Reflection of the Conscious Part 1

I’m writing this while I watch Lifeclass with Dr. Shefali and I am thinking about my own life.  This post is one part my notes on this show and one part my own revelations. I assume that I will continue to have more revelations, hence the part one in the title.

To start, let’s be clear, I have not read the book, Conscious Parenting, yet. But given that there are 9 days left in my school year,(No, no, I’m not counting) I fully plan to bump it up my reading list.  But given that we know how Oprah can make a book fly off the shelves, I may have to order it in advance.  But I intend for Part 2 to be a review of the book.

It may be an understatement to say I was cautiously optimistic when I saw this advertisement.  I liked what I heard on the commercials, but often times the theory of parenting loses something into the translation of actually, you know, parenting.  And being in this profession, I come across a lot of books that I would never recommend.  I would in no way consider myself to be to new age by any means, I’m that “old school” they talked about during the show. But as I wrote about in an earlier post, Parenting without Punishment, I am discovering that they are ways of tweaking, adapting and adjusting these methods while staying true to the values that they are based upon.  So I decided to tune into the event.

As I am watching the school, I am excited because, I don’t know that I’ve had specific language that clearly articulates the way in which I view my “job” as a parent.  I have said many times, that my greatest goal as a parent is that my children will be able to live without me.  That they will have the skills, abilities and confidence to “be” when I have left my earthly home.  This involves a very delicate dance that is hard to explain to people who have a different opinion.  Most people will say they want their kids to behave and to be happy or successful.  But what I want most is that my children will be content, whole, complete, and courageous at times when they feel the need to change.

This is not necessarily the easiest way to parent.  It can be hard to let my children fail, when it would be easy to help them succeed. It means asking the hard questions, and knowing that I might not like the answers. It means there are many times that I am biting my tongue, holding my peace and crying on my husband’s shoulder while we watch a teenager make choices we would have sworn she would never make.  But I am committed to letting her make her choices. I am both grateful and tortured by the gift of being here to see them.

Watching this Lifeclass,I am thrilled that Dr. Shifali and I agree on some key points.  While I may not use the exact phrases that she does, I am struck by two key points that I really want to share. One, our role as parents is as much about our own childhood as it is the children we are raising.  It is as much about our desire to give our children the parenting experience that we had or our commitment to ensuring that we don’t.  We sometimes create our vision of who we will be as parents long before we have children.  So low and behold when the child arrives, we have a shift that may need to take place.  There was a lot of talk about the culture and history of the experiences that we had as children.  Our society teaches us to mute personal experiences in exchange for what we should be, how we should be. Adding children, especially spirited ones, makes it that much harder to hear our inner voice, so we expect, subconsciously, our children to do the same. In my opinion, this is what turns us from being conscious to parenting on auto pilot.

Secondly, Dr. Shefali says, “Our children are a reflection of us”.  How powerful is that? I think about the times when my children have made me the most angry, they are usually exhibiting some version of emotions I am either presently feeling or have recently felt.  How beautiful will the connection be, if we can look beyond the ugliness of their behavior and get to the core of their feelings? I know this is really what helps me in my work with children in my school, but at the end of the night when everyone is tired it’s hard to maintain that focus at home. This is the struggle many parents face.

So my action plan for this week is to be more present each day. I will be more aware of how my history plays into my day and reflect upon how my own feelings are passed on to my daughters. I hope you can do the same.

 

 

Five Reasons you need a #momsnightout

With the new arrival of the new movie, Moms Night Out, women across the country will give themselves a great reason to get out, kick back and enjoy few minutes alone.  Not sure the movie is for you? Here I will give you the top five reasons that you need a moms night of your own.

1. You’re reading this post in the closet, where you are pretending to be hiding during the latest round of hide and go seek.

2. You don’t remember the last time you ate a meal that did not require you to cut everyone’s food into bite size pieces, making sure that none of the vegetables touched.

3. You forgot your own anniversary because it was nestled safely between your annual, the kids checkup and the monthly visit to the orthodontist.

4. The last time you weren’t in yoga pants or flip flops was…nevermind.

5. Who am I kidding, you don’t need an excuse for this, you literally have the #worldtoughestjob you’ve earned it.

Five reasons you need a moms night out

Siblings without Rivalry Part 1

Stop, quit, don’t do that, leave her alone!

kids-fighting-over-toy

Pretty common sentiments expressed by exhausted and exasperated parents all across the world, when the humans that they created to be each others best friends are behaving in a less than friendly manner.

I had the pleasure of listening to a great podcast over at power of moms that included conversation between Richard and Linda Eyre and their daughter, Saran, one of the co-founders at power of moms.  Being a deliberate mother myself, I have found that one of the best ways to feed my mothering soul, with the limited amount of time that I have is by listening to those who will feed my soul. This podcast didn’t fail.  The Eyres were specifically talking about the things that we worry about so often that do not matter in the grand scheme of life and those things that are essential to our happiness, or what does matter.

Like so often is the case, I picked up on things that weren’t necessarily the intended mission of the message. Does that ever happen to you? But anywho, I picked up on the fact that Saran complimented her parents on the way that they had fosters respect and communication and most importantly love between she and her EIGHT siblings, that’s right the Eyres have a total of 9 children.

I thought, if they can do this with double the kids, surely I should be able to get this thing together with the four that I have.  I had been doing some research on this very subject because the siblings in my house were being shall we say, rivalrous. Is that a word? I don’t think so but I like anyway.

Back to my kids.

With the oldest primarily out of the house, except for laundry and an occasional dinner or outing, the three remaining children had gown through a shift in the last couple years that I hadn’t completely addressed.  The shift had left me with a “new” middle child and oldest sister and I knew that the increase in squabbles needed to be handled by me.  In the upcoming weeks, I will share a post about what I am doing to systematically address this but the Eyres gave me an immediate plan of action and immediacy is something that I need in my life.

Ask the kids a very simple question, “Can you say that in a more kind way”.

I don’t know about you but I have the kind of kids that wouldn’t dare be unkind, let alone rude at school or to strangers for that matter.  But sometimes the comfort that they feel with each other can lead to some harsh words and hurt feelings.  Punishing, forcing apologies, or lecturing does nothing to eliminate the behavior.  If anything it encourages kids to be more retaliatory.  Asking the kids to rephrase the statement or question uses an overlearning technique to give them pause next time they need to make the statement again.

Next week, I’ll update you on my plan to give each one of my kids some special one on one time.  Wish me luck!

3 Ways to Give Mommy Guilt a Permanent Time Out

Mother and Daughter

A recent conversation with a single mom inspired this post.

She, like many mothers, single or coupled, suffered from the terrible affliction of mommy guilt.

This conversation was about her teenage son, who on an average Sunday afternoon erupted in a disrespectful rant filled with curse words, insults, and accusations.  Instead of blaming her son for his poor choices, she blamed herself saying that he was frustrated with the current living arrangement where he had to share a bedroom with his elementary age younger brother.

Let’s say that, yes, the housing situation is less than ideal what would prompt this mom, working three jobs, to accept this type of misbehavior and further more to excuse it as a reasonable response???

Mommy guilt!

Mommy guilt

This mom allowed her feelings of inadequacy to translate into a free pass for her son.  A bad choice for many reasons, but though this scenario might seem extreme, it’s no different from giving in at the grocery store and bribing the kids with a candy bar, while they are flipping through the isles like Gabby Douglas, because “they’re tired” or “it’s your fault for not remembering to pack a snack”. Even though mommy guilt is a common affliction, it poses two very real side effects.  One is the way you feel about yourself, that is the  unhappiness and insecurity that creates a vicious cycle  for the mom.  The second is the way it impacts our children.

We know that in order to be good parents, we have to love ourselves the way we love our children.  We know this, in theory, but in reality the negative self talk, sleepless nights and endless comparison laden emotional mommy meltdowns, end up leading us to a very unhappy place that creates children who have less confidence in themselves and in us.  If WE believe that WE are doing something wrong, why won’t our kids?

So how do you diagnose mommy guilt?  Take a look at a few questions adapted from a mini quiz by Valorie Burton, author of Happy Women Live Better, she believes we spend too much time beating ourselves up.  I tend to agree.

     1. Do you often point out mistakes or missteps, even when you have successfully completed a project? Think, Hubby: “Honey, dinner was great” You:”Thanks, would have been better if I hadn’t forgotten the cilantro”

    2. Do you set your expectations so high, they are impossible to meet? Think, last weekend’s four soccer matches, three birthday parties, two book reports to help with and a work proposal of your own all while your husband was out of town for business.  You went to bed feeling bad the kids had pizza for dinner instead of the roast you planned.

    3. Do you forget to give yourself the grace to make mistakes, learn from them and move on?  Think, are you still feeling guilty for forgetting your son’s favorite blankie at the zoo last month, having convinced yourself that he will need therapy for this tragedy?

If you answered yes to any of those questions you might need a fresh dose of the mommy guilt antidote.  Check back on Friday for a healthy dose of my prescription in the meanwhile here’s four things you can try today to give yourself a break.

Put things in perspective. Every mistake feels monumental until you put it smack dab up against a bigger one.  By comparison, the small victories in life can be overlooked without reflection.  I’ve been using my phone to journal lately, but paper and pencil work just as well.  I like to let all the feelings of guilt roll out and then leave them right where they lay.  Every so often I look back and see that many of the things that seemed so critical in the moment don’t hold a candle to the real successes I have everyday.  Reflection has an amazing way of forcing you to put things in perspective.

Take a break from the kids world and bring them into yours. Power of Moms founders April and Sarin talk about how mothers often get so lost trying to be the perfect mother that they forget that they were a person before they became a mother with set of unique and special characteristics.  Were you a great swimmer in high school? Maybe play a mean game of chess? Instead of feeling guilty about what you aren’t giving your kids, show them your killer back stroke and let them tell you how awesome you are.  Then graciously accept their approval, you’d be amazed at how sharing even a simple enjoyable task with someone you love can do amazing things to banish mommy guilt.

Acknowledge that you is no way to be a perfect parent, but a million ways to be a great one.  Think pick one of those and move on!

Say Goodbye to Mommy Guilt Copy

I wish I could take the pain away, how to help a struggling teen

3 Ways (1)

This was a hard week.

For various reasons, by Friday I was worn out. Unfortunately, the show must go on.

Just when I thought my day was almost over, I received a request from a parent who desperately wanted to help her teenage daughter. She was convinced that a conversation between us would be just the key to solving all the problems.

The daughter, who had struggled with some emotional difficulty in recent years, had gotten fully entrenched in an on again off again friendship with another student. The most recent conflict had included some choice words exchanged over text. The daughter who was understandably done with the relationship now wanted to sever all ties, which included eliminating the student from the group that they had chosen for the upcoming field trip.

This triggered a mass chaos among the group and now I was being called in to fix the situation.

When the mom sat sown she began by saying that she wanted to make sure that I had clearly understood her daughter and that she wanted to understand the process I used to help and how she could best handle the situation.

That’s not really wanted she wanted.  She wanted to take away her daughters pain.

I understand exactly how she feels.  I have been in that exact situation before, seeing a teen struggling with the social, emotional, or academic stresses that appear to be breaking their spirit.  From birth, we have vowed to love and protect our young. It’s instinctual.

I was faced with the exact challenge of knowing how to help my teen when she shared some insecurities with me that I had not been aware of.  You want to hold them, kiss the boo boo, make it all better.  Never thought I would long for the day when a band-aid could erase all the pain. For all the parents looking to help a teen struggling with a difficult situation, here are three tips I used, I hope they will help you both make it through, mostly unscathed.

1. Acknowledge your child’s feelings. This works remarkably well for discharging the most emotional situations.  What your teen wants most in life is to know that you understand.  Statements like, “Sounds like you are really disappointed that Jack broke your date” or “I saw how hard you studied, I would be really frustrated with that grade too” go long ways to helping teens connect with what they are really feeling. Many parents have a knee jerk reaction to minimize their teens feelings.  Even though the display of emotion may be out of proportion to the problem, the response is likely completely normal.  Behave as if you are a mirror, reflecting the feeling, not the expression of feeling.

2. Help them brainstorm solutions, if they want to.  Your child may not be open to solutions that you suggest, but by offering to help you give them a chance to process through the feelings and get your input if needed.  Never offer the answer to their problems, which can unconsciously signal the teen to believe they are not capable of handling the problem on their own.

3. Help them keep things in perspective, and know when to ask for help. Teens, by nature think in terms of here and now.  This can often magnify problems in their minds and cause them to feel as if the world is ending with every conflict.  When you overreact with them it can make things worse. In the times when we you need to move things to the next level, say visiting a counselor or therapist or hiring a tutor, maintain a steady and calm demeanor without making your child feel like their problems are massive or unusual.