Happy Easter

1:11 PM Edit This 0 Comments »
Happy Easter, everybody! Bok bok!

Our signs of spring shirts:
A duck, a baby snake, a baby cheetah, an eagle, a bird and a chick....

Peace Out!

The Last Thing a Parent Needs

12:31 PM Edit This 1 Comment »
The Last Thing a Parent Needs

The last thing a parent needs.... You may be wondering what that is. Well let me tell you....

Criticism. That, and comparison to another parent whom you deem, in your overactive, imaginative little mind, is better at their job. Why is that?

Perception. That's why. You can't see how a person acts 100% of the time. You are not the all-seeing God of creation, and therefore are in no place to judge another parent. So let's repeat it together:

"No matter what I may think I know, let's get something straight. I don't."

Let's try that again:

"No matter what I may think I know, let's get something straight. I don't."

Parents, especially ones with young children, are just struggling to get by. -Making it through each day, by the skin of their teeth with a little prayer and a lot of grace. And that's what you need to extend to moms and dads.... Not critiques, not advise, not sour expressions, not judgement or condemnation of their parenting-style or children's behavior.

Because guess what you will get in return? No respect and ignored. Yes, that's right, you will get ignored. Your opinion will go from important, to less worth than a penny caked with dog poo on the sidewalk.

So the next time you feel the urge to criticize a mom or dad, stop, and go get a nice hot cup of "mind your own business," take a chill pill and go crochet a doily or something.

This has been a public service announcement for all the busy bodies of the world.

Peace Out!

How to Train a Dragon- Yell at it?

10:43 PM Edit This 0 Comments »

Maybe,” [Old Wrinkly] said, “you can train a dragon better by talking to it than by yelling at it.”

“That’s sweet,” said Hiccup, “and a very touching thought. However…from what I know about dragons…I should say that yelling was a pretty good method.”

“But it has its limitations, doesn’t it?” Old Wrinkly pointed out.

–An excerpt from How to Train Your Dragon, by Cressida Cowell

It does. Yelling is effective at pretty much two things: intimidating someone into doing what you say, and making them feel bad. No one, children or adults, likes to be yelled at.

Yelling, while an instinctual stress-reliever, doesn’t do anything to actually educate a person about the point you’re trying to make. I had a teacher once who yelled a lot, and what I remember most about her class is the crummy feeling I had when I was in her room. I remember feeling uncomfortable and sad when she yelled at other students, and I became so afraid to ask questions or talk to her about anything, for fear of her then yelling at me. One time, I thought my book report was late, and oh, the fear I felt then! Just imagining what she would say to (yell at) me turned my stomach into knots. Thinking back on it now, I can’t remember anything about that book report, not even the title of the book, nor any other academic lessons I learned in her class. I actually can’t even remember this teacher’s name; it’s like a traumatic memory, suppressed. (By the way, my book report did not end up being late, so crisis averted. I do remember the joy of that moment of realization.)

As a parent, it’s easy to have my buttons pushed by my kids, yet difficult to remember that yelling doesn’t actually do anything to help them meet their behavioral goals.

“We can’t teach kids to behave better by making them feel worse.” –Pam Leo, Connected Parenting

“Children do better when they feel better.” –Jane Nelsen, Positive Discipline

I am nowhere near perfect at this…the yelling thing. It takes a lot of practice to recondition the way we respond to anger, and I am in the midst of working on this. It’s a many-years-long journey. What I’m working on first and foremost is reconfiguring my “buttons”; trying to take the triggers that usually make me angry and change them so that they, well…don’t. This is a matter of understanding and perspective. The more I understand about my children’s behavior–how their brains develop and why they do the things they do–the less they trigger my anger reflex. And the more perspective I have over “the big picture”–the foundational aspects of raising children that are truly important–the more I realize that in-the-moment yelling doesn’t work toward meeting the long-term goals I have for myself, my children, and our family as a whole.

Yelling at kids doesn’t help them learn a lesson. Just like my book report experience, what kids remember most is the feeling brought on by the yelling; the fear. That’s the piece of information that our brains hold onto and shape our future interactions and behaviors. Even the joy I felt when I realized my report was not late and I was not going ot be yelled at was a positive feeling, but still brought on by fear. Was I then motivated to make extra sure that I was never late on an assignment in this teacher’s class again? Of course. I do think fear is a very effective motivator…no argument from me there. But that’s not the motivation on which I want my parenting, thus my relationship with my children, to be based.

Our most prominent memories stem from feelings around events: succeeding, failing, solving a problem, making mistakes, having fun, going through a difficult time, being held, getting yelled at. After many years, the details of events are likely to become foggy, but the feelings remain. What do I want my kids to remember when they think back on their childhoods? Less yelling and feeling afraid, more understanding and feeling supported. Teaching by yelling does have its limitations. Teaching through connection is limitless.

Kelly Bartlett is an assistant editor of The Attached Family magazine, an API Leader, a Certified Positive Discipline Educator, and a mother of two in Portland, Oregon. Follow her blog about positive discipline and unconditional parenting at Parenting From Scratch.

What Triggers Your Anger?

6:13 AM Edit This 0 Comments »
What Triggers Your Anger?
By Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Discipline Solution

Family life is complicated and unpredictable. Day-to-day expectations and responsibilities can create angry emotions in both parents and children. No matter how skilled you are at parenting, no matter how wonderful your children are, you cannot eliminate or avoid the unpleasant situations that occur in all families. However, once you understand where the anger comes from you can modify the situation and learn ways to control your reactions, so that anger can occupy a smaller place in your home.

Our children bring us incredible joy. Yet, there are times that they can bring out the anger in us. It is helpful to identify the things that provoke your anger so you can make positive changes in your household.

What sets you off?
Most parents get angry over issues that are insignificant in the grand scheme of life, yet happen on such a regular basis that they become blown out of proportion. Some of the most common parenting issues that trigger anger are whining, temper tantrums, sibling bickering, and non-cooperation. Determine which behaviors most bother you and set about making a plan to correct each problem that sets off your anger.

Notice your hot spots
In addition to triggers, there are “hot spots” in the day when anger more easily rises to the surface. These are typically times when family members are tired, hungry or stressed. These emotions leave us more vulnerable to anger. This can happen in the early morning, before naptime, before meals, or at bedtime. You may also encounter situations when misbehavior increases, and so does your anger: grocery shopping, playdates, or family visits, for example.

Set a plan
Determine if there are things you can do differently to ward off some of the issues that spark your anger. For example, if the morning rush brings stress, you can prepare things the night before: set out clothing, pack lunches, collect shoes. Then create a “morning poster” that outlines the daily routine step-by-step.

If you find that tempers are shorter in the hour before dinner, set out healthy appetizers, enlist the kids’ help in preparing dinner, get the kids involved in a craft activity, or plan an earlier meal time.

Doing things the way you’ve always done them and expecting different results only leaves you frustrated and angry. Instead, identify your anger triggers and take action to change things for the better.

Learn something new
Once you’ve identified a problem, consider several options for solving it. Jot down possible alternatives on paper, or talk it over with another adult. Read through a few parenting books and check the indexes for your topic. Visit an online parenting chat group or posting board. There’s no reason for you to make decisions in a vacuum – I guarantee that the problems you are dealing with are common and there are lots of sources for solutions.

Be flexible
Anger is not something that can be dealt with once and then will go away. Your children grow and change, and new issues appear. From time to time take a fresh look at the issues that create negative emotions in your family and take action to change things for the better.

Let love help
And, finally, at times of anger, hold on to the feeling of love that is the foundation of your relationship with your child. Take time every day to bask in the joy of being a parent. Take time to play, talk and listen. Hug, kiss and cuddle your child often. When you build up this foundation of positive love and emotions you will find yourself less likely to experience intense anger.

Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Discipline Solution (McGraw-Hill 2007) http://www.pantley.com/elizabeth

What Do You Believe About Children

1:31 PM Edit This 0 Comments »
We alllllll have a belief about children whether we realize it or not. Let's explore our beliefs, shall we?

What is your core belief about children?

Do you perceive them as “little devils,” “little rascals,” “a handful,” “up to no good,” “entitled,” “giving you a run for your money”?

Are you afraid that your baby, toddler, pre-schooler or older will drain you, run you ragged, off the road, rock your boat, turn your world upside down if you “let them”?

Do you worry that children will become “wild” unless you “tighten the reins?”

Do you find yourself feeling depleted, resentful, even intimidated by your children’s behavior, reactions, emotions and needs?

If you secretly (or not so secretly) think that children are inherently chaotic, mischievous, manipulative, demanding, exhausting little people who require adults to keep them under control, then you will unconsciously parent with fear.

You will be on guard.

You will be primed for conflict.

You will unconsciously invite a fight. A gesture, a look, a clipped tone, arousing defense in our child.

You will parent defensively—ready to ward off threats to your ego, your balance, your sense of power and control, your finances, your marriage, your health, and more.

Your sense of competence will feel tested, and as a result, you will be quick to react, parenting with a short fuse and a long memory. In your defended state, you might easily perceive your children as undeserving of unconditional love, but rather in need of ultimatums, nagging, punishments, bribes, control tactics to manage them into compliance. All in the name of teaching responsibility, respect, cooperation, morality, to abide by a law and rule conscious "real world."

On the other hand, if your deep-seated belief is that children are inherently good, honest, innocent, forthright, wise, deep thinkers...here to teach you about yourself and them, guiding you to become the parent they need, deserving of your love, guidance, understanding, forgiveness, then you will practice parenting with heart instead of hurt, with compassion instead of control, with humility instead of humiliation, empathy instead of ego, with an awareness of their motivations and your own.

Why does this matter?

Because our unconscious and conscious perceptions of children will determine our role in their lives.

Because our perceptions will affect how we see our children. Lazy or laid-back. Aggressive or assertive. Wild or exuberant. Difficult or discerning. We will see our child through a pinhole or through a panoramic lens of humanity, one that allows us to constantly shift our stance to get a better view of this wonder-full child.

Because our fears dictate our choices, our reactions, and our approach.

Because our fears will determine how much control we feel we need to exert over the situation and over our kids. If we make it a practice to see manipulation and difficulty in our child, we unwittingly reject our child on that level.

Our child feels it.

We criticize more, we huff, we shake our head, we fight more about certain themes, we say NO without hearing the whole story. We yell more. We don't touch as much. We invest in our distractions. We allow ALL of our other burdens to become the Gibraltar rock in the road that we assume is our child's doing, the result of the "way they are." Our kids get the message that we are resistant to who they are. They begin to shut down in ways we can't see. To hide parts of themselves. Just as we did in at their age.

In defense, our child's brain literally becoming "self-protective" and "stress-reactive."

We are then ready to resist...his resistance.

When we find ourselves in this parenting state on mind, our natural tendency is to reach for controls. We want change. We want relief. We think it comes from demanding it from the other person. Fear is fueling our negative perceptions and reactions: fear of losing control, fear of our children being out of control, fear of subsequent problems at school, fear of delinquency, fear of our choices backfiring, fear of blame, fear of ridicule, fear of criticism, fear of feeling incompetent, fear of inadequacy, fear of powerlessness in our own home, fear of chaos, fear of being consumed, fear of guilt, fear of helplessness to change things, fear of our children disliking us, fear of rebellion, fear of loss, fear of them.

The pervasive fear that underlies all that we do has the effect of eroding our self-confidence, our faith, our hope, our belief in the inherent goodness of our children and ourselves. Fear can drain us on many levels. It can fray our spirits, create deep fissures in our relationships, dilute our strength, and literally changes our brain. These changes can become the "way" we simply are, after enough practice. States become traits, as trauma specialist Dr. Bruce Perry wrote in his paper on the brain as a "use-dependent" organ. Whatever we practice grows. Our brains don't like to live in fear, but if fear is what we keep giving it, it will organize itself accordingly.

A stress-reactive parent brain raises a stress-reactive child brain. Both are focused on self-protection. "It's not my fault!" "Stop it!" "I didn't do it!" "Don't look at me like that!" "You always..." "You never..." "Why do you have to be so scattered/unfocused/mean/selfish..." "Give me a break for once!" "I can't take this anymore."

When we are driven by fear, we live in defense. Every action is a potential assault to our senses. People get under our skin more easily. We perceive injustice more quickly, and can’t shake off perceived offenses. We are quick to judge. To snap. To retaliate. We react negatively to our child, which then makes us feel bad about ourselves as parents and people. Our guilt and shame are then projected back onto our kids like hot potatoes...or we overcompensate by making it up to the children such that they trust and allow us in again.

Deep breath.

On the other hand...when we practice parenting from a place that isn’t driven by fear, we cultivate a paradigm shift (a parent-digm shift) in our way of relating, living, loving, giving and receiving, in the way we use words, silence, body language, the way we see others as both separate from and connected to us.

With coercive fear out of the equation, we are free to see the truth. We can see beyond the obvious questions of right and wrong, and can focus on growth. We can discover a child’s needs and true motivations, because we are looking for them. We see each other as imperfect, fantastic works-in-progress, not products that have a lifetime guarantee.

Seeing our child for who he or she is is only possible if we know ourselves.

If we see us, we see them.

If we like ourselves, embrace our flaws and old stories and shortcomings, we like the same in them. Our kids need to know we like them, like how they think, like their unique selves, not as extensions of us, but expansions from us.

We discover what drives us as we understand what drives our child. This can pave a path for profound change and connection in our relationship. We can see a situation for what it is instead of what it might say about us. We can see our children in a truer light, because we aren’t burdened by our own need to protect ourselves from their actions and reactions--and needs.

Nurturing a child's authentic self is a natural outcome of practicing authenticity in our own lives within ourselves. Our kids want real, not perfect. And they absolutely flourish as human beings who feel good in their own skin when we allow them to unfold without judgment and pressure to "be" someone else.

From early on, don't dry tears. Emotions are who we are. No, I don't mean road rage is who we are. I mean, emotions are our barometer, our internal gauge, our compass, our heartmap telling us where we've been, what we need. Without emotion, we flatline our relationships, put a ceiling on our lives, stop growing as human beings. There's a neurobiological reason that our limbic system in the midbrain holds 5 functions in the same area: emotion, motivation, attachment, memory and appraisal.

To remember it, I call it E-MAMA.

Think of the grouping of these 5 powerhouses! Emotion connected with motivation, attachment, with how we remember, what we process and what we can't that becomes trauma, and how we appraise a situation as threatening or inviting, comforting, safe. Incredible!

Those old suppression beliefs, our perceptions of teaching kids to be quiet and hold in their emotions are not only biologically NOT in keeping with their and our humanity, it's now potentially dangerous to teach our kids to "just go along with what people tell you to do." Cultivating our child's true self is as much a honor as it is the most powerful "preparation" we can offer them for life.

This is our shared freedom. To tell our story, know our story, understand and make sense of how our experiences have shaped us...so that we don't relive and re-enact our story with our kids, making it theirs, giving them our cliffhangers and dramas and twisted plots, but instead, giving them the room and the clarity of mind to write their own and be--and love--who they are.

--Lu Hanessian, 2011