often there is a core idea that the soul in its purest form is love energy, the God inside of us.  Buddhist’s refer to this as our “Buddha nature”.  This spirit that we all have is our raw being – our place of unconditional love and compassion.

What happens as we move through life is that we begin to put on layers and layers of story, judgment, and patterns over this raw spirit.  Our experiences, our relationships, our self talk, all of this blocks our access to this place of spirit, this place of loving awareness…

In parenting class I have been talking a lot about “how we show up” to the relationship we are developing with our kids.  What is the invitation or the offer we make when we react to their challenging behavior?  Do we offer nonjudgmental connection?  Space for them to explore their internal experience?  Do we offer compassion and openness?  An opportunity for our children to feel as though they are seen and heard?

I was speaking about this in my parenting class last night, excited and bright from this amazing Buddhist training, and one of the parents asked, “Yes, but, what does that look  like?”

I took a deep breath and admitted, “I don’t know.”

Today I am realizing what a gift her question was…  What does presence, loving awareness, and openness to our kids, look like? 

Doesn’t this tell a story about the culture and the world we live in?  We want to see presence, we want a model, a how-to guide for getting there.  And when I say “we” I am including myself as well.

But presence isn’t seen, its felt.

Connection can’t be scripted, it must be lived.

Whoa.  I don’t know what you all think of these statements, but they have been a huge shift for me…  I have begun to really play with this.  I want to know, can I tell when my spirit is connecting with my child?  What does it feel like to have an open heart?  How does my offer or invitation change when I show up with loving awareness?

What I am finding is, before I can even get there, I have to find the spirit that lives inside of me.  I have to do my own work of peeling back the layers, the stories, the fears, the patterns that I have created to keep myself safe.

And there are a LOT of layers.

I could feel the exasperation in the voice of the parent who asked, “what does that look like?”  We want to know, we want to get there. and live there, and move through the world from this place of loving spirit.

To have access to that place, we have to practice.

To get to the place of our core, the place where our spirit dwells, we must focus our attention on the most basic of human actions:  breath.

When we create a practice around breath, a practice that allows us to quiet our mind, relax our body, and let go of our emotions, our spirit is revealed, our loving awareness is awakened.  This is a place of peace, acceptance and compassion.  When we think about raising our children, isn’t this the space we want to hold for them?

Moving forward, if we want access to this place in moments of stress and conflict, we first need to allow our body to become familiar with what it feels like to be there.  That is where practice comes in to play.

Here is a suggested way to practice:

     Find a quiet place to sit.

     Gently close your eyes.

     Notice your body breathing.

     Inhale and exhale for a bit.

     Imagine the ocean of your breath – coming in and out like tides…

     Thoughts and stories may also appear, you can release them into the tide.

     Come back to breath.  Stillness.  Openness.  Loving awareness.

     Continue this, noticing thoughts, releasing them, coming back to breath.

Grow this practice.  Start off with three minutes, once a day.  Expand your time.  Increase how many times a day you do this.  Show your body what it means to be present in the moment, present with loving awareness, compassion and acceptance.

Your children will thank you.

Only when we know how to get there can we access this spirit in the moment of stress and overwhelm.

Let me know how this goes, I will be practicing too!



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Play Does Not a Mother Make

Are you a parent who loves to play with their kids? 

Do you dive right in with imagination and fun and let them lead you into never-ending Lego battles and fairy stories? 

Or is there a lack of enthusiasm when you hear “will you play with me?” 

I posted about my deficit when it comes to playing with my kids on the Joyful Courage Facebook page…  It has been on my mind a lot lately, and something I have written about in the past. 

I am a light, playful person.  I am down to earth and super social.  In many area of my life, I love play…  It is always a surprise for people to hear that I am not a very good player when it comes to my kids. 

This is highlighted by the fact that my husband is KING of play, and is always shooting hoops, playing kickball or wrestling with our kids (as I write this he is working on a puzzle with my daughter). 

I love him, I love that he is willing to play, AND…..  It kinda kills me. 

So what is my problem?

Well, every time he is out there playing with the kids, I am forced to recognize that I am not.  Usually I am doing the dishes, or making dinner, or working on a project.

And I hear you – the dishes aren’t going anywhere, there’s time for making dinner, my kids are growing up fast and they aren’t going to want to play with me for much longer…  Yes, all of this is true.

But here is the deal.

I just don’t always want to play with them.

This was causing my loads of mental anguish last week.  What the hell is wrong with me?  How can I write and teach about parenting and not be a fun, play-loving parent?  I am a fraud!!!!  (Btw, it always comes back to that, me being a fraud….)

So I did something about it – I went out and played with the kids.  My son and I kicked the ball around, it was fun.   My daughter and I bumped the volleyball, this was fun too…  I played two of the longest board games ever without coming unglued.

 And then I had a huge epiphany.  Playing may not be the area where I shine as a mama – but there are plenty of ways that I do.

 I am fully present and available each morning, I wake my kids with love and walk them out to the bus stop.

 I am fully present and available when they get home from school, and hold space for them to unload about their day and move through their routine.

 I share dinner with them, making sure that the meals they eat are healthy and balanced.

 I volunteer in their classrooms each week for two hours, and am the PTA Popcorn Friday mama each month – popping corn for all the kids then spending time selling the bags for a quart during lunch recess.

 I enjoy spontaneous dance parties.

 I love to snuggle with them before bed.

I am fully committed to working every day towards being a better parent, a better person.  I am transparent in this work, inviting my kids in to the struggles of embracing the idea that we are on a life long journey… 

I am a kick-ass mom. 

Yes, I could play more.  Yes, I will play more. 

 But I am no longer going to tell myself the story that in order to be a good mom, you have to be a good player.  That story does not take me to a place of celebrating my strengths…

Playfulness can show up in lots of things we do….

Playfulness can show up in lots of things we do….

 A wise friend told me that maybe I should worry less about playing what they want to play, and instead, invite them into sharing experiences with me.  So last night, my daughter and I made homemade pot stickers.  It was FUN.

 So love yourself today.  And when you start to tell yourself stories of why you aren’t a good parent – change the story.  Instead, allow yourself to tell the story of all the beautiful things you DO do for your kids…

 

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Growing Into a Super Hero

Welcome to the March 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Everyday Superheroes

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about the remarkable people and characteristics that have touched their lives. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

***

What does it mean to have courage?

Do you have to be a super-hero to have it?

Who do you picture in your mind when you think about courage?

 

According to Wikipedia, Courage is the ability and willingness to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation.

 

To me, courage is doing the right thing, even when it is hard to do.  Being courageous is showing up, despite your discomfort and doubt, because you said you would. 

 

A courageous person is someone who is willing to move forward, to take the steps needed to be their best version of themselves. 

 

A courageous person understands that sharing their not best moments is gift for others who may be struggling.

 

I am a parent and a parent educator.  It is my great privilege to know and work with parents who are showing up to be better.  To me, this is the first step of finding our courage.  Recognizing that there is more to learn, more to grow.

 

It is an act of courage to show up in a roomful of people and say, “I don’t know what to do, I want to be better.”  And it is an honor to hold space for parents as they puzzle through their experiences and open their minds to new perspectives on behavior…

 

Parenting is a wild ride.  It is full of challenges and emotions that we never in a million years saw coming.  And just when we think we have it all figured out, our child moves into a new developmental stage and it’s back to square one.

 

What continues to blow my mind is how being a parent forces me to look inward, to take accountability of my actions, to dig in to the dark places that I would rather ignore.  I am amazed at the depth of learning and self growth that occurs simply trying to show up better for my kids.

 

For example, I have been known to be a control freak.  This is something that I didn’t realize until I became a mom.  Well, really not until I became a mom of two and my oldest found her own opinions on things.

 

Couple the control freak tendencies with a bit of a know-it-all and…  yikes!  Yes, lovely combo.  What happens when I become overwhelmed with emotion while challenged by my kid’s behavior?  I give commands, sometimes while yelling.  Or I don’t say anything and just freeze them out, rigid with anger or irritation.  Either way, the same ugly vibe is being created due to my behavior.

 

Its gross, and not something I am proud of.

 

However, what I have learned, is that these moments, these why the hell did I have children moments, offer me an amazing opportunity to build my courage muscles.  They offer me the chance to grow into a better, more connected and centered human being – and model what that looks like for my kids.

 

Brene Brown, in her book Daring Greatly, says, “Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do that what we know about parenting.”

 

It takes courage to choose our path.  It takes courage to embrace the idea that we design our lives.  It takes courage to recognize that being a better person is a daily practice.

 

But first, we must come to accept that our path is ours to live, ours to create.  When we begin the work of building a life of love, compassion, patience and self growth so many unrealized possibilities open up for us.  Instead of spinning our stories of blame and resignation for the way things are, we can start to take actions that moves us in the direction we want to go.

 

This is courageous!  Getting rid of the stories that are keeping us stuck is courageous, it is new and different territory.  When we take resignation and resentment for the way things are, out of our body, it leaves a space to be filled.

 

This is where the possibilities live!!!!

 

For me, when I began to own my behavior, recognizing that it wasn’t my kids “making me so mad,” I moved towards courage.  Because when I let go of blaming them for how I was feeling, the only other place to look was inside.  And anyone who is a parent knows how hard it is to accept that the problem may not lie with our children, but instead within ourselves.  Being able to say, “I’m sorry for the way I’ve treated you and am going to handle things differently next time” is courageous.

 

And that’s it!  When we let go of trying to control our children and start the work of digging deep and controlling ourselves and our actions, our courage shows up.

 

So good news, you don’t need a cape and a bunch of huge muscles shoved into a tight fitting suit to be courageous!  All you need is to look inside, to dig deep and own your behavior, and take new actions when you don’t like the way things are.

 

Be courageous!

 

You can do it!

***

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon March 11 with all the carnival links.)

  • I Am A Super Hero — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how she learned the hard way exactly what it means to be a real super hero and not a burned out shell of a human simply pretending to be one.
  • Quiet Heroics — Heroism doesn't have to be big and bold. Read how Jorje of Momma Jorje is a quiet hero…and how you probably are, too.
  • Not a Bang, but a Whisper {Carnival of Natural Parenting} — Meegs at A New Day talks about the different types of "superheroes," ones that come in with a bang and ones that come in with a whisper.
  • Silent courage of motherhood in rural Cambodia — Nathalie at Kampuchea Crossings marvels at how rural Khmer women defy the odds in childbirth.
  • Super PappyMother Goutte's little boy met a superhero in checked slippers and Volkswagen Polo, his grand dad: Super Pappy!
  • An Open Letter to Batman — Kati at The Best Things challenges Batman to hold up his end of the deal, in the name of social justice, civic duty, and a little boy named Babe-O!
  • My Village — Kellie at Our Mindful Life reflects on the people who helped her to become her best self.
  • 5 Lessons My Kids Taught Me — Children are amazing teachers, when we only stop to listen. They remind us to choose happiness, to delight in the small things, to let go and forgive. There is so much we can learn from our children. Justine at The Lone Home Ranger shares a few of the lessons she's learned.
  • Could you use some superpowers? — Tat at Mum in search shares a fun activity to help you connect with your own superpowers.
  • Like Fire Engines — Tam at tinsenpup tells the story of the day she saw a surprising superhero lurking in the guise of her not entirely mild-mannered four-year-old daughter.
  • Everyday Superheroes — Erica at ChildOrganics shares her list of Walker Warburg Syndrome Superheroes that have touched her life forever.
  • My Superhero of the Week: Nancy GallagherTribal Mama muses about the transcendent things her superhero mom has done.
  • My choice in natural birth does not make me a super hero — Bianca, The Pierogie Mama, discusses her thoughts on her experience with the perception of natural birth and putting those mamas on a different level. Does giving birth naturally give cause for an extra pat on the back? No! All mamas, no matter how they birth, are superheroes.
  • Someone's Hero — Sometimes being a parent means pretending to be a grown-up, but it always means you are someone's hero. Read Mandy's lament at Living Peacefully with Children.
  • Growing into a Super Hero — Casey at Joyful Courage shares how owning our behavior and choosing to be a better parent, a better person, is an act of courage.
  • A Math Superhero — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling writes that her 7-year-old daughter's superhero is an MIT-trained mathematician.
  • It Starts With Truffula Trees And Tulips — Luschka of Diary of a First Child takes a hard look at the realities of her relationship with her mother, and through this post goes on a journey of discovery that ends in a surprise realisation for her.
  • We Don't Need an Excuse — Maria Kang (aka "Hot Mom") asks women #WhatsYourExcuse for not being in shape? Dionna at Code Name: Mama asks Hot Mom what her excuse is for not devoting her life to charity work, or fostering dozens of stray dogs each year, or advocating for the needs of others. Better yet, Code Name: Mama says, how about we realize that every woman has her own priorities. Focus on your own, and stop judging others for theirs.
  • It's not heroic when you're living it — Lauren at Hobo Mama knows from the inside that homeschooling does not take a hero, and that much of what we choose as parents is simply what works best for us.
  • Superheroes, princesses and preschoolers — Garry at Postilius discusses why his preschool-age son is not ready for comic book superheroes.
  • The Loving Parents of Children with Special Needs – Everyday Superheroes — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares posts with resources for parents of children with special needs along with posts to help others know how to support parents of children with special needs.
  • Everyday Empathy — Mommy Giraffe of Little Green Giraffe shares why her secret superpower is everyday empathy.
  • The Simplicity of Being a Superhero — Ana at Panda & Ananaso explains what superheroes mean to her wise three-year-old.
  • My Father, The Hero — Fathers are pretty amazing; find out why Christine at The Erudite Mom thinks hers is the bees knees.

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How Learning to Play the Guitar is Making Me a Better Parent

I have been learning to play the guitar.  I have had a guitar for over twenty years, but have only begun the practice of learning to play it in the last six months.

It's all Taylor Swift’s fault.

I have a daughter.  She is eleven years old.  For her birthday last year we got two tickets to take her to see her favorite singer, Taylor Swift, in concert.  She was super excited.

And secretly, so was I.  I love to go see music and there is something really sweet and pure about Taylor Swift.

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August finally rolled around and TAYLOR SWIFT WAS AWESOME!!!  The venue was full of moms and daughters (and a handful of dads, boyfriends and brothers) singing and dancing and laughing and spending time having the shared experience of music, fun and joy.  My daughter and I had a great time.

So of course, after that, Rowan wanted to play the guitar.

Excited to ride the wave of this connection I responded with, “Let’s both take lessons together!!”

She loved this idea, so I signed us up at the new music store in town.

She even spent all of her allowance on a new, sparkly blue, acoustic guitar….  Oh the mother/daughter jam sessions we would have…..  Connected by our love of music…  I am so good at projecting into the future.

Well, it didn’t really work out how I hoped. 

It was the day of our fourth lesson.  It was a Friday.  I was getting things ready to go, and Rowan approaches me and tells me she doesn’t want to take guitar lessons anymore.

Dagger to my heart.

It is so interesting to look back and think about all the emotions that showed up for me in that moment.  It was a bit like getting the wind knocked out of me at first – that crazy moment when you realize that you can’t breathe…  There is a desperation that shows up, quickly replaced by my own regret of not learning to play guitar earlier in my life, followed by the sense of rejection.

These emotions do not generally support really quality parenting.

What are you talking about?  You spent all that money on your guitar! 

We’ve already paid for this lesson!

 Fine!  Whatever!  I’m still going…

The last response was my failed attempt to just let it go.  I say failed because I didn’t let it go, I just stopped talking.  What I did do was an epic silent treatment (read: I'm just going to ignore you so you feel bad and know that I am mad about this) that lasted the whole ten minutes leading up to me leaving.

Ugh.  As soon as I got into the car I felt like a huge jerk.  I had reacted emotionally.  It hurt me that she wasn’t interested in having this experience with me and I hurt her back.  So lame. 

I went to the lesson and told the teacher he would only be working with me, that Rowan was done.  My teacher, being the wise fellow he is, made a point of letting me know that she may not be done, that she was just done for now.

And then I realized something big.

I saw the gift in the situation.

I was going to learn to play the guitar. 

My kids were going to have the opportunity to watch me going through the process of learning something new.  They were going to see and hear me practice.   I would be a model for them, as they continue to learn new things.

I can’t quit the guitar, even if I want to...  I am now on a mission to learn how to do it, to enjoy the learning, to carry on even when a song or a chord feels impossible.  I am vocal about my difficulties, and excited when I have a breakthrough.  I practice lots when the kids are home, so they can hear my progress.

And guess what?  My kids are taking it all in….   I am learning a Taylor Swift song (bwahahahaha) and teaching Rowan some of what I am learning.  She is guarded, but sometimes open to playing with me.

I am remembering how it feels to be a learner…  How overwhelming it feels to have someone show you something you can’t believe you would ever be able to do.  How tedious it can feel to practice the same small step over and over.  How challenging it can be to make time to practice… 

Its not easy to decide to be a learner, and our kids are learners by default.  They are constantly be confronted with new skills and problems that they can’t wrap their head around. 

Learning to play the guitar has offered me an opportunity to grow my compassion for their overwhelm... 

Who knew learning the guitar is helping me to be a better parent???

“The real juice of life, whether it be bitter or sweet, is to be found not nearly so much in the products of our efforts as in the process of living itself, in how if feels to be alive.”
-  
Gearge Leonard, from Mastery; The Keys to Success and Long Term Fulfillment


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Today was a WIN

I erased my last blog post.

I was pissed.

I was sitting right next to my eight year old when it happened…  Just one click of a button was all it took.  Just one.  And it was gone. 

And it was a good one.

I was pissed.

“AH!”  I said.

“What happened?” asked my son.

“I just erased my last post – nooooooo!!!!”  Somewhere in my mind I was thinking, oh nice, an opportunity to model what it looks like to handle disappointment.  I quickly pushed that thought away.

I said the “f”word.  Quietly…..  but I said it.

He didn’t hear me, I asked him later.

Oh my gosh, self regulation is so hard!!!  ESPECIALLY when we are dealing with major disappointment and frustration.

“Its not a big deal, mom.  Just write it again.”

Oh kid… 

He was trying to help.  In fact my husband had the same response, “Can’t you just write it again?”

Fortunately, no one got punched in the face.

But that disappointment lived with me for a while.  It was really hard to shake off.

The title of that blog post was “Climbing out of the Rabbit Hole.”

Ha.

It is so easy to be the adult and dismiss our kids emotional outburst, label them as irrational, manipulative, ridiculous…  And yet we, THE ADULTS, can so easily be knocked down by disappointment and discouragement and fall apart.  Or maybe its just me??

Hmm. 

We have work to do…

Today I got to practice my work.  Our family went up to our local ski area and my son found himself feeling anxious about his snowboard lesson.  This was week 3 for him and he was still low on the learning curve.

Funny though, it didn’t come out that he was anxious about the lesson. Instead he found a million other things to fall into a funk about.  Before we could head out of the parking lot, he was throwing his little neck gator on the ground, “this sucks” he said, over and over. 

“You suck,” I said, not triggered, just to shock him. 

It totally did. 

He got in the van, crossed his arms, and closed the door.

I told my husband and daughter to go ahead, that we would meet them on the hill.  My son was stuck and discouraged and I didn’t think everyone needed to pay for that…

I have been in this exact situation with him before.  In fact, I think we were parked in almost the exact same spot that this went down.  I even blogged about it, Mommy's Mistake..  Neatly 2 years ago and today we were living the same challenge…

This time was way different.  I was determined, I had declared that I would stay positive no matter what he dished out.

I got in the van and sat down.

“You said I suck,” was the first thing he said.

“I did.  I don’t really think you suck.  I just wanted to see if you heard me.”

“Can I tell you a story?”  I asked,  “two years ago we came up here for ski lessons…”  I told him the story of another time that he was so discouraged, and I was not helpful.  I told him the story of me being a mean mom.

He perked up a bit at this.  Mean mom stories are always interesting to my children.  My mistakes, my human-ness, is, apparently, really intriguing...

After the story, we sat there for a few minutes.

“I’m nervous to get on my snowboard today,” I said.  “I haven’t snowboarded in a few years.”

“I’m nervous too,” Ian said. 

“Is that what is going on?  You’re nervous about you lesson?”

“Yeah…”

So we talked a little bit about that.  About how uncomfortable it is to learn something new.  About how challenging it can feel to push through the process of learning…

“I think I’d feel better if we did a couple runs on the magic carpet.  Will you come with me?”  I asked him.

“Yeah,” he said.

And that was it.  He turned it around. 

We did a couple short runs before his lesson started, and I dropped him off with his instructor.  I worried about him all morning, hoping he was able to shake off the discouragement and have a good time.  I reflected a bit on how I also hoped he wasn’t a “tough kid” in his group, that he was easy and well liked.  Hmmm, it is so interesting what we are attached to…

Turns out, he had a break through day on his board today.  It was the day he went from “I know what I can’t do and I don’t like it” to “I’m getting it!”  He had a great time and was all smiles when we met up with him for lunch.  He was ready for more and we all did a couple more runs before we left for the day.

Today was a win.

Today I shared space with him, let him feel discouraged, and was present with him.  He worked out his resiliency muscles.

“You are the one in charge of designing you’re day.”

This is what I told Ian earlier, while we were in the van.  I said it again before his lesson.

Later on, I became moody about something or other, and Ian got close to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “you design your day, mom.”

Sigh.  I love my kids.  They teach me so much.  They drive me crazy and force me to work harder than I want to sometimes….

But I love them.

And today was a win. 

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Finding Our Center

Breathing in, I fill my body with new air, 
the air of possibilities, the air of the moment…
Breathing out, I let that air leave my body,
centered, present, open to the unexpected…

And so it has been for me lately. 

Friends, I have missed you these past weeks…  I am so excited to be connecting with you right now.  Life has been so busy – the season has had a hand in filling up my days, but I have also been held by the evolution of my own self-care practice, and reflecting on how I show up in the world.

Yes, it’s going to be one of those posts…  But stay with me, I think there is something here for everyone, even those of you who aren’t very woo-woo ;)

So I have been working on bringing mindfulness into my daily practice of being.  I’m sure you have heard the word “mindfulness” out in the world, and some of you may wonder what in the heck it means.  To me, a practice of mindfulness is an effort to be present and curious…  Present in the moment, in my body, and curious about the thoughts and narratives that show up for me throughout the day, during my interactions with others and myself. 

To me, being mindful is the same as being centered.  When I am centered, my body is in an open posture, my thoughts are clear, and my breathing is even.  I embody compassion and tenderness.  I am curious.

As a parent educator, I have the privilege to work with so many loving parents.  Parents who want to keep their kids safe, want to teach them manners, want to feel as though their children have what is needed to be successful and happy in this world.  I mean, its what we all want, right?

Recently, I was teaching a PD Early Years class with a group of parents who have kids under 5.  Actually, this group had kids 2 and under.  One of the mamas, close to due with her second babe said, at the end of class, “So I am still wondering how I get my 2 year old not to run in parking lots…  Soon I will have an infant in a car-seat and won’t be able to chase after him…”  She wanted an answer, the words and actions that would help her handle this situation that was sure to come up.

This happens a lot, a specific example of mischief is shared by a parent, and they look at me with pleading eyes, hoping I can tell them exactly the right thing to do to “fix” the problem.

I was fortunate enough to hear Dan Siegel speak about the teen brain earlier this week.  His work is so powerful, and he is a fantastic speaker…  During the Q&A a mother walked up to the microphone and asked Dr. Siegel if he had any advice about how to handle a teen who was eye-rolling and rude.

His response blew my mind.

“My first piece of advice is for you to find your center.”

What????  Dan Siegel, the BRAIN SCIENTIST is advising a parent to find her center???

This was so totally exciting to me.  This is similar to what I say to parents, and often I get caught up in my own assessment of whether or not they like that advice…  Hearing Dan Siegel say it out loud brought great validation to what I believe.

Positive Discipline is founded on the idea that human behavior is motivated by a person’s perceived sense of belonging and significance.  One of the main criteria for practicing PD is the idea of kindness (connection) and firmness at the same time.  And what do we need to be kind and firm at the same time???  We need to find our center.

A powerful tool that we teach to parents and teachers is called Connection Before Correction, connecting with the child before correcting the behavior.  What do we need to authentically connect with a child engaged in mischief???  We need to find our center.

 Other tools we share – Decide What You Will Do, Validate Feelings, Natural Consequences, Look for Solutions, Follow Through, Take Time for Training, Use Humor, Let Routines be The Boss – ALL of these tools require that we find our center!!!

Parenting is about showing up for our kids, being present, modeling self-regulation.  Part of being a child is exploring the world, testing limits, questioning boundaries, and yes, making loads of mistakes.

2 year olds will run in parking lots.  It’s not safe, its scary.  Teenagers are going to roll their eyes and act rude.  It’s not respectful, it hurts.  Finding our place of center, that place where we aren’t taking their behavior personally, not projecting to what could happen, not being overruled by our emotional attachment to the situation, allows us to truly be there for our kids. 

Some toddlers run in parking lots.  It’s a large space and you are busy and it’s fun.  Is it ok for them to run in parking lots?  No.  Would it help them do better to be shamed, blamed or humiliated?  No.  Would it be helpful to take lots of opportunities to practice?  Yes.  Would it be helpful to have creative conversations about how to move in parking lots before being in that moment?  Yes.  And a parent who can be kind and firm (centered) while handling this phase of their toddler's life will find their children will move through it quicker. 

Some teens roll their eyes and are rude to their parents.  It is a challenging time of development for them and they are making sense of it best they can.  Would they be inspired to be more respectful if we respond with shame, blame and humiliation?  No.  Would it be helpful, and model what we want, by getting in their face and letting them know just how rude they’re being?  No.  Are they likely to want to maintain a relationship with us if we can show emotional honesty?  Yes.  And a parent who is centered can say, “It hurts me when you speak to me like that” and avoid the power struggle that was likely to go down otherwise.

My centering practice begins first thing in the morning.  The internet is full of amazing guided meditations to start your day and set your intentions.  One of my favorites comes from Leonie Dawson and is called The Best Day Ever meditation.  I sit comfortably and really connect with my body and the space around me.  I release what isn’t serving me, replacing it with love and light, tenderness and compassion… 

Each morning, I have been kissing my kids to wake and asking them if they want to join me in meditating.  We aren’t a family that goes to church.  We don’t “pray” in the traditional sense.  Inviting my kids into my morning meditation practice has helped them begin to explore the internal aspect of their human experience…  Sometimes they want to, sometimes they don’t.  But I invite them every day.

Last night I was playing around with some software to create my own guided meditation.  My son came in and wanted to get in on the action…  The result is testament that our morning practice is making a difference.  I have shared it with you at the bottom of this post.

So I encourage you all to be more mindful.  Find ways to connect with your center and set your intentions.  And invite you kids into your practice…  And a practice it is – and your children will continue to offer up daily opportunities to find and move from your place of center!  Let me know how it goes…

Holding you all in loving tenderness,

Casey

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Self Control – Not Just for Kids…

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Self Control – Not Just for Kids…

I have been planning on writing a post about the need to teach self control to our kids.  I was thinking just today that it may be one of the most important things we offer our kids – encouragement and experiences with practicing self control.

Oh, right, and having the grace to model it ourselves.

I am not always good at this.  Sometimes I am a champ, so proud of how I stay rooted in my values while being flexible with the challenges my children bring me.  Sometimes I am the parent I want to me.

Sometimes, I’m not.

Lately I have been really challenged.  I have been allowing myself to get really caught up in the emotions that are triggered by my family, finding myself sinking into the logic of "oh, let them pay…  let them walk on eggshells…  let them feel as bad as I do… "

This is such an ugly place to be.  It correlates with what I am eating, how often I am exercising, and how behind on work I am.  I become unhappy with myself, and turn that hurt towards those closest to me.

At least I am self-aware, right?

Unfortunately, even this self awareness isn’t always enough for me to decide to turn it around.  Ultimately it is up to me.  Its about self control.  I feel bad, do I have enough self control to get it together?  Be present for my family?  Take care of myself?  Only I can answer these questions….

Ha!  The thought that it is up to ME to teach, model and provide my kids with opportunities to practice self control feels like the biggest JOKE sometimes!  I hear myself telling the kids things like:

“You are in charge of you….”

“Snap out of it….”

“You don’t need to take us all down with your mood….”

“You have tools to help yourself feel better…”

I say these things out loud, and then I think – MAYBE YOU SHOULD TAKE YOUR OWN ADVICE?!?  Seriously, sometimes I yell this in my head.  And then comes the gremlins, the voice of self doubt and shame….  Ugh, the spin out is exhausting…

But tonight I reminded myself what I am capable of.  Tonight I was a pillar of self control – not only that, I followed it up with guiding my child through an activity to help him do better – yay!

Here is how it went down…

The kids are in charge of doing some “family work” after dinner.  I have written about it before, tasks to help tidy up the kitchen and build a sense of significance and meaning.  My sweet seven year old gets into the habit of taking forever and has trained me to get really BUGGED OUT before he moves it along.

Basically, he has made the completion of his family work my job.  And on occasion, it sends me over the edge.

Because he has been successful at this task before, staying focused and getting it done, it really gets under my skin when he doesn’t just move it along. 

I don’t know if I can back this by science or anything, but to me it seems a lot like that moment that I just decide to let the emotions take over….  There is a moment where I get to decide how to handle the situation, and its easy to be reactive rather than work to be different – I feel like it is the same for him.  Perhaps it is easier for him to wander, distracted, unattached to his responsibilities (perhaps this responsibility makes him feel discouraged and this is his way of avoiding that uncomfortable feeling?  Oh man, I could be on to something…), rather than getting down to business and doing his work. 

It's about practice. 

I become triggered by his avoiding behavior – sometimes to the point where I am getting in his face, shaming, blaming to get him to do what needs to be done.  I feel bad, he feels bad – it sucks.  AND, he doesn’t get any better at handling this discouragement.

Tonight I was different.  I stayed calm, still clearly annoyed by the whole situation, but I didn’t fly off the handle. I stayed calm.  I gave a lot of reminders, and stayed present.  I won’t pretend that I was smiling, I wasn’t – I am sure my son knew that I was irritated.  And I stayed calm.  I modeled self control, and it was clearly tough work.

It’s about practice.

If I can practice this, so can my kids.

A bit later my son and I had a little chat about how the evening felt for him.  It took a bit of effort for him to realize that I wanted his honest opinion of family work time, not just a canned response of what he thought I wanted to hear.

“Tell me how you feel about family work.” I said to him.

“I don’t like it, it takes so loooooong, I don’t like packing my lunch after dinner, “ he replied.

“Hmm,” I said, “do you have any ideas about how to make it easier?  Any solutions to help you do better?”

Now, I have a normal kid, so at first he just shrugged, and responded with an “I don’t know.”  This is what happens until they realize that you aren’t laying a trap down for them, that you are genuinely curious and ready to hear their ideas without judgement.

His first idea for the list of solutions was to “make a chart.”  I laughed as he reflected that we have a “million” charts around our house.  I wrote it down and asked for more ideas.  Others included using a timer, and setting it for 15 minutes to try and beat the time, using a stopwatch to time himself, not bringing toys downstairs when its dinner time, and to make lunch in the afternoon rather than at night.

He circled the ideas he wanted to try for the next week.

“How are you going to remember these?” I asked, not wanting it to be my job to remind him about his solutions….

“I don’t know.”  Of course he said that, he’s seven.

“I have some really fun pens up here, do you have any drawing paper?  You could write these helpful solutions down…” I suggested.

That is exactly what he did.

Ian's solutions for a smoother Family Work time...

Ian's solutions for a smoother Family Work time...

Our children need to see self control in action before they can begin to embody it.  We (parents) get caught up in our emotions from time to time, yes.  But why is it we expect consistent self control from our children, when it is so often a challenge for us?

I don’t think anyone can embody self control all the time – and that isn’t the point.  We have continuous opportunities to practice self control, and that is what this whole journey is all about. 

Our conscious effort at controlling ourselves, even when the strain is obvious, will do more to teach our children to control themselves than any lecture or consequence.  When they can see it in action, can watch us doing our work, they have a model for what it looks like.  And when we are in control of ourselves, we are available to help our children solve problems, find solutions, and be their best selves..

 

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The Starting and Finishing...

Oh wow.  Is anyone else's head spinning because of the speed of time now that the school year is underway?

You may have read my lovely advice about how to make the start of the school year smoother, and then followed that up with the recap of how our start of the school year was the opposite of smooth...

You will be glad to know that we have found our groove over here, and are back to a place of relative peace and calm.

One thing that keeps coming up for me is the need for connection with my kids in the morning and in the evening.

Now, all of us that send our kids off to school every morning, and try to get them into bed each night, can agree that these times are ripe for conflict.  The children move at their own pace, as if the world waits for them, while we are      hyper-sensitive to time, feeling as though any lollygagging will result in them missing the bus or never getting to bed...

Unless, of course, that's just me...

When we look at the morning through this lens, so much unnecessary mischief can come into play.  In the mornings, I sometimes catch myself taking on the role of drill sergeant, barking out orders, sounding a lot like this --- 

    "Get dressed! "

    "Eat your breakfast! "

    "If you are finished with your business, GET OFF THE TOILET!!! "
      (Seriously, I said this out loud just this morning...)

 

Now, I know how ineffective this is - and yet, it's so easy to find myself here.

And the funny thing is, my kids don't move any quicker, they just feel bad.

So what I have been trying to keep in mind lately is the power of connecting with them in the morning before the school bus comes.  When they feel as though I see them, really see them,  they are more responsible and responsive  to the morning routines.  When I slow down, they relax and end up moving along.

I have an 8 o'clock alarm on my phone that says, "leave them with love."

This is a powerful reminder to me that I am sending them off to spend the day without me.  I want them to feel my love and encouragement throughout the day.  Even when I feel a little bit (ha) tense or irritated in the morning, this timely alarm gently guides me to wrap my arms around these young people, hold them, and tell them I love them. 

I feel the same way about connecting with the kids before bed.  We have a pretty regular bedtime routine.  Jammies on and upstairs by 7:15 if they want to play a game, 7:30 or so is my son's time to read to us, then we have a novel that my husband or I read aloud till about 8:30.  After that, the kids go to their beds and we spend 10 minutes with them, one on one.

This 10 minutes is magical.

This is when I hear about fears or confessions.  Sometimes I prompt the conversation by asking them to tell me about a time they felt proud, nervous, brave or thankful that day.  I love the answers I get from these questions.   I feel our relationship strengthen, their trust in me, themselves and the world around them grow.  I am so grateful we have this special time together each day...

When I leave their room each night I am smiling...  Not thinking "YES!  They are finally in bed," (well, ok, that does enter my mind sometimes...) but rather, "damn, I have the best kids."   The mistakes I may or may not have made throughout the day with them feel smaller, the self talk more positive.

I feel such a strong connection and gratitude for these little people.

And what a lovely model we become for what relationship looks like.  Also, I notice that when I  feel connection and gratitude for my kids, I am more thoughtful in my parenting, likelier to stay centered and connected to my values.  And this is when I am my best self :).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

So, I have a story to tell…  I have been telling small bits on pieces of it on my Facebook page, and now I am going to tell the full story, to share the lessons my son has been teaching me over the past two weeks…

Let’s go back to summer – we had a really great summer.   We were busy with camps and sunny days in the neighborhood…  It was super fun for us all.  We lost a lot of our structure from the school year, and it was ok, because everyone was really enjoying each other, and it felt as though there was still order within the freedom of those sunny days.  I was feeling like we were in the sweet spot, and time when the kids were proving to me that the work I do, what I teach, truly helps them to be their best.

Finally, back-to-school time rolled around.  Honestly, I was ready for the school year to begin.  I love schedules and structures and routines.  I wrote a blog post about heading back to school, and how to support your children.  I knew just how to transition my kids into the school year.  I had a clear vision of what it would look like and really had no doubts that my kids would fall in line…

This is where the lessons begins.  I have written before about how my daughter is my teacher.   I have shared that my relationship with her teaches me so much about myself, and tests me to be my best.  Well, this story is about my other teacher, my son.  My nearly eight year old, second grade son, who melts my heart.

Here is how it went down.  I knew it would be important for the kids to have a set routine when they got home from school.  I figured the one from last year was fine, and added on for Ian to read 15 minutes/day to me, and decided that lunch making should be on there too so we didn't have to hassle with it after dinner. 

I asked Ian which day he would like to work on his new “2nd grade” after school routine.  He picked Monday, and when it arrived, I asked him to list off what he needed to do after school.  He told me, I wrote it down, adding the two "new" items to the list, and then gave it to him to copy in his own handwriting….  HmmmSo if it is in his handwriting, does that translate to buy in???  Time would tell.

My idea of an after school routine is that my kids know what needs to be done and they  just cruise through the list and move on.  Easy-peasy.   Not only that, my thought is that they want to just cruise right though their tasks… 

Well, it turns out, my son is not a nearly forty year old mother.  He is an almost eight year old boy, who just got off the bus after spending 7 hours away from home, following directions and doing the right thing all day --- what he wants to do when he gets home is eat and come down off the school day ride.

This is what I recognize now.  However, what has been happening over the last week is that I have gone from a really connected, slow paced mom, to a crazy control freak!  I even wrote a blog post about realizing that we were going through a really big transitional time, I was blinded to what I was inviting from my own child., and still putting most of the blame on him.  Lame.

This has been such a lovely learning experience for me (ok, maybe not lovely).  I have been wearing the shoes of so many parents that I know and work with, using the PD tools and feeling as though they just don’t work for this kid.

The routine chart "we" created is a mess. This is not something we have made together, even if it is in his handwriting and he "agreed" to it.  Ian wanders around the house, taking for-EV-er to do the simplest task, not making any sort of movement towards acknowledging that I have spoken to him, sending me into a crazy spin cycle in my head.  

He thinks he doesn’t have to do anything and I won’t do anything about it!

He doesn’t care at all about what others do for him!

He thinks he can just act however he wants…

He is hitting the preadolescent boy stage – he hates me!!!

OH NOOOOO!

Seriously, it’s been ugly.  I have fallen right into the trap that fear can put us in, as he pushed against this new reality, full of structure and routines, I pushed back, overwhelmed and grasping for “control” of the situation (which sounds a lot like empty threats and ill thought out consequences).

I convinced myself I was still using Positive Discipline.  I thought I was engaging him with curiosity questions, hoping to invite cooperation and contribution.  Only, when I asked him, “What do we do with our dishes after we eat?”  I was also scrunching up my forehead and using an incredulous tone that made the question really sound like, “Are you an idiot????” 

And, I mean, how inviting is that?

Then Friday, after all week of this crazy circus, the whole family is drawing at the counter together.  My son gets frustrated about how his drawing looks and he falls apart.  Big time.  He loses it and my husband tries to give him suggestions on how to fix his drawing or start again.  I begin to add my thoughts and suggestions.  His meltdown takes on new energy…

“YOU ARE ALWAYS TELLING ME WHAT TO DO!!!”

Ugh.  Superhighway to the soul.  Dagger to my heart.

“You are always telling me what to do.”

He’s right.  Summer ended, school started and I went into full dictator mode.  Have I mentioned my controlling tendencies?  Well, I tend to get into mischief and lose faith that anyone could possibly do what needs to be done without me telling them when and how to do it.  Clearly, I am working on this.  AND, it sneaks up on me.

“You are always telling me what to do.”

This was so humbling to hear.  To know that my little boy had had enough, and was able to let me know exactly how I was hurting him made me, all at once, feel both proud and ashamed.

It was time to check myself.

Once he calmed down, I got really close to him and gathered his little, big boy body in my arms and let him know how much I loved him.  How sorry I was for how I had been treating him.  I let him know that I would be different.

The next day I worked really hard to check in with him, asking his opinions on things, not assuming that I knew best but being truly curious about what he thought.  I have been catching myself when I want to make assumptions or suggestions, and instead waiting to allow him space and time to ask for help.  I worked on connecting with him,

It’s a tricky little dance…  My head starts to make up stories about how, if I am not continuously reminding (read: nagging) him about what he needs to do, he just won’t do it.  Getting into that habit of believing that if I let go, he will just not taking any responsibility for anything.

I have stopped having faith in my son, and he is living up to my expectations.

Hmm, isn’t that interesting?  What happened to encouragement?  What happened to connection?  What happened to getting into my child’s world?

Tonight, again, I became triggered by my son’s apparent lack of desire to contribute and I called him into the living room to talk.  I let him know how I was feeling, frustrated and angry because it seemed like he just thought he could do whatever he wanted.  I told him how I didn’t really know if he was really thinking that, and wanted to know, what was he thinking?

I opened the door.

My son shared a lot with me tonight.  At times, it was tough to keep him engaged, it was uncomfortable and he would rather wiggle out of this talk.  But he told me that when school started, it felt like everything was different and it was hard for him to adjust to it.  I shared that I felt like he was different.  He told me that I seemed to act really different.

I told him that I wanted to be better.  I told him I wanted to be helpful, and also that I trusted that he could be helpful as well.  We talked about how we both have some responsibilities to take care of, and if one of us isn’t doing what we said we would do, it would be hard for both of us.

Ian decided that he wanted to move, “read to mom for 15 minutes” from the after school routine, to before I read to both kids at night.  We picked a time, 7:30, for when he would be ready to read to me.  He also wanted me to help him make his lunch.  This is an overwhelming task to him.  I told him I would be happy to help him, that I would give him 5 minutes.  I also told him that there may be times when I get busy, and that I knew he could do it without me if he needed to.

Big sigh.

It’s messy.  And I am hopeful.  Hopeful that by recommitting to the principles of Positive Discipline, not just the tools, I will again create space for my kids to be cooperative, contributing members of the family. 

I am also grateful.  I am grateful to my son for teaching me how easy it is to get off track, to go into automatic pilot without realizing it.  I am grateful that my son knows enough about how he wants to be treated to demand it – even though it took a meltdown to get him there.

And finally, I am deeply honored to mother these children of mine.  This is no easy task, it is one that takes great self-awareness, thought and forgiveness.  I am honored that I have a hand in creating opportunities for my children to develop ideas about who they are, how they fit into our family, and what they expect from their world.  It is a gift, difficult and full of learning, but a gift no less.

Thank you for reading :).

 Ian's after school routine

 Ian's after school routine

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"Oh, I forgot."

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"Oh, I forgot."

So I’m having a hard time with my 7 year old.  I am finding myself nagging and reminding and feeling like a mean mom, seriously, completely off center.  I know I’m not alone…  You know how it is, when you give your child a few tasks to do, or one, and they just move around as if you never said anything at all…   Then they say, “Oh, I forgot.”

Oh my gosh, today nearly sent me over the edge.  My boy was just….  I don’t know, not in the mood to be cooperative. It was day 5 of being back to school, and day two or so of the new “after-school routine” he wrote up and hung on the fridge.

I met the kids at the bus stop, we got into the house and it was time to do his stuff.  Mind you, his “stuff” is having a snack, emptying his lunchbox, making a new lunch, picking a (super easy) job, and reading for 15 minutes to me.  He was so not into it, so distracted and taking forever to get through his tasks.  I wasn’t pushing him to be fast, I just thought he could stay somewhat engaged…  Ugh, I’m not going to lie, it was kind of torture.

I thought I handled it pretty well.  I did a lot of tongue biting, knowing that if I got too bugged he would totally shut down, and I so didn’t want to go there.

I tried to encourage him... But I am telling you, it was killing me.

Our after dinner family work time was equally as infuriating, and I found myself working really hard not to cross over to the dark side.  He was just so distracted, and wandering around instead of helping with anything.  Not defiant, just la-dee-da-ing around…

Then, he took a shower.  I asked him what he should do with his towel when he'd finished with it.

“Hang it up.” 

“Yup, awesome, thank you,” I said, feeling grateful that my curiosity questions were drawing the knowledge from him, hopefully triggering some memory system of the seven year old brain.

“And your clothes?” 

“Deal with them.”

Great, there we go.  He knows what to do.

Yeah, not so much.  Forty five minutes later, he’s out of the shower, with his jammies on, and we’ve played a board game with his sister.  We head into the bathroom for teeth brushing and I notice all the stuff, clothes and towel, are still on the floor.

“Oh, I forgot.”

Holy moly, does that drive you mad when you hear those words from your kids??? 

“I forgot” is such a cop out.

I have been hearing those two little words a lot lately.

I don’t really remember what I said, but my tone was totally of the are you freaking kidding me right now that all this shit is still on the floor variety.  I was bugged.  He could tell.  He took care of it.  And he felt probably sad and embarrassed the at I got so mad and now it was weird and tense.

A little bit later, once I simmered down and was in more of a centered state, I broke it down for him.

“Listen,” I said, ”I feel like there is some backwards movement here.  I am feeling frustrated because it seems like when I ask you to do something, you don’t really file it away as important to hear, and you think its ok to forget about it.  It’s not.  ‘Forgetting about it’ isn’t owning up to the fact that you really didn’t find it important enough to remember.”

“I’m sorry, mom.”

“So it’s time to make the effort to give power to your words by actually following through with what you say you’re going to do.”

“Ok mom.”

We were good then.  I felt like he heard me, and that my little speech was effective.  I felt as if I really got in there.  I was pretty damn proud of what I said.

So sitting here now, after bedtime, I am thinking back to the situations going on when he was “forgetting” to do what I ask and I am laughing at myself.  It’s so funny to get to the point or a behavior with your child, feel like you are at the end of your rope, and they you realize you had a huge part in creating the problem.

It is extremely humbling and hopeful at the same time.

So what’s been happening the last few days? 

*  We are all transitioning back to our school year routine.  Not just the kids, me too
 *  My husband is working out of town during the week. 
 *  As I am geting used to not having my parter around and  the new, busier schedule, I am doing WAY more telling vs. asking. 

I am forgetting that there is only a small amount of time I get with my kids each day.  I am forgetting that they are learning and practicing life skills, they aren't masters at it.  Why wouldn’t I take time to retrain him and work on building our relationship as a bonus?  I need to do a little bit more doing with and looking for opportunities to build up our connection. That way he can ease back into the responsibilities that were not practiced so much over the summer, and he knows I am available if he needs me.  That sounds pretty darn encouraging to me.

Looking back thoughtfully, I also recognize that my son needs to feel a sense of significance – like what he does (or doesn’t do) matters.  By sharing authentic experiences with him,  he will realize that contribution and cooperation matter because they keep the big wheel rolling, they matter because everyone contributing is better for the whole.  Time together, doing with while connecting, will give him the experience of feeling significance. 

And then, the hassles will just disappear...  Or they will at least be way more likely to show up way less often.

It’s so funny how we forget.  I slip into these little, funny patterns with my kids and not realize I am there for a while till I am feeling low – then I think, oh yeah!  I know what’s going on!  I am a part of this and I can change it.  I start to look at the situation from a different lens, looking for ways that my behavior adds to the problem.  And then I work towards changing it.

Then a crazy thing happens

My kids change their behavior too.

Yay for us all.

 

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Putting Out the Other Fires

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Putting Out the Other Fires

I went to yoga for the first time in a long time this morning…  It was such a treat to make my way, barefoot, across the floor to set up my mat and settle in to the hour and fifteen minutes of bodywork.  Today the class was all about the hips – I have crazy inflexible hips so this was really great for me, important and challenging work.

As I moved through the class, noticing how my body responded to stretches and poses that I don’t normally make a part of my daily routine, I couldn’t help but notice how much of the work I was doing in yoga related to the work I do as a parent.

At the very beginning of the class, the instructor challenged us to stay inside our body, that our body couldn’t help but live in the present, right now.  She spoke about how our mind, our ego, likes to take trips into the future or the past, and moved us away from what is happening in the moment.  Hmm, I thought, isn’t that exactly how it is with parenting?

As we moved into some really intense poses, stretching our hips and holding it for what felt like an hour, the instructor asked us to “think about putting out the other fires” so that we could just breathe into the stretch happening in our hips…  It was then that I noticed how my toes were curled, and my teeth were clenched, my shoulders were up by my ears and my breathe was shallow.  Put out the other fires…

This has stuck with me in the hours since the class – putting out the other fires.  I immediately thought about how I talk about having a physical reactions when I am triggered by my children’s behavior.  How my body feels when I am really angry, overwhelmed or stressed.  What I don’t talk much about is the other stuff that comes up – the internal dialogue…  It sound something like this -“He cant get away with that!  Who does she think she is??? How dare he!  They must think I want to be the maid… I will show him…  OMG, my kid is going to grow up and be a slob/liar/theif/brat/perv/snob/bum/ungrateful little @%&*!!!”

I create stories about the situation that aren’t even true, not the reality of what is happening.  These stories are like little fires, little distractions that move me away from the real work.

“Think about putting out the fires.”

Hmmm, what might happen if I remember this in overwhelming, challenging, parenting situations?  What might happen if I smother the fire, quiet the voice that feeds the physical response my body has to stress, and instead, breathe into the stress???

Might I be more present, aware, and available?

I recently watched a TED talk about stress.  To me, feeling stress is the same as feeling triggered emotionally.   Kelly McGonigal makes some amazing points about how to change our beliefs about stress.  Our physical reaction to stress - the increase heartbeat, the fast breath, the heat - could actually be used by us to meet the challenge that we are confronted by.  She suggest, that instead of seeing this physical reaction as anxiety, we could see it as a sign that our body is prepared and ready to meet the challenge ahead of us.

Your fast heartbeat is preparing you for action.  Your quick breath is getting more oxygen to your brain.  If we can remember when we are triggered, that the physical sensation we get is actually our body preparing to help us rise to the challenge, then maybe we actually can rise to the challenge.

And it’s not about winning or losing…  The challenge I am referring to is not a fight.  The challenge is to put out the little fires, quiet our mind, and be present for the people who need us.  The challenge is to let our physical reaction turn into courage to be our best self, rather than spin us down into the rabbit hole.

Today, I will put out the little fires and rise to the challenge.  What about you?

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Positive Discipline, the Early Years Workshop

Positive Discipline: Early Years is a three hour workshop I teach locally here in the Puget Sound area.  This class is for parents with kids under five and designed to give parents the opportunity to learn a more about child development and a more about Positive Discipline.

When we start the workshop, I always ask parents what their biggest challenges are with their kids –  and it’s always the same list…

“They won’t sleep!”

“They won’t eat!”

“Tantrums!”

“Biting!’

“Hitting!”

“Sharing!”

“Potty training!”

“Won’t pick up toys!”

Parents shout out their challenges, and are met with nods and groans from the other participants in the class.  The list is always the same – and this is a good thing!!!  We don’t live in our own private freakshow!  Our kids aren’t monsters!  Parents all over the world are dealing with these behaviors, they just don’t talk about it.

This is what I love about teaching parenting.  I get to create a safe space for parents to let it all out - the good, the bad and the ugly.  We all love our children, yes, and we all want to be the best parents we can be, of course, and it gets really messy!

We are not perfect, we are human. 

We all come into parenting with our own stories and experiences – these will show up.  And our really proud moments aren’t going to happen when we are overwhelmed, sleep deprived and at our wits end – and guess what?  That can define lots of the time we spend with our kids before they turn five.

Once we realize we are all in the same boat, that we always love, yet sometimes don’t like our kids, then we can do the work needed to be better at this parenting stuff.  There is no judgment in parenting class, only support and solutions.  Lively conversation, role playing and remembering what it feels like to be a child, gives parents hope that they can move forward, and begin to enjoy their children again.

The program I teach is Positive Discipline, based on the word of Alfred Adler.  Adler says that behavior is always movement in the direction of belonging and significance.  In my classes, parents begin to understand that their children want to feel connected and capable, they want to feel powerful, and they need to make mistakes.  The parents role is to teach life skills, to model self regulation, and to understand that developmentally appropriate behavior is not the same as misbehavior.

If this resonates with you, join me this Sunday, September 8 from 12-3pm, at Eastside Natural Medicine in Kirkland.  Come add some tools to your toolbox as we dive into Positive Discipline, the Early Years.  Register online so secure your spot!

 

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Back to School - Tips for Inviting Calm and Cooperation

Here we are, at the start of another school year…  I don’t know about you, but I LOVE back to school time – to me this is the true New Year.  It is a huge time of change for everyone, parents and kids both.  We are busy buying school supplies and new clothes, anticipating new teachers and new schedules – all of this can begin to feel really overwhelming for our families…

Here are three things you can do to not only create calm and but also invite cooperation during this exciting and sometimes stressful time:

Create routines with your children.  Kids who have a consistent routine to follow are more able to stay focused and contribute.  Any time there is a transition in your day is a good time to work out a routine – getting ready for school, getting home from school, after dinner, before bed. 

Make a list with your kids of the task that need to be accomplished (no more than 6-8 tasks), offer them the tools they need to create a visual reminder, and hang it where they think it will be most useful.  The routine then becomes the boss, when kids are lagging in the morning, or falling apart at bedtime you can encourage them to check out “what else they have on their routine chart.” 

Give your kids the chance to feel capable.  All of our school-aged kids are old enough to be packing their own lunch.  They are old enough to get themselves dressed in the morning.  They are old enough to help clean up the kitchen after dinner.  What they need form you is some training and some skills. 

Make a list of all the food that fits under each food group, using words or pictures for nonreaders, and let them choose what to pick.  Post this on the fridge so they can refer to it throughout the year. Purchase clothes that are easy to put on and access.  Let your kids know that you have faith they can pick out something that is appropriate for the weather.  Have small tasks kids can do to help with the after dinner chores.  Make a list of things that needs to get done together and then let your kids pick two or three things to do each night.  We are all in this together, and including kids in this after dinner work lets them know they are valued members of the family.

Post a weekly or monthly schedule somewhere that everyone can see it.  This is helpful for kids and grown ups.  We are busy, and kids will feel a sense of security and calm when they know what is going on each day.  Use a white board or a laminated piece of poster board and dry erase markers and post what is happening each week – or a chalkboard, or a regular calendar.  Refer to this schedule when the kids ask what they can expect each day or week.

Including kids in routines and schedules and family work makes a huge difference in the overall behavior you see from them.  Enjoy this, encourage your kids, and trust that you can create calm in your home…

Casey O’Roarty, M.Ed. is the mother of two kids at Salem Woods Elementary, a Positive Discipline Trainer, and owner of Joyful Courage, a business offering workshops and classes to encourage parents to help their children be their best selves.  Her next seven-week class begins September 14 at the Monroe/Sky Valley YMCA – register now to reserve your spot!

 

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