We have some stuff really backwards in parenting, as well as in this country.
We think ALL answers reside in talking (and hey, it is MY biz, too, so I get it), but so much good comes out of NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION.
The more I work on myself and with parents, the more I realize that we are largely not in touch with our bodies. We are not in touch with our children’s bodies. We are not using a good chunk of our senses because….why? Not deemed as “smart?” Not deemed as obvious? Uncomfortable?
I went to a mommy/daughter yoga class Saturday night. I massaged my six year old’s feet, her hands, and her shoulders. She was the most relaxed, the most contented, the most connected I had seen her in a long time.
No talking involved. JUST TOUCH.
I don’t remember the last time I had simply touched my daughter this much! Ahhh, wait. Yes, I do. Here she is, hours after being born, with her older sister. Being loved, loved, loved. Touched, touched, touched.
When we take touch out of equation, our brains are left to figure everything out, and I gotta tell ya, that’s a little frightening. I don’t know about your brain, but mine can be really mean. As in, sending me crazy messages full of despair, anger, and irrationality. If I listened to those messages, if I took them seriously and heeded them, well, I would start to believe them. I know this to be true, because I used to listen and believe them. It was saddest, loneliest, most crazy-making time of my life.
As Anne Lamott says,
If you are struggling with your child and you have talked-talked-talked it death, brought it back to life, and talked it to death again….try touch. Gentle, loving touch. The snuggles from the baby-days. It may not come naturally, but give it time…it’s all there…it will come back.
Well, the summer has arrived. Your sweet baby, your little one (now maybe nine, ten, or eleven years old) is heading off to his first sleep-away camp, and while you know he or she is ready, you are feeling nervous. Maybe even downright worried. The questions swirl: Will she stay safe? Will he reapply his sunblock? Will she make friends? Will he ask for help if he needs it? Will he or she miss me? And even worse, what if they don’t?
To help your child get off to camp on a positive note, I have a compiled a quick Do’s and Don’ts list!
As a parent coach who specializes in helping parents of young children (aged 2-10), a frequently asked question is: Is it okay for us to use time-outs with our children?
Let’s take a look at time-outs, what I think about them, and why. For our purposes, a classic time-out is forcing a child to sit on a step or mat, in a chair, or another designated spot for an amount of time chosen by the parent (typically, one minute per year of age of child).
Firstly, in the world of positive discipline, time-outs are simply not that popular. Why? Well, the thinking is that the parent is either trying to force a child into spot for an indiscretion that is developmentally normal, or the misbehavior is a cry for positive attention, not punishment. Secondly, many parents believe that the child is learning to be “good” while she sits on the step. Not so. The child is usually feeling ashamed or is becoming angrier; but he is not learning how to behave. Has the misbehavior stopped? Yes, technically, but often there is a good deal of shame, blame, and general drama required to force the child into the time-out spot, and by the time the child sits down, everyone is angry and exhausted. How can this be an effective way to parent?
Do I think time-outs are a “horrible and useless” thing? Do I think that they are abusive? Well, no. I think that there is a very short window that the parent finds the time-out to be a useful tool…and that is the problem. Somewhere between 18 months and 2.5, many parents will use time-outs to “teach” or stop misbehaviors and since the children are so young, they will often comply.
But not for long.
Soon enough, the normal and spirited and growing child will start to fight back. They will not go to the time-out spot or, as in the case of my oldest child; they will smack you and then walk themselves over to their spot, looking mightily smug and not the least bit remorseful.
Parents start to become angrier and angrier, more locked into winning, and more invested in “teaching that kid a lesson.” This thinking, this anger, and this “need” to feel powerful is what grows more misbehaviors, especially as the child enters his late 3′s and 4′s. So, do I think you are hurting your child or family dynamic with time-outs?
My only question, for all parents, is: “Are the time-outs working?”
If the answer is “NO!” than give up the time-outs and see what happens! You may be surprised to see that the behaviors does not get worse.
In my previous post, we discussed the efficacy of time-outs and why, ultimately, I am going to rarely recommend them. Time-outs stop working, then the parent soon starts to struggle and fight with the child to get them into the designated spot and stay there. This struggle only grows more power struggles between the parent and the child.
So, what is a parent to do with the hitting, scratching, fit-throwing, biting, kicking menace that has replaced their beautiful and calm toddler?
Here are some replacement ideas for the time-out!
1. Prevent, prevent, prevent. When you really look at your schedule, you can oftentimes see patterns of when your child is misbehaving the most. It is before nap time? Lunch? Are they bored and cranky around 4:30 pm every day? Toddlers and young pre-k children can be tough…there can appear to be no patterns! It is a useful to look…so take note and make a plan for prevention. Do you need to carry healthy snacks? Have you been correctly reading the exhaustion signs? Can you cut a play date or activity off a bit earlier to side-step the misbehavior? Are you asking too much of your child (sitting at a table for 30 minutes each night)? Are you not giving your child any freedom or responsibility (a two year old can start to set the table, tear lettuce, etc.)? Asking yourself these questions can be the best medicine…prevention!
2. Divert, divert, divert. If the misbehavior is just beginning, I strongly recommend you find something (anything) else to focus on! “Look, David! Did you see the bird? Let’s look together! Or “Lauren, will you help me find my new pen! I think I left it over here…” Or “Who wants to have a dance party?” Or “Let’s put together this puzzle…” The point is, parents often want to spend time talking to their kids about the misbehavior in the hopes of “teaching a lesson,” but diverting your young two year old’s attention is a more effective brain-based way of handling it!
3. Speaking of understanding the brain…your young child does not have the brain matter to handle the lectures about behavior. When the behavior has become unacceptable, you scoop up the child, say “No Hitting” once, sternly and quietly. You move that child into another situation, room, option, or choice…but they cannot return to the infraction and nor should you continue talking. For the immature brain it is action, not words, that matter the most. As soon as your child does something acceptable, you say, “thank you for helping me clean up the dining room floor, look how clean it is!” with a big hug. You are moving from an emphasis on the negative to an emphasis on the positive. If we are able to pay more attention to the behavior we want, our children will see our smiling faces and want to repeat the good stuff!
Again, if time-outs are working for you (meaning the behaviors are getting better and you are not getting angrier), by all means…keep it. If, though, the time-outs are making everything worse…try something new!
As a parent coach and certified counselor, I have some family dynamics education and understanding of the highs and lows of larger families. But let’s get real. I have ONE brother, and (while it may feel like a lot to me) three kids, so I have no idea what it is really like to grow up with many siblings, nor to parent many different children!
Like many of you, when I see a happy family of seven on the street, I try not to stare. I look at the mother with a mix of amazement, wonder, and disbelief. It’s like seeing a shooting star, “Wait, is that real?” Like shooting stars, you know large families are out there, but you cannot quite believe it when you see it.
I know how hard I work with three kids, so I wonder about all the needs that exist in a large family, from the minute to the big. And I will admit to wondering, “Is this is what that family wanted? Did they choose that?”
Since my own experience cannot help me, I decided to turn to best source I have: my Meghan Leahy Facebook Page! I have many friends who are both one of many children, as well have many children themselves! They were kind enough to answer a couple of questions for me, so that we can really learn what is like to be part of a big family!
So, firstly, I wanted to learn about what it is like to be a child in a big family! Dianne V. (one of five) says: “I loved having a variety of siblings with whom I’ve been closer with during various stages of life. I also liked the balance that several kids brought to the parent-child relationship: they were interested in what I did but were not watching my every move as though their own happiness and fulfillment depended on my next move.” And Karen R. says, there was “always someone to play with, if I wanted.” All those needs for constant play dates? Not so necessary when you are one of many in your home! With five or six children in the house, someone is always doing something interesting.
And when I asked these women if they felt they were missing something when they were growing up, like more individualized attention, the results were mixed.
Dianne V says, “I didn’t feel like things were overlooked for us as I was growing up. I could tell my parents were always trying to meet our various needs, even if it wasn’t always perfect,” while Karen R. says that some “individual alone time” was missed.
The parent who has four or more kids definitely said that one of the biggest challenges for big families? TIME. Dianne V. says “Some of the biggest challenges of having a larger family are figuring out how to ‘get it all done,’ how to still find time for your marriage and yourself” and Patricia R. says, “Coordination of activities and interests, as well as the volume of things to do.” One or two adults for four, five, or six kids?
And with that many human bodies in one place, the amount of stuff can take a toll on even the most organized mom! Amy D. says there is “the constant chaos. The house is always messy and someone is always crying.” I didn’t even ask about food, but imagine that shopping with these parents would be a true lesson in organization. The only true option? Letting some things go, which Amy D. admits she is working on that, every day.
Beyond the worries about time for self, time for marriage, and some worries about seeing each child for who he or she is (which I think most parents worry about those issues), the overwhelming message I received was just how much these parents loved their big families!
Dianne V. says, “What makes me happiest about being a parent of 4 children is helping them cultivate loving relationships with each other and seeing the moments where this love shines through between the siblings.”
“I love being able to see them grow into individuals. They are so different from each other and so great in their own ways,” states Cara B.
Karen B. says, “The love!! It multiplies exponentially.”
And Amy D. says her family is so close that “we function as a unit. What I mean by that is that when one child is gone the rest are out of sorts.”
And all that staring I do when I see a big family? Well, big families would like you to know that they are quite happy with their decisions, thankyouverymuch.
Dianne V. says she sometimes feels she has to “apologize for the existence of her kids,” and “that they’re not mistakes, just four awesome kids with their own personalities that make getting up in the morning one of the best feelings on earth (next to sleep itself).”
Cara B. also sometimes feels judged. “I feel self-conscious about how many kids I have in my 1-2 kid household town. I get a lot of comments that are something along the lines of how ‘full my hands are,’ and it feels more critical than supportive.”
So, what did I learn here? First of all, I am going to stop staring! Secondly, while parents of many children may worry about making it all work, most kids of large families report feeling loved, taken care of, and truly enjoying having so many different relationships at their disposal! So, three cheers for big families! Nope, let’s make that “SIX” cheers for big families!
When I read the recent New York Times article about children and their lovies, my very first thought was: “Wow, I have had my blankie since I was born. And some parents want their young children to quit their lovies? They would have to pry mine from my cold, dead, hands.”
So, yes. I have a blankie. Well, it is really a nightshirt…a 25-year-old nightshirt. This current “blankie” is the third in a line of blankies. It went: REAL blankie, nightshirt, nightshirt. No matter what went wrong (my mother taking it away and using to scrub toilets. Yes, still scarred) or that I gave it up to get my ears pierced (I had another blankie waiting for me in the wings), I have spent my entire life with an iteration of a blankie.
Naturally, I am not going to be the parent coach that tells you that there is anything wrong with a child that has a lovey. In fact, (and science is on my side here, folks) lovies are normal, healthy, and can be anexcellent way for a child (or adult) to face an uncertain world.
Lovies are not an indication of immaturity, a flag for self-esteem issues, nor a sign of attachment disorders. As the NYT article says, “The specificity of the child’s preference — and affection — parallels the developing ability to feel a strong specific attachment to particular people. The transitional object is “a bridge between the mother and the external world,” said Alicia Lieberman, an expert in infant mental health and a professor at the University of California, San Francisco.”
So strong is this “bridge,” that I have recommended to parents who are reuniting with their babies in foster care that they, the parents, continuously sleep with a little lovey, and keep cycling the lovey in and out with the baby. The smell, the feel, the look of the lovey…all of these characteristics link the babies brain to “Mom” or “Dad.” It is amazing how quickly young babies can recognize and reach out for these lovies. It is a powerful connection for both parent and child!
But, well-meaning parents want to know, what to do we when we feel like the lovey is holding us hostage? It is dirty, the child wants to bring it into school, or the child will ignore friends to play with it?
Okay, here are some positive parenting ideas to handle the some of life’s little lovey peccadilloes:
When in doubt, don’t worry about the lovies. They are safe, they are routine, and they are a little piece of home, a little piece of you. When you look at it that way, it is easier to smile and decide to wait for a battle that is truly worth it.
Here is the scenario: Your three-year-old said he wanted to play soccer. You signed him up, paid the money, cleared your calendar and there you are, every Saturday morning…miserable. The child didn’t want to get dressed in his cute little uniform, he didn’t want to put on his over-priced cleats, he didn’t want to leave his Lego set, he didn’t want to get into the car, and he cried and whined until he got to the field.
Once there, he doesn’t practice with the team, he doesn’t run and have fun. He is either staring off into space or running tearfully to your side. As a parent, your blood is boiling. You are wasting your money andtime. You are watching the other happy children and thinking, “What is wrong with my child?”
And it is like this every single soccer practice. So, what do you do?
Let the child quit.
Seriously, that’s the answer. There is no class, no lesson, and no activity, nothing that is worth making your little three-year-old that upset.
You might think, “I spent $300.00 on this class, the child needs to finish it.”
No, they don’t.
Your three-year-old does not need to take soccer or music or swimming or anything else. A young three-year-old doesn’t have the emotional maturity, nor do they have the brain maturity required to really be in activities.
Extended group activities are often an unreasonable expectation! The young brain is not ready to focus for long periods of time, and children three and under are most content when they direct the play. When the child has the freedom to flit from toy to toy, sandbox to slide, from play-kitchen to soccer ball, that is when most young three-year-old children are happiest!
You might say, “But allowing my little one to quit will teach them to be a quitter!”
No, it won’t.
Allowing the activity to stop shows that you are paying attention, that you are attuned to your child’s needs, that you value your child’s comfort over money, and that you are not afraid to make mistakes and move on.
There will be a time that your seven-year-old child will join something and you will hold a boundary. You may say, “The family has paid for these gymnastics classes. You will finish the four weeks.”
You may say, “The basketball team is counting on you to show up and be part of the team. When the season is over, you never have to play again, but right now, we are keeping our word.”
So, if you are dragging a three-year-old to soccer and there is so much protestation and misery…just quit. Stop. Go get some frozen yogurt and go to the park.
Let it go. Consider it a great parenting lesson (the first of many), and start enjoying your Saturday mornings again,
Upon Arrival, Proceed to Baggage Claim
An Excerpt from Nurturing the Soul of Your Family
Relationships of all types can be challenging. In particular, family members, partners, and children often develop a sixth sense for how to push our buttons. For myself, to become less reactive, I’ve had to slowly become more self-aware, compassionate, loving toward myself, and attuned to my needs — which has made me a much more emotionally present parent and partner.
Some of the keys are to show up in our relationships with a soft and open heart, a healthy perspective, and a full cup rather than a half-empty one. Before we can do that, however, we have to examine ourselves: we have to release and heal old self-limiting beliefs by understanding what we’re holding on to and why.
We all have emotional baggage. Ever heard the phrase “the issues are in the tissues”? Our beliefs, scars, and old patterns from our family lineage, childhood, culture, education, and birth order all significantly affect our worldview and habitual ways of being. These, in turn, guide how we show up and relate to our family members.
Some days we get easily triggered. Maybe our child not putting their dirty clothes in the laundry room sends us over the edge, while other days they could break the front door and we’d just roll with it. Our state of being has the most impact on how we respond to external circumstances. Some days we receive the gift of observing when we’re stuck in an old pattern or way of seeing things, and other times we just feel stuck, or else constantly critical or judgmental, thinking of our partner or children: “If they’d just listen to me, we’d all be happier!”
When this happens, look inward to see if you have any unclaimed baggage. For instance, when my son, Jonah, was about to turn ten, he and I went through a really difficult patch. He’s a beautiful, passionate, mature, intense kid, and as he reached adolescence, his level of defiance at times overwhelmed me. A simple request to finish homework or put his dirty dishes in the sink could invoke an emotional tsunami. Since I have a tendency to be controlling, our interactions were a Molotov cocktail.
After a particularly hard stretch involving lots of crying jags (mostly mine), I called Terri, a parent educator, and asked if my husband and I could see her for a session. I was exhausted from the stressful interchanges and needed help. After I explained our situation, Terri turned to me and gently shared, “You are going through mourning — Jonah is no longer a child. He’s an adolescent.” Terri went on to highlight some of the science around early-adolescent behavior and how best to support my son; in short, offer love and acceptance, not solutions and tips for improvement. After that illuminating session, things got much easier in our home — not yellow-brick-road happy, but the crying and yelling diminished greatly.
In part, the improvement occurred because my husband and I tweaked our language and gave Jonah more freedom, but mostly things changed because my husband and I shifted ourselves internally. We realized we were holding unrealistic, supersized fears that were causing us to be overly critical; our heads had become filled with visions of our out-of-control nine-year-old turning into a sixteen-year-old heroin addict. We were “parenting from the future” and from our own fears and wounds, rather than from the present moment, which was what our son most needed. This aha moment and shift in our awareness are what created the big shift in our family dynamic that we needed. Often we have to break down in order to break through.
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Life balance coach/speaker Renée Peterson Trudeau is the author of the new book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family. Thousands of women in ten countries are participating in Personal Renewal Groups based on her first book, the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. Visit her online at www.ReneeTrudeau.com
Excerpted from the new book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family ©2013 Renée Peterson Trudeau. Published with permission of New World Library http://www.newworldlibrary.com
To order your copy of this great book, click here.
Okay, I am trying this.
I am not one to take on organizing tasks. I get easily distracted, annoyed, and overwhelmed. I take on more than I can really do in the timeframe I have set aside. I only see what needs to be done next and next and next…and then I quit. There is always something or someone else that or who needs my attention, so it easy to abandon organizing.
Do you relate?
When I read this, I thought: Hey, I can do this. And I am going to blog about it to make myself accountable.
You want to do this with me? Week of April 8th, we begin!